Food for Thought: The Curious Case of Leveling

Hey everyone! Today I wanted to take a look at something that might seem a bit out of place, but it’s something that I think has consistently been a problem since the very beginning of the game all the way back in ScoreZ: The Balancing Issues that come with leveling throughout the course of the game.

Before we dive into the discussion for today, please remember to check out the poll at the end of Tuesday’s “Theory-crafting 101” article, and cast your vote on which deck you would like to see for next week.

With that, let’s get into it.

Leveling is a Good Thing

Now it should come as no surprise that one of the most “on flavor” mechanics of the game is that of leveling up. Like in the show, players should constantly be striving to improve and advance to bigger and greater heights to help eliminate their opponents. Once you have out-classed your opponent, you should be able to make quick work of them and stop them dead in their tracks.

Character levels naturally fit this bill. Each player starts the game with some relatively simple yet useful power. As the game progresses and players are able to jump levels, they begin to unlock newer and stronger abilities to take over the game. Because players gain access to bigger and more powerful abilities, the natural idea should be to desire these levels and to progress towards them as fast and as often as possible during a game.

Enter: the Anger mechanic.

Another “on flavor” resource at the game’s disposal; as the fight drags on, and the fighters begin to get more and more agitated at the thought of losing, they begin to dig deeper into their reserves to channel untapped power to swing the course of the fight.

In order to progress levels, a player must reach 5 anger. Upon doing so, they unlock their next level and are rewarded by being placed at that level’s highest power stage, thus potentially giving them an extra edge to use the powers they just unlocked with more devastating results. Should a player reach 5 anger at their highest level, however, they win the game!

By using anger as a mechanic by which players can level (and potentially win the game), and by introducing effects (both immediates on cards and game mechanics) that can help lower your opponent’s anger, the game falls into a natural tug-of-war state that promotes tension and makes jumping levels all the more fulfilling (or heartbreaking, depending on your side of the fight).

How Fast is Too Fast?

The downside to anger becomes apparent quickly, however. If you are only able to gain anger one at a time from most actions, and your opponent has the opportunity to knock you down several anger per action, perhaps from an immediate effect followed by a critical damage effect from the same card, gaining levels seems all but impossible.

And thus, the era of 2+ anger cards was born. What better way to help promote getting to your better levels, then by helping you get to them faster! While this could seem to even the playing field when it comes to anger vs controlling anger, the actuality of the situation is that it balances the field for colors that have better lowering tools, while punishing those with weak ones. If the Style you are playing has a hard time lowering your opponent’s anger, you are actively opening yourself up to losing more consistently to those type of decks. So then what solutions can be had to deal with this on a Style by Style basis?

Enter: Freestyle anger hate (aka Wall Breaker).

With the introduction of Wall Breaker to the game, leveling seemed like a luxury at best, and hardly a means by which to win the game. Suddenly entire deck strategies were warped by having to fill their deck with cards that could increase their chances to deal critical damage or to remove attachments.

Wall Breaker, however is not the only culprit. Even in the Premiere Set we saw a number of ways to force players down levels. Namek Dragon Ball 2, for example could push a player down a level. Should it be captured back and forth between players, multiple levels could be lost in a single combat!

However, with the rise of higher anger cards, and a handful of anger controlling and de-leveling cards, we again seem to have reached a balance for the aforementioned tug-of-war, right? Wrong.

The problem now becomes the balancing act of having answers for your opponent’s answers, while still having enough tools at your disposal to level in the first place! With a fixed number of spots in your deck, just how many can you honestly afford to give to anger cards, while still being able to see answers to attachments and de-leveling when you need them?

Forget Anger, I’ll Just Advance!

And so, we start to see a trend in cards that moves away from anger towards a more matter-of-fact way of leveling. Cards like Blue Dominance and I’ll Dig Your Grave grant you the access to levels without worrying about any anti-anger cards your opponent may be playing. However, these type of effects usually come at a cost. Typically giving up MPPV, but sometimes having to give your opponent a free level or anger as well.

By the end of the game, we see the introduction of Unleashed, possibly one of the most mechanically balanced, and yet game unbalancing cards ever to be created! If you are able to build your deck in such a way that promotes attachments (an ability that seems to be on a number of cards these days), you are granted access to a card that not only can level you multiple times in a single action, but should your opponent have given up the ability to win by MPPV by some means, this card can also de-level them a number of times equal to the amount of attachments you are willing to give up. And those attachments you destroy on your character don’t have to be ones you’ve placed there yourself! Should your opponent attach cards like Wall Breaker or Black Capture to your character, you are given a free pass on them as well!

Just, honestly think about this card for a moment. I know many people out there have disdain for the card, as it certainly feels lopsided, but at least there is a certain nuance to the concept design of the card itself. In order to really gain the best benefit to playing the card, a decent portion of your deck has to be given to these attachments. Now, depending on the Style you are playing, this may be easier to fulfill than others, but it is still valuable real estate you are giving up to use this card.

Now, with that being said, this card is completely insane. Not only can it jump you levels faster than any card rightfully should, it completely hoses your opponent should they be trying for the same sort of strategy! And sure, an argument could be presented that you are giving up on a complete way of winning the game just to unlock your higher levels faster, but honestly, if you are getting to those levels faster than normal, there is a good chance you are winning that game anyways, just without the help of MPPV. Plenty of decks win around the other two strategies all the time!

So What’s the Real Answer Here?

Honestly, I’m not so sure there is a clear cut-and-dry answer to this whole situation.

Should anger be a viable mechanic? Sure
Should anti-anger be a viable strategy to counter act it? Sure
Should advancement at a cost be an alternative? Sure
Should de-leveling effects be a viable mechanic? Sure

The issue is, all these things walk a very fine line. Because of the nature of the game, and what we expect to see given those characters, certain groundbreaking things should be allowed to occur to change the course of a fight at any given time.

The major issue might lie in the fact that we have simply seen too many of these type of effects so soon within the game. Likewise, because this game does not have rotation, unlike others such as Magic, we can’t simply start fresh and build for a better tomorrow.

Or Can We?

FanZ places the game at an interesting point. Because the game is no longer “officially” being worked on, the community has an opportunity to stand up and work together towards change.

The notion of rotation may seem like a poor one to many players who enjoy playing with cards they have had since Premiere Set. However, one of the biggest issues the game has faced since PanZ, is starting with poor planning for longevity in the first place.

Like a runner who comes off the blocks choppy, the game has been trying to regain its footing in order to press forward into its stride. What it need is a mulligan. A way to say, “We want this game to be healthy, and to do so, we need to start fresh somehow.”

With rotation could come a completely new format. Legacy style formats have always existed in games with rotation. And while they typically have their own battles to fight, much like the “Standard” format that pushes forward from it, it’s the only real way to move forward without building off the same damaged foundation.

This article has gone a bit off-topic, but perhaps that can be a good stepping stone for discussion. Like the notion of leveling, I think we all want to see the game grow and fulfill its destiny of being the greatest it can be.

I’ve placed a poll at the bottom for my own curiosity’s sake. I’m interested in seeing what people think on the matter. Perhaps it is something that can be discussed in an open forum with The Dev Team, should people feel passionately about change.

Until next time, FanZ Warriors!

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About DArtagnanMF

Your Friendly Neighborhood Kreitzman
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