Okay, so before I start with my main argument proper I wanna clarify a few things.
1. I'm a Hunter player. I don't play Brewers. I grew quite fond of seeing a friend play Brewers as he was getting into the game, but overall I have no horse in this race. By my estimation I think this is a good and bad thing. I'm not particularly biased for the old Esters I never played, but I'm also not familiar with how the Brewers play aside from knocking someone down and laying into them.
2. I'm not speaking with regards to power. In fact, I actually think new Esters is a little bit stronger although we can't truly know until all the changes are out. I don't hold it against you if you're excited about her. I'm gonna be making the argument that new Ester's is badly designed. In the same way your favorite bag might have a really finicky zipper or a dangly strap that occasionally catches on something. You can still like it and use it, and it might end up being something you don't even notice.
3. I'm discussing old and new Esters in a vacuum and this is deliberate. I feel that the points I make are valid whether or not she's viewed in the context of the rest of the guild or whatever changes could be on their way.
In fact, this isn't so much to say, "new Ester's is badly designed," so much as, "old Esters was much better designed," with the primary reason being this little snippet that appeared in her reveal.
"Aria is the replacement for Esters’ old Empowered Voice abilities and legendary play. Those mechanics just asked so many questions of players. Which buff to choose, when to use it alongside when the best time is to activate Esters, when to use her legendary play, which abilities to choose then, which models to use them on and when. SO many questions that just made Esters extremely tactically complex to use. All of that has been cut out and replaced with Aria."
Personally, I find this paragraph ridiculous. Esters's Empowered Voice asked a lot of questions, but nowhere near too many.
In fact, I think it was an almost perfect amount. Damage? Goals? Defense? Do you superbuff one model or spread it around? Does Esters use it for herself to avoid interruption or use it on a squaddie for a higher potential payoff? Do you use it early and risk tipping your hand? Hold her activation to threaten and make your opponent react to you? Or hold onto it and see where the game goes?
These types of questions are a goldmine for good gameplay. A small set of tools with a wide range of applications. Risks, tradeoffs, rewards, and counterplay. I know I'm just using game design buzzwords but I can't help but feel like Ester's never got a fair shake.
I like the removal of Fire Blast and Blast Earth, I felt they were traps more often than they weren't, and while I think the new playbook is stronger, more was removed from it than was added, and I think that's emblematic of how Esters changed overall. New Ester's Aria, feels... boring. Strong. But Boring.
In Game Design there are several kinds of choices, but three bad ones come to mind. Meaningless choices, obvious choices, and wrong/optimal choices.
Meaningless Choices aren't bad as much as they are... well meaningless. Also included under this umbrella are illusions of choice.
Wrong/Optimal Choices are when a certain choice is objectively better or worse than another. It's the difference between a sword that does 10 damage and a sword that does 5. In a game of information and adaptive strategies, choices will frequently turn out wrong, but the kind of choice I'm referring to can be determined wrong before it's even made. They are honestly pretty rare. Games will avoid them by using non-comparables. Snared versus Gut and String is a good example. Both lower defense and movement, one can be cleared by the opponent, one can't but is cleared at the end of turn.
Theoretically if you had the choice between Gut and String or Snare on the same playbook result, you'd find a compelling reason to take either. But if you had a choice between Stagger, or Gut and String on that same result one of those choices is wrong.
Finally obvious choices, are the ones to which there is no thought involved in. They're almost non-choices except that maybe you have to remember to make them.
My point in bringing this up is to make the argument that Aria presents a choice that is elements of all of the above simultaneously. If in Aria -> Use Heroic.
It's called out directly in the article, but new Ester's Aria is functionally just an extra 4mp per turn in the best case scenario, and it's not that that's weak by any means. In fact, I don't have any problem with new Ester's on her own merits. I just maintain that old Esters had a much better gameplay conceit.
Perhaps I wouldn't have taken the time to write this if the reason for changing Esters was that she was simply weak, or other changes were coming to Brewers that would make her too powerful as she existed, or even that the designers just didn't like Empowered Voice themselves. But the stated reason is that old Esters was too complex, to which I can respond only with bafflement.
I'm not here to say that Steamforged should feel bad about the model they delivered, Game Design is hard. Also if it seems like I'm being unnecessarily defensive I saw people complaining about people complaining about Estesr and once you get to the metamoan phase there's never any telling how discourse will shake out. I'm just here to share my neurotic designer brain musings.
I think it's also worth saying that I'm being a stickler because S4 has been so relentlessly hype that I was kinda surprised to see something revealed I genuinely disliked. Could be cause the Hunters have gotten nothing but buffs and lateral changes.
I guess I'm having a hard time ending this, can't think of anything else to say than these are my thoughts on new Esters. Hope you enjoyed the read!