Kurtzpel – First Look
Kurtzpel released on April 30th to a ton of negative reviews regarding its monetization practices and grind. So is it as bad as people are saying it is? In short, yes.
Kurtzpel is, unfortunately, a largely incomplete game. Even by early access standards, it feels incredibly shallow. I know given the cold open and the massive review bombing the game has received on Steam you guys will probably just want to hear about the monetization and I promise we’ll get there but first I want to talk about the one or two things the game does right.
Kurtzpel’s character creator is on-point. For a game as shallow as this, there’s a surprising amount of depth to how you can form and shape your character’s body to fit your aesthetic. You can even combine different pieces of hairstyles to achieve different looks with just a few set pieces in each category. Honestly, this is mostly to please the fan-service crowd as there are no less than 4 bust related sliders, but the fact that there are options to play as anything other than ultra-muscle beef-boy and uber-thin shonen protagonist is a shining beacon in a sea of mediocrity.
The game’s other strong point is its combat. Combos are fluid and satisfying, especially when chaining into your more powerful abilities. Every enemy has a gauge under their health called a break gauge. Once you’ve depleted this, the enemy’s guard is broken and you can deal more damage as well as send them flying with the right moves. The game’s combat engine then allows you to tap jump to chase them Dragon Ball Z style and deliver more hits in the air for a powerful combo finisher. This won’t work on every boss though, as some can’t be knocked into the air as far as I can tell, like the Golem. The combat isn’t without flaws, however. Enemies don’t have traditional solid character models, so you’ll find yourself clipping through them as your moves carry you forward, meaning parts of your combos will miss and you’ll end up inside the boss during an attack if your spacing isn’t perfect. Bosses will also sometimes get stuck in terrain because of this. Use this to your advantage on the Golem fight by wedging him on top of the pillars during his rolling charge attack.
To explain where Kurtzpel first goes off the rails, I have to first explain the game’s gameplay loop. You undertake missions, each taking about 5 minutes to complete, to earn CP and AP to use on upgrading your equipment. This is the primary way you get stats in the game. You also unlock equipment slots by earning reputation with NPCs while out on these missions. There are dialogue cutscenes after each mission where an NPC is present, and then you’re thrust back into the main quest hub. That’s really all there is to the game right now. Rinse and repeat.
These two major strong points of Kurtzpel aren’t enough to redeem it in my eyes, though. Kurtzpel suffers from a massive number of problems, the least of which is the monetization. In fact, the developers penned a letter to the audience via the game’s Steam Store page concerning the controversy over the game’s two DLC packs. If you’ve missed out on this, good for you if you have, here’s what you need to know. The game has four classes, and two of them were locked behind 15 dollar paywalls each. You then had to grind quests to unlock them after paying for them. You could unlock the classes through playing, but according to one reddit user’s math, you’re looking at about 45 hours of play to unlock them both.
Obviously, this is a huge problem, especially since these classes are regarded as more powerful than the starter classes. Despite the developers insistence that Kurtzpel would avoid pay to win mechanics, they both managed to paywall off two of their four classes, and introduced lootboxes for cash that contain weapons and equipment. One user reported that the weapons had the same stats as the starter gear and were only cosmetic until you upgraded them, but I refused to buy enough lootboxes to pull a weapon since they only had an 8 percent drop rate. I did buy one lootbox though and was greeted with an accessory that increased my ultimate charge rate by 5 percent at base value and could be upgraded even further. These pieces of gear also function in PVP, so no matter how small they may start, you’re able to buy an edge. These accessories can be obtained through play, but again you’re looking at a massive grind to get them.
Let me clarify just what I mean by grind, while I’m at it. Each mission grants you about 150 CP, which are the points you need to upgrade your gear. The starter Sword class requires 650 CP roughly to upgrade the weapon one time. This only grants you an additional 4 points of damage to your damage range, and takes about 40 minutes to accrue at a normal rate. That’s what almost an hour of your time is worth in Kurtzpel. 4 points of damage. After that rates go as high as 1100+ CP and only get higher from there. This wouldn’t be so bad if the boss fights in the game weren’t so repetitive.
A lot of the game’s early missions will have you fighting the same four or five bosses over and over again. In the hours I’ve spent with the game so far, I’ve fought the Golem boss 6 times in various missions. I’ve fought the dark elf sisters about four times. I’ve fought the giant black knight a number of times as well. There will come a point where you’re forced to repeat these missions to reach levels to unlock new ones as well. You can always level in PVP, but you’ll be matched against players of a higher level with better gear and are likely to be decimated. At least that was my experience in the PVP modes.
As I mentioned earlier, the developers have written a letter to address the controversy surrounding their monetization and grind. It’s kind of long, so I won’t read the whole thing, but here are a few of the highlights. The developers have made the two paid classes completely free to all players, and have apologized for the grind and the “pay to win” nature of the game in its current state. One thing that bothers me about the letter is, quote, “We thought we’d balanced the game well enough to warrant grinding”. You are all entitled to your opinion, but no reward, no matter how balanced, should warrant the kind of repetitive grind on offer in Kurtzpel. They go on to say that those who have purchased the Karmas already will be compensated with a new costume of respectable value and 4 cosmetic weapon sets to all who purchased both karmas before they became free parts of the core game.
Second, the game’s rebirth tickets have allowed paying players to customize their stats to a certain degree in a way that free players could not do. This stat readjustment means that players who can buy rebirth tickets can have more optimized characters. To counter this, they plan to create a feature that allows stat redistribution in exchange for CP, the game’s regular free currency. This will likely mean that all players will now have to grind to redistribute their stats. The letter does not mention the removal of paid rebirth tickets from the storefront, so this would still be problematic. The new system for stat redistribution is hoped to be completed by the European launch of the game in June.
The third part of their plan involves allowing players to purchase lootboxes with in game currency as well. Apparently this was always their plan, but want to make mention of it now to ease some of the players’ rightful concerns over paid advantages. Unfortunately, no more information was given about when this system will be rolled out to the game. In short, the letter from the developers addresses the problems and shows a priority list for solving them, but it looks like the damage may be done. Negative reviews continue to pour in on Steam and could hurt the overall projections for the game’s future.
Despite these incoming changes, and the fun combat, don’t waste your time and effort on Kurtzpel. The shallow, repetitive gameplay and over-monetization in its current state are enough to warrant staying as far away as possible. We’ll check back in on the game once more sweeping changes to the way the game plays have been made to see if it’s worth diving into then.
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