Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why Stride is Probably the Best Thing to Happen to Vanguard

At least from the perspective of overall game balance, especially the Cray Elementals. Before I can really get into why Stride is so good for the game, let's talk about why standard power creep is simply bad for the game. Let's assume all Block 1 cards operated on a certain standard of power. For example, if you want to obtain 2 cards of low quality card advantage, it would take 2 Counter-Blasts to pay for it. Now, transitioning between Block 1 and Block 2, let's say power creep kicks in, and now if you want to obtain 2 cards of low quality card advantage, it would only have to take 1 Counter-Blasts and a relatively light restriction to pay for it. Block 2 to 3, we end up with there being no Counter-Blast cost but only a still light restriction to obtain 2 cards worth of card advantage. Generally speaking, there would be no way for Block 1 cards to properly fight back against Block 3 cards in this theoretical scenario. This is the problem with power creep; old cards become obsolete if they don't keep up with the new Block's standard of power.

Vanguard however dodged a rather large bullet, as most of its power creep pertained largely to its Grade 3s. Seriously, take a close look at the majority of the Grade 0-2 lineup from Block 1 to Block 3. While arguably it's still there, any power creep you can find tends to be far more subtle, and due to the fact that Grade 0-2 cards tend to be cloned or reworked into other clans, almost all clans and deck types had access to any creep that did occur there. This means that if you want to fix Vanguard's power creep problem, you mostly only have to normalize the Grade 3s of the game.

Seriously, why doesn't he have a Legion?!
Legion, in retrospect, seems to be Bushiroad's first crack at that, and at least to a small extent, it worked. Cards all the way from Block 1, with the help of Legion abilities, have suddenly received a breath of vitality as (even if only by technicality) they are able to compete with other Legioned Vanguards. In this regard, Legion had the potential to completely reset the entire game's power creep and rebalance the game to an all new standard, one based on Legion. There just seems to be two major weaknesses to Legion however if the goal was to rebalance the game in its entirety:
1) In order for Legion to completely and totally reset Grade 3 Power Creep, there needs to be a Legion for every Grade 3 in the game
2) If the standard of power for Legion is strictly superior to every other card of the game, this means that if you miss Legion in any way, you can quickly lose out as your non-Legion Vanguard falls behind. While this is tangentially related to point 1 (if your Vanguard doesn't have a Legion to begin with, have fun), this is more targeted towards how it makes Vanguard's consistency problems more unstable, as your problems not only end at making sure you don't misride, but also being sure you ride your Legion.

The lack of a Stern Blaukluger Legion (D:<), and the fact that the G-Assist system was implemented after Legion more than had its effect on the game, suggests to me that neither of these things were properly achieved. Legion tried, and I must say it was a good idea, but it seems we're going to have to return to the drawing board. Where Legion fails however is exactly where Stride succeeds. This is why I called out the Cray Elementals earlier, because no matter where Bushiroad takes stride after this, Cray Elementals will give every clan and virtually every decktype access to the power of Stride. This automatically fixes problems 1 and 2 for Legion, since there now doesn't need to exist a Stride unit for every decktype in the game and it doesn't (at least in regards to riding) do anything to destabilize the game's consistency. This is...surprisingly good design.

Stride isn't perfect, not from a long shot. It doesn't do anything to alleviate power creep created by on-ride effects (granted, I'm so out of the loop that I'm not sure if there are that many cards that fit that description), and because it's very finite, the moment either player or even both run out of Stride Units, the game simply returns to the state it was before Stride: Imbalanced. Still though, especially seeing that it's an almost direct improvement to Legion in terms of rebalancing this game, I'm actually quite excited as to what Stride can offer for the game, and how Bushiroad could top themselves ever again.

My cynical side is telling me to doubt that Bushiroad won't pull a fast one on us and start implementing direct power creep within stride in the near future though...ahh well.

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