It took me a bit longer than I expected to play and write up the feedback post, but I played up to Chapter 12 so far and will probably stay there for now, since it seems like a good place to pause until more chapters are released. So far, I would say it was a good time that definitely invokes some of that old Kaga game feel. I’ll admit that I’m not super tuned into each story beat and what’s going on there, but given it’s not a large priority, it works well enough, and I don’t have much feedback to give there. The following feedback is all gameplay-related and put into drop-down sections because there’s a lot of it
For the overall gameplay, it was definitely fun. There were a good amount of anti-turtles thrown in to spur moving forward and playing proactively(a race against a green Swordmaster to the throne boss with a drop is one that stood out). As you mentioned, I do think the early game can make this proactive play rough if you do lose a unit or two, speaking as someone who lost the two cavs for Chapter 3 which essentially turned the chapter into a turtlefest by the south forest area. Part of this is due to just not getting that many new units in these early chapters, and more specifically, not getting a second healer until halfway through Chapter 5. Only having Aleksi as your healer makes your options for splitting fairly minimal, which does limit some options in Chapter 2/3/5. Personally, I think another healer in 2 or 3 along with potentially another unit would help in making the game more playable if one lets early units die.
Outside of this earlygame issue though, it’s pretty reasonable to let units die and keep going. Part of this is due to most units not having majorly individualized niches, in part because skills aren’t a significant part of the gameplay generally. However, this does make some units feel rather samey, particularly those that don’t have any really distinguishing traits like novel weapon ranks or statline. This is not negative in all cases, but I do feel that units like Jaako and Kalle pretty much just end up having their stuff get given to other units who are in the same class as them, have the same weapon ranks or better, or are just better (Heta for her speed, Linnea for more time to get wexp). I do think some of these units could be more differentiated in their base stats or growths to at least feel as if they offer something different from their counterparts. More examples of this will be in the Units section, but in general, I think more stat variation could do some units a lot of good.
Something else that I liked in a vacuum was the low rate of exp, making units last longer without being outshined within a few chapters. However, I think this is a bit of a double-edged sword because this also means the prepromotes you gain don’t really have any particular tradeoff to using them. They gain the same amount of exp. Their growths, while not that great, aren’t much worse than your unpromoted units when taking into account the slow rate of progression. And finally, Master Seals have a Level 15 requirement, and as of 13 preps, I have no combat unit at Level 15 and probably won’t til at least Chapter 14, possibly 15. All of this put together means units like Hugo and Mira are essentially auto-deploys as they’re just better than your other units, which does make some growth units with similar niches feel poor in comparison. It’s possible that whenever Master Seals become plentiful, this won’t be the case anymore, but it’s probably worth keeping an eye on either way, given how much investment it takes to get growth units to 15.
This last bit is minor, but I thought that it was odd that Bows seem to have been shifted up one tier in WEXP while no other weapon type has. This doesn’t usually matter, but the Steel Bow in Chapter 2 being a C rank is actually a bit of a problem since Helmi doesn’t have the WEXP to use that at base, making it sort of awkwardly hang around until she can. This is rough for archers in particular because their rate of WEXP gain is lower than pretty much all other units anyway.
EDIT: I forgot to comment on the dismount implementation here, since it was mentioned that it was in a sort of uncertain state. Given how rare it is so far (maybe in 1 chapter?), it feels under-utilized and would benefit from either commiting to it more or just removing it, imo.
Specific Chapter Feedback
I’ll separate it out into chapters I liked, ones I was mixed on, and ones I disliked. For me, 1, 2, and 4 all solid earlygame maps that were pretty enjoyable, although 2 and 4 were somewhat tougher due to losing the two early cavs. 7 and 8 were also very good, and the last map I played, 12, was maybe my favorite in the hack since a lot is going on, and I’m a sucker for both port and Escape maps, so it was a perfect combo.
I was somewhat mixed on Chapter 5, less due to the chapter itself and moreso because you don’t have a second early healer to facilitate the split that the map seems to want. Vuln chugging works to a point, but I think it would feel better if you had another healer here.
9 was a tough sell for me because I’m not fond of fog or Survive objectives, due to both feeling as if they encourage a slower style of play, but this chapter had incentives to poke your head out with the villages and essentially is Defeat Boss as well, so it worked out. I did feel the fog vision was extremely low though, and that the map may feel better with a higher fog radius.
10 I felt was a bit awkward to approach due to the overlapping siege. Yes, Maj’s prf and Barrier can pretty much trivialize the magic damage, but all the enemies in the center give her a lot of trouble, especially the soldiers, so she’s not particularly good at clearing the area. A Barrier’d Bjorn is your best bet, but it still feels like a bit of a slog, and the reward you get is not particularly worth it, so it seems more straightforward to just go Seize instead on the right and ignore that middle area.
As for the chapters I didn’t vibe with, you’ve already mentioned pretty much all the issues I had with 3. Because it’s a Rout map where all the enemies charge at you, being undermanned makes it pretty tough, and since there are no side objectives to go for, basically what I did was rush to recruit Nilou and then bunker down in the bottom forest area. Another healer would have helped a lot here for sure.
The next map I wasn’t sold on was 6. I have a bias against a lot of survive/defend maps, and here I think the issue was that playing proactively wasn’t particularly rewarded. There are a ton of reinforcements on the left side, so a good chunk of your units have to weather the storm there, and the main objective you’d stick your neck out to get it is on the boss and isn’t that great from what I recall. The actual side objective you want is the Kalis, and that guy charges far enough that you don’t really need to move too much to get him, so you don’t have much reason to not play passively here.
The map that I felt was the weakest was 11. Part of this is due to fog (which seems to be even lower vision than in 9) and while you do have the torches you can trigger, going out into the fog to do that is a risky process. There are a lot of enemies, especially near the starting area, so it’s very easy to get a unit killed by moving them out into the fog here. This map could really benefit from a Torch staff for safer checking or a Torch being in Antero’s starting inventory so he can just run out with his avoid prf and scout immediately. From my experience, he’s one of the few units you can send out and be confident that he’ll live, aside from maybe Mira, so he’s actually very important here despite poor combat. I lost a couple units here and couldn’t muster up the will to reset due to the fog feeling more “unfair” than in 9. With easier methods of getting rid of that fog though, it would feel much better in my opinion.
Despite my gripes, chapter design on the whole was quite solid, and I look forward to playing more chapters (though I’m saving 13 for later).
Unit thoughts are going to be a lot less in-depth, as most of them are pretty much alright or good. I don’t have strong thoughts on most of the Monica-side units as I didn’t get to use them very long, but all of them seemed like solid contributors at least. Particularly standout units to me from the main group are:
- Aleksi - healer lord is vital due to being the only one you have early, not a slouch offensively
- Hugo - the Jagen who still has yet to fall off with good enough speed, bulk, and strength to put in serious work with the two silver lances you get
- Elias - high speed + mage + prf leads to onerounding where many units struggle to do so
- Risto/Kristian - high speed + Kalis gives them really good combat along with their 1-2 range. Kristian is probably pushed out by an invested Risto, but he does have waterwalking which seems like it could be useful, and his bases are solid.
- Mira - Really high speed, silver sword, good enough bulk all lead to a mainstay unit
- Heta - A fast axe user, she eclipses Jaako almost immediately. Great target for Speedwing as it gets her doubling reliably and she has enough Attack to use it well.
- Roni - All-around sword user, has enough speed to do alright
- Helmi - Does okay for herself with chip and eventually Longbow
- Julius - Does armor things, kinda folds to axe users but otherwise is solid enough
- Lumi - A classic pegasus knight that does her job (speed + flight)
- Both f!myrms - I can’t remember either of their names, but they pretty much fill the same role as fast swordie and do it well enough.
- Johan - Seems very good with what little time I’ve had with him, notable bulk and great strength with not terrible speed. Will probably join the Hugo/Mira echelon of “prepromotes I will never want to bench”.
- Linnea - Second healer / 10, she joins early enough that this is very valuable, and the only other healer that joins after her is pretty much just inferior. Easily wins a deploy slot in your army.
Units I thought were meh:
- Oliver - Despite the 6 move, he feels just okay to me. His speed and strength are in an awkward spot where he rarely doubles but also has less strength than Helmi, along with lower wexp. Decent filler chip.
- Niilou - I was incredibly cursed with his high speed growth, but even despite that, I think his base performance is hard to swallow. Exp growth is low enough that it takes quite some time for the speed to kick in, and his bases are poor along with really rough weapon ranks and somewhat shoddy starting inventory (scimitar is unreliable and wooden bow does poor damage).
- Sini - She feels potentially overshadowed by Lumi but that’s not a bad thing, given she’s a replacement type unit. Has better lance rank notably which is a bit of a niche.
- Antaro - As funny as he may be, his Prf is going to break eventually and it doesn’t appear like his stats will hold up. Could get some use out of him in specific instances (maybe more fog maps) but will have to see
Units that didn’t feel good to use:
- Kalevi/Sanna - If they had lived, I might feel differently, but they’re pretty lacking in the stat department so I expect they would have made their way to the bench quickly.
- Vilma - Unlike these two, she’s fairly solid initially, but due to low exp growth and not great bases and growths, she fell behind pretty quickly for me to where it made more sense to bench.
- Kalle - More or less Linnea but joins two chapters later with worse staff rank. He feels very superfluous as a unit, as whatever minor stat differences he has with Linnea don’t really matter since staffers don’t really do combat. He feels like a replacement unit that comes too early.
- Jaako - As the Heta part mentions, he is pretty much immediately mugged by her for whatever axes he may use due to just being worse stat-wise. There’s not really any rank difference between them, and his minor advantages in Str and bulk aren’t much in comparison to her speed advantage.
- Teemu - I get that low base HP + high HP growth is his gimmick, but 15 HP feels pretty much unusable for any unit that may want to frontline as he gets 2RKO’d frequently. He died almost immediately for me, but I didn’t bother to reset because, with the low experience gain, it didn’t seem like the payoff was worth it.
The key to making some of these units feel better is, imo, giving them greater differentiation from direct competitors stats-wise. In Kalle’s case, that may still not be enough, but I think it would at least help Jaako and the three early cavs.
Despite any criticisms I may have here, I really do think the hack is neat and has a lot of potential, so I’ll def be keeping my eye on it as it develops.