My thoughts on the re-balancing so far:
The biggest change I’ve noticed is that early game profit margins are up by quite a bit; I consider it essentially “mandatory” on every mission to either start one researcher, one explorer (when your starting ingredients don’t have Agglomerator/Ioniser upgrade requirements) or three researchers, no explorers (when they do). This means my initial worker budget is always $80/$90 per day, just to prevent the company from stagnating early from a lack of product options. I’m not sure if it’s the cure value re-balance or the fact that the AI has different ingredients and therefore is directly competing less (or both), but that initial $100 per day profit margin feels much easier to obtain. Either way, I’m able to get to the early-game sweet spot of 2 explorers, 3 researchers after only three or four product lines and still be profitable, if only by the skin of my teeth on Advanced missions.
I’m noticing a lot less cases of early tier-1/tier-2 cures having their cure’s active strength sitting right in the middle of their side-effects (which I assume is part of the cure re-balance, though maybe I’ve just been lucky so far). It’s definitely contributing to the increase in early-game wiggle room, and in combination with the other changes is making the analyzer a much better early-game investment. Before, the analyzer was only useful for tweaking your tier 3/4 products simply because, for most tier 1/2 cures, the benefits were minor and outweighed by the ~$60/day processing and materials cost of discovering their peak concentrations, especially when 9 times out of 10 you were going to ignore the peak concentration in favor of avoiding as many side effects as possible anyhow. Now, when you have a tier 2 cure with no active side effects in its range, finding the peak concentration can be well worth the analyzer cost for the 25% value bonus of hitting an A rating with it.
I will note, however, that upgrading the analyzer with research points is still completely worthless; why would I spend research points to reduce the action cost of one machine by $1 per day, when I will be running (at most) two of said machine at once, and usually only 50% of the time? Even the final 16 point upgrade for the evaporator/dissolver is more cost-effective, given you’ll be running around 15 to 20 of those at endgame, with 100% uptime. When it comes down to it, the process cost of the analyzer is irrelevant; the real analysis cost is the ingredients and processing leading up to the analyzer, meaning you can actually reduce the analysis cost more by upgrading other machines instead. It needs to be something more along the lines of refunding 5% of the total ingredient and processing cost up to that stage, per upgrade level of the analyzer.
Tested so far on “Bottom Line” and “Even Mo’ Money.”
I was able to get Master rank on my first attempt through “Bottom Line” with about a year to spare, which as an “advanced” player seems about right for master rank on a beginner mission; a fair bit of wiggle room there, but close enough that a bad start could potentially have crippled the run. One thing to note was that I had already built everything I needed to win the mission about halfway through the timer, and from that point on only had to tinker and wait for the objective to finish ticking up. It was somewhat relaxing and cathartic compared to the rush of Master runs in the previous update, but I get the feeling that long stretches of just waiting around for victory conditions to tick over will start to get a bit old after a few runs.
“Even Mo’ Money” was considerably tighter; my first attempt only got me about halfway to the Master rank goal, despite having 7 of 9 sections producing tier 3 or 4 cures by the end of the mission, and by that point it felt more like I was fighting my processor than the scenario itself, since having that much of the map filled really started to make my PC chug. It feels as though Master is probably still attainable in those missions, but that it’ll take more effort than it’s worth given that you’ll spent half of each attempt with the game running in a less responsive and therefore less enjoyable state, after the map has started to fill up to the brim.
Despite the late-game grind feel of Master runs, the goal-based variants for Expert and Master rank seem much more interesting than the time-based ones. “Spam loans to rush research” isn’t the dominant strategy in those missions since you are more concerned with overall efficiency, and you aren’t effectively ignoring 50% of the tech tree when shooting for master on the higher difficulties because you have more than enough time to research everything. As a perfectionist who likes to get “Master” on everything but also likes filling out tech trees, is a very welcome change. They play more like a full mission than a gimmick run, which is an improvement in my opinion.
I don’t really notice the AI much past Advanced, to be honest. From my experiences with previous versions, I’m always aware in the back of my mind that I need to keep an eye on the profit margins of each product individually in case the AI overcrowds a market and makes one dip low, but when there’s 3 AI opponents the huge collection of competing products tends to mean market crowding more or less evens out; I don’t see any strong swings back and forth in the value of any individual cure, because there’s always at least one AI in every cure market and they don’t seem to discontinue products very often. You can expect a gradual decline in value for each cure, but since they’re never going to go back up again you can just plan around that and not pay too much attention to individual AI actions.
Bugs and Fixes
The belt fixes seem to be a step in the right direction, though I’ve found a few cases where the belts prefer to move ingredients from farther up a chain in front of an output slot that’s ready to dispense, causing a bit of a slowdown where multiple 2-stroke machines are chained together, though, strangely, you seem to be able to fix those by forcing the system to get backed up a little:
Here the multi-mixer on the right is ready to output, but the the ingredient on the corner belt to its left is about to move in front of its output; it will pause one tick out of every 4, causing the entire line to run at 0.75 processes per day.
But here the belt will prefer to wait for the multi-mixer to output its ingredient before moving the ingredients on the belt, as you can see from the fact that there is no longer a gap in the corner coming out of the second ioniser in the upper left.
Perhaps it would be better if machine outputs always take precedent over belts when “claiming” a T-intersection?
The old “Research Points progress bar freezes” bug is still there, but the fix to the upper-right corner info panel is a huge breath of fresh air, after having to carefully avoid clicking machines in certain circumstances for so long.
The AI seems to be a bit better at diversifying, though I’ve noticed it seems to have problems releasing it’s poor products even after it’s developed an upgrade; on “Bottom Line” the AI was still producing an E ranked product with severe side effects at a rate of 15 per month even after it had developed a version of the same drug with no side effects, also being produced at 15 per month. It also produced a B-ranked liver disease cure at a rate of 105 per month, by itself saturating the relatively small liver disease market to 115% initially, and later to well over 250% after it had cured over half of the patients in that market but kept producing the cure at the same rate anyhow.
On “Even Mo’ Money,” Each AI started with at least one of my two starting ingredients, with all three producing either hypertension cures and antihistamines, the two cures I had access to. I’m not sure what their second starting ingredient was, but it seemed a bit odd that they all chose to directly compete with the only two things I was making if they had other options.
In the previous version, it felt as though the only “logical” strategy to beat Master rank was to use minor loans to float with virtually no profit for the first half of the timer while building up research, then put yourself massively in debt with major loans to build your final assembly line and crank out your objective pills regardless of the actual profitability of the company as a whole. That seems to be less of the case now, given that many of the Master rank goals now require you to remain profitable for the long-haul.
With the loans feeling like much less of a requirement to success, it feels like the focus of the game has shifted away from managing your debt, and towards focusing on your product line, which is a good thing in my opinion. Loans are still very strong in the early game, perhaps even moreso than before given that you’re much more likely to get a cheap (below $100 per day payment) loan right off the bat, but it feels as though skipping out on that loan and relying on your company income is a much more valid choice.