So, I've been meaning to do a big feedback post for awhile now, so I figured I'd go ahead and do one.
Unfortunately, this isnt going to be the positive one I thought I'd be doing.
For the time being, I've pretty much stopped playing this; which is a shame, as it was great right up until this point.
My problem: The whole controls & angled shots thing. The vast majority of the slices, and almost *all* of the spells, as well as enemy patterns, seem to be balanced around the fact that you had the angled shots to work with. With it reduced to 4 way, most spells go from "pretty good" to "utterly worthless". The first tier of spell classes, for instance. Forgician is sorta OK. And one of the others has a snake spell (I'll get to that in a moment here....). The other 8 though, currently, are horrible. And I'm expecting that this will be continuing into the other tiers, since there are many spells, but only so many spell TYPES, and right now, the only ones I've found to be of use are the snakes, waves (like the one Forgician has), and seekers, because these are capable of either A: going at alternate angles, thus allowing them to HIT something that nearly every other spell type simply cannot hit, or B: hitting an enemy that is using alot of heavy forward fire, blocking everything else (the wave shot can do this).
I'm going to show an example of the problem here:
This illustrates a situation that's not just common right now, but ABSURDLY common. I ran into this one multiple times within the next 7 minutes or so, and it's just as bloody aggravating every single time. The *only* area type where this might not happen is surface areas, the ones with the wind generators (and even then, it still can, and indeed did, happen in those). Caves, buildings, towers, are going to have many problems with this because of how cramped they are. In the situation up in that screenshot, I have no options, aside from standing there with a seeker spell (which cannot break the slug's shots), and just firing..... over..... and over..... and over...... and over...... and over...... and over again, having to get lucky each time to hit the thing (and doing very little damage every single time). Of the 5 spell classes available to me, there is no other spell capable of hitting this enemy..... except certain specific ammo spells. Ammo spells, though, are meant to deal with tough situations and dangerous, powerful foes.... using one to bypass what is actually just a design problem is a real waste, and surely, it's not the way the game was designed to work. And even then, I *cannot* hit with any of the available ammo spells without first crashing through multiple slug bolts to get in range.
And it's not the fault of the slug's pattern, either. Really, ANY enemy with a ranged attack, in that type of slice, is currently presenting the same problem. You either have a snake spell, or a seeker, or you have to crash into it and smack it with an ammo shot, or just outright leave the area and find somewhere else and hope to get lucky in the slices that are chosen. And heck, if that one had been one of those squids with the blue shots, I dont think even the seeker spell would work; I would HAVE to crash through and ammo-blast it, because none of my current sets have a snake spell.
And it sure as heck isnt just that one slice! There are *lots* of them. So freaking many.
A four-way style of attack simply doesnt work very well with this type of design. Look at other games that use pure 4-way firing (or even 2 way, in the case of something like Megaman). The Megaman series, the original Metroid, Cave story.... notice with these, that they DO NOT HAVE ANGLED SECTIONS (or have very, very, very few). Not only that, they're generally very lacking in cramped corridors; the design of these games is very, very open, because that's what works with that control/firing style. You do still have to aim your shots in those games, by being on the proper vertical/horizontal level, but it works because you have the room to do so. This game, most of it, is very NOT open. Alot of cramped, complicated areas with tons of platforms and walls. There's nothing wrong with that, but.... right now, with this change, it doesnt work. Those slices were created with the game's previous balance, and now, they just dont match what it turned into. I also think the caliber system doesnt entirely work with this current style either.
Now, obviously, it's technically possible to beat that slug without getting killed. But there's only two ways of doing it, either standing there and firing slow-moving seekers over and over and hoping something happens, or crashing right into the damn thing and ammo blasting it. These both are examples of "fake difficulty" (look it up on TVTropes), which, previously, did not really exist in this game..... but now, it seems to be EVERYWHERE. And both solutions simply dont fit how the combat is designed to work.
I remember something that one of the devs said (forget which one) regarding this game versus the previous one. In the previous one, since the overall design was so.... er.... "wide", it was possible to change, add, or outright remove entire game mechanics and such, without completely wrecking the balance and playability. Yet with this game, everything was designed from the start to work together as a cohesive unit, and changing/removing even just one thing could shatter it. I feel this is exactly what has happened; a major, core element.... the 8-way firing.... was changed/reduced rather dramatically, and because of this, tons of other things that were designed around the specific balance that the original system used, have now changed/broken. The only way to fix it is either to put it back, or really really dramatically change almost all of the spell sets currently in the game, or a great, great many of the slices (which would ALSO lead to less interesting areas, if the "open" style from games like Cave Story were to be used in a procedural way; the complexity of the current areas is what keeps them interesting).
Now, I dunno how many, if any, other players here will agree with me on this one. But these are my honest thoughts about it, after spending some time testing and pondering the whole thing. For all I know also, it might be less of an issue on lower difficulties (I'm on Hero now); I cant play on those though, because easy games tend to put me to sleep. And really, I shouldnt have to switch to a lower difficulty because of situations like the one up above.
Not to mention.... this almost seems like something that I see REALLY often with console games, which is developers pandering to an audience simply because that audience cant handle difficulty, or things that take effort. Look at fighting games, for instance. I know *alot* of people that hate almost the entire genre..... except Smash Bros. Why? Because the games are complicated, and more specifically, the CONTROLS are complicated..... all those moves and specials and combos..... and are hard to learn, as opposed to Smash, which is *instantly* learnable and requires almost no effort. Yet, if those other fighters were changed, and thus, simplified.... they wouldnt be the games that they are now, and wouldnt be GOOD like they are now. The difficult controls in those are a part of the price of the gameplay being the way it is; if you want to play one of those, you have to bite the bullet and spend some time practicing and learning it. I dont at all think the guys at Arcen here are the type to do that sorta thing on purpose (whereas many console devs WILL do it on purpose, and there's tons and tons of examples of this), but still, that's the feeling I get from it.
Ok, that there, is enough rambling from me, hah. I hate to sound so incredibly negative, and I do hope I havent somehow insulted or offended anyone here; if I have, it wasnt my intention. But I think feedback of this sort is important, so I figured I'd write it all up, and see what happens. For the time being though, I'm going to put the game aside, much as I hate to. I have next to no patience to begin with, so dealing with stuff like the example up there is..... well, it's only going to get things launched at the wall in the end, heh. I'm hoping this fact will change somehow; I've been praising this game since Alpha started, and all of the good ideas that make it up still remain pretty darned great. It's just that the balance of the game has now been punted off a cliff and exploded with a nuke, so.... yeah, I'll just stop for now.