This post is as much a reminder for myself as it is news for you guys!
In Cataclysm 1, there was an enemy called the Triffid Queen. This “miniboss” was the toughest type of triffid (a type of mobile plant), aside from the real boss of the triffids, which was a building-sized enemy.
The Triffid Queen had a unique special attack. It would periodically cause plants to grow around it; walls would come crashing down, pavement would be obliterated, and underbrush and small trees would crop up in the surrounding area, potentially piercing the body of the player as they grew.
This effect was, potentially, very interesting. Rather than being yet another direct damaging attack on the player, it had the power to change the tactical situation drastically, as that wall between you and a swarm of triffids suddenly tumbled down, or your escape route was blocked by a tangle of vines and trees. It was also a great moment of panic when the player, in the middle of patching up their armor or crafting a new weapon, suddenly had a grove burst down a corner of their safehouse.
Unfortunately, the effect was also very obnoxious. After the Queen was slayed, the trees would remain, potentially trapping the character where they stood, unless they had a machete or axe handy. Then it was a slow road to starvation - a very boring death, in a game full of hilarious deaths.
I want the Triffid Queen, or at least something like it, to make a return in Cataclysm 2. I really think that the tactical implications can turn yet another straightforward fight into something that forces the player to adapt and think on their toes. But I also want there to be minimal long-lasting effects. I also want to remove the “cheated” feeling of suffering a totally unavoidable death due to a tree suddenly splitting you up the middle.
To that effect, there will be a few changes. The most simple one is to nerf the Queen’s attack a bit. The amount of terrain it can change will be limited, and walls and other sturdy constructions will not come down quite as easily. Cataclysm 2 gives HP to all terrain, so this will be as simple as reducing the target terrain’s HP by some amount, rather than destroying it outright. Additionally, the Queen won’t be able to grow a tree directly underneath the player or any other entities. Underbrush and entangling roots, sure; but the sudden tree attack is gone.
A more complex change involves adding a new low-level feature. I want the Queen’s terrain changes to be temporary; her trees grow rapidly, but to balance that, they also die off rapidly. To implement this, I’m going to add a feature to map tiles that says, “In X turns, change to terrain T.”
So when the Queen creates a tree, we change that floor tile to a tree; but we also tell the tile, “In 10 turns, change to a mound of dirt.” This way, yes, there’s 10 turns of having to deal with a tree in your way, but after that the tree will fade away. Maybe I’ll even have it leave a few units of wood, as a bonus for crafty players.
The only downside here is that we won’t see evidence of a Triffid Queen fight any more. It was a neat moment in Cataclysm 1 to be walking along, and suddenly come across a bizarre copse of trees growing out of the middle of a house. it could even tell a story; you might see a trail of trees leading from one house to the next, where it becomes thicker and gnarlier… and in the center of the dense grove, a dead body (and a bunch of free gear!).
Instead, we’ll get a path of slightly-more-generic destruction; any pavement, floors, or walls that the trees burst through will be left as a mound of dirt. Yes, it’s still annoying to have part of your safehouse turned into rubble, but in Cataclysm, safehouses are never permanent; something always comes along and wreaks havoc. Time to rebuild…