Diaries From Broken Ranks: Busted Jank

Feel a whole spectrum of feelings.

Check out the Broken Ranks official website and one of the first descriptions of the game you’ll see is that it takes you on a journey through a spectrum of emotions. So far the only emotions I’ve been feeling are annoyance, frustration, anger, gassy, and wanting to do anything other than play this game. Something more wholesome and positive, like scattering my own teeth in a graveyard. Maybe I’m being dramatic.

Broken Ranks is an isometric MMO with an odd turn-based combat system developed by Whitemoon. Based on what? Based on my misery. The game is essentially a remake of a ten year old MMO called The Pride of Taern, a title you’ve likely never heard of if you live outside of Poland. It’s an alluring game if you’ve seen any of the screenshots, and I’ll go out of my way right now to say that the graphics may have just about the only redeeming value for Broken Ranks as of this time.

A fair amount of development time seems to have been invested in just treating the player like a nuisance just for entertaining the idea of playing the game. The starter town I ended up in was full to the brim with NPCs with names like “vendor” and “merchant” and names that you’d think would mean they sell stuff. None of them do. And if you gave up looking you might pass over the guy named “peddler” who sells starter gear. Meanwhile you may definitely walk past a guy named Voberg, an NPC who sells better gear and also weapons, and will also buy your items. Voberg often has so many players hovering over him that his name is shielded from view and he won’t show up. The peddler tells you about Voberg but doesn’t actually name him. He’s seemingly the only one who will buy stuff from you in the starting town.

My biggest problem with Broken Ranks is the combat. The problem with combat is that it is far too busy. You have five attack slots and three defense slots, each of which draw from the same AP pool. The defense slots are for physical, ranged, and mental attacks. Every attack slot has room for up to 5 AP, which boosts that action. The strategy is to pool your AP and set your attacks based on the offense and defense of your opponent, anticipating what kind of attacks and defenses they’ll put on in the next turn as you take your turns simultaneously. Oh and you have ten seconds to do this per turn.

And you know what? This is a pretty cool system. For maybe a half an hour. And then it sets in that this is how you’re going to play the game. Forever. Until the end of time. Broken Ranks has no chill, a trait that is not going to go over well in a genre that tends to operate on relaxed grinding. There is far too much to consider, far too many buttons to press and knobs to turn, and you only get 10 second increments to really think it out and make your decision. Bear in mind you’re making your decisions off of interpreting the percentages in your own head that pop off you and your opponent after multiple attacks per turn. I had a feeling the other day that I would hit a cliff when it came to the game’s combat system, and I hit it going 90.

It forces you to regularly shift your approach based on how you think the enemy¬†might alter their tactics, and it’s all in the hope that RNG lands on your side anyway. Every attack has a hit chance, like X-Com. This means multiple attacks per turn per character on the board. It also means you’ll have more than one match where you get KO’d in the first or second round because your character missed every single hit, with the AI scoring a couple crits and hitting every one of their attacks. Then you get sent back to spawn with a hefty gold and experience penalty. I think it’ll be on the first or second completely unfair death that the average person will realize Broken Ranks isn’t worth the hassle.

This system works in a game like X-COM where matches are their own thing and are all about strategizing placement on a board without the panic of a timer. Broken Ranks just takes the mob grinding part of any other MMO and extends and complicates it to the point where it’s not fun. And then it adds insult to injury by having the RNG let a zombie several levels lower than you kill you virtually unabated. There’s nothing satisfying about frantically setting up two turns in a row only to see your character miss every single attack. It’s like the game is mocking you for being under the impression you might have some fun.

Chalk this up as another MMO launching with absolutely busted multiplayer mechanics. When grouping up in a party, all players except the party leader lose the ability to move on their own. Okay, fine. Party members also do not gain progression on any missions they share. They usually don’t even get experience or drops. If all five members of a group are on a quest to kill a certain NPC, you have to kill that NPC five times, rotating out the group leader each time. Your party is effectively just additional DPS/HP for the leader.

The developers have also been getting up to some dirty ass bull crap, such as deliberately withholding information about the game in order to force the community to “discover” mechanics as they level up. A fine excuse for a game where the only way to respec your character is to pay in the cash shop. Respec costs $4 per go. That’s not even going into the $92 cosmetic outfits they’ve got on sale.

The game monetizes how many people you can add to your friend’s list. You start out with SEVEN slots to add friends, and every slot after that costs 5 platinum, or about 20 cents. Two of the four tactical slots, a very important function for a game that is built on customizing your tactics, are only available to subscribers. Broken Ranks promised it would avoid predatory microtransactions. They never said anything about avoiding dimwitted microtransactions. And boy did they hit every branch on the way down this stupid tree.

Consider for a moment that Broken Ranks launched without an exit button, which the developers have since put in, and you’ll understand this game completely. You literally had to alt+f4 out of the game to quit it. Character deletion still doesn’t work. Broken Ranks isn’t really a new game, as it’s effectively a relaunch of a ten year old MMO. Think what Defiance 2050 was to Defiance, but with probably less changes. The fact that it is launching in this state is a real testament to the competence of the folks at Whitemoon. But the cash shop works great, and the subscription is a premium cost item.

Oh and there’s open-PvP areas where other players can roll up and gank you. The fact that you can theoretically do everything right in combat and still get screwed over by the RNG for hit chance makes Broken Ranks a deeply contemptible game. The open-PvP areas make it worse. Honestly it all makes me appreciate the work that Mortal Online II put into its more user friendly design, a thought I never expected I’d think.

One comment I see from the community of Broken Ranks is how a lot of these issues were brought up in beta and summarily ignored. With all the live and upcoming MMOs to look forward to this year, Broken Ranks is shaping up to be a jank mess that nobody will remember in a month or two unless the developer shapes up and do it yesterday. Hey, Lost Ark is launching in just a couple weeks, and everyone loves that game.

Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter.

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