I hope you like the alliterative title.
So, I come back from a year-long break (or longer, I can’t keep track), after seeing that they had at some point made a Battle Engineer change. It looked nice so I decided to test it out, namely by True Reincarnating my character and starting over at level 1. At this point, I noticed that there was another new feature Turdbine added in since I had last played: Reaper difficulty.
It’s about as awful as you’d expect it to be.
Oh, I also discovered that apparently the company managing DDO is no longer named “Turbine;” it’s now “Stepping Stone Games” (SSG for short) but it’s essentially being managed by all the same people. It’s the same piece of shit, just with a different name, so don’t get your hopes up too much about any new managerial direction for DDO.
Anyway, Reaper difficulty. The gimmick in this difficulty is that it’s harder than elite. Why they added in this difficulty, I have no idea; elite was already challenging enough with the stupid, broken monster champions that they decided to add in awhile back. I suppose they decided that the game wasn’t broken enough, and wanted to fuck over players even more. I guess they did a good job at that, for what it’s worth. There are two main gripes I have with Reaper difficulty: its difficulty and its rewards.
Whereas the climb from normal to hard and hard to elite is mostly defined as a linear difficulty scaling which results in slightly more monsters per difficulty, slightly more powerful monsters per difficulty, or slightly more powerful traps in higher difficulties, the only noticeable difference between the jump from Elite to Reaper seems to be more monster champions. A lot more. And this is retarded game design. I’ll explain why. There are also new monsters called “Reapers,” who are incorporeal and deal massive amounts of damage–they’re basically monster champions without officially being recognized as such. They seem to spawn at random, and this is also retarded game design.
Consider a normal, well-designed game. Let’s talk about Megaman 2, for instance. In the western release of this game, it has two difficulty options: normal and difficult. Normal is what you’d expect, and in difficult, monsters deal twice as much damage and you (Megaman) deal half as much damage as you would otherwise. This is a blanket effect which affects every unit in the game equally: in other words, it’s consistent and it’s a universally applied standard. Even if the difficulty is not incremental and you have a binary choice between two difficulties, the fact remains that it’s a universalized, evenly applied standard to which the game holds itself impartially.
Contrast this with DDO. The problem with Reaper difficulty is that when there are no monster champions, the game is an absolute snoozefest, and that when there are any monster champions, the game has a dramatic, jarring difficulty spike which causes the dungeon to become several times harder than it is normally. This is idiotic.
As a concrete example, let’s take the quest Walk the Butcher’s Path, which my character ran at level 3. Everything in this quest was really easy, and I was able to slaughter dozens of kobolds without a hitch. And then I encounter my first reaper. I go up to it, try to attack it, and it deals 120 damage to me.
Yes, that’s right: 120 fucking damage in a level 4 quest. Bear in mind that most monsters even in Gianthold, which is a level 13-14 area, don’t deal this much damage in a single hit. So what the fuck, Turbine? This problem persists all throughout reaper difficulty, with reapers and monster champions at every level dealing ridiculous and unmanageable amounts of damage. I also ran Bloody Crypt (a level 6 quest) on Reaper, and one monster champion applied a Damage-Over-Time effect to me that dealt 45 damage every two seconds, and lasted for 15 seconds. Because that’s totally fair; most normal level 13 characters would be unable to handle all that damage, so why the hell would a level 6-8 character be able to survive this?
This is a problem because instead of simply being incrementally more difficult than lower difficulties, Reaper difficulty has these weird spikes of difficulty in what would otherwise be extremely easy quests. Imagine if, in Megaman 2, you’re going through Metal Man’s stage and every single monster dies in two hits, and the boss (Metal Man) falls in ten. But then, let’s use Turbine’s logic: let’s place in some “champion” monsters who appear at random all throughout the stage, and who take twenty hits to kill, and who can kill you in two hits. This is basically what monster champions are. For one thing, it makes no sense that monster champions are harder to take down and deal more damage than boss monsters within the same quest. That’s just idiotic. For another thing, this difficulty is at complete random and it completely breaks up any sense of consistency you would otherwise have.
What if, instead of random, sporadic, stupid spikes of difficulty, Turbine instead made it so that every monster in a given dungeon has is 10% stronger in a higher difficulty? No monster champions–instead, every monster is slightly stronger, so the overall experience of doing the dungeon is slightly more challenging. That, to me, makes a hell of a lot more sense. But no, they didn’t do that because that’d be common sense.
As I might’ve alluded to before in this blog, I hate monster champions. They’re one of the stupidest things Turbine has ever done (and that’s saying a LOT), and the net result is that they heavily encouraged ranged builds and casters. In reaper mode especially, because of the presence of “lost souls,” items which randomly spawn from enemies and can be picked up to restore your SP, Turbine seems to be heavily encouraging casters. All the while, melees have slowly been becoming less and less fashionable unless you’re a tank with 500 AC and 500 PRR or something absurd and unobtainable like that. This game is becoming borderline unplayable, even on elite–this is largely due to monster champions.
Why would anyone even run reaper mode? Because of the rewards. And the rewards are, for the most part, ludicrously badly designed, as you’d probably expect from Turbine.
For one thing, you get slightly more experience if you run reaper, when compared to elite. Oh boy. As if it wasn’t already easy enough to get from level 1-30. (Hint: it wasn’t.) We don’t need this. The experience is not an incentive to run Reaper.
The other reward is reaper experience, which you get in minuscule amounts every time you finish a dungeon on reaper mode. This experience gradually earns you points in the reaper enhancements trees, but you shouldn’t get your hopes up because by the time you make any significant progress in them, you’ll probably be playing DDO in a retirement home. Here’s a poignant post on the official forums about the situation. Here’s one quote from one sane forum user:
The xp curve on reaper looks like a Fibonacci Sequence. The sun will explode before any casual player gets through it.
And, as you can expect, there are lots of people in this thread sucking Turbine’s dick and saying shit like “OH WELL IT’S A GOOD THING THAT THERE ARE UNATTAINABLE ACHIEVEMENTS IN THIS GAME” or other weird drivel like that. This is why we can’t have nice things.
It just takes way too long to make any significant progress in the reaper enhancements. My character is already level 9, has completed every quest so far on reaper, and only has around 20,000 reaper experience. This is only enough for 4 reaper points, and the numbers go up exponentially from there: if you want 10 points, it takes 100k experience; 20 points 400k experience; 30 points 900k experience; etc.
Additionally, 95% of the benefits from these reaper trees only take effect within reaper difficulty. So for the average person, such as myself, who sees reaper as a stupid chore and who intends to spend as little time in it as possible, what incentive do we even have for using these enhancements? Even for the people who are gluttons for punishment and have masochistic hard-ons for idiotically-designed difficulties and who therefore love reaper, are they really going to be serviced immensely by something as trivial as +3 melee power, or +3 to tactics DCs? …I don’t think so.
In regards to those enhancements which do take effect outside of reaper difficulty, they’re minor benefits like +20 hp/+1 saving throws, or +1 to hit/damage. But the most damning thing about these bonuses is that they only can be taken at certain levels. For instance, the +1 to hit/damage ability only can be taken at level 9, and +1 to intelligence can only be taken at level 15. And the +1 to intelligence one requires 121,000 reaper experience, which by my estimations would require running only Reaper for at least three heroic lives. Fuck that shit.
I can’t even stomach one life of reaper difficulty. I got my character to level 9 running only reapers and I’m about ready to kill myself due to the frustration. Why on EARTH would Turbine think anyone could survive three fucking lives of this awful shit just for +1 to a stat or something idiotic like that?
I suppose there’s one more thing I should address in my tirade against reaper retardation: its effects on the metagame.
The game has steadily been dying for a long time now, and I’m fairly certain that 99% of the cool, old-school, intelligent players have left. By now, most of the people who remain are the idiots who thought MoTU was a good idea, or are still in denial that the game is dying (despite there being, on a good day, an average of less than 25% of the amount of LFMs up as what we had previously, lol). So this doesn’t help out the gaming experience much; it’s probably better to just find a different game to play altogether.
I’ll talk briefly about Reaper’s influence on the community and the way people play the game. You know how in previous posts, I’ve talked about how the way the epic game is set up now has cleft the community in two? Well, that’s effectively what Reaper has done now, except to the heroic game: now everything in the game is even more fragmented before. We now have people who just do endgame raiding, people who just work through epic lives, people who just do heroics on elite, people who just do heroics on reaper, and a few other groups of people.
Nowadays, it’s even more difficult to find parties for anything you want to run. In heroics, you can even put up a LFM for Reaper 1 difficulty, but some people won’t want to join because they want to do Reaper 2, or Reaper 3, or whatnot. And then there are those such as myself who just want nothing to do with reaper and instead want to run things on elite, since there are fewer monster champions there, even if the existing monster champions still give me cancer. Then you also have the casual crowd who wants to run things on normal (and in all frankness should be running things on normal) but can’t find a group for it so they just hop into someone’s Reaper LFM and promptly get destroyed.
The implementation of Reaper difficulty has just made it even harder to find groups due to further fragmenting the community. Add to this the dwindling population of DDO and you get a recipe for disaster. Absolutely nothing good has come from this steaming mess of shit that Turbine has created, and at this point, I’m on the verge of quitting DDO and never returning.
It seems that over the past several years, every time I go on a break and return, I stay for less and less time: a few months, then a break, then I stay for a few weeks, then a break, and now it seems I’m staying for less than a week. Every single change Turbine has made to this game recently has been utterly disastrous, and Reaper is one of the worst things they have done in a long time. It’s kind of impressive how monumentally this company has fucked up at every single opportunity it’s had, but it’s equally infuriating for someone like me who really used to love this game and has become saddened with what it’s become. Again, I’ll reiterate: Reaper difficulty is unnecessary, frustrating, poorly designed, and has had awful side effects, namely further dividing the community. DDO has reached a point now where even the heroic game has become borderline unplayable, and that’s really the last straw for me.