If Starbreeze themselves were actually a Payday 3 heisting team I suspect they'd be on the verge of putting money back into the vault at this stage - retracing their steps with bulging duffel bags, while apologising to security guards not so much for the whole bank robbery thing as for smashing so many utilities on their way out. Shortly after announcing plans to make the four-player PvE shooter less online-dependent, the developers have revealed that they're also reworking Payday 3's much-reviled progression system.
In our own Payday 3 review, Alice Bee singled out the process of acquiring abilities and gadgets as one of the game's weak points. As MP1st adds, players are particularly upset about the tethering of XP to challenges, some of them weapon-specific, rather than the completion of a heist. Inevitably, this move has led to multiplayer participants ignoring the heist completely, spaffing challenges and turning what is supposed to be a game of infiltration and extraction into open warfare with the fuzz.
"We have heard you, and we are working on a bunch of changes to the progression system," lead producer Andreas Penninger declared in a Twitch stream yesterday. "I can't say exactly what yet. We're working on it, then we're going to test it and verify it to make sure it's in line with how we want it to work and also based on your guys' feedback.
"So, as soon as we have more clarity in 'this is what we want to push live,' we're going to communicate that to you guys."
According to Starbreeze, Payday 3 has had a solid launch despite the connection issues and lingering misgivings about XP systems. The studio announced that the new game had attracted three million players a couple of days ago. Mind you, it appears the majority of those players are haters: the game still has a Mostly Negative Steam user review score at the time of writing.
To quote one of those Negative reviews from Steam user Saros: "Player progression systems are tied to challenges which feel arbitrary and unnatural to the core gameplay's flow. It also diminishes the value of completing a heist successfully, as your only consistent reward for completing heists is the in-game currency which you may or may not feel particularly enticed to use if none of the further weapon selection or cosmetic choices are to your liking."
"I don't really need to repeat that this was not the start we wanted," Starbreeze CEO Tobias Sjögren observed in a statement accompanying the player milestone news. "But at the same time, our business model is a marathon and not a sprint and we will tirelessly continue to build Payday 3 bigger and better to deliver the greatest possible value for our players."
Starbreeze are planning more than 200 quality of life improvements this month, with later, bulkier Payday 3 updates introducing "new content and new functionality" across October and November, and the first Payday 3 DLC pack, Syntax Error, scribbled down for release before the end of 2023.
I've yet to try out the new Payday, but I'm always morbidly interested in games that are sabotaged by their own earning mechanisms. I read the above and I try to picture what, say, PvE all-timer Left 4 Dead might have been like with a modern XP system. Oh hang on, I don't have to imagine! I'm describing Back 4 Blood.