Here’s an indie I’ve been interested in playing for a while. I first checked it out at SXSW Gaming Expo back in 2015 (or was it 2016, a long time ago basically). Where I really loved the gimmick of having to hunt each other down in the dark, having bare visibility of your character.
It was almost like hide-and-seek meets top-down Towerfall: Ascension, expect you had all these crazy weapons with secondary abilities.
It seemed like it was going to be one crazy fun multiplayer game, only thing is that I do not game with my friends locally, so that immediately put me on the edge of giving up on this one. Luckily, the studio answered my prayers, adding both custom bots and online support.
What hurts so much though is that this is having a timed-exclusive deal with Discord for their new Steam-competing service. Honestly, “Discord First” is the worst thing about my time with At Sundown.
First, lets go back to what’s great about At Sundown. You choose between a small, medium or large layout on an array of diverse maps and modes. The goal is, whether teams or free-for-all, is to beat your opponent at whatever game type while most of the map remains in darkness, only relieving players if exposed to light, using their attacks or sending out these smoke bombs to throw off your opponents on where you are.
The maps are laid out to where it’ll be difficult to not know where you’re going, despite being hidden half the time. There will be power-ups to level the field or reveal where your opponents are, along with environment effects that can also contribute. Modes, such as deathmatch, capture the flag or king of the hill, remain familiar, but supportive of the gameplay.
There will be one like “back to the basics”, where every player has this special one-shot scatter gun and the rest remains a mixture of familiar with the trademarks of At Sundown’s mechanics. The game is simple to understand, using skills to determined mastery as every weapon and power-up is balanced to the core.
It’s personally so much fun to experiment with each weapon’s functions with the later ones you unlock getting more complex. There is a leveling system to grant you a new mode, weapon, or map within each increment. Leveling starts off fine, just asking you to play some matches or take on the training courses to practice each gun and melee item, but I will say, the grind does appear the later you level up.
For the most part, I’m fine with customizing my matches and having a blast, fighting tough AI and feeling like a champ, ricochet my twin revolver shots to get an enemy around the corner or set mines with my sniper rifle. I was luckily given two codes and sent the other to a buddy on my Steam friends list so we can create some memorable fights with these sick gizmos.
Only thing is, there were no bots allowed in online play and even after launch, I could not seem to get into a match with anyone.
This whole “Discord First” has actually harmed the potential player base this could be having by gating it off to those who own a Discord account, when a very small percentage of the members are paying attention to this service and a smaller percentage of those members who do know about Discord’s Steam-like platform would pay attention to games such as this.
Without a healthy player base, the objective-based modes aren’t as fun when it’s just two players. Bots are mostly great (there are few cases of them getting stuck in environments or not participating in a capture the flag), but it’s not going to match the excitement of battling other players. With all said, the later grind just seems that more distant because of the said issue.
It’s challenging enough for an indie developer to get a multiplayer community going and Discord is not going to help just because it’s a service for online chatting. Sad as it is, a couple of indies aren’t going to help entice gamers into trying out your service when Steam is already available to them.
You just aren’t going to conquer that beast, so instead of gating off games temporarily, be bold and big. Offer more gamer & developer friendly features, not available on Steam, while bringing in bigger games to represent you. I have this rant about Discord because this is a well-made multiplayer shooter deserving of more players, but Discord is not an established platform I can turn to for digital game distribution.
Without a good player-base, the replay value shrinks, even with the moments of insane fun I was having. At Sundown is great hectic fun, inviting you to play around with it’s toys in the most colorfully violent game of hide-and-seek, but getting to the double digit leveling makes me realize how even the silliest of fun can last when your multiplayer-focused game doesn’t having many people to play with, unless you’re that lucky guy or girl who’s able to bring three friends to a computer screen for local play.
Simply put, “Discord First” harms an otherwise fun party!
Hey! I said the game was still good. Don’t mistaken the rating just because I ended with criticism.