Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wishlist for Lords of Xulima 2, Part 7

Today we will take a quick glance at different possiblities to implement difficulty levels in a game. They are a invaluable tool to approach a wider audience and give less experienced players the chance to enjoy a game. Or they give players who seek challenges a way to test their abilities.

Difficulty selection in Lords of Xulima.
Selection of difficulty settings.

9. About difficulty settings

In Lords of Xulima there are 3 difficulty settings: normal, veteran and hardcore. They mainly differ in the amount of health that the player party and the enemies possess as well as the damage dealt by traps and foes. (Also, prices for almost everything go up so money becomes a more limited resource.) This is a common approach and you will see it in almost every game that tries to adopt different difficulty settings.

What I don´t like about this method is the issue that enemies with higher health and damage do not necessarily lead to a more challenging gameplay. In the worst case, doubling the enemy health just makes the combat last two times as long but does not require any additional strategy.
An admittedly more complex way to implement difficulty settings is the activation and deactivation of certain features that make the game easier or harder to play, here are a few examples I would like to see in a potential sequel to Lords of Xulima:

Easy difficulty:

  • Drastically reduced food consumption: The skill “Knowledge of Terrains” of the Explorer class is not available on this difficulty and all calculations for food consumption on difficult terrain are treated as if the skill would be maxed out.
  • Markers and arrows point in the directions you have to solve quests and advance in the main story.

Desert area in Lords of Xulima.
Difficult terrains like deserts will drain your food reserves in an instant.

Hardcore difficulty:

  • Negative item enchantments are available so you have to take extra care about what your characters are wearing. Example: Plate armor of the Weak: -5 strength.
  • Enemies gain new special skills with complex mechanics that were not available on lower difficulties. These skills tend to be more dangerous for high-level groups to make it harder to just outlevel the content. Example skill: “Gravity Field” is a debuff on a party member that deals damage based on the total equipment weight of the character. Clever players can also use the “Remove Equipment” command during battle to reduce the damage, allowing for more strategic play.

These were just a few examples on how to make different difficulty levels a whole new experience. Or maybe this over the top and an adjustment of health and damage numbers works just fine? What are your suggestions to make Lords of Xulima 2 more challenging or more forgiving?

Browse the complete wishlist

Part 1: The food system and non-combat skills
Part 2: Getting loot, item enchantments
Part 3: Side-quests
Part 4: Hits, misses and critical fails
Part 5: This one is found in the subscriber-only area. Subscribe to the blog
Part 6: Gaulen the Explorer, the main character
Part 7: Difficulty settings  
Part 8: Game balance
Part 9: Wishes from a veteran Might and Magic player

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