Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade Deconstructed Part 2 - The Game Loop

In the first post of Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade Deconstructed I gave a high-level overview of the gameplay in Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade. In this post, I’m going to provide an overview of the game loop that keeps players engaged and coming back.

Part 1 — Game Basics
Part 2 — The Game Loop
Part 3 — Game Economy
Part 4 — Monetization
Part 5 — What’s Hot vs. What’s Not

At its core, Warhammer: Freeblade has a simple game loop, and I believe PixelToys, the developer, has done a good job of designing activities in a way that encourages both repeat engagement and stretches out the length of time a player spends with the game to reach the end-game.

As part of this post I’m going to discuss 3 topics:

Primary Game Loop

The Primary Game Loop enables a player to level-up the Freeblade gear and complete missions of greater difficulty. The Primary Game Loop is fairly tight from a timing perspective, and a player should be able to complete the core game loop at least once per day.

The core game loop consists of 4 parts, which we’ll go through one at a time.

Primary Game Loop: Play Missions
  1. Play Missions: Missions are the core gameplay experience within Freeblade, and they come in three varieties; Story Missions, Patrol Missions, and Events.

Story Missions move the Freeblade story forward and are the primary path to the end-game. As you complete Story Missions you are able to unlock additional story-driven chapters with higher difficulty missions.

This is a map of Chapter 8 and the 4 missions within it

Within a story mission, there are also multiple difficulty levels with different goals. For example, in the Story Mission, “The Trees Bleed,” there are 3 sub-missions, each at a progressively higher difficulty.

In Storm Missions you have to complete the missions under a time limit.

Patrols are missions that scale with your gear level. Patrols are timed activities, meaning once you complete one you have to wait 2 hours in order to play them again; this is one point of re-engagement that Freeblade leverages to keep players coming back.

There are 5 Patrol Slots that can be unlocked based on your Loyalty level. While I’m not going to dive into the Loyalty system in this post, just know that Loyalty levels are based on the amount of money you’ve spent in the game.

Assuming that you have 16 waking hours in the day and all 5 Patrol slots unlocked, you could theoretically complete up to 40 Patrol Missions daily.

Events are missions where you compete against other player for rewards, which are tied to your performance relative to other players. The timed nature of Events creates another point for re-engagement.

  • In Daily Events all players are equipped with the same gear and rewards are given out daily.
  • In Tier Events players compete with their Freeblades. The Tiered Events are level capped, meaning once you reach a certain level you don’t have access lower Tier Events. For Tier Events the rewards are given out every 3 days.
Players above level 40 aren’t eligible to play Tier IV events
The rewards in Events are determined by your performance relative to other players.
Primary Game Loop: Earn Crafting Resources

2. Earn crafting resources: As part of completing missions you earn resources that are critical to progression in the game. There are two crafting resources in the game: Gear and Ore

Gear can either be equipped or saved for crafting in the Forge

Gear is primarily earned by completing missions

Ore is almost exclusively used as parting of the crafting process.

Ore is primarily earned by completing missions
Primary Game Loop: Craft Gear

3. Craft gear: Once you’ve acquired sufficient gear and ore it’s time to head to the Forge. In the Forge, you can combine multiple lower-level items in order to craft a single, higher-level item. As you level-up your Freeblade additional slots in the forge unlock that allow you to merge more gear together and forge higher-level items.

The Forge is used to craft higher-level gear.

Take note that the crafting process can take a fair amount of time. In the example above, the forging process will take over 9 hours. While this point of re-engagement is similar to building structures in other social games, I prefer this because the output feels more functional to the core game experience. In other social games I feel like leveling-up buildings is just part of the endless grind, while in Freeblade I look forward to the functional aspects of new weapons or armor when playing missions.

Forging creates progressively higher-level gear.

In addition, you can also upgrade existing gear using only ore if you don’t have the gear required to craft new items.

Upgrading gear only requires Ore, but there are diminishing returns to upgrading gear.
Primary Game Loop: Equip Gear

4. Equip Gear: Finally you need to equip your new gear in order to level-up your Freeblade. There are 10 different equipment slots that need to be upgraded in order to complete higher difficulty missions.

Your Wargear Rating is the sum of the gear rating for all your equipment.
Higher-level equipment have perks associated with them
Secondary Game Loop

The Secondary Game Loop largely overlaps with the core game loop, however the main focus is on earning medals used to unlock higher-difficulty missions and story content. From a timing perspective, it may take several days to complete the outer game loop, and it consists of 3 parts:

Secondary Game Loop
  1. Play Missions: Similar to the core game loop you need to complete either Story Missions or Patrol Missions in order to Earn Medals.
  2. Earn Medals: This time our focus when completing missions is on earning medals. There are two types of medals you can earn:

Story Medals: Story Medals are earned by completing Story Missions with a minimum score. Depending on your score you will earn 1, 2 , or 3 medals. While you can run a mission as many times as you want to earn up to 3 medals, you can’t run the mission many times to multiply your medals.

3 Story Medals were earned in this mission.

Patrol Medals: Patrol Medals are earned simply by completing Patrol Missions. Remember that Patrols are refreshed every two hours, so you have multiple opportunities to earn Patrol Medals in a given day.

Completing Patrols Missions Rewards Patrol Medals

3. Unlock Chapters: Once you have earned sufficient medals you can unlock additional Story Mode Chapters. For example, in the picture below you can see that Chapter 10 requires 335 Story Medals and 220 Patrol Medals in order to access it.

You need both Story Mission Medals AND Patrol Medals to progress to later chapters

When you combine the Primary Game Loop and the Secondary Game Loop you get a visualization that looks something like this:

Progression Gates

Finally, I want to point out that there are two Progression Gates within the game. The Progression Gates prevent a player from being able to grind through the game and extend the time it takes to reach the end-game.

Gear level: In order to complete story missions of progressively increasing difficulty you need to either earn or forge higher-level gear.

I’m not even able to start a mission because my light weapon level is too low

Story Mission Medals and Patrol Medals: In order to access later Chapters you need to have a sufficient number of both Story Mission Medals and Patrol Medals. While I consider Story Missions Medals fun and challenging to achieve, the Patrol Medals require some grinding, especially when you have to complete over 50 Patrol Missions in order to access the next chapter.

In some cases

Also, notice how there is a Progression Gate part of both the Primary Game Loop and the Secondary Game Loop. In combination, the gear-level and medal requirements slow a player’s progression through the game, prevent players from grinding through all the content, and spread out the time players spend engaging with the game. Layering these progression gates on top of our Primary and Secondary Game Loops gives you a visualization that looks like this:

Just as a recap of the post:

  1. The Primary Game Loop is used to level-up the the gear of the Freeblade and should be able to be completed within a day.
  2. The Secondary Game Loop is used to unlock higher-difficulty missions and story content, and should be able to be completed within a few days.
  3. Progression Gates slow player progression, prevent players from grinding through all the content, and spread out the time players spend engaging with the game
  4. Points of Re-engagement throughout the game include Patrol Missions, Daily and Tiered Events, and Crafting.

Other items that play an indirect role in the game loop, but were not included in order to keep the post tighter include XP and leveling-up, Repairs, Supply Drops, and Login rewards. If you would like me to cover these topics let me know in the comments below.

In the next post I cover the Game Economy of Freeblade.

Part 3 — Game Economy

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