Legend Difficulty needs rebalancing

I find Rookie, Veteran, and Hero difficulty to be too easy. And I find Legend difficulty to be incredibly tedious and boring.

Legend appears to be “balanced” (if we dare use such a word when talking about the hot mess that this game is on Legend) for the players that used to raid like a pirate king, break the game’s difficulty settings, then start the Legend campaign against the Pandorans after they had levelled up all their troops fighting faction soldiers, stole all the faction research in the world, and amassed ridiculous amounts of resources and weapon drops. Then after breaking the game, those players complained that Legend was too easy—because it would be too easy if players exploited exploits in the diplomatic game and cheesed the game’s difficulty settings.

And here is another thing, fighting human enemies is a lot easier on Legend than it is on Rookie because of the way the game’s global skill points allocation system works. And since there are so many human factions to fight against (Anu, Bandits, Foresaken, The Pure, New Jericho, and Synedrion), a player choosing to fight them regularly and use Steal Aircraft missions to build up their airforce is going to discover that the game’s easiest difficulty setting isn’t Rookie—its Hero! But that is probably a topic for another discussion thread.

Thing is, diplomacy has been reworked in the Hypnosis patch, and raiding like a pirate king cannot be exploited so easily.

So why is Legend still “balanced” to keep pirate-king players happy?

What I like the most about Legend difficulty are the lack of resources and the fact that soldiers come unequipped. I often have to make interesting decisions about what to build next and how to recruit and equip soldiers. That part of the strategic layer works really well on Legend. And it’s much better on Legend.

In fact, feeling that resource crunch and being required to make interesting choices just isn’t a thing on lower difficulty settings. Rookie, Veteran, and Hero are more about playing in the sandbox and getting all the toys in the world—with only minor or very minor delays in getting those toys.

And I don’t mind starting with soldiers with lower stats on Legend either.

Or earning fewer Skill Points per mission.

Those two things make the early game last longer, and in this genre, the early game is often the hardest part.

But on top of all that, the Pandorans evolve faster—ridiculously fast. And that just amps up all the balance issues in this game.

A legend difficult campaign often devolves into a state where early game soldiers face late game enemies. I can win those battles. But my god is it ever boring and tedious to do that.

The main problem with Legend difficulty is that it just isn’t fun.

The fix, in my opinion, is to adjust the rate the Pandorans evolve so that it is the same on all difficulty settings, and then rely on the handicaps the player gets on different difficulty settings.

In other words, the lower stats and the fewer skill points earned per mission is enough of a handicap to make Legend challenging. You don’t need to do anything other than that. Ramping up the speed the Pandorans evolve on top of that just changes the game from challenging and fun to unfair, tedious, and boring. Or borderline unplayable—fin”promotional skins” are not enabled.

In fact, Legend difficulty is so tedious and boring that my campaigns end fairly early because I just stop playing Phoenix Point, uninstall the game to free up hard drive space—and start playing something else. I keep coming back to Phoenix Point after each new balance patch and DLC release, hoping that things get better. And I am continually and consistently disappointed with how unbalanced and boring the game becomes, on Legend.

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XCOM did it right. Recovery snd levelling and research she everything take twice as long. The enemies ramp up twice as long as usual too. It’s a whole other game and it’s great.

I’d like to see slower evolution as well.

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Well, here I disagree. I mean, everything you have just said is most likely true, but we’re talking about Legend difficulty. It is supposed to be unbalanced and in my opinion ramped up evolution is the key here.

This is where I see the main problem. For me, what you described is what Hero difficulty should be, but Legend should remain “challenge type” difficulty level.


Just my own, personal opinion and the remark on the difficulty levels in games in general: I don’t like to be handicaped by the game on harder difficulties. I like to fight stronger, better, smarter, buffed enemies rather the very same threat but with more and more limited resources. That’s because limited resources make game unforgiving and not exactly harder, it just favours “perfect run” more.

If ramped up evolution is the way to go, then that solution forces Legend into a very rigid and restrictive meta. So you get an open sandbox game which a wide variety of weapons and equipment for the player to use—and only one “right way to play.” Legend difficulty with ramped up evolution merely become a test that checks to see if a player is up with the latest meta builds.

Ramping up evolution forces players to do speed runs—and not explore all the content in the game. So it is not a good way to increase difficulty for that reason alone.

To increase the difficulty level of the game, developers can add more enemies to the game, speed up rate enemies evolve, make the enemies tougher, or handicap the player.

Most developers add more enemies to maps, but doing so has limits—especially when it comes to selling the game. Not everyone had the latest hardware, and adding more enemies to every map is going to run into hardware issues with a lot of players and, ultimately, shrink the marketability of the game. Phoenix Point is already there with Legend difficulty. A few extra enemies are added to maps, and there are noticeable performances issues as a result.

Making enemies tougher is another common solution. That is the path Firaxis took in their XCom reboots. And it worked really well.

Handicapping the player is the path Phoenix Point walked. BattleTech also handicaps the player when it comes to ramping up that game’s difficulty, but what Harebrianed Studios did in BattleTech was replace the traditional tiered difficulty settings with one difficulty adjustment menu at the beginning of the game, which lets players tweak a wide variety of settings such as the basic difficulty of Opposing Force, the rate their MechWarriors gain experience, the number of parts needed to salvage a new Mech, the basic pay rate for Mercenary contracts, and how generous after-battle salvage will be. One big factor in BattleTech in determining how difficult that game can be is in choosing the number of parts needed to assemble a new Mech. Three parts is the default setting, and that is easy mode since the game ends up handing the player new Mechs like they are candy. On an interesting side note, the developers of that game originally thought that 5 parts salvage would be the standard difficulty setting and then changed things just before release. However, the player has the option to go up to eight parts salvage, and that makes the game significantly harder since it takes the player a lot longer to get bigger and better Mechs.

BattleTech and Phoenix Point have a lot in common. They are similar games that came out at the same time. Both had Kickstarter backers and raised similar amounts of money. Both have a free aim system—although BattleTech’s called shot system has to be activated and isn’t always available.

BattleTech is a successful title with a huge mod community and four large mod packs that completely overhaul the base game and ad more complexity and difficulty to the game. The player base for each one of BattleTechs four large mods is significantly larger than the entire player base for Phoenix Point. In many ways, BattleTech is kind of game that Phoenix Point could have become if it wasn’t such a buggy and unbalanced mess. Or to put it another way, the success and popularity of BattleTech (one of the best turn based tactical games out there) is the kind of future that Phoenix Point could also have—if this game ever gets balanced.

Without balance, this game will fade into obscurity, quickly forgotten and uninstalled when something better balanced comes along.

I just strongly disagree with the idea that games at the highest difficulty ought to be “unbalanced.” That is pure rubbish.

Games at their highest difficulty setting ought to be delicately balanced. In other words, balance at the highest difficulty is incredibly important.

Here is the hard truth about Legend difficulty at as of this patch. It’s isn’t a test of skill. It’s all about luck. Being lucky and having good RNG blowing favourably in your direction is more important that being skillful and intelligent and getting good at this game.

And sorry (not sorry) I don’t think that a tactical combat game should be based on luck.

For example, in my current campaign, I went into my first Citadel mission with my A-team. They are all single class soldiers at level 6 (on average) and most are still in basic Phoenix gear with Phoenix Assault rifles and Anu Iconoclast shotguns for the assaults and Synedrion sniper gear and laser weapons for the snipers. The Heavy has a grenade launcher and a PWD. I’ve done Citadel missions with teams of low and mid-level soldiers before and can win those missions—unless I am unlucky.

Luck is the determining factor in most missions on Legend difficulty since if you roll a particularly unfortunate set of enemies and get an unlucky placement for those enemies, there is nothing you can do—especially in the early game.

Really bad luck can squadwipe a good player in one or two turns in the early game. That isn’t a challenge to be overcome. That is just a proverbial kick in the balls that punishes the player for being unlucky.

So on one Citadel mission, I faced a Scylla (of course) one poison worm throwing Chiron, a Goo Chiron (first one in the campaign), a screaming sentinel, a super-stealth sniper Triton, a couple melee Arthons, and three mind contrilling Sirens. As luck would have it, the flailing screaming head tower was just next to my spawn point, which meant -5 willpower every turn for the entire squad from turn 1 onwards (it triggers on my first soldier’s move and was on the other side of a wall, so I couldn’t take it out right away). And the three Sirens—as luck would have it—spawned near my squad. On turn 2, three sirens had mind controlled three soldiers. Others were pinned down by goo. And the Scylla was pooping Mindfraggers. And there are infinite reinforcements on top of all that bullshit.

I managed to take out one Siren and free a soldier, and between the Siren dying and the screaming sentinel, my mind controlled soldiers were now down to 0 willpower and panicked. Then on turn 3, one Siren mind controlled a second soldier, so I was back to having three soldiers mind controlled and three locked in place by goo and then one more getting face-sucked by a Mindfragger. And another panicking because that is still the early game on Legend, and my best soldiers only have 12 or 13 willpower, which is enough for most missions—unless I’m unlucky and get screws by the RNG that determines enemy composition and placement.

At that point, I hit restart and decided to see if I would be lucky enough to roll a better set of enemies with better placement. And you know what, I was lucky enough to get that. And—as luck would have ir— I was able to complete the mission.

Anyway, I really wish that Phoenix Point, on Legend difficulty, was a game that tested my skill and tactical wherewithal—and not my luck.

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It is not. In my opinion Hero should be the last and hardest, balanced playable difficulty level, and Legend should remain a challange. Should force player to speed run, should encourage meta builds, require some luck and all other known tricks to complete the game.

Easy, to please casuals,
Medium, entry level for broad audience,
Hard, to please strategy veterans,
Challenge, to please extreme freaks.

I wouldn’t mind if they would fix Legend as you like, but we would still need additional difficulty level, on top of current difficulty levels, that would be what currently Legend is. Whatever you think about it, there are a lot of people who enjoy it because it is what it is.

First few days on Legendary are extremely hard (that Synedrion intro mission is hell, as is stealing 1st Helios…). Then you get basic builds and equipment, and difficulty drops to being ok. And finally you get full endgame builds (as early as start of 4th week) and one-sidedly dominate pandas past that point.

Single rapid clearance build can clear whole map in one turn, assuming favorable enemy types and placement. Having more enemies to kill makes it only easier.

There are also a lot of people who think that Legend difficulty is almost unplayable since the game lacks structure and is so randomly balanced.

The early game on Legend difficulty is a tedious grind. And that is the part of the game I want to see fixed.

Legend difficulty, at the moment, ramps up to end game content almost right away. Early game battles against low level Pandorans are actually quite fun. Phoenix Point at its best. But Legend difficulty just skips over these enjoyable missions and introduces the player’s handicapped soldiers to mid-game enemies—well before the player has a chance to research better weapons (let alone build them).

These early battles on Legend are winnable. And I can get through them without listing any soldiers. But those long and tedious battles just aren’t a lot of fun to play.

And that’s my main complaint about Legend difficulty. The early game on Legend difficulty really sucks.

I don’t find the first few days all that hard. Then again, I just fly around and explore points of interest while waiting to complete Haven Recruitment protocols so I can hire more soldiers. Then I double back and do the intro to the faction missions with a squad of six.

That Synedrion mission really isn’t that tough with six soldiers. That cloaked infiltrator with the poison crossbow is definitely a challenge, but with more soldiers you can take out the other enemies faster. And if one soldier has to burn a med kit and lose half a turn to heal up, well, there are still five soldiers that can move and shoot.

You’re right about the end game builds allowing the player to dominate the Pandorans.

In fact, the end game is pretty much the same on all difficulty settings. The player becomes ridiculously overpowered and just stomps on the enemy.

The main issue I have with Legend difficulty is how boring and tedious it is to get to that point.

Phoenix Point really lacks structure. Legend difficulty ramps up to end game content very quickly—well before the player has enough tools to effectively deal with it.

For example, I ended up doing a corrupted Haven mission early on a campaign so that I could send the Behemoth back to the ocean for the second time. I go in with an early game squad of single class soldiers with basic gear (Phoenix ARs, Anu shotguns, Synedrion sniper rifles and pistols, and a grenade launcher) and end up facing five exploding bugs, each with tiny hit boxes and 320 hit points. Like, seriously, one of those enemies is just ridiculous. So overturned and poorly designed. But to spawn five of those top tier enemies on one mission?

And each one of those bugs can move so far that the game needs to have a good think before deciding where to move each one. There were 20 enemies on the map, and it took my computer 14 minutes and 32 second to process that mess. Fun times!

And there is group of players who find Legend difficulty still not so hard and they enjoy it as a way for experienced players.

Decreasing alien evolution would make it even easier. This is only and easy way of ramping up difficulty fast, because other solutions are bad:

  • Buffing enemies without giving them next subspecies would make the game even more tedious.
  • Improving AI at this moment is too much resources consuming for developers to undertake.
  • Increasing number of enemies would also make game kind of tedious and would make terminator builds even more favorable.

Slower Evolution would require also debuffing player side, which again is out of reach for current team left for PP development.

I also find Legend to be fairly easy. It isn’t really all that challenging. But it is also incredibly boring and tedious.

The main problem is that the player, on Legend, starts out with soldiers that are much weaker than the higher-stat soldiers the player starts with in easy-mode.

So the way Legend works is that the player is handicapped then the Pandorans get buffed with faster evolution.

Putting these two methods of increasing difficulty together is just bad game design because it creates a massive the early-game grind where the player is facing late-game enemies with early-game soldiers. That is a recipe for a tedious and boring video game. And the worst thing that a video game can be is boring.

I’d rather play a game that was slightly easier but also fun and engaging that try and slog through an incredibly tedious game.

And that’s the frustrating thing about Phoenix Point. It had potential. It is so frustratingly close to being a good game. But the mess that is legend difficulty and all the balance issue holding it back. At the moment, it is a video game design train wreck, a strange collection of genre-changing mechanics mixed in with some completely boneheaded design decisions that completely ruin everything that is good about the game and turn what could be the best game in the genre into nothing more than turn-based Anthem.

That is something I can agree with. :stuck_out_tongue:

But I don’t think that is Legend’s fault. And I don’t think the design choices behind Legend difficulty are bad. My concern is not early game being somehow tedious but late game being still the same as it may become on other difficulties, just happens earlier, and the means of dealing with late game threats remain exactly the same regardless of what difficulty level you have started with. So not only I am actually a fan of ramped up evolution early game, but I would be also all-in for somehow ramping it up even further late game. :man_shrugging:


I have given second thought about what you have written here, and I’m sorry but I can’t get rid of impression you don’t want the game to be somehow any harder. The tediousness you speek about comes from the fact you can’t roflstomp Pandorans yet and seems like roflstomping Pandorans is the source of your joy. That’s Catch 22, because I think the key of higher difficulty levels is to not being able to roflstomp pandorans in any way; you should not be able to have the plain-old effcient way of dealing with threats. The higher difficulty the less effective combos/terminators/weapons/skills should be. Culmination at Legend difficulty: not effective. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, you can delay the hard stuff. But it’s about gaining strategic tempo. Doing all the intro missions and stealing a Helios within first 2 days gives me a very significant lead on power curve. It’s hard to do, but totally worth it.

I mostly agree with you here, also about the grinding and meta, but I did stop playing this game, because the balance is totally broken, in favor of the player, not Pandorans , and I only play Legendary

You are right about the end game being the same on all difficulty settings. It all devolves into a roll-stomp of the enemy with ridiculous overpowered abilities. And that is another flaw in the game’s design.

The heart and soul of an XCom campaign is its mid-game—when the player has unlocked the first weapons and armour tier upgrades and has solders that can survive more than two hits and can take out enemies faster. In the mid-game, the player has to make interesting choices about what to research next in order to counter whatever threat the aliens are fielding.

Phoenix Point, however, doesn’t really have a mid-game. We get a grinding early game that almost imperceptibly transitions into a roll-stomp end game.

In my opinion, there are two key problems with the difficulty in Phoenix Point, and they have very little to do with the speed that the Pandorans evolve.

One issue is with enemy design. It is simplistic. Most of the enemies are “landlines” that give the player a nasty surprise the first time the player encounters them and then offers no challenge once the players knows how to avoid that landline.

One example of an incrediblely badly designed enemy are the flying bugs introduced in Festering Skies. They are so poorly designed that they are a really good reason to permanently disable that DLC. Anyway, the basic version is fast enough to move across the map and attack soldiers and can dodge a lot of overwatch fire too. It is also small, which makes it very hard to hit at anything beyond shotgun range. And it has a lot of hit points, which is just ridiculous. The game desperately needs a glass-cannon enemy. But it evolves—like every other enemy—into a bullet sponge that explodes when killed and deals fatal damage to everything at melee range and significant poison or acid damage to anything within five tiles. So the player learns, very quickly, not to be within that five-tile radius when it dies. Land mine avoided. Challenge level: zero.

That’s the thing about land mine designed. It is all or nothing, a huge challenge until the player learns how to avoid it.

Throwing more land mines at the player at a faster rate, will not make the game harder or more challenging. It will just make it feel unfair. Speeding up evolution is a bullshit solution that will only turn Phoenix Point into a total bullshit experience.

The ideal solution would be to redesign enemies so that they not only offered different challenges but also had very specific counters and weaknesses too.

Having almost every enemy type bloat into a heavily armoured bullet sponge is the thing that makes the game so freaking tedious. And all speeding up evolution will do will make the game even more tedious.

The faster the Pandorans evolve, the shittier Phoenix Point becomes.

But the real culprit, the one thing that completely ruins the game and turns it into a mindless and easy-cheesy roll-stomp victory marathon in the late game is … Rapid Clearance.

Legend difficulty is hard until players get Rapid Clearance on their Assaults. Once that happens, early game is pretty much over.

But if you don’t have Rapid Clearance, the game is a slog.

Does that mean Rapid Clearance should be nerfed? You bet.

If you want Phoenix Point to be a challenging and difficulty tactical combat game, then Rapid Clearance needs the same kind of nerf that Dash got. Or it just has to go and be replaced with a completely different skill.

No Rapid Clearance means no laughablely cheese terminator build that clear maps in one turn. But no Rapid Clearance means that the enemies also have to be completely redesigned and rebalanced. And that will be hard work.

Every enemy in Phoenix Point is “balanced” around making it difficult to use Rapid Clearance. Enemies evolve into bullet sponges to make Rapid Clearance runs not so easy.

The Pandorans “Evolution” is nothing more than Rapid Clearance inflation.

And Rapid Clearance also makes the game schizophrenic. Incredibly hard before assaults have Rapid Clearance and incredibly easy once players have Rapid Clearance. With nothing in between.

I’m being like Goldilocks and want something in the middle. I want a mid-game. And I want a challenging tactical combat game.

I don’t want to roll-stomp Pandorans. And I don’t want to be kicked in the proverbial balls until I can level up my soldiers and unlock all the roll-stomp mechanics in the game.

One thing to note is that Rapid Clearance itself is not enough. Assault class on it’s own is not an AP-efficient damage dealer. Only with addition of AP-efficient attack method (via quick shot, adrenaline rush or melee torso + brawler/sneak attack) you get a map clearing terminator build.

Good times!

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Ack… and here I am, a longtime verteran of x-com like games, playing on rookie because I finally wanted to be able to finish the game for once :sweat_smile: