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End-Game Feels Bad and Isn't Fun

Personally I think people underestimate the value of starting a new character. There are so many potential builds that you could play the current build of LE almost indefinitely.

What I’d really like to see introduced are alternatives to grinding which make playing the game more at end game more fun. Maybe challenge bosses that get more complex if you play them with friends, or just general cooperative mini-games like puzzles or custom maps from Warcraft 3, where you defend a base or run around doing tasks trying to survive and escape. Maybe enemies in these modes could have mechanics like those from Vermintide or Left For Dead, where you have to free allies from them or distract them instead of killing them. Another great game to borrow ideas from might be Darksburg; It is basically nothing but these kinds of cooperative levels.

Giving the player more fun stuff to do rather than adding grind is better value for the player. That’s what I always try to advocate for.

if someone doesnt find starting new characters fun… they simply wont. There no value or estimation to speak of.

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Well, mechanically and technically speaking, what the value is, ultimately, is the same value as when you began the game in the first place. In fact, it’s the same as starting a character in any new game in particular, not just this one. What you gain is the potential to try all of the things you had the ability to try when you first started playing the game the first time. And typically in an ARPG, the leveling process is a big part of the content in the game, because filling in the build, finding bonuses and gear to go along with that build, etc. is a major experience in the game.

The part of the game that you don’t get to repeat I guess, would be seeing new areas and enemies, and maybe some of the knowledge you gain about the items. But the way in which you approach those areas and enemies changes when you come at them with a new build. A new build is a new perspective on how to approach the game, because you’re coming at it with different tools. You see distances differently. You see dealing damage differently. You see what’s necessary to win fights and stay safe differently. This is where ARPGs become strong in terms of replayability, is allowing you to do things you’ve done over again but with a new way of conquering the original challenges.

This true of activities in life also. Sometimes when you don’t have fun doing something the first time, it’s helpful to try again with a different approach. I actually didn’t learn how to have fun fishing until a friend of mine went with me and showed me the technique. Then I started to see how I could succeed, and then the entire point of fishing began to make sense to me. I’ve come to realize from that experience that this is a good attitude to embrace in general; Just because you’ve tried something one way doesn’t really mean you’ve done everything there is to do within it.

It’s also hard to imagine someone not finding any value in this whatsoever because the main thing you lose in your first playthrough is novelty of the areas and enemies specifically. The lionshare of what the player does after reaching max level in an ARPG is grind through areas and bosses over again, or through randomly generated content with the same areas and enemies, in order to obtain better loot. If the player is not averse to fighting the same enemies and seeing the same environments repeated, then starting the game over entirely isn’t all that different than grinding at max level, except that you then get to have new experiences and try new things.

This is why this was one of the things I mentioned in this post; There’s tons of content to be played through still after your first playthrough by beginning again with a different class or build. Novel experiences and new challenges are the primary things playing a video game has to offer the player. And you never know what experiences you might have missed out on until you go looking for them.

Now is it possible to find no value you when you play through a game? I mean, maybe. But that doesn’t mean you’ve done everything there is to do in that game. Even in a board game like chess, there are strategies and game knowledge that emerge and change how you experience the game as you play and become more skilled. There’s an emergent value in playing a game over again. This is why we don’t get bored of games we’ve played before as quickly as you’d think we would. That’s what I was communicating here.

I hope this helps clarify what I was trying to describe.

(Edit: Typos / Grammar)

Thats interesting because I never did the normal monos more than once each per character… i.e. I rushed through them like part of the campaign with my aim to get to the empowered versions as soon as possible… I am sure that I would have gone absolutely bonkers doing normal monos 10x over - especially because of the relatively poor drops & xp gain compared with empowered ones…

obviously I then hit a brick wall because my chars were in the 70’s and 80’s trying to do level 100 content but that made the end-game challenging for me and the loot quality was subjectively great at the higher levels…

for me, the hamster wheel turning comes with pushing corruption & trying to min/max… but most of that for me has been when my char had already dinged lvl 100… and yes… after climbing to and farming 250+ corruption, monos can get damn stale because the only thing you really are looking for is that 1 in 100/1000/10000/100000 and eventually 1 in a 1000000 drop to improve your build…

even with Dungeons added recently… there isnt much more incentive once you reach that point…

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I like to create new chars. Playing monolith for a few days on a single character, creating a new one and starting over feels like a relief. This makes me realise how “empty” the current monoliths feel.

I haven dozens of dozens of very promising characters that might or might not have the potential to clear empowered in a decent high enough corruption level.

My LE play record is very long. I’ve joined since the EA and have - as a more casual player - invested around 1.6k hours. There’s no other game I ever put so many hours in (vanilla WoW maybe). My next steam game sits at 400h.

The main time sink for me was creating new characters. I like the monolith on every character only for a few hours. Around characterlevel 90 I lose interest. In my whole playtime I didn’t bring a single character to level 100.

I’ve plenty in the 90s, highest is a 97 VK. I tried to farm corruption, but my highest corruption is around 180 on this character. I think no other characters corruption level comes close to this. Most of my characters barely make it to empowered.

It’s not because I’m bad in building characters. When we do our community challenges I’m doing fine compared the time spent. I’d say I’m playing relatively effective.

But the incentive to play a certain character just drops at some point. All my highest/best characters are the one I created during the challenges when there was some kind of competition that pushed me. But I did not really feel like playing these characters after those challenges (they last around 1-2 weeks real time). I feel exhausted after it and need something fresh. Often this is when I start a different character then. Sometimes I also take a LE break.

Here’s what i think the reasons are:

  • Charakters feel good to play untill they reach a certain level. Around 70-80 there come several things together:
    • Gear progression gets a lot slower
    • Build is somewhat finished (Skills are maxed, the most important passives are there)
    • The difficulty curve gets flattened as you are too strong for normal timelines, yet you haven’t access to empowered
  • When I reach empowered it feels a bit refreshing for a short amount of time
    • Difficulty gets more challenging
    • Loot and monolith gets more interesting
  • But I have to force myself to get to that point
    • There’s “just” the to reach empowered or a certain corruption level to show off
    • What not happens to me is that I just play a character for the gameplay and for the fun. I’ve never had a monolith play session where I lost track of the time and though “oh, so much fun, just one more echo” where I’m surprised at the end how far I got. The exact opposite is the case:
    • I look a the echo web and I see boring stuff that I have to do to get to that targeted corruption level. Everytime I kill a Shade and the web resets I’m kind of pissed because I need to regrind the web and start all over.

The solution may seem very easy: Stick with one build and push it. This way I wouldn’t need to repeat all the grind to empowered so often. But playing a single character for such a “long” time is just not for me. And if I have to force myself to do something to reach certain goals, I think there is something missing.

Warframe does things very similar and is grindy as hell, too. Propably even more grindy than LE. But in Warframe the actual gameplay was/is so much fun to me that I don’t pay attention to my goals. I know what my goals are so I choose the content to maybe farm a specific item. But the way to that item, the moment to moment gameplay is so much fun that the time playing is the reward. The drops common top.

In LE the endgame doesn’t feel the same. Echoes are hurdles to overcome and progress. You don’t finish an echo and say “Oh man, already over? It was so much fun, I wished it lasted for an hour!” Despite we all rush through them as fast as we can to make the main gameplay to last as short as possible.

Why is that so? Maybe when the moment to moment gameplay would be much more exciting, more crunchy and impactful. But still then, the monolith concept is not to spent much time in single echoes. It’s to complete as much echoes as possible in the shortest amount of time. Everything else feels like wasted time. And isn’t it remarkable when the actual gameplay feels like a waste of time?

Wow… this sounds so negative. Why am I still playing this game? Maybe because I already spend so much time and don’t want to admit that this might have been spent better in another game? Maybe I also see the potential of LE in the future.

I’m really looking forward to MP. And I hope for some interesting Arena mods that make playing it in a party a lot of fun. Maybe corruption pushing in a group is more exciting.

But there has to happen something with the moment to moment combat and the sense of progression around level 80.

If killing monsters in general would add something. Like I put a special item on and while I kill enemies a progress bar (or faction reputation) fills up. At the end I can choose rewards like adding a flat amount of corruption to a timeline 8f my choice. This way the the gameplay element of killing mobs would get a bit more rewarding and would not be seen as an obstacle between you and the end of an echo.

Cheers!

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I agree with a lot of what you’ve stated here. I wonder if it could even be stated that grinding at the end game of most ARPG’s isn’t nearly as interesting as the leveling content, since most of what it consists of is replaying areas and bosses or randomized environments that you’ve already played through in essentially the same way. What motivates us is the loot rather than the novelty of the experiences we’re having, and while it is motivating neurologically, it isn’t necessarily exciting or a blast to do.

I mentioned this before but I wanted to propose it to you to see if you agree: This is a problem I feel like is solvable by simply adding more and varied things to do at the end of the game. Maybe there needs to be a new challenge boss added a couple of times a year that works like a raid from an MMO, where you can have a version of the encounter that must be played with 4 players and requires a lot of cooperation to beat it. Maybe you could have instances that contain puzzles or scenarios that are their own game mode essentially, like those people have made for Warcraft 3 map editor. Maybe there could be a survive and escape mode like Left for Dead or Vermintide, where you and an NPC or another player have to work together to get through a deadly maze or escape a city under seige.

The reason I mention this is because there are entire games devoted to this kind of deep and engaging type of gameplay like Darksburg, Vermintide, Gloomhaven, etc. which rely on your desire to challenge yourself and protect your allies rather than only your desire to see your character progress. This is the boat I think modern ARPGs are largely missing. It’s not only about the stuff you get; It’s about the quality of the experiences you have while getting it.

No, I disagree. I actually think both the other more recent ARPGs I play (POE, D3) have fun endgame play. Mono in LE is just in a weird spot - as much as I think LE combat doesnt feel punchy, it is still fun enough. But in mono you just feel like you’re wasting time if you’re engaging too much with the “trash mobs” and not rushing to finish the objectives.

As much as this is something I would be interested in, EHG has made it very clear they wont have mandatory MP content like this. I still wish they would consider content that would strongly encourage grouping (because I seriously think no one would consider public grouping otherwise).

In any case, as mentioned in the earlier para. I dont think the problem is with ARPGs gameplay. And an ARPG doesnt need to pretend to be something else in order for us to derive fun from it (though I am not suggesting they shouldnt try to incorporate gameplay elements from other genre, as POE had done).

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Well again, this goes back to the quality of the experiences the player is having within the game. Part of what I’m pointing out here is that what you’re doing once you’ve exhausted the novel content in any game that you can then continue to play, not just an ARPG, is doing things over again in essentially the same way. You’re no longer having new experiences. Sure they vary a little bit, but there’s no way to adopt a different strategy or try new things. In other words, it’s not the excitement of what you’re doing that’s motivating you, but the loot that you’ve decided you still need to find. The game has narrowed down to a clicker, where it doesn’t really matter to you why you’re clicking or how often. You’re really only thinking about what’s going to drop at the end. This is true in any game that is no longer challenging or engaging. The substance of what you’re doing isn’t the goal anymore.

You might then also evaluate the quality of these expereinces based on how motivated you are to keep playing for what amount of withheld content. This is padding, because the game is dangling things you want to get you to play it the same way again. If you’re willing to keep playing randomized dungeons or fighting the same bosses for two, three, four hours or more to get a slightly higher bonus on an item you already have, and you have 0 novel experiences during that time (no new enemies, no new abilities, no need to figure out a new strategy,) then that is a high amount of motivation for a low amount of content. There’s not a lot of value in that for the player except that they feel like they’re doing something.

This is why I’m suggesting that any game that uses grinding or repetitive content at the end of the game to keep players engaged and playing, rather than things like depth or challenge, isn’t offering much of value to those players at that stage.

Conversely, a game like chess you could probably play for the rest of your life if you play with the intent to learn and increase your skill level. This is because you can never see all of the scenarios you’re going to have to play in. Within the first 20 moves in chess, there might be millions of different game states that you can end up in, which all have lots of things you need to consider to know which next move it would advantage you to make. Sometimes you have to imagine two or three moves from that point what the board will be like in order to know what it would be best to do, taking tons of pieces and how they could be moved into account. You literally play the game differently the more you know about it.

If you’re grinding at the end of a modern computer game, you don’t do this. Sure, something slightly different might happen now and then. An AOE might force you to dodge a different direction, or pull back and wait a little longer for a certain ability. But you aren’t getting into increasingly complex game states and learning more about how to play them. Once you see a certain pack, you know pretty much everything you need to know about how to beat them. The logistics might be a little different than last time, but the strategy, the fundamental principles of what you’re doing, don’t change. You can sit and talk to your friends on Discord and barely pay attention to what’s going on in the game because you know what you’re doing. It’s like riding a bike. It might wobble now and then, but fixing it comes natural to you. Not a lot of effort required.

The challenges and the experiences in a game are the substance of what the game offers to the player. Sure, you can add more stuff that can drop at the end of the game. But the quality of what the player is doing to find those drops is low, because it’s not deep or engaging. It’s really ceasing to be a game starting to be a slot machine. If the challenges and the experiences of the game itself are no longer interesting, then there you go: The game itself is no longer interesting.

This is why adding end game content that has depth and is complex and challenging is the true solution for making any game interesting to continue to play. Make the game fun for the doing of it rather than just for what drops there are left to get.

(Edit: Typo / Grammar)

Agree. But the way POE solve this is 2 folds: (1) trying to make gameplay fresh by incorporating gameplay elements from other genre; but more importantly, its (2) layering additional complexity in itemisation and game systems with each expansion such that there is always something new to learn and interactions to discover, even for veteran players.

While this is necessary for a game to have longevity, as you explained (which I agree btw), you end up with newer players who come in frustrated with the incredible depth of a mature game.

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Right, and I’ve actually criticized the way in which POE does this in the past. I feel like the seasons and the extra content they release is tacked on in a lot of ways. It’s adding more mechanics but not really offering a new mode or goal to the player. I admire that they try as hard as they do, and sometimes they do get it right, but a lot of what they add is just a repackaging of things you can already do in the game. It usually doesn’t substantively improve what you’re actually doing, like a new boss or game mode would.

What I think a well-designed game would look like at-maturity would be more akin to the Warcraft 3 community made content, where the kinds of puzzles and challenges you can go do at end game are varied, competitive and goal-oriented. While that kind of content isn’t exactly easy for small studios to crank out, it’s undeniably a powerful approach to making a game more complex and interesting to play.

If you haven’t played Darksburg, by the way, it does a lot of what I’m talking about. I think it’s a great essay on how to make modern isometric games more engaging.

I think this kinda thinking just means that the people that need that to stay hooked simply are not big enough fans of the genre.

As a friend of mine says “if you are bored of maps, then you are simply bored of poe.”

And that rings true to most complaints for me of being bored of “repeatedly grinding the same map” thats what defines the genre, and you can spice it up here or there for sure with extra content, different layouts etc. But if you are tired of killing monsters and farming for the 1/1000 loot drop, then you are bored of the genre.

You have to remember, games like LE/PoE/Diablo are not mmos, they are designed to be played for a grueling amount of hours, they are not designed to be virtual life spaces like MMOs with minigames or social spaces.

People who play this genre specifically generally would get extremely mad if the devs wasted time adding puzzles and minigames I feel like.

Well, there are no rules for what a game does or does not have to be or contain. The thinking that ARPG’s are simply for people who want to grind for loot just doesn’t stand to reason.

Similarly, I think that people who are stuck grinding for loot when they could be having new and fun experiences in other games are missing out on the content of those other games. That’s a low quality experience. If what’s motivating you to keep playing isn’t what you’re doing in the game, but the things that are dropping, then what you’re doing doesn’t matter anymore. You’re being motivated to do repetitive tasks when you could be doing something else.

If we started to evaluate the quality of the games we’re playing in this way, maybe we would demand better content and have better experiences for our time investment. That’s what I’m advocating for.

The end game currently does feel like abit of a slog fest. If anyone’s played torchlight 2 with the synergy mod there use to be a “raid” like content where you go into the dungon with hard mobs and can target farm specific uniques from the different boss rooms. even grim dawn you complete a few random map runs you end up in a boss room with a grp of randomly generated bosses/mutations to fight. The bosses in LE needs to be more easier to reach rather than slogging through 30-50 echos and fight it once, didnt get the drop…repeat.

The echoes themselves definitely need to reward more for killing rather than just rushing to the objective. There needs to be some incentive for killing mobs in the echoes.

Endless wave arenas is always a turn off for alot of people, myself included. Grim dawn again have done this pretty well in the form of crucible. it’s not endless it has a limit plus each wave may contain unique enemies, bosses or even nemesis to make it that much more interesting to fight. one can even set up defences in the map to mix things up.

Just hope LE will have more interesting endgame planned as it’s the most crucial part of an ARPG’s longevity.

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For me, the monolith progression feels too gated on repeat playthroughs. Don’t need gear, I have my attic full of hand-me-downs and leveling uniques. Don’t need levels, a well-built, decently-geared character easily outscales the content at the pace it’s presented. Farming for the sake of farming feels inefficient because rewards are better in empowered.

To me it feels like the only play that makes sense (aside from maybe making some Legendaries as a side activity) is to beeline through the monos and by the time I hit empowered I feel done with the character or get distracted by another build idea. Basically, there’s such a long stretch of an uneventful slog that I feel like I never get around to playing the endgame.

Edit: I wonder if the core issue is that the monolith progression is so linear and quest-driven that it plays like an extension of the campaign. That certainly matches the way my mind seems to treat it: the early monos are something to get through on the way to the actual endgame.

OK, but why and how?
I won’t tell about PoE, I don’t play it.
I’ve played more than 2K hours of Diablo 3 and for me it was fun. But basically: open a rift, have such a powerful build that we can blindly kill everything without even seeing the types of mobs, kill the boss. Repeat X times. I can’t see where the fun is. One unique kind of activity, meaningless mobs. I had tons of fun and I don’t know why. And I’m sure next time I play it I’ll have fun again.
Only reason I see, which is only part of the explanation: the combat feels good. Very good. Better than in Wolcen (where it feels very good), better than in Last Epoch (where it feels good for me). But there must be another reason?
Why and how is Diablo 3 so fun to play?

Imho, it’s mainly the echo design. Making the quest at the end the only winning condition just makes everything between start and the quest marker meaningless. A lot of uniques and very good rare/exalted come from killing mobs on a map. But for this to somehow feel rewarding you need to go through empowered monos with decent corruption.

The dungeon has a relatively good approach to this. All mobs get increased drop rates for specific exalted items. This is great. Clearing is not a waste of time, it is rewarding because you really feel the increased drop rate. While the modifiers on mono are just so little drops that they only feel like meaning something after a decent amount time spent on a timeline.

Some things to improve the current mono from my pov:

  • Lengthen the echoes by also increasing the stability/corruption gains (and adjust rewards), resulting in a comparable playtime to complete a timeline but requiring less number of echoes (=less loading screens)
  • or/also make killing enemies meaningfull by adding timeline specific rewards to it
    • each timeline is its own faction with its own vendor selling items gated behind reputation that you get from killing enemies within that timeline
    • make enemies drop timeline specific booster items that grand a flat amount of stability and others with corruption (decrease the stability reward at the end of the echoes)
    • Add conditions like 50% stability increase for completing an echo if you cleared 90% of the map, 25% increase for 50% clear
  • drop items that grand stability/corruption (or make them avalible at the timeline vendor) that you can use on other chars or your account as long as they share the stash. This way we could collect them for twinks to get through the monos faster.
  • add random encounters with special rewards that only have a chance to appear when you have cleared (90%) the echo you are in. Make them really challenging so it is not given you get that reward
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I agree with this.
The drawback is, for me, that the dungeon itself is not fun at all. The way it is built makes it unpleasant to walk by. I always try to find the shortest way. When I see the two possible doors, I go to the closest one and don’t check the other to compare modifiers. No pleasure being in the dungeon for me. So I know that some people go there in T4 just to find items, but I won’t. :wink:

Lets not forget the context.

D3 has the most fluid gameplay out there, but was done by a AAA company, with millions of budget.

PoE has an incredibly deep and rewading group of systems at endgame, but, to me, is a mechanic and content bloat, absolute hell for newcomers who want to understand the game instead of blindly following a guide. PoE has been out doing seasonal content and updating mechanics for 10 years?

This game is made by an indie company, and is still on early access.

I am sure we will get more content and additional layers of complexity in the monolith progression (I could be mistaken also), I can only expect they don’t end up like PoE (a bloated mess).

Every people has a slightly (or big) different way to have “fun”. I am strongly pushed by grear progression, so even if the path it is somewhat boring, the drive is strong enough for me to get into it.

Not everyone is made for these type of games, not everyone has the mindset to grind for hours on end for meaningless upgrades, for whatever is the gear ceiling, is only natural it gets harder and harder to improve.

One issue is the progression cap is pretty low and the progression rate is really slow. Once you have enough gear and play roadrunner, blaze a trail to the end then rinse repeat.

The stability was increased to make the available content seem longer than it is, which compounded the problem.

The story is now in a disjointed mess with Majasa’s blessing earned and Apophis running loose. The epoch should grant us some ability, call it focus, for lack of a better term to earn double stability points per run or something like that based on epoch’s ability to rebuild the timeline.

I think you misunderstood me. I don’t run them multiple times, per character, but having to run them all again, per alt (10, 15, 20+ alts) makes me not want to bother getting the alts into empowered.