Imperator: Rome prepares to carpe diem cras

The good thing about Steam reviews is that it’s easy to see if there was a “bomb” effort or if it’s been consistent.

That doesn’t look like a bombing. That’s fairly consistent and seems to track with the peaks in sales.

Yes, I sure do love the 80-85% of new stuff that came out like in the Common Sense expansion where you couldn’t develop provinces unless you paid for the DLC, which made the game significantly worse than pre-patch/dlc.

That point gets overlooked because it’s a terrible point. They rip up existing systems, replace them with a reworked version and then lock them behind the DLC. Sure you get new ‘content’, but it’s mostly unusable/unavailable unless you buy the associated DLC.

Development behind DLC was a misstep for sure, one they eventually corrected.

Moving Estates into patches instead of DLC for EU4 was a good move.

It was a ‘misstep’ they repeated dlc after dlc though, which does give some insight into the paradox patching/dlc mindset.

Removing/reducing existing gameplay systems to add new content that is feature locked unless you pay, isnt some sort of amazing customer-oriented vision that you sort of portray it as, nor does adding busywork necessarily mean a game is improved (whether EU4 or particularly Stellaris).

What I saw was people mostly complaining about two things in the game:

1- The “mana” system. A complaint I don’t agree with, but whatever.
2- The lack of “flavour” of the game. Basically it feeling too dry and not period specific enough. This I agreed wholeheartedly (I preordered and I will buy the DLCs, since I think there’s alot of potential there, but after one full campaign I’m unwilling to play for a year or so until the coming changes are implemented).

Then yes, you have people bringing up the DLC issue. Sometimes on its own, but sometimes related to point 2 above. But the bulk of the criticism I read had many hours of playtime and addressed specific concerns with the game vs. other Paradox games. I mean, I could certainly have been fed specific reviews versus others, but I did not get the impression of a review bombing.

And the graph @Telefrog linked to rules out any review bombing, with very, very stable positive/negative ratios over the game’s lifetime. I’ve been watching the reviews, and the ratio has dropped from an initial 70+% to the current 37%, so if anything there was an initial “positive” review bomb when people did (on average) have less playtime than now that has steadly move over more negative reviews (recent reviews are at 25% positive, and there are 400+, so it’s a significant number).

I find it mildly ironic that Pdx is apparently willing to (completely?) rework the game because of market pressure (although that’s maybe a bit misleading, because the game has sold well I believe?) yet won’t change course on their dlc policies, which I think annoy more people.

I mean, when people look at Planetfall and say

hard pass.

because they’re afraid there’ll be a dozen pieces of dlc, and then mention how much dlc there is for Crusader Kings 2…

Well that should be at least mildly concerning.

We’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I don’t think we’ll see eye-to-eye on this or convince each other of anything. I respect your opinion and point of view, it’s just not one I share. :)

To circle this back around to Johan’s interview:

It’s perfectly fine to hate abstractions like “mana” (and to be honest, Imperator’s implementation had room for improvement, but I’ve never had issues with the abstraction itself). It’s also perfectly fine to feel like Paradox’s development model sucks. I do think it’s weird to buy a game knowing it’s what someone hates. To me it’s akin to someone ranting about how badly they hate MMOs and find subscription fees to be exploitative, then buying the next World of Warcraft expansion.

My personal opinion: If you were to take Imperator, put it under a different studio name and keep the price at $40, the reviews would be vastly different. I’m not saying it would be held up as some monumental masterpiece, but I think the reception would be at least what something like Aggressors: Ancient Rome received.

Quite possible, but games are almost never rated in a vacuum.

I think it’s a fair concern. There’s already a season pass for 3 DLC and the game’s not even out yet. That’s a pretty large divergence already from how the AOW3 DLC were handled. I think we are (sadly) already seeing the Paradox influence on what once was Triumph. That will probably increase as time goes on.

After being burned on Stellaris, I’m done buying Paradox games on release. I love the idea of Imperator: Rome but I never even considered buying it anywhere near release. I’ll wait a few years and see if they botch it as badly as they did Stellaris.

I hate to say it but I think Paradox has lost their way and are in decline. They badly need to hire some new blood in the way of game design because I think the old crew has lost it.

I think the DLC model debate is a distraction here.

The game went from 29,000 concurrent players to about 1,000 concurrent players in about a month. I think the core experience just ins’t resonating with players this time around. If the core experience, flavor, and things to do besides military conquest were stronger the player count would be higher regardless of one’s attitude towards Paradox DLC. I think it is the only major recent Paradox release outside of the Steam top 100 stats.

Many players might be waiting to return.

You cannot blame them since Stellaris and now Imperator: Rome are two major Paradox releases that are taking the 2.0 approach where major systems are being gutted and changed post-release creating dead-ends that aren’t worth playing since mechanics knowledge won’t transfer. I haven’t seen too many other devs take that approach with strategy games.

Agreed. The thing is, it’s quite rare for a studio to be able to replicate their success release after release. In general, they’ll want to use the same approach that worked previously for the next games - with a few tweaks - but it’s not clear that the EU4/CK2 approach works for Stellaris or for Imperator.

I think people may be complaining about DLC early on because they’re assuming the gameplay must be better than it is, and that Paradox is holding out on some DLC design. Which is a possibility, but it’s also quite likely that Paradox simply didn’t do that good of a job on the design here.

Only because then there would be much fewer reviews. I bought the game on preorder because it was Paradox (Aggressors is still on my wishlist, waiting for a sale). So the whole Paradox-DLC-model as culprit does not fit in my case (I like the model, allows me to enjoy a game for several years).

As others have said: the game is not working for people who bought it thinking they’d like it. Saying “I don’t understand why people bought something they’d hate” is disingenuous and a little offensive, tbh. Of course people don’t buy games they’ll know they’d hate. People thought the game was going to be more suited for their tastes (why they did is open to questioning, though) and that’s why they bought it.

At some point in the marketing chain either somebody was promising something that was not (or encouraging other “influencers” to push that angle) or the message got lost and people understood something completely different than what was marketed. Both options are perfectly understandable, I think, and I would not blame anybody for them in the current environment. But just don’t say people buy things they know they’ll dislike…

This is one of their best sellers at launch and one of their less played games a couple months in. Food for thought.

It’s also that if your business model is primarily focused on recurring income from DLC, you’ll prioritise that over ‘fixing’ (or whatever word you want to use) core gameplay mechanics that simply aren’t very good/meaningful/add complexity rather than complication. They got lucky with EU3/4 because both were building off an existing solid base, when they try something new it seems to go badly wrong

As someone else alluded to, I think they could do with a lot of new blood at a senior level because they don’t seem to be able to approach game design or post-release game design in any way other than the traditional ‘paradox’ way.

The people he’s referring to in that quote are the people raging about mana which “forced” the removal of it in 1.2, not all negative reviews at large.

Personally, I think it’s a mistake, but whatever. The issue I have with mana in Imperator is that there’s not as much player agency in affecting it compared to EU4, and there were certain actions that required mana that I felt should use something else instead. Example: bribing someone should strictly be about paying them off with gold, not consuming Oratory.

In EU4, you have up to L5 advisers if you’re filthy rich. You can swap national focus once every 10 years or so to focus on the one you really need for your near-term goals. If you could cross the threshold of 50 power projection you could get another bonus point in each category. Imperator lacked a lot of those tools, and it was too reliant on the RNG of what ruler you had.

Paradox will change it’s business model re DLC when DLC’s stop being profitable. Clearly there are more people willing to live with the practice than there are people bitching about it.

Of course, there are those who bitch and purchase anyway :)

To a degree, but if they haven’t fixed the game enough to make it worth playing prior to a DLC, how many people are actually going to buy that DLC? I think they’ve understood that with both this and Stellaris. The “core” fixes haven’t been locked behind DLC and they’ve delayed big DLC to prioritize fixes.

And I agree with the people who think dropping “mana” is silly. It could have worked just fine with some re-balancing work to make sure each type had interesting decisions for spending it and generating it.

We’ll have to agree to disagree on Stellaris having ever received any meaningful ‘core fixes’, rather than dragging the thread off topic!

I was in the hard pass category until folks said that Paradox usually doesn’t force their developers to do Paradox-levels of DLC. If I get burned on this though, Paradox will never win me back as a customer for anything that publish, instead of just their development.

Another factor was a lack of things that I wanted, had to fill in a long gap.

Agree not to drag it off-topic. I’ll say that Stellaris still has never grabbed me even after all the changes, but they sure have ripped out and replaced a lot of core systems.