Author Topic: My gameplay-focused review of BPC  (Read 2037 times)

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My gameplay-focused review of BPC
About a week ago I replay all of BPC and I realised I wanted to post my thoughts regarding it's gameplay(mostly on the insane/realistic difficulty), something I feel is discussed much less than its story. Hope someone will find it interesting. This is all my obviously all my opinion and I'm not trying to present any of this as truth. Just imagine I wrote "IMO" after every line you disagree with  :P

Age of Aquarius

While not as complex or filled with :words: as later releases there's still a lot to love about AoA, especially the re-remastered BPC release. A lot of work has been put in to balance the fighters and weapons so that you actually have a choice instead of just picking the Perseus with double PromS like retail or double Balor like the old release.
The Kulas, Aurora, and the fighter-bomber update of the Myrmidon present real options depending on what you want or need, and the Circe-Prom S combo provides high alpha to kill Shivan fighters in 1 or 2 shots. The Kayser is still the king of pure damage but it's sadly not very viable due to the energy drain compared to the Balor with not enough of a boost in damage. Still, it's more variety than you'll find in most campaigns.

The enemy AI, while not as good as WiH is still noticeably better than retail and will make for some great dogfights, especially in the Vishan missions where they're given more power to compete with the player's supership.
Aside from those re-done missions however the Shivans won't present a real threat to the player, their weapons are still crap and their numbers aren't as high as retail so the campaign is overall rather easy, it's been that way since the 2010 release though. The really challenging mission is Universal truth, swarming you with nightmare inducing numbers of Seraphims and Piranha spamming Nahemas. After failing it 4-5 times in a row you'll feel like you understand the hopelessness and despair Shivans were meant to invoke, it's a great example of gameplay and story integration, especially since it comes after a bunch of easy missions where you're constantly praised for your heroics. It's a great wake up call and it will force you to master the skills you'll need to get through War In Heaven.
Overall it's one of the best campaigns that still has a distinct "Freespace" feel to it. Vassago's Dirge outshines it in my opinion due to better FREDding, using better AI, and a better difficulty curve though.

In terms of presentation it's better than ever, the VA is still excellent and the music feels fitting and mixes great with beam and laser fire sounds. The new effects and models combined with bright, colourful skyboxes make it look great too.
If you ever wanted to get someone into FSO, this is the campaign to do it with. It looks, sounds, and feels almost like a commercial release while being pretty light in tone and challenge, perfect for newcomers!

War In Heaven (acts 1 and 2)

Almost a complete opposite in terms of gameplay, it will provide a real challenge even for Freespace veterans but it does suffer in terms of variety.
The rebalanced primaries help in act 1 but you're still limited to the Uhlan, your only real choice comes from missiles and taking either the Vulcan-Scalpel combo or the Maul. In act 2 you'll mostly be flying a Kentauroi with a Rapier as your primary weapon, the only exception being Aristeia where you get a decent choice of fighters and primaries to take. The last 2 missions will give you the option to fly the heavier Uriel gunships but sadly it turns and flies too slow to compete with superior TEI fighters while not providing much you can't do in a Kent with a Gattler in the 2-bank.

The AI used here is pretty much the best FSO can offer at the moment and combined with enemies who fly capable ships armed with actually dangerous weapons make for a campaign that feels much less heroic than standard Freespace gameplay. Sure, you can still win a 1v5 dogfight if you fly hard enough but the days of cutting through 50 enemy craft per mission with relative ease are long gone. You can end up with 40+ kills in Delenda Est, but it's by no means as easy as it is in retail. WiH will make you play around the strengths and weaknesses of enemy craft rather than just rushing in head-on.
Thankfully, allies will often be a big help and help you out of a bad situation even when they can't quite keep up with you. They will even appear quite intelligent at times(with some help from clever scripting). You are presented with opposition that's not only challenging but also feels smart, using a variety of tactics to complete their objectives and pulling out when necessary.
You won't feel like the GTVA has an infinite number of ships, they still feel like the same GTVA you play as rather than surrogate Shivans.
Especially notable is the hard work put into making capships move and fight in a believable and intelligent manner, complete with tactics that make sense for the situation and capabilities of those ships. To make sure the player notices this, you will receive <intercepted> messages telling you exactly what and how the enemy capships are doing. While it's never really explained how these messages are intercepted in certain missions(those where you don't have an AWACS ship with you) it's an acceptable break from reality to showcase some cool manoeuvres.

Like AoA, it looks and sounds great, perhaps even better with huge battles and beautiful flak and torpedo explosions everywhere.
Unlike AoA it's definitely not friendly for newcomers. It's dark, technical, and rather challenging.

War In Heaven(Tenebra)

While you'll only fly the Ainsarii and will want to use the UX accelerator aside from Eyes in the Storm(where you have your pick of fighters) and One Future where you fly a capships the variety here comes from the missions. Every mission offers new gameplay though most of them will be focused on using the stealth capabilities of the Ainsarii. The missions this time are focused more around story and atmosphere rather than gameplay, with the notable exceptions being Her Finest Hour and Eyes in the Storm. The AI is still excellent but you don't interact with them that much, either oneshotting them from stealth or avoiding them all together.
You're discouraged from breaking stealth and further discouraged from dogfighting as your Ainsarii is a real pig. Too big and turns too slowly compared to the Alliance Pegasus.

While I can certainly get some enjoyment from the novelty value of cool new mechanics and good writing, ultimately replaying the campaign left me a bit bored, itching to finally get back to real dogfighting(thankfully Eyes in the storm provides just that).

The difficulty is non-existent in most missions as the challenge comes from understanding the new mechanics rather than flying skill and execution. Her Finest Hour is an exception to that rule, a great puzzle-like mission that offers you some chance to dogfight(even though you're still stuck in the stealth pig), providing great replay value if you want to understand how all the pieces work together.

Overall it's much more cerebral and while still very engaging it provides much less classic "fun" than Part 1.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2016, 09:50:37 am by FrikgFeek »
[19:31] <MatthTheGeek> you all high up on your mointain looking down at everyone who doesn't beam everything on insane blindfolded


Offline General Battuta

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Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
I love this kind of discussion!


Offline karajorma

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Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
While I can certainly get some enjoyment from the novelty value of cool new mechanics and good writing, ultimately replaying the campaign left me a bit bored, itching to finally get back to real dogfighting(thankfully Eyes in the storm provides just that).

Yeah, that kinda summed up my issues with Act 3. I guess the way I'd put it is "A little bit too clever for its own good" Had the novelty missions been part of a longer campaign, it would have worked much better but they kinda piled up on top of each other and I found myself missing classic dogfighting too. That's probably why I preferred the first two releases. Act 3 had some good moments, and I thought it was quite technically brilliant but it was never as much fun.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 02:24:41 am by karajorma »
Karajorma's Freespace FAQ. It's almost like asking me yourself.

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Offline Snarks

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Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
I tried replaying AoA, but I just couldn't do it. AoA feels dreadfully slow in the beginning, especially once you know what's going to happen. Combine that with a relative lack of emotional high peaks, AoA doesn't grab my attention early on. That said, I've replayed all of WiH at least 3 times now within the last couple of months. There's just so much more going on in WiH combined with the IMO more interesting dogfights/scenarios that I'm just constantly engaged.

I do agree that Act 3 just has too many novelty missions lined up. Would have been great if they were scattered with more normal missions inbetween. I felt like we never got to reuse any of the tricks (which is fine for some of them), but I also never felt like I mastered the unconventional tactics of the Fedayeen, like assassination or flying a cruiser.

Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
I think act 3 definitely could've used more missions like Eyes in the Storm. It has its gimmick with tank deployment which is new and interesting but it ultimately comes down to your wing versus a big enemy force, the turrets are there to help a bit, they won't win the mission by themselves.

It provides both a gimmick and classic gameplay, unlike Nothing is True where after you do the infection gimmick it's just 3-5 minutes of shooting at helpless transports and burner pumping to the next group.
(It also kinda helps that you can fly a Kent instead of the stealth pig).
« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 08:52:59 am by FrikgFeek »
[19:31] <MatthTheGeek> you all high up on your mointain looking down at everyone who doesn't beam everything on insane blindfolded


Offline Spoon

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Act 3 is so much more fun and interesting than the whole of AoA and Act 1 and 2 combined. Every mission is masterfully crafted with multiple approaches to its end goal, each with their own new form of gameplay. Its the only campaign in Freespace history that makes stealth fun, and not just a tedious annoyance. Every mission in that campaign I can recall instantly, whereas the majority of the missions from Act 1&2 are a blur for me. The ones that I can instantly recall had some kind of gimmick or novelty that set them apart from the other missions that mostly just involved 'boring' classic dogfighting.
Snarks brings up a good point with the lack of repeat here though. Most of the Act 3 missions are one off wonders, and it wouldn't have hurt to have a few more missions that had you reuse the tricks learned from previous missions.

I tried replaying AoA, but I just couldn't do it. AoA feels dreadfully slow in the beginning, especially once you know what's going to happen.
AoA is dreadfully slow in the beginning. The first mission is literally flying in a straight line to investigate blips on the radar. It works fine for a first playthrough, since it tells the story, but if you already know the story, its not great for its replayability.
I feel WiH Act 1 suffers from this a bit too, I tried to replay it at one time but the first mission is such a classical boring escort mission... I've been meaning to give it another go with the new voice acted edition but (still) haven't really gotten around to it yet.

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
For me those dogfights never got boring simply because they're so much more intense than retail or almost any other campaign.
The high damage and competency of the enemy AI means you have to almost re-learn Freespace if you want to win missions with your flying skill(instead of relying on semi-invulnerable wingmates). In retail you'll get free kills even if you fly defensively and screw-ups don't cost you as much because the Shivans have crappy weapons.
In WiH you have to actually go on the offensive, the enemy AI won't just randomly fly in front of you if you just dodge for long enough. Switching between small bursts of aggression to get kills and defence while you try to manoeuvre into a better position is just so much fun for me.

I would definitely agree that it starts off somewhat slow though, the early missions use really crappy AI classes to avoid overwhelming the player early on which makes them a bit too easy on replays.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 11:46:17 am by FrikgFeek »
[19:31] <MatthTheGeek> you all high up on your mointain looking down at everyone who doesn't beam everything on insane blindfolded

Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
What FrikgFeek said. "My Brother, My Enemy" has the best dogfight of all time.

Re: My gameplay-focused review of BPC
Let me also say something about it.

First, AoA:
As mentioned above, I also find it... boring? dull? I can't find the proper word. Simply said, I had to force myself to replay the campaign after its re-release. It isn't bad, the plot is good, the same goes for mission design. It is rather slow, though. But whatever.
I've been replaying the missions and checking for any bugs or strange things... found some! :P

...With Vast Seas: The transports' message "Engaging subspace now" wasn't fixed,
The Dragon Awakes: This mission is actually much easier than before. I managed to destroy all of the Dragons before even Zeta arrived, using Balors and Tornado missiles, on Normal. I'm not sure which tweaks made this not only possible, but also pretty easy.
Lucifer: I saw something on the forum regarding an explanation for camera movements during the cutscene. Those are very strange as for an escape pod launched from (I suppose) that Orion. Maybe the battle zone should be a bit reconfigured, i.e. the pod should leave from the Orion, fly through the cruiser battle and then watch the Lucy killing that destroyer.
When you chase the Duke, you actually could disable her - if she wouldn't magically jump out after getting her engines pounded to 30%...
First Contact: breaking this mission is... even funny :P
The mission in which you protect the Temeraire from a total of five Shivan destroyers - she is disabled from the beginning of the mission and facing the first wave of enemy capships only with one beam. Her engines get repaired when first two destroyers are gone... I kinda don't understand it, if Temeraire might be able to use her main guns against the first wave, she would have a good chance (with some support) of dealing with the second wave.
And about Vishnan weapons - am I just dumb or there isn't really any use for about a half of their weapons?

Now, WiH Act 1:
The most annoying thing of all was the lack of any dedicated anty-subsystem secondary weapon. This is perfectly visible in Darkest Hour, when you have to kill at least one of the Valerie's main beams so it doesn't kill the Indus. I simply punched a bank of Dirks at max range at one of the beams. Approaching this thing in an Uhlan is a suicide, especially when enemy Persei are around.
Actually, there is one more thing about the Indus and Valerie. Their movement... is pretty dumb. When the Valerie jumps in, she's facing Rheza with only two of her beams. And she doesn't do anything about it, she just... stands there. A small roll might get her into position to bombard the station with all of her guns. And the Indus - while the Valerie is staying in one position, Karuna goes above the Tev corvette instead of moving under her belly. And gets gutted by a total of 4 beams. Which would also happen even without a dumb path of the Indus if the Valerie would maneuver properly. If someone would attempt to change it, I suggest making Valerie's movement less static and compensating the difference in firepower by putting about two Uriels into the action with orders to kill the Valerie's beams. The player might be forced to defend them.

I think Act I is a fine start of the story. Got used to the new tactics, the way of surviving in the battle zone. That fine introduction into the WiH plot. Yum.
Man has nothing only when he lacks the will.