I like it, I admire it, but it is much too frustrating

Is the balance between accomplishment and frustration right yet?  

146 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you like this game?

  2. 2. Do you think it is too hard to "win"?

  3. 3. If your answer to the above was "Yes", rate your level of satisfaction vs frustration

    • I am completely satisfied with the gameplay balance
    • I am basically satisfied but feel it needs tweaking in favor of the player
    • It is way too difficult to merit a long-term commitment unless it gets fixed

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After a 10-hour binge on this game, which I do not regret buying because I admire the concept/design, I am going to put it aside until the next update or I am going to grind my teeth to powder.  I like challenging games but this is too frustrating.  Here's why:


- There is so little intel re. the locations that it is a matter of luck whether you will ever find the elevator.  this obliges the player to go on a room-by-room hunt and most of the time both the steeply increasing alarm status and the dwindling resources available to him conspire to get his operatives trapped like rats.  I think it is very important to implement something like drones (easily abstracted) that can "light up" the map so that the player can know where he has to try to work towards and decide how many risks and detours he wants to take on the way.  Right now, navigation is too blind and risk is too high.


- It's just plain wrong that the player, who cannot save -- I like that design concept -- loses everything except XP when he fails a mission, obliging him, literally, to start again from square one.  I do not want saving and rinse-and-repeat experimental gameplay and like the fact that in this game you have to live with the consequences of your own choices but I am a good strategy gamer and I have never survived more than teo rounds of this game.  It's way too unforgiving to have nothing to show for it in the end.  Only the very hardcorest of the hardcore will put up with such unforgiving gameplay.


- Resources, weapons and power-ups are too scarce and even when you get them, you need to win many more consecutive missions than the average player has either the ability or the patience to put up with in order to deploy them.  Then when you inevitably lose a mission it all goes up in smoke.


- I really like the choice the devs have made to limit safe experimentation by pressuring the player to use available time to accomplish goals while the alarm state increases but the balance is way too hard on the player right now.  There is something fundamentally wrong with the gameplay mechanic whereby the more you accomplish, the harder it is to win.  Again, I strongly suggest drones, or some such form of abstraction that gives the player better situational awareness of the whole map so that he has an overview and some chance of approaching the mission on a more strategic, less room-by-room basis.


I like to review games like this for serious strategy/simulation gaming sites like SimHQ.  At first I was so impressed with this WIP game that I wanted to approach the devs and propose a strongly positive review of the Beta.  However, after accomplishing too little in spite of being a very competent gamer in this genre and learning all the stealth, gameplay and movement mechanics I have come to the conclusion that this is potentially a great game but there is an absolutely fundamental imbalance between satisfaction and frustration here that will severely limit the game's appeal to all but the most fanatical puzzle-gamers and that's not me or the serious, adult  tactical/strategy/simulation gamers I write for.  Most people simply do not have enough available time to overcome the frustrations involved in trying to "win" this game or to do well enough short of winning to achieve a sense of accomplishment.


If the devs respond in detail to this post, or PM me, I would be happy to start a dialogue about gameplay balance which, if there were a consensus about the issues I've raised, and some proposed resolution of what I believe are huge gameplay balance problems affecting an otherwise very, very good game, I promise I will promote this game heavily on Steam and on the specialist sites I write for.  Meanwhile perhaps the following poll will help establish whether or not that consensus exists amongst forum members:



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maybe I'm just to screwie but i can never make it past the first one or two Second Day missions. I'm a major Stun/paralize Lover but i can never find a damned armor piercing stunner except when i have no money in the nanofab missions, and even then its only been most not all of the time lol. trying to convert to trying to stun almost no one now, that might help me in day 2's but not sure :( just wish i actually had time for 3 missions (the 3 basic lowest level guard missions basically) before all the difficulty gets majorly raised on day 2. and no you can NEVER get all 3 in time even if they are close. its always 8h minimum to closest mission and up to 11 or 12 for travel time to farthest. Mostly i just feel that we should have a bit of a better chance in first day or so to get a set up for the Difficult Spikes that are day 2 and 3. Spikes i understand and are needed but theres just so little you can do unless you get lucky with 3rd agent rescue(and not a damned hostage) and a good vendor to Equip that agent and minor upgrades to your other agents. While still needing the Nano Creds to even buy anything!

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Good points, Revol.  I really want this game to succeed in the marketplace, it richly deserves to.  At first, I thought it could be as strong a contender in terms of a very smart indie game crossing over to mass-appeal as Door Kickers.  However, I fear that right now you have to be a very dedicated puzzle-gamer -- which I am not -- to persevere with this and that's a shame.

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I'll be honest, for the first couple of hours, my sentiments matched that of the op, and I was frustrated. I remember feeling like the game was completely luck based, and I was losing without knowing why.

What changed was my attitude. I started approaching the game differently. I found if I approached it less as a hardcore strategy game, where you're investing and building up the team, and accepted that I was going to be restarting, that each game was disposable, things got better. I started experimenting more, learning more tricks on how to approach things. I was less cautious, more aggressive, and while that sometimes made things harder on me, I found I was able to learn a lot more about the game and was able to mitigate the luck.

Even then I got to the final mission and couldn't get the hostage out. I got him 3 tiles away from the elevator. But rather than being frustrated, I was super excited by what I had been able to do, and the xp unlocked Banks which made the game way more fun.

For the most part, I can get two or three missions in before losing, but for me that's the game. I've said it on another thread, but this isn't XCOM where you're making a commitment and spending days or weeks building up a game and a team, and then it's catastrophic when something goes wrong. It's a different beast entirely, and requires a different mind set. It's more Don't Starve, where failure is expected, and even necessary to unlock new toys. And it's a whole lot of fun


That's just my opinion though, and the game is young yet. If the actual game is longer than 3 days (which it looks like it will be) it will be a whole 'nother can of worms. Failing on day 2 because the odds were against you is fine. Failing on day 7 because a guard changed his patrol route last minute to go camp the elevator is not.

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The poll options weren't really enough for me, because I do think the game needs tweaking and rebalancing. Of course it does; it's in beta. But I'm more than on board with the overall design philosophy of frustration, failure, permadeath, bad luck, try again.


Each playthrough is an adventure with lessons to be learned, and just like in XCOM or FTL or any number of roguelikes, victory is a bonus, not an expectation. I'd be saddened if they went another direction with it.

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(Even when voting "No" on Q2, it makes me answer the Q3. ) 




Overall, too new in this build to make a targeted  opinion yet.


But I will say this is a permadeath stealth game, where you are expected to fail and learn from your mistakes. Not forever, but until you get more play experience. All of the Incognita Invisible Inc game versions were like this. Choosing the right type of missions for future missions (getting the agent early, getting credit misions first, then going after the resource missions) also may help when the enemies start ramping up. When all else fails, that XP you get form dying/retiring heps with other starting campaign new agent combinations you can try for your playstyle.


But that's all i feel comfortable contributing as I'm also new to this game rewrite as well. I'll try to contribute more after I also learn more. 

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Question 1: Yes, I like the game.

Question 2: No, I don't think it's too hard (even though I've lost every game I've played in 14 hours of playtime).

Question 3: No, you won't let me skip question 3 as implied by the description. I voted "completely satisfied" even though I'm not.


I think there are certain moments where the difficulty spikes too high, but they're balanced by things which could do with being (VERY slightly) more challenging if those harder moments are scaled back.

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I like this game a lot.

I dont think its too difficult in fact after many hours playing it I find it becoming too easy.

Can beat some mission easily. . One mission I bought two pistols and hack the turrets and was killing agents everywhere on alarm level 6 and escaped the mission.

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Like others who've posted, I too initially felt a little intimidated by the level of challenge. But then I managed to beat my first level (hostage - Banks) and it was incredibly rewarding because by that time, I'd managed to learn a lot from my experiences. The difficulty doesn't feel very unfair to me - the more I played, the better I got at the game, and that was how I managed to beat that first level eventually.


I do think the difficulty level increases a little too sharply by the third day while the level of proficiency of your agents doesn't increase nearly enough to feel like an even match, but with a bit of tweaking, I think the level of challenge could be very nice indeed.

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I would like to say, I happily bought the game and kinda don't regret it, it's my first time with a early access game (i did not consider don't starve early access like that at the time).

I understand this is a very early version of the game.

But I must say I am very frustrated by it.


Also, on countless forums about games such as these, I really think most people don't dare express their frustration on the difficulty of a game because of peer pressure or however you call it.



I'have spent more than 10 hours since I downloaded the game and find it way too punishing/not rewarding enough. Here are my personnal quirks with it :


- The progression of your agents is almost anecdotical in gameplay, especially when you need to buy both experience perks and equipments. In the end you sees all this equipment in some nanofabs you can actually never use at all. Why bother putting it there in the first place then ?

In the end you are an agency and are supposed to have some funds in the beginning to actually play in this corporate world, with maybe a harsh rise in prize/requirement for more advanced technologies ? Give flexibility for basic equipment (anyway not so powerful), make paydays of successful runs really rewarding ? Have the progression of your characters actually do something ?



- There is an utter sense of artificiality in the way the game handles the equipment, though probably due to early stages. I mean you are an agency which doesn't actually have access to any tech but a taser when beginning ? There is no item management for a mission. Some variety here would be welcome. I won't talk about the inexistence of silenced small arms, then again a design choice albeit a very artificial design one in the end.



- Classic critic : The punishment is too harsh : you invest x hours in a session only to get everything wasted by sometimes stupid mistake ( interface problems like i switch character too fast, the game does not follow, the other char moves ... happened more than a few times), sometimes randomly generated quirkiness of the level. So I have read all the opinions on the subject, but in the end, I don't have time to invest in a game like in my youth and I will just go away. I already bought the game anyway.


Games like FTL or Isaac as people have compared inv. inc. with are waayyy more forgiving than this. Both of them have runaway options for one thing.


Some way of getting out in oh **** situations would be nice (explode en EMP device close to the building for emergency fuckups, losing some stuff in the process like gear, acquired intel, keep money ; EMP would actually blank lights and locked doors for 3 turns until anti emp generators or whatever kick in).

At the moment losing one operator means you will lose the other 80% of times in my tryouts.



As for the rest, I guess there is a lot to do in term of Storyline/explanation/integration and all kinds of gameplay tweaks that will be polished over the coming months.


Thanks for this early version, it is playable though kinda frustrating with a feeling in the end of "why am i spending time on this already ?", linked to a general lack of context.

Is is refreshing though and could become great in the future ! 


Good luck to the devs, and players out there dying of this oh so slow coming bullet !


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Thanks very much for responding to my thread and for being so constructive.  I have taken a lot of these responses to heart, especially after reading Darksider282's.  I have never played a game before whose XP system is based on rewarding you for losing repeatedly, so I am finding that I need to make a large mental adjustment.


I like the game, even while it drives me crazy.  I am possibly getting better at it.  Right now, with Banks and Deckard (sp?) I am approaching a hostage location, I know where the extraction point is and both my operatives are fully powered up.  There is a guard facing the entrance of the hostage location but I think I can I can take him down using Deckard's cloaking device and, if necessary, keep him down with Banks' special syringe.  After that, it should just be a matter of extracting across about five rooms but I'm at security level 4 and it will all probably go ****-up.  Sigh.  Onwards! 

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That scenario sounds like one I've faced a few times.


It also sounds like you have the right basic strategy.


Good luck!

Thanks, I will let you know how it goes; after wrestling with the game all day I cannot bring myself to face the humiliation tonight but will hit it in the morning.


The thing that bothers me is the lack of intel re. the elevator location.  I think all professional operatives know exactly where they are to exfiltrate, as one says in the black ops business.  I do understand the gameplay vs. realism argument but I wish there were an alternative to going room to room in the hope that you will find either the objective or the exfil location, or both, before attrition has its way with you.  The game is essentially an ingenious, dynamic maze puzzle but I do wish I could feel I can win one for every two times I lose; that seems to be a reasonable balance to me.

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I do wish I could feel I can win one for every two times I lose; that seems to be a reasonable balance to me.


That seems a reasonable expectation.


For me, I had an early game where, through a combination of luck and... probably more luck, I still didn't really know what I was doing... I managed to recover a late-game alert. The alarm level was already at 5, and raised to 6 before we escaped, but I managed 90%+ exploration, massive profit and neither of my agents was hurt. We reached the lift with 6 guards hot on our tails, but we made it out alive.


It was terrifying, but it has kept me reassured that the majority of situations ARE going to be winnable.


I've also had an encounter more recently where I was running the "starter" team of Deckard and Internationale where I had Deckard pinned down in a well-hidden corner but surrounded by 5 guards - FAR too many for Internationale to handle. I had Incognita ping a nearby location, while Deckard cloaked and ran in the other direction. Internationale had to get past the guards from a slightl different angle, and with her cloaking rig still on cooldown for 5 turns. She had to make do with cover instead of invisibility, but we made it, and while the ping only diverted half the guards, it gave us just enough of a window to slip through unseen.


That one felt just as tense as the previous example, but I felt more like it was my own competence than the agents being awesome and me getting lucky. I keep both of those experiences in mind whenever I start to feel like a situation is unwinnable. It almost never is unwinnable. There are definitely going to be - especially early on - a lot more times where you don't know how to win than times where you actually CAN'T win.


An important point to make is that in some missions, you can't "win" the mission. You won't always be able to get into the vault and clear it out. You won't always be able to reach that server. In those cases, you "win" by knowing when to cut and run instead of trying to force the situation.

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This is impressive and encouraging to me.  Can you explain what you mean by having Incognita "ping a nearby location"?  Was that some kind of distraction tactic?


"Ping" is one of the Incognita upgrades you can buy. They're occasionally found in nanofabs, and more often show up in server farms.


It creates a sound which draws the attention of nearby guards. The location is selectable, and the radius it effects is shown when you're deploying it.

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The only thing that annoys me is that there too often seem to be too many choke points that are very hard - if not impossible - to pass through. Most times I've failed was because of limited movement options. Other than that I find the game to be fair enough.

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The only thing that annoys me is that there too often seem to be too many choke points


I'd agree with this sentiment. I've often had maps where there's one room you need to go through to get anywhere, like a hub and spokes set up. Sometimes there's enough cover and scarce enough guards, but I've also had guards stuck stationary staring at doors you simply must move through, or two or three guards patrolling a choke point room. And once you start knocking out guards, in a room that everyone is moving through, it can snowball fast.

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I have to say that I love the game and the concept.  I've always enjoyed rogue-like elements in games where it's possible to be dealt a really crappy hand or an absolutely outstanding one.  It keeps a game fresh and keeps you coming back for more.  That said, I'd have to say I have one minor complaint:  the alarm level.


First off, I like the mechanic.  It keeps you moving, adds pressure, punishes you for dilly dallying around and it's quite effective at that.  However, it goes up and up and up and up and up and it's just from the player being present, not because of anything reasonable like the player changing things in the environment (hacking stations, cracking safes, stealing stuff, knocking out guards, etc.) All that has to happen is the player be present.  If you pass every turn (which is a no-no) the alarm rate still goes up?  Why?  Are the guards smoking something that makes them more paranoid as their shift goes on?  Why is there no way for the player to combat increasingly nervous guards?  When a guard wakes up... why doesn't he call for help looking for why he's missing the last ten minutes of his life?


The only reason I have any complaint about the lack of influence (not control -- I don't want absolute control over the alarm level) is the fact that there are so many random elements that it seems to me careful play should be rewarded in some way and from the games that I have played it's currently rewarded by an increase in difficulty and ultimately doom.


It's a stealth game that doesn't reward you (much) for covering your tracks as it stands now. 


Should the clock start ticking when a player hacks a camera, hacks a terminal, cracks a safe, leaves a door open along a patrol route?  Sure.  Start that clock and increase the alarm level.  Should it just be rolling by default?  I don't think so.  Why suspect a break in when you have no indication one is happening?




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I absolutely adore this game but I don't think the current difficulty and hardcore design will draw much attention from the majority of gamers. Admittedly, the idea of dying over and over again to learn the rope doesn't fit with many of us. Some of us like to play the game to experience it without too much frustration. While I understand Klei's design from its previous game like Don't starve, I think something should be made with Invisible inc. to accommodate more casual gamers.  


One game that I can see as a recent example is XCOM: Enemy unknown/Enemy within. You can choose bunch of options at the beginning of the game to make the game harder or more unique experience, including ironman which disable manual saving. Forcing player to play it differently compared to normal mode. 


Can invisible inc. add more options to make the game harder/easier without compromising the game's integrity? I believe it could be done.  

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@N3KroMancer, these are exactly my sentiments, as you know, but they carry more weight when expressed by a committed and experienced player. My limited recent success in the game has encouraged me to persevere with it and I am not dismissive of games that offer a high level of challenge or which face the player with the irreversible consequences of his own actions. I can even understand an argument -- which nobody has made here yet -- that the game is not aimed at "the casual gamer". If so, fair enough, but it is a good enough game to deserve a chance at broad commercial success, especially as it is available on Steam, yet I fear it will not achieve this for as long as beginning players fail three missions or more for every one at which they succeed and the ultimate success of getting through the campaign and unlocking the whatsit mode seems limited to a small group of people with rarefied abilities.

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Can invisible inc. add more options to make the game harder/easier without compromising the game's integrity? 


Love this idea. If they aren't planning it, they should be. Unlockable bonus options, like in XCOM, to shake things up can go a long way towards adding replayability. As it stands now, as much fun as this game is, I don't see myself playing a lot 6 months down the line.

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Perma-Death Rogue Games are not about beating, but getting the high score. If any of the updates posted are made it would ruin the game for me. However, if there was a security terminal to hack to lower the alarm level or a way to find the elevator. I'd like to earn the knowledge of the elevator location. 


Perhaps there is a middle ground here:


~the option of easy mode: (however add a multiplayer to the score based on difficulty, of course)  


*Allowing saving for before a mission

*Restart of level

*Allow "drones" or indicators in Incognito to guide player





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I've suggested this before, but I'd like to see - only on earlier missions with lower "guarded" ratings - the alarm not tripped the moment you enter the building.


There is a plausible in-universe explanation for why the alarm level is rising even while your agents remain undetected. Incognita has to be inside their system in order to provide with the benefits of her hacking expertise. Having insider access has a time limit before detection, and with how crucial hacking is to the core gameplay, you can't just decide to say "Incognita, take the day off" - even these agents aren't THAT good. Although... maybe if you have a couple of them equipped with buster chips...? Hacking anything (or taking down a guard) would, of course, begin the alarm counter. And no Incognita means no visibility on how many firewalls you need to get through. Good luck?


The above rationalisation can also be tied to an excellent explanation for what the different alarm levels represent (the below is quoted from someone on the Steam forum for the game).


Alert 1: They notice a break-in so they turn on all the cameras.
Alert 2: The system admins are now online and increased the security on all their systems.
Alert 3: A guard (or more) is sent to each floor to assist with patrols.
Alert 4: Security narrows it down to a few floors and move the patrols.
Alert 5: They know which floor you are on and send in their soldiers from standby.
Alert 6: The rest of the soldiers finally arrived.


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