Picking up the game after the holidays, I'm a bit rusty again, but I had some thoughts about the things in the title that I wanted to share.
First off, these thoughts mostly pertain to difficulty. The game is certainly do-able (as others have shown) and some of this is me a bit salty on not being as good as I want to be. Just want to be upfront about that, haha. I have gotten to the second area, but not the 3rd.
--- Enemy Density ---
When I first played, there was an update just a couple days afterwards and after that point there seemed to be a lot more enemies. This is not really a bad thing, but it is something that compounds the latter 2 points. I presume it was intended and it simply increases the difficulty, but there are definitely some places where your options amount to 'fall in hole', 'get hit by enemy', or 'wait 20 seconds and hope you can shimmy through a gap'. The 3rd option obviously being the right choice (but becoming non existent when homing enemies are involved), but certainly an odd and annoying halt to the tempo of play.
--- Homing Enemies ---
Homing enemies (as I have named them) are fine to be in existence (this is in no way a request to remove them), but they have some issues. First being their frequency and second being their timing. I started a run and had a spider jump into view right away. I tried my best, but trying to get the early plots setup with a spider chasing me from the get go was super frustrating and just ended up with me getting myself killed trying to maneuver and kill it in kind. Other parts of the map end up with 2 or 3 homing flies after you when timing is tight (like the example above). In the second stage, the worms are hell. Seeing one means it's time to get creative. In a recent run, 2 came at me together. While I definitely agree with them being in the game to push you to keep going instead of hanging around somewhere forever, there are some problems with them that stem mostly from point 3 (which I'm about to get to).
--- Offensive Options ---
Offense options are a bit lackluster, I feel. It's definitely nice to get some of the good offensive seeds (I haven't had a chance to play with them all just yet), but since it is a roguelike and it's not guaranteed you'll ever see one, I'm going to focus most of my opinion/analysis here on the thorn seed as you start with it and are thus guaranteed to have it. My main issues come down to 3 main things: economy, choice, and persistence.
- Economy -
Economy here refers to having to choose what to use your plots for and what seeds to spend your crystals on. There's a lot of discussion of strategy that are basically economy discussions. The opportunity cost of planting thorns is high. A plot can be one thorn, 1/4 heart, or 2/3 to 4/3 of a crystal. The thorn can break even on most enemies or occasionally turn a profit (if i am correct 2 hit enemies can drop 3 crystals and 3 hit can drop 5, meaning 3/2 to 5/3 gain [1/2 to 2/3 profit which is worth than crystal seed]), but it consumes the plot, which makes breaking even (the more likely case) less ideal. Most strategies I've read involve gaining many crystals and health early or even to check the first seed room and decide whether or not to keep your run from there. Having those crystals build up so you have flexibility and are not poor later seems really important (and hindered by getting thorns)
- Choice -
Like most of what I'm saying, these are very coupled effects. Choice has a lot to do with the possible profit you could get from a thorn. To get the maximum possible profit, you have to kill high hit point enemies. This is not an easy thing to do because of the number of enemies. You cannot choose what to kill (and I'm not suggesting adding something that lets you choose what to kill, I think that adds too much complexity, just pointing it out) which means that when you are trying to get through the dense enemies, accidentally killing a grub that you were basically avoiding (or a fly in the second biome), but got just a bit too close, eats into your profit potential and wastes thorns. Because you don't have the choice and the enemy density is pretty high, an offensive strategy is very much dissuaded unless you have another offensive seed type.
- Persistence -
Persistence is a little bit more of my pet peeve, but it has to do with thorn persistence. Getting hit or falling in a hole removes all your thorns. This alone discourages any use as your investment of plots and crystals can be completely destroyed. If you had 4 thorns it was almost guaranteed better to just be going hearts, but more importantly, it is more likely you will be close to high hp enemies that will absorb an attack and hit you while it is invulnerable when you are going for a thorn based strategy. A strategy that punishes itself is untenable, in my opinion (and the way spiders and homing snakes travel make this situation very likely). I can understand falling in a hole removing some thorns (or even all), but enemy contact removing them seems really bad to me.
--- Summary ---
Basically, what this is saying in the long run is that thorns are very weak and not a good option for usage in the game in their current state. In their current state, the main incentive to getting them (defending yourself from homing enemies) is still generally not worth it (because they accidentally get used up or there are too many homing enemies).
As i said to start, this just makes the game more difficult (which is okay), but also makes one of the starting seeds kind of useless (or frustrating to use).
I might suggest getting more than one thorn from a plot, but I don't know if that's too good.
I hope my lines of reasoning/conclusions make sense. What do others and or devs think?