Experimental Update (World Map Overhaul – Cycle & Seals)
As we hinted in the last update notes, we decided to focus the next phase of the Early Access on the meta layer and World Map in particular. Today’s Experimental Update marks the very first step in that long journey and we hope you’ll keep us company as we stride.
Be advised! As with the Blightrot Revamp back in December, this Experimental is planned to be developed in the span of many weeks and we want to invite you to the development process in its very early stages. We are talking programmer art level of roughness, balance imperfections, and occasional bugs. If this is not something you would enjoy, consider skipping this Experimental Update.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
In our opinion, the game currently has two large gaping holes:
- a lack of any form of closure (a lack of overarching goals)
- an unfinished World Map layer.
As we got the opportunity to prolong the Early Access period, we wanted to tackle both of these holes with a series of smaller but connected overhauls.
We decided to focus on Cycles first, as this is the starting point for any further changes to the meta layer. Their lack of structure, risk, and goals combined with a rather dull system of influence ranking was the main reason why the World Map felt insignificant and starved of meaningful choices.
The very first thing you will notice after launching the Experimental Branch is that the World Map is much larger and is filled with 16 special fields, visible above the fog. There are two such fields for each of the 4 basic difficulty levels, and two for Prestige 5, Prestige 10, Prestige 15, and Prestige 20. Each of these fields contains a Seal.
The Seals are surrounded by a Sealed Biome and are available only when a range of conditions are met:
- The Blightstorm is almost there
- A sufficient number of Seal Fragments were gathered (explained below)
- The Seal is within the reach of your last town
If you meet all of the above conditions, you have one chance to embark on the map with a Seal and try to reforge it (in the current, first implementation, the Sealed Biome is a Cursed Royal Woodlands with a set of special modifiers). Winning that game will grant you regular rewards and a percentage of all meta resources gathered in the current Cycle.
The first condition is quite straightforward – you can only try to reforge a Seal at the very end of the Cycle. If for any reason you can’t or fail while doing it, the chance is lost and you will have to try again at the end of the next Cycle.
The second condition is Seal Fragments. The farther the Seal lies from the Smoldering City, the more damaged it is and more fragments are required to reforge it. Seal Fragments are obtained by winning games and can be picked as one of three rewards for playing near negative modifiers. Any leftovers at the end of the Cycle are bought back by the Crown and converted into meta resources.
The last condition is distance. You must be within the embark range of a Seal to start a game there. This sounds pretty obvious but it is also closely connected to the changes in a Cycle’s structure.
From now on, your Viceroy’s party has a physical representation and a location once it leaves the Smoldering City. While you can be resupplied in the Citadel, you can only embark from your current location, and your resources are shared throughout the entire Cycle. That means each cycle is one large expedition, one you must plan carefully if you hope to reach the next Seal and progress the world.
The Cycle’s duration is now counted in settlements. As you start the game, the Cycles are short and you can’t venture far, but each new Seal you reforge will reduce the influence of the Sealed Ones on the surface of the world and will prolong the periods between Blighstorms, allowing you to venture much farther. But beware, the farther you travel from the Smoldering City, the harder the games become.
Embarkation Points are now granted once, at the very beginning of the Cycle, and it’s up to you to ration them throughout your journey. To resupply, you can try to tackle negative modifiers. If you succeed, you can pick one of the three rewards:
- additional Embarkation Points,
- a temporary bonus to vision and range,
- or a few Seal Fragments.
FACTIONS & INFLUENCE RANKING
Now, let’s talk about the Influence Ranking. This mechanic was neither very intuitive nor fun to interact with. While neatly connected to the scoring system on a settlement layer, on a World Map layer it was but a small puzzle with one rather simple solution. Obscure to newcomers and pointless for advanced players, this system was standing out. For these reasons, we decided to completely remove it from the game. That was the easy part.
Unfortunately, without the Influence Ranking, there are very few reasons to keep the Factions in the game. While they ensure trade routes in the early phases of the Cycle and are an important part of the Against the Storm world, we feel any form of direct confrontation with them would require enormous changes (way beyond our scope, most likely). And what’s worse, it would go against the spirit of the game itself.
So while we do still hope that you will get a chance to meet Fendrit the Firestarter and Dorakric Smeltbringer in person, we are yet to find a role the Factions could play in your journey toward the Seals, as they are currently more of a minor annoyance, than anything else. For now, consider this a work in progress, while we keep ruminating.
Our main goal with this experiment is to make sure the direction we picked with a new Cycle structure, Seals, and the final encounter is the correct one. It’s a foundation for a set of other systems and we can only move forwards once it’s solid.
If and when that happens, the next step is rather obvious – a proper Sealed Biome with distinct aesthetics and a set of its own unique mechanics to ensure the Cycle ends with a proper climax. Then, if there is still time, we have two other systems in store that should satisfy both high-prestige players looking for the ultimate challenge and everyone thirsty for lore, characters, and closure. But that is a story for another time.
HOW TO TEST IT?
To play with the new features, you need to switch to the Experimental Branch (click here to learn how to switch to the Experimental Branch).
You can either start from the very beginning or simulate progress with those 3 commands:
WHAT ARE WE INTERESTED IN?
If you decide to play the Experimental Update, please share your thoughts with us!
Primarily, we are interested in your answers to the following questions:
- Have you found the journey toward the Seals compelling?
- Are the Seals a clear enough goal for you?
- Did you feel there were interesting decisions to make on the World Map?
- Is there anything about these new mechanics that makes the gameplay feel worse (especially more repetitive) or better (especially more diverse)?
We can’t wait to hear your impressions once you give the new Experimental Update a try!
May the storm be gentle on you,
ABOUT EXPERIMENTAL BRANCH
The Experimental Branch is an alternative version of the game dedicated to testing new features. Upcoming changes are not localized, there can be bugs, and the balance might feel way off. The experimental version has extensive logs and assertions enabled which means degraded performance. It has a separate save file from the main version and your progress can’t be transferred from the Experimental Branch to the main version. You have access to the developer console but you won’t be able to unlock achievements.
HOW TO SWITCH TO EXPERIMENTAL
Switching to the Experimental Branch will require you to opt into the Beta branch on Steam. Here’s how to do it:
- Open Steam
- Right-click on Against the Storm in your library
- Select Properties
- Go to BETAS tab
- Choose “experimental” from the drop-down list
- Wait for the game to update the files
- Launch the game
In order to switch back to the regular version, please repeat the steps above but choose “None” from the drop-down list in step 5.
Epic Games Store
The Experimental Branch on Epic Games Store is a separate product in your library. In order to play it, follow the steps below:
- Open Epic Games Store launcher
- Search for Against the Storm – Experimental Branch
- Install it
- Launch Against the Storm – Experimental Branch
If you want to launch the regular version, simply install and launch Against the Storm.
Switching to the Experimental Branch will require you to configure the Beta channel. Here’s how to do it:
- Open GOG Galaxy
- Right-click on Against the Storm (or use the Options button)
- Select Manage installation
- Select Configure…
- In the INSTALLATION tab, click on the drop-down list next to Beta channels
- Select Experimental
- Wait for the game to update the files
- Launch the game
In order to switch back to the regular version, please repeat the steps above but choose “Disabled” from the drop-down list in step 6.
The Experimental Branch includes a developer console that provides various useful commands.
If you want to test new changes with a fully leveled-up profile and all content/upgrades unlocked, feel free to use the “meta.addAll” command in the console when you are on the World Map. You can open the console by pressing the ~ key on your keyboard.
Here are some other useful commands:
Check out the full list of commands:
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