(Edited for consistency, clarification and refined values)
I’ll be the first to argue that skill levels being backwards was actually more appropriate than the way it was in previous games and it is now. Those few missions that I flew between when I got Superstar Hero and until it was patched were some of the most fun I’ve had in singleplayer Chicken Invaders in a long time. Most of my experience comes from playing tier 4 difficulty missions, the hardest I could find, so keep that in mind.
CIU is one of those games that’s about progression, upgrades, and becoming more powerful, right? At the moment, Superstar Hero (SSH) goes completely against that. When they purchase something with their hard-earned keys, most people expect an improvement in their performance, but when equipping SSH they’ll find that Chickens now take a lot more shots to kill. In some waves, like High-Speed Chase, you won’t be able to kill almost anything, and bosses can sponge a lot more shots so that they can take more than 3 minutes to kill even at max power.
Secondly, “Skill level” is a misnomer. The skill of a player is their ability to keep their ship intact when under heavy fire from the Henpire forces, while the way it works now is simply a damage handicap on the player or a health increase for the enemies (not sure which, since the end result is the same). Though if you made enough progress to be able to purchase SSH, you probably improved your skill by a fair amount, so a positive multiplier for the player would reflect their experience and allow them to tackle more difficult missions that they weren’t able to before. Even the slogan for SSH: “I eat chickens for breakfast!” implies being at the top of the food chain, able to roast poultry at any time of the day.
Right now, playing without any skill level modifier, so on default Rookie, in a tier 4 mission, feels somewhat harder than what Veteran was in previous games. I played a daily challenge on hard with SSH equipped and thought that chickens took an unreasonable amount of shots to kill, as well as bosses being way more resilient than previous games on SSH. I’d say that the game should be tailored so that an experienced player with max power Utensil Poker, and maybe with some help from some of the new upgrades, can get a Clean Sweep on just about any wave. With SSH the way it is now, that’s not much of a possibility. From what I’ve seen in CIU, SSH gives +200% score bonus, but the extra time it takes to complete the mission, the fewer enemies killed, and in turn reduced food and keys, doesn’t make the bonus worthwhile. Even if the bonus is increased to what it was in previous games, +900%, score remains just a number, it doesn’t change that it simply isn’t fun to fire at chickens for days before they die.
In my opinion, to make a good progression game, you want players to start with a low power character (or spacecraft, in this case) and work their way up to being more powerful, while also facing more powerful enemies and increasing the rewards for doing so. To put it into context,
A new player should:
- Start on Tourist skill level
- Mainly play tier 0 – tier 1 missions
- Mostly face regular Chicks, Chickens, Pilot Chickens
- Not be able to kill bosses very quickly
- Get a low payout for their missions, like 40 keys and 10 million points for 40 waves
An experienced player should:
- Play on Superstar Hero skill level
- Only plays tier 4 missions
- Fight multiple Chickenauts, Armored Chickens and Chick Gatling Guns at the same time on screen
- Kill bosses quickly, regular waves should often be more difficult than boss waves
- Get a high payout for their missions, like 160 keys and 60 million points for 40 waves
Even in this early version of the game, I am pleased with the way the economy works, I feel like I’m making real progress fast enough to not get bored until I’m able to buy something new, but not so fast that I’ll unlock everything in a couple of days. I think a small game like CIU should take no more than 100-200 hours of gameplay to reach 100% progress. New players should start out by having easy regular waves, with fewer threats and tougher (non-boss) enemies rarely showing up, but have to struggle for a bit with bosses due to their weak ship. Experienced players should get more fast-paced gameplay in regular waves, with high-rank enemies appearing every wave in larger numbers, but also being destroyed more easily thanks to the accumulated upgrades. Also because of their upgrades, they shouldn’t have to take a long time killing bosses, usually less than a minute, because they’ve already fought every boss dozens of times to get where they are, and most bosses aren’t profitable. Some of them, like Apple Core and Planetary Egg City can get you some extra firepower or keys, but those that consist of a single oversized Chicken provide nothing until they are destroyed, and even then, you just get some points, a few bits of food, and a chance at a powerup when they die.
To conclude, I’d like to suggest the following changes:
- Restore how skill levels originally worked
- New players start on Tourist skill level
- double the prices for skill levels, because they truly offer a tremendous power boost that should be earned accordingly
- increase required tiers for playing higher difficulty missions, by a factor of 5: tier 1 now should become tier 5, tier 2 now should become tier 10 and so on
- key payout on higher tiers should be three times the tier level, instead of a flat 40: getting to tier 5 gives you 15 keys, getting to tier 6 gives 18 keys and so on