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I used to write blogs trying to write blogs. They're gone now, hidden from the world. I'd rather write with a bit more feeling. It's going to result in much less information being delivered with a lot more rambling, but isn't that better?

I also do the FNF thing. Talk to me if you want to be a part of that.
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1:10 PM on 08.20.2013

As I write this, at least this part, it is four in the morning. My dtoid friends and I have just completed an enormous session of Payday 2 that started all the way back when The Last of Us was supposed to, because our excitement for a new game overrode the desire to play a slightly older one. It ended on this sour note, of the game not letting us play what we wanted to play. If I'm hosting the game on my console and my internet connection, saving the cost of dedicated servers, I would like to be able to at least select what I play so the evening doesn't end with heavy sighing and oppressive boredom, because that is what currently happens.

We sat, in the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the mission we wanted to play to come up on the random selection. It didn't. It was then I realized I was about to say "Let's just quit for tonight"--exactly what I predicted someone would say in that situation when the mission select was first described to me. I don't mind if there's an available map for missions with special bonuses, but the current system is just arbitrarily restrictive.

Dear Overkill, why can we not just select a mission?

Someone will say it is so we can't just farm the same mission again and again, but we're capable of doing that anyway. If that was taken away, I'd probably start looking for a way to get a refund for the game.

Only tangentially related, but still important, is the realization that you are given an experience penalty if you complete a mission the game has decided was too hard for you. That's right. Doing hard missions at low level makes the game reduce the amount of experience you get to force you to level up more slowly.

Dear Overkill employee who thought of that, I'm sure you're a good person who loves their job, but fuck you.

Harsh? They might not like reading that, but I don't like seeing -12,000(!) experience middle finger because I was good at the game. I was told I was not worthy of that accomplishment so they took some of my accomplishment points away. Just having everything unlocked from the start might lack progression, but there's a point where I don't like getting jerked around by a game, and this is way past it.

Payday: The Heist is one of the long-standing staples of late night FNF. Many an evening event has been shown out with a parade of crime starting from the First World Bank. It was like a tradition. Oh, First World Bank, you are probably one of my favorite missions. After several sleep-depriving play schedules, I can say without a doubt that Payday 2 is stifling, and I know exactly what's to blame: the whole game is built around a desperate and detrimental attempt to make players keep playing by restricting access to things. It is a poison coursing throughout the game's classes and customization.

To start, all the weapon attachments and mask customizations are hidden away behind an endlessly aggravating three-card monte game. You get a shot at this game after every completed mission and, despite the illusion of choice created by selecting a card, the rewards are entirely random. It is a system which cannot be manipulated to get what you want. I specced into the Ghost skill tree because I thought sneaking around would be fun, only to learn that there was no way at all to acquire a weapon suppressor under my own power. I was almost level 50 before I got one. There is no guarantee you will get items you want or even get accessories for guns you own. You can get multiples of the same, unwanted item, that you can only put on a gun you don't have, and there is no way to dispose of them. This results in two things: one, players constantly running the quick and dirty missions as fast as they can to farm attachments in the hopes of getting something useful; and two, utter boredom of being stuck with the same, stock guns for hour after hour of game time with no feeling of progression. Worst of all, where other games let you earn enough to finally unlock the item of your dreams, Payday 2 only allows you to buffoonishly stumble onto it, robbing any satisfaction from acquiring something you want. My response when I finally got a suppressor wasn't one of excitement, it was "maybe now my entire skill tree won't feel so wasted." It was like fighting a hard boss over and over, but only winning because it glitched out and froze in place. There was no reward.

Then there is the cost. If I want to put the sight I got for preordering (thank god, because it took 30 levels to get another sight of any kind) onto a gun I own, I am charged $12,500. Twelve thousand five hundred dollars to put a sight I own onto a gun I own, both of which are modeled using a standardized rail system. In reality, this would be something you slide into place and fasten in place with thumb screws. That's nothing, though. It cost $213,000 to attach the "milspec" sight I acquired from the cards. The weapons themselves can run over half a million dollars. This is a lot of pretend money to sink into something to find out you don't like how it handles, and there's no way to test them out ahead of time. Three quarters of a million dollars in to find out that the gun has too much recoil for the sight's magnification. And just to be clear, if you get an attachment, like one of those sights, from the card game, you get an attachment, a sight. One. You can put it on one gun and no others. Yes, you can remove it from one gun and put it on another, but that costs you the asinine attachment fee all over again.

The mask customization, though, really takes the cake. You get masks (the base shape/model), materials (essentially a base color and finish), patterns (additional texture overlay designs), and colors (for the patterns) from the card game, and once you use them, they are permanent and indelible. I acquired a mask called Greek Tragedy. It's got a hell of a look to it and it would be great to combine it with the shiny "oxide bronze" material I also have in storage. Were I to do this, I would lose the oxide bronze material and be unable to put it on any other masks, and the amazing mask model would be then locked out of customization until I got a second one from the card game. The mask customization is as much a money sink as the weapon customization, costing insane amounts ($400,000 to apply the gold material) and impacting nothing in the game. You might say it's for showing off to other people, but I can tell you I hardly look at anyone's mask while we're playing. It's just not something there's time to look at. Moreover, why would I ever throw away precious, rare items when it effectively destroys them in the process? We are a group that has spent hours at a time shooting the shit and painting armor in Space Marine and we love doing it. We'll never enjoy Payday 2 that way because, at best, we might waste a mask or color that we like and may never get another one again.

Dear Overkill, grinding is boring and shitty and has made your whole game worse.

The game feels like it was meant to be free-to-play and goad you into microtransaction purchases. Instead, it's just a retail game with a pathetic attempt to extend play time by keeping things out of the player's reach. This feeling is only exacerbated by there being certain items being labeled as "infamous" rare items. "Ooh, look at the extra special bauble that the game dained to bestow upon you through no effort or merit at all! Don't you just want to burn pretend money to consume it?" You'll totally find out the answers to all your questions in the next episode of LOST! Bleh! To the intelligent, hardworking, kind person that thought up this entire system: this ploy is goddamned insulting. It is a gigantic, marring issue that bleeds into and taints other parts of the game, killing variety and spoiling the feeling of victory. I've been at the level cap of Payday: The Heist for months, maybe even over a year (I forget because I lost all my progress when my save died with the harddrive it was on). We were still playing it and having a great time. We always start the crime spree with a warm up round on First World Bank, because we all love playing FWB. There is a culture of people that this better-luck-next-time bullshit will keep stringing along, the CODience, who unlock everything and then quit and measure value of a game by how long that takes. They're going to quit when Ghosts comes out anyway though. All that was really accomplished was making it more likely for me, a long-time player, to quit early and find a game that doesn't seem to go out of it's way to crush my spirit.

Dear Overkill, I'm basically playing your game out of spite so my money doesn't feel wasted. Do you think I'm going to buy DLC?

For any new players, who are wading into the gun market rubbing their hands together in anticipation of snapping up a new gun, here is my advice: buy the CAR-4. The AMCAR is a confetti firing pile of ass and recoil. The CAR-4 is as well, but it will hold you over until you can get the Renfield 880 shotgun. Money spent on any of the other things is generally wasted. Without enhancing attachments, many of the guns feel ineffective and difficult to use and that applies especially so to those early assault rifles. Yet again, this is why the three-card monte game and cost of customization is such a major point; if upgrades were easier to acquire, it would be easy to just deal with a sloppy gun for a few missions and then feel like it was being improved.

There are also some hit detection issues with the game, where enemies in animations like stumbling or vaulting may become invincible, which doesn't help the feeling of a gun's effectiveness.

Just going down the list of problems now, the storage space you are given for weapons and masks is pathetic and clearly another part designed to make players waste their money and keep grinding. You can store nine primary weapons, nine secondary weapons, and eight masks (because one space is taken up by "default" character masks). Admittedly, I haven't filled up my inventory on any of them yet, but that's only because I refuse to. If you have your three-by-three inventory full and want to try out something new, you have to sell something you have. Something you may have already spent a million dollars customizing has to go in the trash if you want to try a new unlock. Then you buy that new gun, pay to attach the new attachments, find out it isn't any good, and have to buy all your old stuff back. Hope you had a spare three million sitting around.

Dear Overkill, here's how to fix your game:
-Add a mission select like in Payday: The Heist so players don't have to get bored sitting at the menu waiting for the one they want to play.

-Remove the insulting "we don't think you were good enough to complete this mission" experience penalty.

-Remove the cost of applying attachments that are already owned so players can experiment with weapons

-Let players simply buy attachments (the cost is already fucking absurd, but I'll meet you halfway on this one) so players can feel like they've earned their upgrades.

-Make mask assembly free.

-Let players disassemble masks and keep all the component masks, colors, patterns, and materials so they can enjoy designing new masks.

-Give players more storage space for guns and masks. What we have is not enough.
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