Balance Thoughts: The Issues With Hunter Part Three: Fixing Hunter

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This is the final part of this series of articles. This last one will be having a quick look at Hunter gear mechanics but the majority will be sharing my own ideas of what may help fix Hunter and maybe improve the game in general.

Weapon Gears

Hunter’s weapon gears are a mixture of “nice to have” to “absolutely essential for the weapon to even function”. From dealing a bit of extra damage to entirely changing the mechanics of a weapon’s attacks.

Hunter has a new skill coming its way in the form of Fury Gear Up. For 5 skill points, you can increase the speed at which weapon gear is acquired (Hunter main only). This is at the rate of a 20% additional boost as far as I am aware. Is that significant? My gut says no, but I’ll withhold opinion on that until it’s finally out. It does directly address one of Hunter’s issues, but it also perpetuates the issue of Fury Stance taking up too many skill-points.

But yeah, from a practical standpoint Hunter could definitely use help with the way its weapon gears work, particularly for Partisan and Sword.

Wired Lance I really don’t have any personal issues with in its current state, acquisition is fast and can be chosen to be spent on grappling moves. Some Wired Lance Photon Arts will benefit from having gear charges, as it will boost their power by 20%.

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Un-geared Slide End
geared_partisan
Geared Slide End

Partisan’s acquisition rate is fast but awkward, requiring the player to remain in place while the animation finishes or until it’s been charged through standing there twirling the weapon (doing it this way freezes PP regeneration however). Once filled, it does increase the area of effect of most attacks by a considerable margin, which is OK but in the current environment I feel they could go further with it. They could either increase the damage geared Partisan does or increase the area of effect further still.

sword_gear

Sword has the most issues. It takes too long to charge it (unless you are soloing) and then, for practical purposes, it depletes too quickly. Attacking a high level Kartagot as a test, I found that it took 12 hits with a sword to charge the gear fully, or 9 hits to get it to level 3. Sword is not a weapon that swings particularly fast, so building it with normal attacks on a single target is sluggish. I measured the time it takes for a fully charged gear gauge to deplete to 0 at around 30 seconds. That seems like a very long time, but remember that between spawns this can easily be hit. Not only that, but you will be downgraded to 2nd gear during that, which will impair your ability enough but not nearly as badly as no gear. Remember that you also have to keep hitting things in order to keep your gauge filled, which when enemies are either being mown down by Katana area of effect, ranged attacks, or they’re being blown around by various control effects is a very difficult task indeed. Sword is a weapon that’s dependent on building enough gear to stay on top of things and now it simply can’t do it. I think the real painful thing about it right now is that even after warming the weapon up it’s still inferior to other options right now…

Sword and Partisan also recover PP too slowly per attack. This is to offset their ability to hit plenty of targets at once, presumably, but having enemies bunched up to hit when other attacks can just fill the area with damage seems somewhat pointless. Sword’s normal attacks do at least hit plenty hard, unlike Partisan.

I propose then, that Swords and Partisans gain gear more quickly. That Sword’s gear depletes much more slowly. That Partisans in particular gain more PP per attack. That Sword’s charged attacks don’t take a whopping 5 seconds to charge up without gear (seriously who thought that was a good idea?).

Improving The Class

The rest of this post is just going to be my ideas on how to improve the class and maybe help the general game out by proxy. This is just my opinions, there’ doubtlessly things i haven’t considered and I am no master of game balance so I can’t with confidence say that if my ideas were implemented they wouldn’t go on to cause their own issues.

Actual things on the horizon

Hunter so far only has two fixes incoming for it. Level 16 Over End and Slide End are getting buffed. That’s it.

How much of an impact this will have depends entirely on the nature of the buffs themselves, but I don’t expect the overall standing of Hunter to change at all, because this doesn’t help fix their biggest issues. Nor does it do anything about the toxic Fury Stance.

Skill Tree

As I’ve said previously, Hunter’s skill tree really makes the class its own worst enemy. Requiring too many points in order to fill out Fury Stance and providing too much of a bonus to other classes that Hunter can’t enjoy as much as a main class.

As such, I propose that Fury Stance be nerfed. Now you may be thinking I’m crazy at this point, because Hunter is already out-performed as it is but hear me out. Firstly, make it cost only a total of 30 skill points to max it out. Secondly, reduce the damage bonus it grants, Now, naturally, Hunter’s damage would take a huge hit from this too. As such, all of Hunter’s attacks would need to be buffed. Fighter’s attacks would also need to be buffed, as it’s currently balanced around it. Yes, this would also mean some Katana Photon Arts would need help. Let’s not forget that before Shunka Shunran and Hatou Rindou that Katanas were a complete joke (aside the impressive coverage of Kanran Kikyou and decent focused damage of Sakura Endo). Let’s also not forget that our melee classes are having to compete with the ranged classes. The actual amounts, I’m not confident enough with my number crunching to say.

The game as a whole would potentially benefit hugely if Fury Stance were brought down. Imagine a PSO2 in which Braver/Fighter was a viable option? Or even Fighter/Braver. Perhaps even Gunner/Fighter, or Gunner/Braver? Ranger/Fighter or Ranger/Braver? Instead of locked to Fighter/Hunter, Gunner/Hunter and Braver/Hunter (which would still be viable options, just not the only ones). I’m not naive of course, I’m well aware that if one combination did say 5% more damage overall than another the player-base would flock to it as the new flavor of the month. Doubtless it’d be a delicate re-balancing act on Sega’s part but one that needs to happen.

I’ll take this opportunity to wish for Techer to become a viable sub at that, because it is absurdly fun for some reason.

From Hunter’s point of view, having Fury only cost 30 points has the benefit of allowing it to spend 40 (45 after the next patch) points in any other skills it desires. There are certain issues with the way the tree is laid out (the defense side of the tree does also need an absurd number of points for certain skills) but it’d least allow Hunters to actually have the opportunity to choose from some of its more interesting skills. Not only that, but freeing up those points would allow Hunter as a sub-class to also present more interesting options to its main class, in the form of powerful survival skills. Imagine a PSO2 where the choice between say Ranger/Hunter and Ranger/Fighter is “I may do slightly more damage as one, but I am more guaranteed to survive if I go with the other”. Naturally, in that situation for competitive time-attack everyone would just switch to Fighter sub…

Seriously. Nerf Fury Stance.

It can’t be said enough. Nerf Fury Stance!

Re-Establish the role.

If Sega wants Hunter to be the area-of-effect melee specialist there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s just to achieve this end, you actually have to give the class the tools to fulfill that role, because right now it just doesn’t seem to have them. If this means significantly altering how Hunter weapon Photon Arts work then so be it. Do it. Because right now the difference in coverage between Hunter weapons and a Katana is just absurd.

Just Guard

Just Guard + Just Counter should be inherent to Hunter weapons. Sega made equivalents inherent to other weapons, so why not? Why is Hunter the only class that has to pay for it?

Gotta Go Fast(er)

Hunters were designed in an era where monsters and bosses were much slower. There are situations now where Hunters may find it tricky to get any attacks in without having to mitigate damage somehow. This will only get worse if enemies get faster in newer difficulties to come. It can lead to situations where the choices are Just-Guarding, Step-cancelling your slow attacks or dying. Nothing wrong with that on its own as long as attacking becomes an option often enough to take bosses down in a reasonable time-span (skill permitting). As the slowest of the three melee-types right now, Hunter may need some adjustments to help it cope with faster and faster enemies going forward.

What about Guard Stance?

I gotta throw my hands up here. I have no idea how Guard Stance could be fixed with the game the way it is now. It needs it, because right now it’s kind of completely useless, but the exact how I’m not sure of. At the very least I think fusing both Flash Guards and Tech Guard into Guard Stance would be a good start. For me, that would seem like a reasonable thing to gain in exchange for giving up almost all of your damage, related to which I think it’d be good to remove the outgoing damage penalty as it’s redundant. By switching from Fury Stance you’re already giving up damage.

Closing Thoughts

And that’s all my thoughts on the problems that Hunter faces in the current game. As always, these are just thoughts and there may be numerous issues I’m not considering or things I did consider that aren’t really problems at all. This is of course also not to say that Hunter is the only class with problems or the class with the most problems. Balance in this game is more than just a mess, it’s an embarrassment that Sega let it get out of control as they did (and non-communication between departments really is no excuse).

Sega has said that they will be putting work in addressing balance issues and that it will take time to do it right. It certainly is something worthy of careful thought, but right now PSO2’s classes aren’t just imbalanced, they show no plausible sign of ever becoming reasonably so. So far, I also worry that they may not ever fix some of the more glaring issues with the classes. Will we see drastic changes to Hunter’s tree? To Ranger’s godawful tree? What about Techer? Fighter’s is also kind of a mess too. For Hunter, will we finally be able to perform the role of area-of-effect melee or will we always be shit Bravers?

I guess in the coming months we’ll see.

Balance Thoughts: The Issues With Hunter Part 2: Fury Stance

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The second part of this series of articles sharing my thoughts on the problems that Hunter currently faces, in light of upcoming balance changes. This part will be focusing on Fury Stance.

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Do the fist pump!

Fury stance is a curse to the game in general, but I argue no class feels it more than Hunter. It’s the main reason for almost anyone to have Hunter as a subclass. Fury Stance is a tremendous damage buff to both melee and ranged classes (it offers no benefit to Teching classes at all). The actual damage bonus is multiplicative, which means that all of the bonuses are multiplied together to derive the actual percentage that’s applied to your damage. If you’re unaware of the numbers involved, here they are:

  • Fury Stance: 125%/110% (striking/ranged)
  • Just Attack Bonus 1: 110%
  • Just Attack Bonus 2: 110%
  • Just Attack Combo: 120%
  • Fury Stance Up 1: 110%
  • Fury Stance Up 2: 110%

Multiply them together!
Melee bonus: 1.25 * 1.1 * 1.1 * 1.2 * 1.1 * 1.1 = 219.6%
Ranged bonus: 1.1 * 1.1 * 1.1 * 1.2 * 1.1 * 1.1 = 193.2%

As a subclass, Hunter nearly doubles ranged damage output and more than doubles melee damage output. What’s more is this comes with almost no penalty whatsoever. Compare to Fighter Stances which offer bonuses to damage with positional restrictions, but don’t offer nearly as much damage as this.

But surely Hunter has access to this as well, so what’s the problem?

Actually, it doesn’t. See, as a subclass, you can afford to throw every single skillpoint into Fury Stance and its related skills with no problem. As I explained in the last post, Hunter has a number of skills that greatly enhance its overall survivability. All of these skills however will have a hugely negative impact on your outgoing damage, which is a significant problem not only from a competitive point of view but it also effectively reduces your survivability. A dead enemy is less of a threat than a live enemy. It is much easier to survive a boss when it dies in 1 minute as opposed to 10.

The reason this occurs is because of the amount of skill points the Fury tree eats up. To max it, you will need to spend 70 skill points total. Right now, at cap players have 75 points available to them. That only leaves 5 points for Hunter to invest in skills that aren’t “do more damage”. FIVE. Let’s ignore all of the cool survival skills and consider just the more vital portions of the class, such as Just-Guard. Step-Attack is a more essential skill for combat, but that can be covered by a subclass.

just_guarding

Just-Guard modifies the guard effect of all Hunter’s weapons, changing it to consume no PP and nullify all damage. A very powerful survival skill for instances where stepping to avoid damage may be dangerous or impractical. It costs 4 skill points to obtain it. If you take this, there will only be 1 skill point to spend elsewhere. What makes matters worse is that 3 non-Hunter melee weapons effectively get this skill for free. Fighter’s Knuckles and Daggers both have something that works like Just-Guard without requiring any skill points, with one dodging and another parrying all incoming attacks (if the time between them is short enough). Note that neither of these effective variants of Just-Guard are direction dependent as they will nullify damage from all directions, not just the front. However, the catch is that the timing on them is much more precise. Katana of course gets Just-Guard and even Just-Counter for free.

all_the_gears

Speaking of which, remember those gear skills I mentioned earlier which boost the effectiveness of Hunter’s weapons? What if you wanted all gears, as you use all the weapons where they perform the best. Well Partisan and Wired Lance are both on the Fury side of the tree anyway, so those are just 1 point each. Sword however is buried under two skills, requiring all 5 of your spare skill points to take. In other words, if you want all weapon gears you’re going to have to give up some damage.

The point I’m illustrating here is that Hunter has to give up 10% of its damage, or that last 1.1, reducing its outgoing damage to 199.6%. This would free up an additional 15 skill points (an absurd amount for that remaining 10% I’d say), allowing Hunter to grab all its gears, Just Guard and even Step Attack if it wanted. Let’s not forget that 30 s-atk for one point skill, otherwise known as Rare Mastery. It could take all that and still have a couple of points left over!

Regardless of how much you may personally value some of the skills I’ve mentioned, the fact Fury Stance eats up 70/75 skill points is the absurd part from Hunter main’s point of view and it effectively makes Hunter its own worst enemy. The reason Braver and Gunner are so strong is mostly thanks to Fury Stance. None of their native skills come even close to the strength that Fury Stance imbues onto them, perhaps not even the mighty Shunka Shunran. I am not saying that Shunka Shunran or S-Roll JA Bonus aren’t in need of re-thinking, because they are, but I argue those skills are much less impactful than this one.

In the third and final part, I will be looking at ways I feel the class could be improved, as well as the issues with gear gauges.

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

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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.