Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Chillaxing Against the Storm
I am still playing Against the Storm. Steam tells me that I am at 86+ hours played now. I also reached the level cap, and nearly all the upgrades. I might make a second profile and start over, but for the moment I am still playing the first playthrough. Only, I am probably not playing it the way you might think.
Against the Storm technically has 24 different difficulty settings. There are the 4 basic ones: Settler, Pioneer, Veteran, and Viceroy. But if you beat Viceroy, you get the option to play on Prestige 1, beat that to get to Prestige 2, etc., until you reach Prestige 20. That suggests that this is how the game is meant to be played: Play at increasing difficulty levels, try to push it to the hardest setting, and get more rewards for each run. I don't do that. I play most games on either Pioneer or Veteran difficulty. I basically can't lose a game at Pioneer, so I have a 97% win rate, with my losses coming from the occasional dabbling at Viceroy. I unlocked Prestige difficulty, but never used it.
I am basically chillaxing the game, and not challenging myself. Rather than trying to play in an optimal way, I am trying out different things. For example you gain embarkation points and can use those to buy resources for a run; while I know what resources would be optimal, sometimes I just buy something that is interesting, but sub-optimal and see how the game goes.
Against the Storm is surprisingly welcoming to such a more casual approach. Yes, if you play always at lower difficulty, it takes a lot longer to level up and gain upgrades. But that is the only disadvantage. And the rewards you get at higher difficulty down go up all that fast for prestige, so it isn't as if meta advancement slows down to unbearable levels if you play on easier settings.
The main advantage of playing at lower difficulty is something that you can observe with many different games: The higher the difficulty, the more options of the game become unviable. You can choose to do certain things, but you can't win high difficulty levels if you choose the sub-optimal stuff. You are supposed to have learned what works best, and play like a well-oiled machine. At lower difficulty you can goof around and experiment with things. You can take risky timed orders and not worry if you end up being unable to complete them. You can choose to play in interesting locations with modifiers that are rather bad. And you can change your strategy in function of the random forest events, cornerstones, and building choices you get. That keeps the game fresh.