I have an issue with considering any of the post 3.0 updates as the best update, as while concept wise, they were all generally great, but fell flat on execution in other areas.
In terms of gameplay, the biggest fixes that really mattered in these updates were to multi gem spawners like the guardians and traits that would activate on matched globs where some would be made useful but not necessarily broken such as jotnar, or ridiculously strong like the kraken or mab. I can’t “like” that as it was a gradually growing power curve that has seen a few too many spikes to where a most legendaries and mythics are way too good or unimpressive save for a niche team. Trying to fix such problems, especially how long it took is bad, but being told as console players we were basically making it up was insulting. But, better late than never, I guess. Troop balancing is nice, but then some troops that were strong got indirectly nerfed like death to where when an ultra rare can fill the life based damage more efficiently, and a recent legendary puts you to shame on your own theme, that is quite disappointing. I love reworking troops, but someone had to think death needed a buff as his main benefit was crippled by a previous update, then he got a small boost, which was the same amount as infernus, who hits twice, and does half damage to adjacent troops… yay?
As for rewards, we have had resource nerf after nerf and save for gnomes we would get sidegrades instead of upgrades. Requiring gems for a realistic craft rate for mythics wasn’t necessarily bad in soulforge and I appreciated the daily limit so it wouldn’t be a p2w to just get every mythic (however there are workarounds beside that so minor win i guess). But then the gems were nerfed in tasks and legendary tasks got hit as well. I can understand the gems being too much in LTs, but the key hit was a bit too much as the minimum keys should be higher or the maximum amount should be more. It was great for no more minor or major stones, but runics are still there and for lower levels in higher up guilds not bad, but isn’t that what soulforge was for? If it was easier to reach the LTs than fine, but realistically most guilds pumping those out have little need for runics, or have the means to make them. Its not the worst thing to get runics, but its mostly because it’s a resource that can be practically useless at end game and I would use them for arcanes, if they didn’t need celestials.
Now for game modes, unique defense in gw was a huge win and while perhaps inadvertently making new metas botg in and out of gw, it was still a great success. Some metas are more irritating than others, mainly in gw but I would rather that, than what was originally the psion, ragna, fam, infernus mode with color restrictions. Some like dwarves were a bit much once they can easily hit instakill range and goblins are annoying with 2 exploders, a high damage dealer, and ridiculous board control for some of the cheapest mana costs. Yea, they suck, but at least their are other teams and when you find out ways to beat them it feels great.
Then there’s the raid and invasion which became obvious that the devs lied to us as while perhaps out of their control, they blatantly became p2w by nerfing every outlet to get gems and requiring them to finish these new modes. Cost efficiency for the gems only when it was for a new kingdom, and other than that not the best. Once again, those that WOULD benefit the most from random extra troops often at lower rarities would often be bankrupt getting them, or frustrated with enemies that can wipe out their team with a sniffle. How do you make a game mode that will generally help mostly newer and mid game players yet make it as hard or the very least annoying to succeed. If end gamers don’t like it, why would they? While it would be overwhelming to time stricken casual players to have gw and one of these modes at tge same time, it would be nice to at least get some gems to compensate for the costs. Gw should have better gem prizes across all brackets. How do you motivate a player for only 50 gems a week to where if you reach bracket 1 or 2 you could get hundreds, at the cost of fun for many players. I love the competition more than I hate it, but I understand why gw stresses so many out and is generally beloved by others. The rewards were nice even if it didn’t always create the best experience, well at least before raids. Invasions are at least more fun than raids, and feel like improved dungeouns with tougher, random teams that can be beaten with good strategy but not so strong that they look at you and you die.
While I know the rewards will change, the core of these modes with energy to progress is still a brutal blow. It would have been better if it was a turn limit basis and getting a few more each fight so that proper team building and play could be rewarded over deep pockets. Especially since gw uses actions taken as a scoring measure. I wish a dev would be straight with us on this as how could they go back on their principles and be like “oh guys, it’ll be fun, trust us.”. If gems were as easy to get, it would be a different story, but to whittle at our resources at the source, then throw these game modes at us with taking away the alternative is a bit underhanded. Its not so much what happened, but why, and where will it lead. I still have fun with the game, but I see how the slope is getting more slippery by the update with political answers instead of honest ones. I trust the devs, not the publishers. I don’t mind them trying to make money, but don’t try and tell me this product will cure warts and stop my back pain while filing my taxes or something.
Tl;dr: I generally think the updates were great in putting out more content, but when upgrades feel like sidegrades and this non-p2w becomes p2w, the game is still fun, but I’m not sure how long until all fun requires $$$