If you follow my reviews then you might be aware of my Spiral Knights review as it is. However, I can't really go too indepth on a review without dragging it out endlessly. I've decided it might be good to discuss some of the aspects of this free MMO game in my blog.
The first thing I'll discuss is the three tier system. The Clockworks are basically the dungeons and the primary reason for playing. At any given time there are four gates that determine the kinds of levels you can play through. No matter which gate you play though the level selection is split into 6 distinct sections (referring to as stratums) and these are groups by two into three tiers. These form a sort of difficulty setting as well as offering better rewards the further down you play.
Tier 1 is the newbie tier. It's the only one you don't need to meet any special requirements to enter and gives you a good chance to get used to the game. The only really threatening scenario is the Snarbolax boss (because, well, he's a boss). In other circumstances you can reasonably get away with ignoring defensive play entirely and just charge in recklessly. Enemy numbers are smaller, their attacks are less threatening and generally they just won't push the offensive quite as viciously. Of course, Tier 1 is also the less lucrative and most people will be most eager to leave it before.
Tier 2 is probably the most played. It offers fairly good rewards, offers more challenge than T1 without descending into T3's difficulty and the requirements to access T2 are low enough that you don't need to invest in any crystal energy at all.
However, the difficulty spike between T1 and T2 is very noticeable. Trying to get through without a shield is pretty much suicide here. Enemies attack in larger numbers and almost all of them bring new attacks to the table. Status spreading is also more common. Sadly, when you've just come off T1 then you might find yourself dying very quickly. It takes some time to readjust to the enemy attack patterns and learning the difference between when you have an opening to attack and when you just dance away to evade getting smacked in the face. Sadly, this is also what can make random party joining a bit frustrating at times when you've improved. It can be disheartening to attempt a boss run and see some of your party members consist of people decked out entirely in 2 star gear.
Still, once you are used to the tier and are able to bear with allies who have yet to figure out the delights of actually using the shield then you can find some joys. Tier 2 is also the only one so far to feature two possible bosses. Out of the two though, I don't really like the Royal Jelly. For one the strategy doesn't really seem to extend outside of "hit it until it dies", but more worryingly it's the kind of boss where if you have "less than competent" allies it can literally make it unwinnable. Roarmulus, on the other hand, is the kind of fight where it is certainly harder to win with poor team mates but still possible (or hell, just solo it if you want).
My experience in this tier is more limited than the others but I've played enough to form an opinion. The difficulty jump from T2 is less than that of between T1 and T2. I suppose given the high requirements just to gain access (4 star equips cost a lot) you should ideally be used to shielding at this point. I suppose that also explains why allies in random parties tend to be less helpless (although I still find people joining that seem to lose health at a fairly high rate). The higher entry cost may be what makes that difference. It's a lot harder to just buy your way to Tier 3 than Tier 2.
While the enemy forces haven't jumped up that much there are a few standout changes. Gremlin Menders can erect a healing shield around themselves to annoy with. Gremlin Fighters have shields on their backs and a swift unexpected attack added to their movepool. Enemy numbers also tend to be more significant. I haven't entered any T3 arenas or danger rooms yet, but if these are the numbers I face in normal level spawns I'm almost dreading what will be waiting in those kinds of places.
Sadly I haven't built up the courage to face the Tier 3 boss yet. It might be best to build up some solid equipment before I dare try that.
Well, I guess that's it for my tier ramblings. Maybe I'll spill more thoughts on other aspects of Spiral Knights as I play. If anyone ever wants to team up for some Clockworks exploration then that would be cool. My ingame name is Niichi and, of course, I can access any tier of the dungeons.