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This month's Underworld Ascendant newsletter tells us about character progression and introuces us to some of the game's narrative elements and the constantly evolving nature of The Stygian Abyss. And considering that previously we mostly just knew that the game will offer a lot of player freedom, learning the specifics of its feat-based progression system is quite welcome indeed. A snippet:
Feat-Based Player Growth
It’s been important to the team to closely examine RPG gameplay and story elements from the previous games in the series, to determine what to build upon and where to do something differently.
We’ve kept elements like The Silver Sapling, while eschewed others like stats and character classes. (Apologies those of you burning to play once more as a shepherd.) Instead, the player has a wide variety of combat, stealth, and magic skills and abilities to choose from to customize their character to match your preferred play-style.
We want players to teach themselves and reward them for experimentation as they explore Underworld Ascendant’s deep gameplay systems. It’s important to us to avoid overtly hand-holding the player, while teaching them the full depth of the opportunities within the immersive sim ecology, where logic-based simulated systems ensure elements like physics and physical properties make sense.
Our earliest example of this during our Kickstarter was a locked wooden door: You can burn it down, either with a spell, torch, or burning debris. You can pick the lock. You can bash it down, but the sound may attract foes.
Add to that a bevy of spells that allow you to alter physics, transform physical properties, manipulate creatures with exploitable behaviors, and, well, there’s much to learn.
So, instead of taking the traditional experience point route or requiring players to repeatedly use a skill to improve it, player growth in Underworld Ascendant is focused on a Feats-based system.
A “Feat” in our game is an action that demonstrates the player is hitting a key milestone toward understanding a play-style (combat, stealth, magic, environ, or key combinations) or game system. Think “the Labors of Hercules.”
Performing a Feat will gain the player a skill point. New skills cost one or more skill points. A few of our internal rules for Feats are that there should always be multiple ways to perform them and they can never be mundane.
One example? Many of our traps are physics-based, so can be blocked by heavy objects or stuck in place with adhesives. We decided to make this action a Feat after an external tester showed that she could stop a tick tock trap by tossing a glue ball directly at its seams. Which worked! (We’d never seen this before… Something that happens often when external testers play our game.) And that example is one of many ways to perform that Feat.
Through this, we hope to reward fun with more fun, while also not overwhelming the player with too many options right off the bat. And as you prove you understand and are actively engaging the many options available to you in the sim, you’ll unlock skills and abilities that grant you access to even more.