Frostborn Wrath: T4

I’m basically finding Gemcraft: Frostborn Wrath to be an improvement over its predecessor in every way, but one of the improvements that I find particularly pleasing is in “Trial Mode”. This is the equivalent of the “Vision” fields in Chasing Shadows, in that it makes you pass a level without your XP or skills, instead giving you a pre-set selection of abilities. The chief difference is that Vision fields were special ones, set apart and not playable the normal way, whereas Trial Mode can be applied to every single battlefield. But on top of that, I’m finding that FW is more willing to use Trial Mode to create bespoke puzzles with specific solutions.

I just hit a particularly good example of this: field T4. In Trial Mode, your starting condition is: You have a single grade 6 red-yellow gem. This is an unusually good thing to start with, capable of holding off an army all by itself if placed well. However, you have only 30 mana. This is not enough to create a tower to put the gem in. You gradually gain mana over time even if you don’t kill anything, so if you could wait long enough, you’d have enough to build a tower. You cannot wait that long. The monsters will destroy your base first.

At this point you might think “I’ll just cash in the gem!” — you can destroy gems to recover 70% of their value, and a grade 6 gem has a base value of over 9000 mana — easily enough to buy a tower and a slightly less overpowering gem to put in it. Except you can’t do that. Every battlefield has a subset of the gem colors you can create from scratch. In field T4 in Trial Mode, that subset is: none of them. The only way to make a new gem would be to spend 9000 mana to duplicate the one you have.

So at this point, I was wondering if it was a bug. It seemed absolutely impossible. But it wasn’t! I won’t give the solution here, but there was a clever application of the rules that let me win rather easily. This is a much better experience than the Visions, where, as I noted before, the winning approach was usually brute force, just sinking as much mana as possible into making a single hero gem.

Now, most of the Trial Mode fields are not like this. Most of them are fairly sedate and fall to familiar tactics. But even there, I think the experience is enhanced by knowing that they could turn out to be special.

2 Comments so far

  1. matt w on 5 Sep 2020

    Is there a kind of paradox of sequels here? It seems like if one wanted to start playing Gemcraft, this would be a good game to start with, because it’s a good Gemcraft game. But it also seems like the plot might not have as much impact if you didn’t know what was going on from other Gemcraft games.

    And that seems like sort of a natural progression in sequels. The sequel might be better as a game, because (one hopes) the developers have learned more about what makes their game tick. But it might not be an ideal entry point to the story because, well, it’s a sequel. Seems like DROD had one solution to this–when they decided to make a game that was for DROD newcomers, they made it a flashback. And the original DROD wasn’t designed with a huge amount of story anyway. (This is all going off of your blogging about DROD–I’ve only played the online version of King Dugan’s Dungeon and I tapped out at the level with all the red gate puzzles.)

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 5 Sep 2020

    It’s a perennial problem with webcomics, too. Permanent archives of the comic’s entire history encourages intricate plotting with lots of callbacks, so you often can’t recommend that people jump in wherever. But at the same time, you don’t want to make people start at the beginning, where the art and writing are at their worst.

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