26th March Update’s New Photon Arts

tried_to_dagger_but_died

The 26th March update saw the addition of a few new photon arts. This post will share what information I’ve learned about them myself as well as gathered information from elsewhere.

Sacrificial Bite

Roots the user in place while it’s grappling an enemy. It can absorb up to three stages from an enemy, if it can be grappled. If it can’t be grappled, you will only ever get one stage of power from it (this means you’re only ever getting one stage of absorption from bosses).

The boost to power gained lasts 20 seconds at stage 1, 30 seconds at stage 2 and 40 seconds at stage 3. The effect is 20% additional damage to all sword attacks and photon arts, regardless of the current level of photon art or stage of absorption.

Switching weapons will cancel the effect.

It can be guard-cancelled at any time, in which case your absorption stage will be whatever it was when you guarded.

The absorption effect does not care if an enemy is dead, it will continue for as long as the grapple lasts.

Current gear level will reduce absorption time significantly.

sacrificialbite

It’s a nifty enough boost but ultimately it does little to bring swords in line with the current best weapons. The use time is too long and the buff duration too short and not powerful enough to match the competition it has from Twin Machineguns and Katanas for mob clearance.

Chaos Riser

chaosriser

Sucks a few enemies in and damages them a little. It’s kind of rubbish. The range of the suction is dependent on the current gear level. This is an extremely risky photon art to use, I’ve found, for the same reasons that Zondeeling enemies on top of yourself is risky.

 

Satellite Cannon

Mechanically speaking this is pretty much identical to Ilfoie.It has a long charge time, has a target indicator and roots the user while it’s charging. It can be fired uncharged for much less damage. Unlike Ilfoie, Satellite Cannon has 2 stages of charged.

sattelite

 

The issue I take with it is in terms of damage it is significantly more powerful than Ilfoie for much less pp, which does make me wonder what exactly the point of Ilfoie is now. Here’s a video of the photon art in action.

 

Ilbarta

The first chain-tech, Ilbarta’s damage builds off itself by effectively applying a stacking debuff to the enemy. It will stack up to 7 times, the 7th causing the debuff to disappear. Each step in the chain has its own damage value, which work as follows:

Charged: 100%, 100%, 100%, 200%, 200%, 200%, 800%

Uncharged: 50%, 50%, 50%, 100%, 100%, 100%, 200%

ilbarta
An aura appears on enemies that have been hit with the tech. This indicates a chain has started and it seems to change appearance the further along it is

Elysion users will want to charge the 7th attack for the most damage. Note that in order to pull off a full chain you will need 150pp at the moment (unless you have a weapon that reduces pp consumption). Here is a link to a video of Ilbarta versus Bal Rodos: http://polsy.org.uk/play/nico/?vidid=&vurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nicovideo.jp%2Fwatch%2Fsm23186496

If nothing else, it’s nice that Ice finally got a decent tech!

 

Ilgrants

IT’S PRETTY.

ilgrants

The tech fires 10 homing stars of light at an enemy at a very rapid rate. In terms of damage I’m not massively impressed with it and the homing capability of it seems wonky, there may be a knack to it I just haven’t managed to find.  The uncharged version is completely worthless.

In terms of function, it really is a reliable source of the Panic status effect, probably easier to understand as “Confusion”. Dark Vibrace is vulnerable to confusion, so it may he quite useful there…

 

Towards The Future

There are more photon arts to come, with the next lot announced to arrive on the 9th of April. You can see the previews of those on Bumped here.

Of course, there are a few unannounced ones to go, including Ilzan, Kanran Nadeshiko (the unannounced Katana Photon Art), a Partizan photon art and a Bullet Bow photon art.

Something to consider is that all the new Photon Arts have been released in Super Hard Advance quests so far. It seems certain that the remaining Technic and Photon Arts will be released when Coast, Quarry and Seabed finally get Advance Quests.

If there’s anything critical I’ve not mentioned about any of the Photon Arts please let me know.

Thoughts on the 2nd Alpha Test

The first 7 hour session of the 2nd alpha tests are over. I have to say I was actually really satisfied with what I got to try. I don’t really want to say more than that with regard my overall reaction as I don’t personally want to be responsible for over-hyping the game, so I’ll just go into the meat of this post and start telling you about the various aspects of the game that I liked.

A fair warning, this post is lengthy. As part of the non-disclosure agreement and to be fair to the developers, remember that this is a game that is still heavily in development. So the things you see and the things I talk about in this post don’t necessarily reflect what will be in the game by release. Also all images are (c) SEGA Phantasy Star Online 2 Alpha 2 Test Version. With that said, let’s begin!


Combat

A slightly important feature of the game, seeing as you’re going to be spending most of your time killing things. It definitely feels a lot more fluid than Phantasy Star Universe and there is much more visceral feedback from your attacks than before.

Melee

In PSU, the only attacks worth using were photon arts, which meant ignoring the normal attacks entirely. Normal attacks are now a major part of your damage and can even be weaved between various parts of your photon arts now, allowing you string together long combos. That extra feeling of control over your attacks was pretty neat, however I did find it a bit difficult sometimes to know what attack would be coming next. I’d find myself having to count the current combo in my head to predict the next attack in the chain.

You also now get a visual indicator on your character to pull of Just-Attacks with. When you press an attack button while this red circle is around your character, you will perform a Just Attack. Successfully doing so will make your attack hit harder as a result, which means pacing yourself properly can maximise your damage.

One old aspect of Phantasy Star’s combat that’s persisted since PSO was the 3-hit combo, with a delay before you could attack again. That limit is essentially gone now, as long as you keep hitting that button you’ll keep on attacking.

Incidentally, using the Wired-Lance grapple photon art to leap into the air and kick birds in the face is the greatest thing.

Ranged and Tech

Now, I only played melee. So, sorry ranged and force lovers, I wont be able to give as complete a picture as I can give for melee. However I can share some things you might like to know.

First off, the Just-Attack mechanic that melee users have had since Phantasy Star Universe is now available to both ranged and tech users, with all the same benefits.

Specific to ranged, you no longer need to continuously tap the attack button to fire your weapon. You can now just hold the button down, however doing so will deny you the damage bonus from properly timed attacks.

Nurses, not Forces! Actually I've heard that attack techs are a lot more fun to use this time around. I didn't try them, myself

Block, Stupid!

On a final note regarding the combat, when you get hit it actually feels like it was your fault. May not sound like much but this means that if you die, you were the one who fucked up. You weren’t screwed over by an unfair or rediculously hard mechanic. You can block, you can dash out of the way, heck you could just simply run out of the way. Point is you have plenty of opportunity to prevent damage from enemies and while some attacks might be harder to avoid than others, so far it’s mostly a case of know your enemy. Now, to be fair, this is accurate only to the low level content. We won’t get to see the difficulty curve likely until the game has been released, so a full representative opinion can’t be formed on this for now. So far so good, still.


Latency

Now, yes, it was a stress test, so I know I can’t fairly grade the performance of the servers with regard latency (especially as the server coding isn’t even complete). How the game performs under lag is however an important thing to know. One very good thing is the combat itself is largely client-sided, or at least the more interactive parts are. This includes enemy state-altering attacks such as launches, knockbacks, knockdowns, interrupts etc. The damage calculation is still carried out server-side, so you’ll certainly notice the lag there (as well as with jittery movements of fellow party members). One of the biggest downsides to PSU’s combat was being unable to interrupt attacks if your latency got high so this is a sorely welcome sight.


Environment

On the minimap, the brightness represents the height of the terrain.

It’s actually pretty strange how much interactivity the simple act of being able to jump adds to an environment. Not only that but it seems to have allowed the level designers to get a bit more creative with the layouts of the stages in general. Hills, slopes, ledges, cliffs and even the more decorative geometry make the stages feel leaps and bounds more interactive than the environments we saw in Phantasy Star Universe. The presense of these things also helps to make the stages feel less linear, however they could definitely do with putting fewer dead-ends into their stages.

Beyond jumping, you can also cut down tall grass, fell trees and get caught in the current of a river.

The weather on Naberius can change on the fly.

The environmental hazards were also a nice touch. On Naberius, if the weather changes to stormy you will now need to watch out for lightning strikes (which give you plenty of warning ). On Amduscia, you have lava pools, fiery vents and falling stalactites to worry about. Something that goes beyond the visuals of the planet to differentiate it, as well as the local fauna, is appreciated. Of course, cross-planet you also have explosive traps and poison wave traps.


Interrupt Events

STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM

The party I ran with ended up with numerous interrupt events. Attack, Duel (although we have yet to see a boss enemy), Arrest, Protect and Destruction. They seem to vary in difficulty and in a 4 man group, protection events can get really hectic. They can get even more intense if you end up with a protection event combined with an attack event spawning some larger enemies!

A "Protection" and "Attack" interrupt event happening at once

Un-named random events were quite nice too , with passing gunships lending some air support by either firing an assault cannon or a barrage of rockets at the enemies you’re fighting. They can also drop support such as healing devices.


Enemies

The enemies seem to be pretty well designed from what I’ve seen. What I appreciate more is they’ve attempted to mix things up with their mechanics this time around. Some enemies will actively (sometimes passively) block your attacks with a shield, which will interrupt your current combo. Others have weak spots which must be exposed in various ways or are constantly accessible either behind the enemy, or having to jump onto the enemy to access it. Basically I just like that you will need to physically interact with your enemies beyond just hitting them with big glowing weapons.

You have to jump onto this enemy's abdomen to deal any significant damage to it

The little details in some of the enemy behaviours were quite fun too, I thought. From the monkeys who would pick up a rock to hurl at you, only to melee you with it instead if you got too close, to the lizardman hunter-types who would block your attacks with their shields and follow up with a shield bash (though I must say, the other two lizardman types have so far been pretty ineffective). Heck the monkeys in the forest area will just be swinging about in the trees, then they hurl themselves down at you when you approach.

You will need to attack around this enemy's large shield, or else it will deflect all your attacks

Final Note

So I said I wouldnt over-hype the game at the start of this long post and I’m not beyond realising the possibility that I’ve done just that. I hope I didn’t imply that this game is flawless or anything silly like that.

Remember as well that with these kinds of games it can take a little while longer to really get to know its faults. It is however, so far, a very enjoyable game for me. If they continue this level of care throughout the rest of the game’s development then we may well be looking at something special here.

Keybound Technics?


Not the highest quality image, I know. It’s a capture from a video. In this picture, a male human Hunter (yes MALE human) is casting Ryuker without a Force weapon, demonstrating that, perhaps, you can cast Techs from your palette (and that non-Force characters may get access to certain Techs).
Admittedly I do miss being able to hotkey things when I played PSU after a brief foray into PSO:BB, so it’s a welcome return. I wonder if abilities like Resta will, in the future, require you to have Force as your subclass. Subclasses aren’t available in these alpha tests, so it could be that such a restriction doesn’t exist for now. Guess we’ll have further hints when the beta tests begin.

Update: Further research suggests that, during the alpha at least, Hunters and Rangers could not use any techs. So pretty certain that what he was using in the video was in fact a “Telepipe”, which was an item that players used in PSO to plant down a temporary warp back to the mission lobby.

Another Update: Saw a screenshot that has a Tech bound to the sub-palette, reposting here:

So yes, Techs can be “keybound”, so to speak. At least by Forces anyway.

Classes.

Hunter!

In PSO2 there are 3 classes. Hunter, Ranger and Force. Your main three RPG archetypes basically (melee, archer and wizard) and the same classes that were present in PSO. However, unlike PSO there are no race/gender limitations on any class, nor is your appearance bound by your class either. Class is picked during character creation, after you have picked race and gender.

Ranger!

So, if you played PSO you may wonder if, aside limitations, the classes work the same way as they used to? Not quite! If you played PSU you may be dreading having to do the Mission Point grind all over again (you may also be wondering where the rest of the classes went!) well it doesn’t work that way here either. In fact, now your character level and type/class level are one and the same. In PSO2 your class level IS your level (think FFXIV, FFXI). You also get to choose one of the other 2 classes as a “Sub class”, although there’s actually no information out there that I know of that really explains what sub classes are about for now.

Force!

If you played PSU towards its later days then you will remember Guardians Advanced Style (or Guardians Advanced Content if you’re unfortunate enough to be on the 360 servers), well it looks like the class system on PSO2 has expanded on this a bit. There are now Skill Trees, similar in appearance to talent trees in World of Warcraft and soul trees in RIFT. Every time you level up, you’ll earn “Skill Points” which you can then spend in the various abilities on your tree. You will not earn enough points to max out every single ability, which is a good thing as you’re keeping anyone from being exactly the same (unless of course someone finds an optimum build that everyone copies..). Once again, I have no idea how sub-class contributes to your talents.

A Skill Tree for a Hunter

The skill point system sounds fine, the only real worrying thing is that the developers have said that they’re thinking about letting people re-do skill trees. I seriously hope they aren’t considering making skill point investments permanent, because otherwise the first wave of capped characters will all be broken in some way. The game will be new, there’ll be no information about how good/bad certain stat weights are or which talents in the skill tree will be useless (there’s almost guaranteed to be at least a couple of useless talents in there)  so there are going to be mistakes made. Players should not be permanently punished for making a bad decision for something like this, particularly when there is no foresight (and even if there were guides, people can make wrong assumptions) and particularly in a genre typically known for taking a long time to raise characters in.

I rather hope that the races won’t be so poorly balanced again that players will be effectively pigeon-holed  into particular classes like they were in PSU. Of course, this time CASTS don’t get an “I WIN” button every so often (and if mags function like they did in PSO it’s possible that everyone will actually get “I WIN” buttons this time around). Can only wait an see how race balance plays out in relation to classes.

Another thing is I hope that they’ve dropped this apparent mentality of Hunter is for beginners, Ranger is for intermediate and Forces are for advanced players. I’m not even going to explain why this idea is ridiculous.

Photon Arts

The "Wired Lance", a new weapon to PSO2 that can throw small and medium enemies around

Photon arts are special moves you use with your weapons and are independently leveled from your skill tree (that is, the Skill Points you spend won’t affect the level of your photon arts). Unlike PSU, photon arts are now a customizable combo attack that you can set to a palette. You could for example, set part 1 to one photon art, part 2 to another and part 3 to yet another, or mix and match various other combinations. Well, that’s for striking weapons anyway. To advance through your combo you press the photon-art button, but unlike PSU it will actually stay on the next part for a while. This means you can weave normal attacks in-between parts of your combo.

Screen displaying the weapons palette, where you can also set up custom combos. You can see the user dragging a weapon into the 3rd row of the palette. Presumably you just drag photon arts into the 3 columns beside the weapons to set up your combos.

Technics have to be assigned to weapons, much like PSU. You can link up to 3 Technics to a rod. You can also charge techs now which will increase their power, range and alter their effects, but not their PP cost.

Another major difference between photon arts in PSU and photon arts in PSO2 is you cannot level them through repetition in PSO2. Instead they’re using the same systems present in PSO and PSP2, in otherwords they’re dropped by enemies (with the exception of low level photon arts which you can just buy). PSO fans rejoice. I’m not sure how to feel about this, I mean the addition of even MORE random-numbers to determine my character’s growth is hardly welcome, but at the same time grinding photon arts in PSU was an absolute chore. As long as the drop rates aren’t rediculously low it should be fine.

It’s been stated that they’re considering letting people turn Photon Arts back to discs. PSU players may panic at the thought of not being able to swap PAs among alts, but remember in PSU the reason they allowed you to do this was because there was a hardcoded limit! There is no limit to the number of Photon Arts you can learn in PSO2. You can also trade photon art discs so as long as you don’t use the discs you find that you’d rather have on an alt there shouldn’t be a problem.

I am at least glad that they’ve allowed people to mix up their attacks somewhat now, however I anticipate that people will find optimal builds unless there are good reasons to switch up the attacks depending on certain situations in battle. Hopefully they’re also more careful with balancing the attack power of photon arts this time round, so we don’t end up with another Dus Majarra or Anga Jabroga happening (or Dus Skadd if you’re on JP).