Cryptic’s current attempt to “rebalance” space combat is a couple of weeks from rolling out, but is currently being tested on the Tribble server. Nothing yet is set in stone, and while I was initially hopeful that this is an opportunity for Cryptic to address some glaring balance issues, the latest update has filled me with more dread than hope.
Bad, bad pessimist Heidy.
Tribble has been updated to: ST.75.20170405a.2
- War Game Scenario – Core Assault:
- This is a new style of queue where players train against the environment and themselves in a in a cross faction 5v5 space War Game Scenario.
- Captains will race starships and complete challenges through a station in the Adelphous System .
- For Tribble only, this queue will have no cooldown.
- This is still a work in progress.
- For more details, please visit the Core Assault blog at: http://www.arcgames.com/en/games/star-trek-online/news/detail/10457082-war-games-scenario:-core-assault
- Delta Quadrant Mission Changes:
- Removed the Kobali Adventure Zone missions from the mission journal and replaced with three wrapper missions titled Kobali Crisis Act I, II, III, that contain the removed missions.
- Delta Patrols are no longer required for mission progression but do remain in game.
- Experience requirements from levels 50-60 have been significantly lowered.
- Updated the window which appears when opening a Lock Box.
- This is still a work in progress.
- The Progress tab of the Status UI now shows players their current amount of Fleet Credits and their Lifetime Fleet Credits Earned total.
- Resolved an issue where the Multi-Spectral Particle Generator was not applying damage buffs properly.
- The Multi-Spectral Particle Generator set bonus is now treated as exotic damage.
- Drain Infection’s damage has been increased relative to its current Tribble state.
- Prototype Ablative Jevonite Hardpoints can now be used while unequipped.
- The Bridge Officer Abilities Torpedo High Yield and Torpedo Spread can no longer be activated while the player has a Torpedo High Yield or Spread available to fire, or if the player has fired a torpedo as a High Yield or Spread within the last 5 seconds.
- The Bridge Officer Abilities Torpedo High Yield and Torpedo Spread once again upgrade your next attack within 30 seconds.
- Resolved an issue where Surgical Strikes showed an incorrect damage multipler for ranks 2 and 3.
- Resolved an issue that caused the Regeneration from the Protomatter Capacitor Starship Trait to not scale with Hull Regeneration. This is a tooltip change only.
- Resolved an issue that would cause shield regeneration to fluctuate while cloaked.
- Go Down Fighting can once again be used while continuity or invincible are available to save you from dying
- Subnucleonic Beam is no longer a bridge officer power, and is once again a Science Captain Power.
- Deflector Overcharge has been removed from the game.
- Resolved an issue that prevented Rock and Roll from providing a damage immunity.
- Bridge Officers who were trained in Subnucleonic Beam can no longer train new Science Bridge Officer abilities.
- Captains who previously had Deflector Overcharge will need to retrain skills to regain access to Subnucleonic Beam
- Captains who are freshly copied to Tribble should not have this problem.
I’ve highlighted two of the “changes” that are causing me grief. Oh wait, did I say “changes”? I mean “removing changes”, and not in a good way.
First off, Go-Down-Fighting is arguably one of the most abused abilities in the game. Because it inversely scales with your health (that is to say, the lower your health, the more damage it does), when you combine it with Invincibility and Continuity, GDF gives you a massive damage boost with no fear of dying. I mean, how is that not a balance problem to any reasonable player? Cryptic clearly saw it as a problem because in the initial test they chose to disallow that combo. And now, here we are, back where we started.
I have one guess who all have screamed and demanded it back.
The second problem is the removal of the new Science Captain “Deflector Overcharge” ability. It was introduced to partially offset the substantial incoming nerfs of mainstay Exotic Science abilities like Gravity Well and DRB… and now it’s gone. Which, in case you’re wondering, means all we Science types get is a massive nerf with no compensation whatsoever.
Granted, there has been a lot of conflicting reports on how much Science got nerfed. Some people calculated as much as a 75% DPS loss for things like GW and DRB, others claim there’s no difference. I don’t use Tribble, so I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, but when such a large number of players reporting DPS loss, there has to be some basis behind it. As of this writing, it looks kinda like that this “rebalancing” is only going to widen the gap between Tacs and Engs/Scis, pretty much the exact opposite of what Cryptic set out to do.
What irks me a bit is that Cryptic doesn’t seem inclined to address some pretty big white elephants in the room, when their intended goal is to make everything valid. A random sampling includes:
- Every DPSer and their brother use Antiproton weapons — FIX THIS: It’s not that hard. Make every energy type equally useful! Don’t penalize players who either want to use canon energy types, or just want to use something different.
- Attack Pattern Alpha — Another reason why Tactical captains are the only game in town. FIX THIS — all you need to do is to make APA affect energy weapons only, not everything under the sun.
- Beams vs Cannons vs Torpedoes — Beams dominate the current meta, and nothing I’ve read so far suggests Cryptic is doing much to fix that. With their narrow firing arcs and damage drop-off at long range, cannons need to be compensated with much higher damage. Likewise, torpedoes need help to be valid again, and Cryptic’s current fiddling with THY and TS don’t really address the core problem of torpedo damage calculation.
All that being said, I don’t think this rebalance will ultimately be successful in permanently leveling the playing field. The most likely outcome is it resets the stage, until someone figures out the new meta and everyone follows along. Why is Cryptic having so much trouble balancing the three careers? This is my theory: the problem is despite Cryptic’s efforts, they are not addressing the root cause of STO’s troubles. They are trying to rejig a whole bunch of abilities from three career paths, and ultimately make them all fulfill one same role: DPS, so that they do the same amount of damage.
And therein lies the root cause — the fact that there is only one role in STO.
DPS in MMORPG is by no means a unique phenomenon in STO, but STO did go about it differently than most. By moving away from the traditional MMO DPS-Tank-Healer trinity, STO has marginalized the other roles so much that Tanks are essentially also DPS, and Healers are entirely unnecessary. The focus on DPS is so singular on this game, nothing else is viable.
Using Guild Wars 2 as a comparison, it has some clearly defined roles. This can be said of most popular MMORPGs out there:
- Tank – Guardians with high armor, lots of defense abilities and self heal.
- Pet Tank – Necromancers with their golems. Rangers with their pets.
- Healer – Druids, who can heal while using most of their attacks. Elementalists with their Water Attunements, AOE heals.
- DPS Melee – Warriors, high armor, high health, but low heals. Thieves, low armor, low health, high stealth, high defense, high movement.
- DPS Ranged – Rangers with pet tanks. Elementalists with low armor, low health but AOE blast damages.
And that’s not even slotting Engineers, Mesmers, and Revenants. The point is all the classes fit certain roles, and most importantly they all have drawbacks outside of their intended roles. My GW2 main toon Issalene the Elementalist can blast fire fields and slaughter large number of enemies from a distance — but guess what, she’s dainty and flimsy and has learned to run away when an enemy with a big knife gets into melee range. That’s the entire reason for role diversity: if Issy suddenly has access to a skill or trait that makes her immune to damage for 30 seconds, or sufficient healing to keep herself at full health, there would be no need for any Tank meat shields, or dedicated Healers ever again. STO has this exact problem: DPS ships are essentially Issy with damage immunity as well as enough self-heals to keep herself alive indefinitely.
So if Cryptic truly wants to level the playing field, they need to break STO out of this DPS rut by creating more useful, viable roles. Some random ideas may include:
- How to make Healers useful? If self-heals are not enough under heavy fire, people may need dedicated healers. Engineer captains can have an innate bonus in all healing abilities, while Tactical captains all have a penalty; likewise, different ships can have different modifiers (i.e. large cruisers with large crew complements should have much better repair capabilities than that little Defiant).
- How to make Tanks useful? Make cruisers a lot more durable than escorts. LOTS more hull, maybe with innate Damage Resistances to represent armor. This will have to implemented with a buff to cannons and torpedoes, so that cruisers can be properly tanky without being better at DPS than escorts.
- How about Speed Tanks? Speed-Tanking should be amped up for Escorts. Lower their health even more, but increase their defense based on speed.
- How about Support roles? Death and Damage — Make Deaths and Damages more meaningful. Damaged systems actually decrease your performance, for instance; if an Epic Mk XIV beam array effectively drops to that of a Rare Mk X quality when damaged, people might sit up and pay attention. And instead of stockpiling repair kits to deal with this, why not let Engineer and Science captains to repair them (let’s say, Eng fixes Mk levels, Sci fixes Rarity).
Unfortunately, I very much doubt they will go that deep since that will require a fairly fundamental change in mindset. Till then, we just have to sit tight and see how this thing shakes out… but I’m preparing Heidy to be completely crippled when the rebalancing comes out.