Balance Thoughts: The Issues With Hunter Part 1: Hunter’s Role.

I_bring_you_lo-ARGGH

With Sega recently announcing that they’re going to re-consider class balance over the next 6 months (you can read about their announcement at Bumped), while also deciding that maybe they need a team in charge of balance 2 years after the game was released (oh you guys). The first classes to be hit by this change will be Ranger mostly, with Techer, Hunter and Fighter getting more minor adjustments (at the bottom of the post under “Other Adjustments”). All classes in definite need of help, while at some point Braver will be having its primary photon art reigned in and Gunner will be having its “double all my damage if I flip” skill nerfed. Shunka Shunran and S-Roll JA Bonus. Shunka Shunran needed to be nerfed a long time ago, but Gunner’s skills aren’t necessarily why the class is so strong. More on that, later.

So as the title suggests, this post will be looking at Hunters in particular, with the focus on them as a main class as opposed to a sub. I enjoy the Hunter class more than any in the game, however I have played Fighter, Braver and Gunner pretty extensively too. As much as I love the class, I have no illusions about where it stands in the current game. That said, this post is still how I feel, as such your opinions may differ or I could plain be completely wrong about something.

This is also going to be a considerably long post probably, so I will split it up into multiple parts.

Hunter’s Role.

The first thing to consider is, what is a Hunter? Hunter is a slow, heavy class. It’s backed up by a high S-atk pool and has high hit-points and defense to help it survive, given that the class can’t dodge damage as easily as others can. Its weapons are all focused on dealing damage to a large number of enemies at once, as opposed to hitting single enemies. In the days of old, the single-target melee damage was Fighter’s domain. They’re still pretty good at it, actually.

Hunter has many survival skills at its disposal, with the near game-changing Automate Halfline, the impressive Iron Will, the functional and weirdly named Massive Hunter and Absorption which restores HP when enemies die nearby (only with Guard Stance on). It even has Pretty Good, another weirdly named skill, that reduces status-effect duration on the player by 70%. It also has general damage-reduction skills. Combine the above with skills such as War Cry and you have yourself quite a tank. Not that this game needs a tank…

What Went Wrong

I feel a number of things have contributed to Hunter’s current position. This is not to say that Hunter can’t be played well or that it can’t do well in the current end-game, because it certainly can. The key here is that it absolutely not competitive right now, in any area of the game.

Diminished Attack Role.

As I said before, Hunter’s role was that of the area-of-effect melee attacker. Its individual hits may not have been high, but it could hit a lot of things at once. Certainly on the game’s release and on the arrival of the new classes this role was well maintained. To an extent, the class still does alright today. It is however completely outclassed in this regard by the likes of Braver’s Kanran.

Compare Nova Strike to Kanran Kikyou.

Nova Strike
Nova Strike
Kanran Kikyou
Kanran Kikyou

Yeah, OK, Hunter does have better area skills than this, what with various Wired Lance photon arts and Slide End, but I feel this just illustrates a funny approach to their weapons design. Here we have a great-sword being completely and utterly out-classed in area of effect functionality by a flimsy little one-handed sword.

This trend of course seems set to continue with the imminent introduction of Kazan Nadeshiko. A reminder:

over-ended

Remember that Kazan Nadeshiko has both longer reach and is faster than Over End. How the two will compare after the upcoming patch however (Over End is getting buffed) we shall see.

So we have a weapon which, for the most part, completely out-classes all of Hunter’s abilities as a area-of-effect melee attacker. It’s just that it happens that Katana also has massively superior single-target damage to Hunter as well. There’s no sugarcoating, Braver as it is right now makes Hunter completely obsolete.

B-but, Hunter weapon gears make their weapons good!

Katana can do all the things Hunter weapons can, but better, without having to warm-up through charging weapon gear. Yes, the area of effect of geared Partisan attacks is enormous, but Kanran Kikyou’s is the same or larger. Swords are nippy and have great coverage when geared up, but Katanas are nippier all the time. Wired lance… just hits a bit harder but its still good! Katana hits harder and does more DPS than all Wired Lance Photon Arts, with the possible exception of Holding Current.

Hunter weapon gears do close the gap a fair way, but right now it just takes far too long for Swords to gain gear, with the other two weapons still having to take at least a few seconds to warm up. The fact that the weapons are, overall, still inferior to Katana even after warming up is just salt in the wound.

I realise I only focused on Hunter vs Braver here. It’s because it’s fairer to compare melee area-of-effect attackers against each other as opposed to comparing it with the ranged classes. Fighter was, until recently, solely a single-target damager. It has recently gained some area-of-effect capability that puts it on par with many of Hunter’s attacks, but are a shadow of what Braver can do. As for single-target damage, I actually argue that Fighter isn’t that far behind Braver, if not better in some situations. I diverge, though, this post is about Hunter’s problems, not Fighter’s.

In Part 2 I will be talking about Fury Stance and the various issues that has.

Episode 2: Official Update Page and Broadcast Information

hairy_sakai

The official update page for the start of Episode 2 has been posted up. It of course comes with a trailer, which I’ll embed as par for the course, however this one is unusually lengthy. You can find a rundown of the update page here on Bumped.

This post will pretty much be going over some information about particular aspects of Episode 2 that I’ve come across, as well as sharing my thoughts on them. If I find more information I’ll probably go and put it into a new post because I think this one is quite long enough now..

The background music at the start is the theme of the new Coast field’s boss, Bal Rodos. From around 2:49 on-wards I believe it’s the Coast field’s theme.

It seems Bal Rodos is Lv55 in the trailer, which puts it on the same level as Sanctum. So I guess that’s how they’re going to be keeping Advanced Quests relevant for longer, which makes me wonder if Lilipa3 will share the same fate. Seabed shouldn’t, as it’ll be released after Super Hard is out.

You can watch the live broadcast in its entirety through the following links:


Braver

The class is defined by the two new weapon types, both of which seem to at least look decent. The Katana has good mobility and area-of-effect capability, which will be good for all of melee’s demands. Katanas are at least more mobile than Swords for example, but the damage numbers that they put out seem.. small. In fact their stats and even Photon Art modifiers seem relatively low, however they could well make up for this in damage per second given how rapidly they can attack. Bows on the other hand seem to lay somewhere between Launchers and Rifles with a bit of Twin-Daggers thrown in for good measure. Certainly versatile but I have yet to be convinced of their overall effectiveness.

braverweapons

braverPAs
Tsukimi-sazanka, Gekka-zakuro, Kanran-kikyo, Sakura-endo, Hien-tsubaki, Asagiri-rendan, Master Shot, Penetrating Arrow. Thanks to Qwerty for these names.

Braver seems to be a class oriented around the Ability (or Dexterity) stat primarily. It has an Ability Up skill, which is notable for being at lv3 in the livestream as that indicates it’s a pre-requisite for something. Both Katanas and Bullet Bows also require dexterity to equip, or at least all of the weapons shown so far do. However there may be no need to go raising a pure Dexterity Mag just for this class, as the requirements are quite low anyway. One revealed Braver skill, namely “Braver Mag”, converts up to 50% of the S-atk and R-atk into Dexterity. Whether or not this will add to your base and count for equipping things I don’t know (data suggests it’s a passive skill).

braverSkills
Ability Up 1, Braver Mag, Step, Step Advance, Snatch Step, Step Attack, Just Reversal, Average Stance, Katana Combat, Katana Gear, Rapid Shoot, Reversal Cover, Rapid Shoot Up
mxYA7rw
The Braver Skill Tree. Skills are: Ability Up, Sriking Up, Shooting Up, Average Stance, Average Stance Up, Average Stance Critical, Average Stance Charge
Katana Combat, Combat Just Attack Bonus, Combat Finish, Katana Gear, Rapid Shoot, Rapid Shoot Up, Rapid Shoot Mastery
Weak Stance, Weak Stance Up, Ability Up 2, Weak Stance Critical, Weak Stance Charge
Step, Step Advance, Snatch Step, Step Attack, Just Reversal, Reversal Cover, Rare Mastery Braver, Braver Mag. Source: Dengeki Play.

Of interest to me are the utility skills surrounding step, as for melee it’s absolutely crucial to mobility. Snatch Step is a skill that will deal damage during a Step. It is seperate from Step Attack as that skill allows you do perform an attack at the end of a Step. You can perform step with both Katanas and Bullet Bows at that, so you’re not losing out if you choose to go ranged.

While you can guard with Katanas, Braver doesn’t have any guard skills at all. The broadcast demonstrates that Just Guarding is possible with Katanas, but possibly only through their gear. If this is the case, I wonder if there’s any point investing in Just Guard should someone decide to have Hunter as their subclass? Or if the regular Just Guard would apply to the Katana without gear applies or even if it would affect the weapon at all.


Coast Enemies

The trailer revealed a number of enemy names, as did the coast field playthrough that was done during the live broadcast. I’ll list them here with names and pictures where I can.

Torpon

torpon

A small shelled enemy, weak to both fire and ice element interestingly. Better picture of them from the official site below. At a distance they appear to be similar to Micdas, possibly sharing the same bone structure. The one on the right below makes be doubt that a little..

torpon2

Aculpus

aculpus

Seems to share its skeleton with Naberius’ Galphs. Of course, their attack behaviors don’t resemble them much, with them swimming through the sand with their fins poking out. Land sharks. They also appear to do a somersault attack.

Blumegalla

blumegalla

It’s a flower! It pretends to be a regular giant spikey flower and then jumps out at the player after spraying something about. It also fires laserbeams because why not. Smaller versions of this enemy exist as well, namely Blumetta. They appear to share the same bone structure as Sanctum’s Pendira’n.

blumetta

A picture of both of these enemies is up on the official page, re-hosting below.

blumegalla_blumetta

Blundarl

blundarl

One of the new bird-type Darkers. The second one named I believe, after Luda Sorcerer. A higher quality picture of Blundarl is posted below.

blundarl_hq

Strahda

StrahdaForgive me for the quality of these pictures, but it’s from a compressed video and there don’t seem to be any clear shots of these enemies sadly. Anyway, this is the somewhat legendary BIRDBIRDCROW in the flesh as it were. Their weak point looks like an exposed brain… It’s the standard orange colored weakpoint that most Darkers have it’s just how it looks given its position.

Another variant of this small bird is Tyraluda

Tyraluda

Unfortunately there are no official pictures that I’m aware of for either of these.

So it seems that the Coast field’s elements are Fire and Ice for the natives and Wind and Light for the Darkers.

Now that we have a planet full of fish, after having been fighting fish-based Darkers for a while now, I wonder if a planet populated by insects is on its way in 2014? After all, PSO2 still doesn’t have a Grass Assassin!


Subclass EXP

Old news now, but confirmed at least once and well, it being on the official update page means Sega aren’t going to be changing their minds about it. It’s sad, but subclass EXP will be capped to level 40. Before that, your subclass will gain 10% of the EXP that your main does. Yeah it’s not particularly popular this decision, but it’s still decent at least initially for a subclass. However I imagine like others, I was hoping this would mean the end of having to switch to a class you don’t like playing in order to support a class you do, but alas.


Class Appropriate Rare Drops.. From Bosses

Nothing like hearing the rare drop jingle only to get an item you can’t even use, eh? Well from Episode 2 this problem will be slightly alleviated! By how much of course isn’t really all that specific and I have a feeling that, as a player, you honestly won’t be able to tell that the drop rates had been increased at all. 1/1000 is barely better than 1/2000 for example and I highly doubt they’d give that generous a boost anyway. The idea is at least good, I just have no faith that the difference will be at all noticeable.

Also, despite the update page itself not mentioning bosses according to an article on Shougai which contains a transcript from Sakai and someone else, it only applies to boss enemies. This is kind of a shame as a number of decent items do still drop from regular enemies, but it’s a least a step in the right direction.


EXP Penalty Readjustment

The EXP penalty, which I’m still not a fan of even now, is being relaxed somewhat. Instead of altering the rates however instead they’ll be increasing the number of levels before it applies from 5 to 11. They’re um, turning up to 11 as it were…

This means that you’ll be able to run Advanced Quests a little earlier, however you’ll still have your EXP reduced to 75% at least initially (unlocks at 45, enemies start at 56). However, being able to start running Advanced Quests at lv46 is a significant improvement over having to wait until Lv52. It also means you can skip ahead areas more quickly at the lower levels, which doesn’t really affect Normal mode at all for new players in any case.

On arrival to Hard mode, you’ll be only 1 level out of reach for Forest Exploration.

On arrival to Very Hard mode, you’ll be able to run all the Free Field quests except for Sanctum Exploration and presumably Coast.


Client Order Adjustments

Reducing the cool-down time for daily repeatable Client Orders (not to be confused with Daily Orders… I know) from 24 to 22 is a big deal. Why, you might ponder, it’s not much of a change. It means they truly become daily orders. The current cool-down of 24 hours is problematic because it introduces what I call “crawl”, whereby the time you can re-do the Client Order crawls around the clock and becomes later with each day.

Say you start the Order at 12:00pm, it takes you half an hour to complete and you turn it in at 12:30pm. The next day you can’t start it any earlier than 12:30pm, so the next day you won’t be able to start it until 1:00pm. Then 1:30pm, etc. A 22 hour cool-down gives you a much better chance of being able to take on these Client Orders at a time you’d prefer to take them. It’s good to see the change, but annoying that it took them a year to do something about it.

Episode 2: Dewmans and Bullet Bows.

dewmans The 9th NicoNico broadcast took place today. They promised information on upcoming content and in particular with Episode 2 information and they’re delivering. In fact they’re still releasing information currently so this post is likely to change before the day’s out.


Videos

I’ll embed what videos I find here, though I’ll may talk about them in more detail in a separate post.

Episode 2 Content Trailer

Dewman Character Creation

Also contains footage of the new weapon types.

Planet Vopar Footage


Dewmans

We’ve known these guys were coming since the closed beta tests and finally we see them. So what is their race’s defining feature? Eye-patches? Ear-shape? That’s right, you guessed it! Horns.

Dewmans
Uhuhuhuh, they’re horny

Eyes with alternating colours as well it seems, otherwise they’re still albinos by default. The character creation screen there shows that they can customize their horns, though not sure if all male Dewmans have one horn and all female Dewmans have two or if that can be chosen. It also shows that Dewmans get a bit of a bigger choice of skin colour than they did before in PSP2:Infinity (which was white and REALLY white). In PSO2 Dewmans can be pale white, brown, red or blue in various shades. Regarding eyes, I’m guessing that given there are two windows open with eyes that player can customize them individually. Rumour has it that players will be receiving a free character slot when Dewmans are released. I’ve not yet confirmed this, however.


Braver WeaponsBraver was identified in the client fairly recently, with it being internally known as “swordarcher”. Katanas and Compound Bows were revealed, oh sorry, “Bullet Bows”. I guess Compount Bow might be pushing it in terms of name length, but Bullet Bow just sounds off to me. It seems Bullet Bows will have some kind of a charged action, perhaps similar to how some Sword and Partisan Photon Arts do. Fitting given how a bow is used, really. This does confirm that Katana and “saya” are part of the same weapon as well. The feeling was strong that this would be the case but the way the data was it implied they were separate weapons. How the pair function in combat is a bit of an unknown just now.

braver
As Braver is available on the character creation screen it seems safe to assume that there will be no requirements to unlock the class.

Coast CoastThe next field set to be added to the game and the first field that Episode 2 will add is the Coast field. That sure is a coast. The fountain landmark seems interesting, not something I expected to see. I can’t tell at that resolution whether it’s something technical or not just now. The Coast field is also confirmed to be set on the planet Vopar. new_enemiesWith a new field comes new enemies! Most of which were known about but certain details weren’t. It has a boss, the expected “MarineOarFish” which now has the official name of “Bal Rodos / Val Rodos” (Ricardo at Bumped / Mewn) and a miniboss which we thought was going to be “BirdCentaur” but it is in fact something I don’t think we’ve encountered in the data yet, named “Orgublan”. The field also seems to be populated by angry flowers (the big ones being called “Blumegalla”), but not the PSO-like Lilys that were expected. These enemies are all part of a new enemy category internally known as “Chimera”. I can’t tell if that name is mentioned on that image there. “BirdCentaur” might not be a miniboss, but it is still quite significant. It’s pictured in the top-right there, above the actual miniboss. Looks sort of Egyptian themed. It is in fact one of the 3rd type of Darkers, which is significant as it means that all the BirdSoldiers and the infamous BirdBirdCrow are also Darkers. Bird Darkers was a possibility that was considered, but upon looking at their models they didn’t seem very darker-like to us. Didn’t help that they were texture-less as well. I’m aware that the bosses there have their names in Katakana but I’m not confident in my localization skills. I’ll add the names more experienced people grant them later.


Support Partners: The Return of the Partner Machine

A newly announced feature is a small girl you can keep in your room…. aaaaagh

pet_little_girl
A pet little girl you can raise, clearly inspired by the roguelike Elona.

I’m not being serious with that caption. They appear to be reminiscent of Partner Machines  from Phantasy Star Universe. They were a bit like Mags, in that you raised them by feeding them items and what they’d evolve into depended on how you raised them. I don’t know yet if that’s how you raise Support Partners or not.  Unlike Partner Machines, a Support Partner’s appearance is completely customizable, it’s pretty much making a 2nd tiny character.

The 4th item on that menu is “Customize Weapon”, so you can potentially set their gear up too I guess. Wonder if it’s physically giving them a weapon or something? (Thanks to Mewn for that).

aggggggh
Like Partner Machines of Phantasy Star Universe your pet… little person.. can follow you into the field. The Japanese text at the bottom indicates that Support Partners are active when you’re logged out, but it’s not clear really what’s meant by that.

It just seems… weird to me. I mean, you’re raising a tiny character. I mean before you had at least a little comfort in it being a little robot but, here it’s a little person. It can be a robot if you make it a Cast, but otherwise it really is effectively a pet person. There’s something unsettling about that.

Support Partners can only be raised in a room, but it seems you won’t need Premium Set to have the room to raise one in. All characters will be given mini-rooms, which presumably becomes your default room when your Premium runs out.


Long Term Schedule schedule Episode 2’s release date is confirmed as happening some time in July, arriving with other things. I’ll list what I can with their respective month below:

  • July
    • Support Partner
    • Arks Road
    • Planet Vopar with Coast field
    • New race: Dewmans
    • New class: Braver
    • New weapon categories: Katana and Bullet Bow
  • August
    • Nothing!
  • September
    • New Field
  • October
    • New Difficulty: Super Hard (Formally known as Super Very Hard? Or possibly a difficulty before it…)
    • Level cap raised to 65
  • November
    • New Field
  • December
    • 12-man Quest Category
    • Update to the Item Customization System

Nothing at all for August it seems. Anyway, there are two more fields coming up, which are presumably the as-yet un-named “Lilipa3” and the unannounced “Seabed”.