Tuesday’s Stronghold beta was good. I feel things are moving forward with the polish of the game mode. Mrs. Ravious and I had a lot of fun duo-queuing, and the household stance is we can’t wait for this PvP game mode to go live. However, there are still a few blemishes and a bit of fat for Stronghold.
The Meta Shift
I wrote last time that having a poor amount of player knowledge and meta is probably the worst part of Stronghold. I realize they are still far out in early beta, and a whole weekend or week of Stronghold play just might not be helpful to ArenaNet. Still, there is no time to cement anything player community wise in 24-hours.
The most important aspect of Stronghold that I felt many players seemed to miss was the gameplay shifts. Supply and creeps are especially important in the early stages, and hero summons and lord room rushes are the late game. I found many times players would still be running supply even after all doors were down. I would get a hero, and no one would join me in the push. Players have to be ready to switch gears, and that teaching didn’t take a lot of times, I felt.
The other learning curve issue was team stickiness. In Conquest, there are basically three static points to go to. At home or mid, there is a high chance that one of your 4 teammates will join you for a fight against the opponents. Team stickiness is pretty inherent in Conquest. Finding teammates in Stronghold can be much more difficult.
In one instance, I was shepherding a hero into the enemy’s base. For some reason three others on our team decided to stop and PvP in the lane thereby losing the hero’s buff and not helping to push. Other times I found myself catching up to an ally pushing a lane with a trail of doorbreakers only to be defending the tail of the trail against an enemy. The common winning tactic seemed to be sticking together for games we both won and lost.
The hardest thing I feel for the community to learn is to give up their personal objective to coalesce as a team. Just like in a MOBA, it is so easy to stay laser focused on your lane, your task, your personal vendetta, but there is a larger game at play. Letting doorbreakers get past you to join your team with a hero push can be a very viable decision.
Let’s get back to the stages of the game. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about a lord rush where a team of 5 pushes towards the door with the 5 initial doorbreakers and just barrels down to the lord. This is a very viable, very risky tactic. The key for defense is to focus on the doorbreakers. If two defenders can kill the 5 doorbreakers, but the two defenders end up dying, that is still a victory in my book, especially if the defenders’ teammates are pushing uncontested and the attackers are left near the first door.
The big difference between Stronghold and a MOBA is that without defense interference (killing doorbreakers) the 5-man rush is viable. In a MOBA with early levels of progression, the defending towers are enough to slow things down. An uncontested player can take very few tower hits before having to go back and lick their wounds. A rollercoaster of activity is inherent in a MOBA’s flow.
This is the hardest part for ArenaNet. So many people are screaming about “PvE” Stronghold and the lack of “true PvP”. Then people are also complaining about the lack of comeback mechanics and stop-gaps. The easy answer to the latter is more “PvE”. I do not envy ArenaNet’s position because the answer is not obvious to making a great PvP game mode.
For instance, archers seem to be the current “extra fat to trimmed” in Stronghold. For the most part they seem to be a poor decision for a player to spend time and supply on. In the first rush, a player taking out the first two guards is so much better an option as opposed to a leading archer that I feel it doesn’t compare. However, making the first two guards stronger against players and possibly weaker against archers turns that “PvE” dial up a bit.
In the later game archers can be a nuisance, but the time it takes to create them versus their viability seems really low. In one game I took out a clump of 6 easily as a Well-based necromancer. That was poor opportunity-cost decision making. Up their HP, and again “more PvE”. The same “PvE” issue comes up if the archer becomes the defensive creep going in to the enemy’s lane.
The one idea I saw that I really like is making the archers faster. That way they can be a viable option in the early push running ahead of doorbreakers and are able to provide better pressure in the late game by getting to the lord’s room more quickly.
Most of the games I played, things felt pretty even. Many times both lord rooms were cracked open, and it just came down to which team was better at pulling it all together for the late game. I felt that this was the best evidence that the changes that ArenaNet made are improving the competitive side of things.
Even losing I felt for the most part that I had done some things right, at least. I felt like I could always see where I, or my team, could have done better. We weren’t simply outmatched by X build composition. I felt that the weight of action was far more important than the build.
I think that’s the best thing that can be said about Stronghold.