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Crusade - Discussion Thread

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Responsible members of the Skylords Reborn team recently met to discuss possible changes to campaign maps. What is outlined here are the proposed changes to the map Crusade. These changes are not final and are only proposed. As a warning, other map projects such as more RPvE presets and Defensive RPvE have a much higher priority for our team. As such, these, or any campaign map changes, may not happen for a very long time. 

Some changes here are firmer than others, all italicized proposals have accompanying explanations for why we are considering them, but they are the most tentative of all the proposals.

Proposed Changes:

1.   When both paths are cleared before the timer is over, cause the final wave to spawn.

2.   Prevent fire units from becoming stuck when blocked.

3.   Move wells in center section down and add a teleport station that teleports the player into a secret central area with secret reward.

The central area of Crusade currently contains two wells and a gold chest, but otherwise is disconnected from the rest of the map. Because of this, it is generally ignored by the player base as going there only slows you down. It is hard to imagine how this section could be properly integrated into the rest of the map without simply adding an additional camp here, and we don’t want to do that, so we have instead considered a different idea. The idea would be that in the location of the two wells there would instead be a teleport station which teleports the player to the location in the second screenshot. In this location there would be a hidden boss which, if defeated, would reward the player with a one-time reward that would only be earnable by defeating the boss. While this would not create a recurring reason to visit the center area, it would give that part of the map a reason for existing.


Crusade 1: Current center area.


Crusade 2: Secret Boss Arena

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I think there are various signs that maps have issues with either being unintuitive or uniquely vulnerable.

One such sign is when commonly advised tactics consist of outlier cards as crutches to easily overcome hurdles. These influence the progression in a round so heavily that runs with or without them become incomparable.

Another sign can be that people avoid interacting with certain aspects of a map entirely and instead circumvent them.

When the argument is that expert should be hard, then it completely undermines that point when those maps are rather broken in two. An expert map with half the enemies missing/not spawning or lots of its content not being engaged with no longer has a claim on being expert difficulty.

However, as initially mentioned, when expert maps are unclear, sometimes on top of being hard, then the entire thing is running into major approachability issues. Which in turn make players feel like they have to employ some exploit or meta strat, which curbs the creative process.

A big factor is also how easy a tactic that trivializes a map is to execute as well as how widespread it is. High-execution strats that are generally unsuitable or unknown for the broader playerbase don’t warp a map on a major scale. Meanwhile, low-execution tactics degenerate to “cheese strats” and make the content feel lame and unappealing.

It also creates the issue that people come to rely on meta strats and exploits to the point where even thinking about alternatives becomes unappealing. The perceived power gap between the established default strat and whatever they might come up with seems so big that it feels futile to even attempt something else.

The oppressiveness of meta strats and exploits erodes maps in multiple ways, effectively leading to a much shallower experience.

So I want to first look at what issues a map has. Then why they might occur and what parts of the map are getting undermined. Afterwards spitball some ideas on how these issues could be addressed. And finally various elements that could be changed to make these maps more approachable from different angles. Can also be possible compensation nerfs to maps in response to fixes that make them harder.

Main Issue:
Trapping incomes. A low-execution trap on ranged enemy incomes using Mark of the Keeper disables attacks down south. The same can be done for a part of the top incomes. With no more resources needed north and less needed south, the maps difficulty is completely undermined.

The map boasts high pressure on two fronts, both north and south. Power well placement next to the walls locks the player into a harder position to defend. Intuitively you'd fight your way to the teleporter while the more optimal choice is to rush through defending enemies. Not doing this will waste valuable time and leave the player in a worse economical and strategical position.

Combined, these factors create a very punishing environment and incentivize breaking the game rather than engaging with it.

I know that trapping is an exploit that was decided should stay. However, I think Crusade warrants an exception. In cases where a low-execution trap trapping fundamentally warps and breaks a map it should definitely be addressed. The whole concept of Crusade completely crumbles because of that. Even if trapping is to stay I don’t see how this particular instance is remotely acceptable.

Since the entire wave can be disabled by trapping a single squad, I'll assume all incomes run on the same trigger. So the incomes could be split up into multiple individual parts, running on individual triggers to make it less susceptible to trapping. This way the part of the attack wave that can be trapped and disabled (the one containing the ranges squad) can be isolated while the remaining part keeps coming and needs to be fought. To compensate for the more consistent attacks the timers could be slightly longer.

Similarly, up south the initial waves of ranged squads could be split so it can only partially be trapped or not at all.

It’s entirely on the table to not remove trapping entirely but making it less effective so the map remains functional.

The appearance of Twilight Dancers attacking down south could be pushed back a bit. This would make it easier to at least defend the wall for a longer time.

Adjustments could be made to make fighting your way to the teleporter not that much worse than rushing it. The timer for the first wave could be extended while also making the teleporter unusable unless enemies are defeated.

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This is probably my favorite map because it has a multiplayer defense component. That said we can't forget that this is tied with bh as the first multiplayer map players have access to so the difficulty shouldnt be excessive. 

For standard and advanced I think there should be no changes to any of the waves or difficulty. I've never seen anyone trap units on this map in those two difficulties as there is little pressure anywhere. This is acceptable because of how early players access the map. I cant speak to expert but for the lower difficulties i think this needs no changes though the buffed optional center area is perfectly welcome.

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I like the idea of a faster spawning last wave. For speed runners - super nice
But I was also thinking the other way:
If you play the map with newer players and they decide to go from top to bottom, the will have there main army at the end of the map, when on the other side spawns a big army.
So maybe It would be nice to have a bit time between last camp clear and last wave spawn.
(or add a switch to skip the countdown)


Also, it would be a more interesting defense at the top if there were a bigger variance of units.
What I mean (Exp): Wall 1 = archers, Wall 2 = bugs (I think), Wall 3 = flying units, Wall 4 = Slavers (I think)
Could also help against the easy block Cocofang mentions. At least at the top.


Having a special boss sounds nice, but as you already realized – it’s a on time thing for every player.
(Spending time for something which is only visit once vs spending time on something which is used in every run)
Maybe give the boss a “big” gold chest…

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