What does Payday 2 need more of? Paydays.

This post may be a bit late but I still feel like it needs to be said. I picked up Payday 2 as somewhat of an impulse buy shortly after it was released.  The reviews were good and after Monaco, I wanted another Multi-player game to enjoy with my brother and close friends.  Four-player co-op games are great with a tightly-knit team willing to play with you all of the time and I realize not many people get to play these games with consistent gamers like I can. That said, I convinced my friends to pick up this new title for 29.99 and we got into it.

Naturally, we all specced into different trees to get the best of all worlds.  My brother went Mastermind while my friends chose Ghost and Technician, leaving me with Enforcer.  Well, to be fair I chose Enforcer because there’s something special about the only girl in the group being the bulldozer of a tank headshotting dudes with a shotgun.  It took us several play sessions to grasp the rules of the games which were much less forgiving compared to Monaco.  It was practically impossible to attempt any kind of Stealth run early on because you need to have a complete understanding of a level and rules of engagement.

When we finally started to settle into our roles it was a ton of fun.  I’ll never forget when I finally got my portable SAW and was able to cut open every single safety deposit box in the Bank Heist.

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However, much like a sine graph, the “fun” level after a certain point seemed to plummet once we got into the levels 30 and 40.  Leveling up started to become a lot less frequent, and you can’t even buy the higher level skills in your skill tree without 6-8 skill points (and you only get 1 skill point to spend per level up.)  Stealth runs were lower risk with high payouts, but doing these successfully took a lot of TIME. Once we started becoming familiar with levels, we did more stealth runs so that our Mastermind could strut his stuff.  And it was great fun to do it successfully!  The game does a great job of making you feel like a badass when you pull off a clean heist.

Well, either I missed something, or the developers didn’t stop to consider the fact that an Enforcer in a 4-man team on a stealth run has absolutely nothing to do while the stealthing is going on.  Even on the night club level, we felt like we couldn’t do anything to help out the mastermind as he stealthed his way to the safe and just hung out outside the club for 20+ minutes.

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Then the worst thing possible happened: they patched the game.

The patch included such features as:

  • Less rewards for missions
  • Nerfing my favorite gun (Marconi Shotgun) which was practically the only thing I lived for.
  • Making Enforcers slower (me again)
  • Making some levels harder.
  • Adding more rewards (XP cards and bigger cash cards)
  • A lot of weapons do a lot less damage now
  • Oh yeah, and all enemies hurt you more and flashbangs last longer.

Essentially, they nerfed us and made the enemies harder.  A lot of these changes were very understandable.  We weren’t even to level 50 and we were doing missions on Very Hard and Overkill.  They scaled the game to be closer to Killing Floor’s difficulty curve in order to have a better end-game for higher level players.  The only problem was, this catered great to higher level players but made the hill of level-climbing MUCH MUCH steeper for players at our level.  After the patch, we were doing 20-30 minute missions and getting no more than 1/4th of a wheel of XP.

This leads me to my biggest complaint about the game that lessened my desire to play over time.  The game needs to reward players more.  The rewards are simply not paced out evenly enough to give players incentive to put so much time and effort into it.  The current structure of reward is like so:

  • 1 Payday per mission.  Each mission takes anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes (3-day missions)
  • During a Payday you can either get 1 mask, color, pattern, weapon mod, cash card, or XP card.
  • Cash reward/XP reward for a completed mission.

There is no reward system during a game.  Players don’t get any sort of special reward for completing challenges in their own realm of abilities.  If I’m playing an Enforcer on a stealth mission, all I can do is spot guards for my Mastermind, often using a surveillance system to do so.  If I do a good job, I don’t get any extra spotting bonus.  If you get through a door or perform an action successfully, you don’t get a reward.  If you get 80% accuracy and 40 headshots you don’t get a reward.  The game lacks short-term rewards and needs them desperately.  For example, in Monaco if you use your abilities to access a room you are rewarded with coins and even items that you can use later in the level.  There are no such rewards in Payday 2.

ImageAfter a long, hard game and a job well done, 6k is the worst reward you could possibly get.  It’s like being Charlie Brown on Halloween.

After the big patch, the developers put emphasis on the fact that extra bag loot and pro jobs gave much more substantial rewards.  That’s all good and well, but unless you’re doing stealth runs on Very Hard or Overkill, the payouts are just not worth it at all compared to the XP/Money rewards we were getting before the patch.  We wound up in a bad place- too low level to do the missions with the big payouts, but too high level to have any fun in the Normal/Hard missions.  What were we to do?

At this point I found myself playing the game less and less because whenever we played, we would either botch a really long mission or play for a while and get bad paydays, not level up, and get tired of the whole affair.  Playing 3-day missions like Framing Frame and Rats gets pretty old after 10 playthroughs, and you can only run the Ukranian Job so many times before it gets old.

Payday 2 has a lot going for it, but I would really like to see an overhaul on the reward system to heighten player incentive in the short-term.  The difficulty ramps up in an obscene way halfway through the game right around the time you have already played every job to the point of memorization.  I would love to see the addition of user-created levels in this the same way they opened that up in Monaco.  I look forward to seeing more from Payday 2 and hope we can get an even better strategy/crime game from OVERKILL in the future.

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