KurtzPel is ass

by AJ "Tyron" Martinez @ worldsbe.st • May 2 2019

This article will have no image or video examples, because it’s more work than the game deserves and I don’t feel like opening it again. Instead, please enjoy this clip of the training room camera showcasing the Auto-Upskirt feature.

Camera movement, hit effects, and overall game feel are a trainwreck in netplay. Even on KurtzPel’s idea of a five-bar connection, with a stable wired network, movement skills or enemy displacement effects will cause your camera and character to rapidly warp and stutter in place. The camera jerk is so intense and pervasive that it made me feel ill, and it heavily interferes with readability, since it’s often hard to tell where players are relative to each other. Enemies will also often blatantly warp out of combos or ignore aerial followups. This is my principal complaint, and I guess I’m kind of a dumbass for expecting any KRMMO to be able to handle North American network conditions. I’m also 99% sure that you can interrupt your connection to walk out of combos or avoid damage.

Free players only have access to two karmas (weapons / classes) for, at a conservative estimate, the first 40 hours of play. You use two karmas during battle. This effectively means that there is no class selection, period, unless you shell out or sink 40+ hours into weapon types you don’t enjoy. This is probably the most widespread complaint about the game, and while I’ve never been particularly enthused about the idea of RPG mechanics in a PvP game to begin with, this seems pretty egregious even to someone that doesn’t care. There should have been a minimum of 3 karmas accessible for free, to allow players…uh, literally any customization or agency at all. Oh, and apparently the developers lied about their intent to do this.

Armor and hitstun have wildly unclear rules and no visual indicators. It’s apparently based on what karma the defender is holding, with melee karmas shrugging off light ranged attacks in a super jank-looking hitstop-only sort of armor that makes the camera stutter, while ranged karmas are vulnerable to hitstun from anything—but it’s hard to tell, and the hilariously incomplete in-game explanations are hampered by a poor translation. This is tied up with netcode and performance issues, and it’s hard to tell what to blame for any specific issue, but there’s no way to tell how any given sequence of attacks will interact with an enemy in any given animation. Even after you’ve seen moves interact a few times, sometimes it feels like the rules become randomly inconsistent—this may be related to lag or low-altitude bullshit. There’s no way to tell whether your attack did nothing because of lag or because of armor.

You can’t always select the mode you want to play. There are two PvP missions available at any time, with map and game type selected at random. This benefits literally no one, especially when every mode except Deathmatch is conceptually broken.

The stamina system penalizes aggressive play and favors uninteresting area denial strats, since a player who’s not chasing will always have access to more stamina, letting them throw more stuff out in neutral and extend combos for longer. At its worst, you can dodge out of a combo and be left in a better position to attack than the player who scored the first hit, since they’re low on stamina and you’re not.

Runaway is always stronger in arena fighters than more traditional fare, but KurtzPel goes out of its way to enforce this, down to the healing system—sit still for a few seconds and you begin recovering life, up to roughly 75% of the damage you’ve taken. This gives winning teams an enormous incentive to disengage at every chance.

Related: the meter for ultimate skills is built exclusively by taking damage. Winning players often want to avoid hitting their opponents at all, since you could be feeding your opponent their ultimate and allowing them to finish you by mashing out an invincible nuke. Run the clock instead, even in Deathmatch.

Strings with jump-cancel followups often don’t work. Sometimes the jump will be cut off midway through and force you back down to the ground, which would be cool tech like Fate/unlimited codes’s “jump-cancel cancel” if there was any reliable way of making it happen. Sometimes they just won’t activate at all.

Capture the Flag is a joke. The flag carrier is ostensibly slowed down to prevent runaway, but movement skills still work unhindered, so if they ever get out of arm’s length, be prepared for a lengthy and annoying runaway sequence where all your dash attacks mysteriously don’t stun despite producing damage numbers. The first team that caps almost always wins, with very little comeback potential, and respawn timers are so short that dying is almost meaningless. It’s more efficient to knock someone off the flag platform (always elevated, with a slow route back that requires you to circle around) than actually kill them. Even then, there’s no way you’re capping unless they blatantly forget to switch to a ranged karma, since you’re completely immobile during capture and any damage will interrupt it.

Custom games, in a move that’s so baffling I worry readers will think I’m misrepresenting it, require in-game currency to create—and it’s more currency than you gain from a matchmade game.1 Most of KurtzPel’s weaker aspects are a consequence of rushed development, bad netcode, and generally not giving a fuck about ethics or the intelligence of the playerbase. This one has me stumped, though. There’s absolutely no reason for it. RIP grassroots support, community tournaments, etc etc.

Stage geometry feels careless and causes major issues with movement skills and strings. You’ll often “restand” on a stray bit of geometry during an air combo, allowing your opponent to dodge away, or bonk your head on a bridge and stutter back down to the ground before a preprogrammed sequence can finish.

Conquest only cares about which team holds the control point at the end of the 5-minute timer. If you flawlessly hold for 4 and a half minutes, then have it ripped away from you in the last 30 seconds, you will lose. Kills before the end of the round mean nothing. This creates yet another situation where optimal strategy involves not attacking; it’s to your advantage to leave low-HP enemies at low HP and kill them near the end of the round.

The auto-target system is absolutely insane and gives almost every move batshit tracking properties. Dodge directly behind a sword user before their launcher hits you? They’ll 180 on the spot, with no camera movement required, and catch your dodge. The only semi-consistent way to dodge out of stuff is directly backward, making it very straightforward to chase.

The DLC karmas are suspiciously strong. This one is subjective, since it’s hard to tell whether move properties and damage are actually working as intended half the time, but if you’re going to lock every free-to-play player to the same two weapons for 40+ hours, you have a very good reason to avoid the appearance of pay-to-win. Allowing access to all karmas in training mode would help considerably, and might even give players on the fence a reason to purchase new karmas, but KOG holds its players in such contempt that they’ll deliberately throw away money just to make you sad.

Witch in particular seems absolutely fucked, sporting extremely strong and disruptive area denial with a great dodge and fantastic damage. The “black hole” attack is a fucking mess, connecting from absurd range and no-selling your dodge unless you wait for an inconsistent and unmarked amount of time for the suction to end. The blizzard also has no AoE marker, hits an area the size of a small African country, and can lock down the flag platform or capture point for its full duration.

Training mode is extremely bare-bones, with no options to modify dummy behavior (or even to dodge out of grounded combos), and no way to disable or reset skill cooldowns.

The lobby area is desolate. There’s a single global chat channel and absolutely nothing to do, even if you do manage to join a populated channel instead of getting booted to a solo room as the game tries to force you into a channel above capacity. No emotes, no interactables, nothing but a few NPCs and some basic vendors. It also crushes performance as soon as other players are loaded in, dropping below 30fps even on my relatively strong PC.

It’s difficult to experiment with your moveset, since the full movelist is buried inside the Player Info menu. The list you’re shown on other screens is extremely stripped down, missing many strings, and sometimes notated in confusing ways (“RMB → Wait” instead of “hold RMB”). One of KOG’s past games, Elsword, did this better several years ago, showing every combo branch in an input overlay that was automatically enabled at low levels.

Bow has a single string that links into itself indefinitely, available whether you’re airborne or grounded, that does better sustained damage than Sword for considerably less risk. It leaves the opponent grounded, but the overzealous autotarget will often punish a dodge with no input or adjustment required.

Movement will sometimes cancel if you move your camera too quickly, forcibly snapping you into your walk animation and requiring a dash reinput. This seems to happen to prevent animations from freaking out, but it’s trivial to spin in place and moonwalk, so I don’t understand why this is in place at all.

There are virtually zero social features. You can’t party with someone unless you’re in the same channel, which can prove to be a problem on its own. No guilds, no recent players list, no team chat during matches.

Interface tips and tutorials are poorly translated and poorly paced, dousing you with a firehose of misleading information that’s sorely missing context. The affinity system is opaque, the character screen does absolutely nothing to explain what stats actually do, and awkward non-native phrasing is everywhere.

Ground targeting is completely fucked. I still have no clue how it works. It uses your camera position, but not in any way that makes sense—sometimes looking up extends your range, sometimes it reduces it. You basically just fuck around with your camera until the faint white light is in vaguely the correct position. You often need to pitch your camera way up to hit max range, and can’t actually tell where you’re landing. The target indicator also doesn’t account for obstructions, so if you want to leap up an incline or fire over a wall, cross your fingers and pray that the skill’s mechanics allow it.

The in-game frame limiter includes the option to limit to 40 FPS, but not 30. I don’t even know.

  1. 300 CP to create, 200 CP rewards for normal matches. The unlockable karmas cost 75,000 CP. ↩︎