11/10/2017

5.5: The Cosmetic Touch-Up Patch

There seems to be a common trend in several of the 5.5 changes. Outside of Class Balance changes and the GSF changes in particular, the majority of the changes made relate to cosmetic changes. The Cartel Market and Inventory got a visual update, more Companion Customisations were made available, and of course the server list got its new truncated look a few weeks too early.

Just in general, there's a lot of changes to talk about with 5.5, so let's get started.

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Galactic Starfighter changes AKA FT-7B Clarion still reigns supreme

A lot of components for Galactic Starfighter got a tweak, but certainly not in the way I was expecting. 

As anyone who plays Starfighter should know by now, Gunships and Scouts have often been the meta for offensive capability, while Strike Fighters and Bombers are often relegated to defending. Somebody at BioWare has clearly decided that the time for Strike Fighters has come at last, because they've received by far the most substantial changes.

They receive:
  • 5% additional Hull strength (AKA HP)
  • 25% additional Engine Power
  • 18% additional Shield Power
  • 10% additional Blaster Power
  • 5% additional Blaster Regeneration Rate
  • 10% additional Shield Regeneration Rate
  • 5% additional Evasion
  • 15% additional primary Blaster range
  • 15% additional Blaster Power management when devoting power to Blasters 
  • 5% worse Blaster Power management when devoting power to another System
  • 10% additional Shield Power management when devoting power to Shields
  • 5% worse Shield Power management when devoting power to any other System
  • 10% additional Engine Power management when devoting power to Engines
  • 5% worse Engine Power management when devoting power to any other System
By comparison, Gunships and Scouts only get a 20% additional range increase to missiles/torpedoes and a 10% additional Engine Power management when devoting power to Engines respectively. 

Even without going into details about specific Components, Strike Fighters can be seen to immediately have a significant boost in comparison to where they used to be, making them far more of a middle-ground unit than they used to be. A base increase to primary Blaster range is very nice in particular. 

In terms of components, I was expecting one thing in particular to happen. Some Strike Fighters, such as the FT-7B Clarion, have got a shedton of defensive potential. Not only do they have access to Charged Plating, which increases Damage Reduction by 60% on top of the base DR, but they have access to a portable and indestructible version of Repair Drone in the form of Repair Probes.

Much to my surprise, they haven't nerfed the defensive potential of the Clarion; they've buffed it immensely. Sure, Charged Plating now has an additional 3% Bleedthrough, but that's neither here nor there. Especially since Repair Probes has a 1,000 metre range increase, heals 25 additional HP per tick, has a 25-second reduced cooldown, and cleanses any lingering effects from Ion weapons when activated. Clarion supremacy!

Oh, and the Co-pilot ability Hydro Spanner also heals for 63 more HP per tick. 

There are literally dozens of changes, so I hope you'll excuse me for simply copping out and listing my favourites of the remaining changes.
  • Proton and Thermite Torpedoes now have a 2.75 second lock-on and an 8-second cooldown, down from 4 and 12 seconds respectively. Additionally, Proton Torpedoes now deal 200 Periodic Damage on top of the 800 (down from 830) base damage. 
  • Distortion Field is supposed to only disable missiles being locked-on, not all missiles as previously. From what I understand this is still functioning as it used to, so this will be fixed at some point if so. 
  • Rapid-Fire Laser Cannon now has increased Damage per hit (215 - 236), 100% Armour Penetration as its third-tier upgrade, increased Accuracy and Damage at mid-range, and a further 8-degree firing range. 
  • Plasma Railgun Tier-5 upgrades now either provide 12% Armour Penetration or 19% additional periodic damage.
  • Slug Railgun now has a 5% additional accuracy increase at medium and long range, and the Tier-4 upgrade which used to increase accuracy by 3% now increases Hull damage by 6%.
  • Ion Railgun arcs deal 55% damage of the base hit as a Tier-4 upgrade instead of an 8% additional Critical chance, while the Tier-5 Upgrade which used to reduce Energy regeneration has been reduced from 100% to 65%. Furthermore, it now has an additional second of reload/cooldown.
  • Quad Laser Cannon now has 5% Shield Piercing, 2% additional Hull damage, an increase to max 70% Crit damage as a Tier-4 upgrade, and a 10% Critical Hit chance increase instead of 18% enemy Shield damage as a Tier-5 upgrade.
  • Weapon Power Convertor's Tier-3 Upgrades are now the ability to disable missile locks in-progress instead of increasing Engine Power by 15% (and adjusts the cooldown to 15 seconds) or an 8% even-keel split between Weapon and Engine Power increase instead of increasing Weapon Power by 15%. Additionally, the active ability now increases Primary Blaster damage by 6%.
  • Shield Power Converter's Tier-3 Upgrades also receive a similar treatment, offering a choice between an 8% even-keel split between Shield and Engine Power increase and the ability to disable missile-locks. Additionally, the active ability now increases Shield Power Regeneration rate by 10%.
The changes to Torpedoes' lock-on and reload timers are my particular favourite changes here. This will make things a lot more bearable, particularly for Gunships which have them as part of their arsenal. Also nice to see the Weapon and Shield Power Converter abilities actually have something of a substantial secondary-effect beyond switching between Engine and Weapon/Shield Power now. This means that every Ship now has a way of breaking lock-ons without relying on using an Engine Manoeuvre which may not be possible in certain spaces.

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Balance: Heel - no, sorry - Heal!

5.5 was supposedly the last Patch to touch on actual Class Balance 'properly', ignoring any tweaks here and there. From now on, it's Utilities which are the main focus.

5.5 massively hit Commando and Scoundrel healers, simultaneously nerfing and buffing the TK Sage by also fixing the TK Wave bug, tickled Sharpshooters with a nerf, nerfed Watchman and Infiltration, and provided a small buff to Vigilance and Focus Guardians. That said, this last point only applies if neither Guardian had used the Chilling Force utility as part of their rotation, which finally received a massive nerf with 5.5. 

I've yet to do any group content with Classes who have been affected by these changes so I won't be able to comment on them outside from on-paper.

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Interface Cosmetics

The Inventory, Cartel Market, and Server Interfaces have all been updated as mentioned earlier.

To start with, the Server Interface caught a lot of people off-guard, because people of course like to pre-patch and sit waiting on the Server select screen within the last hour of maintenance just in case it gets finished early. Basically, the Server list now only shows five servers at a time, in preparation for the United Forces update. All the Servers are still there; you just need to scroll down to access them if you have more than five with multiple characters.

On a similar note, it's been highlighted that finally the Conquest board shows everyone as being on the correct server... a month before these servers will be lost. Just as long as when we meld into Darth Malgus or Satele Shan or wherever we don't have Guilds showing up as "<So-and-So>@The Red Eclipse"...

The Inventory has had its tabs switched from bottom to top and now uses a similar aesthetic to the mission log post-Conquest. This is going to take a lot of getting used to, because this is the most significant change the Inventory has received in the entirety of the game's six year lifespan. 

The Cartel Market has received a substantial facelift. There are several more categories available for browsing, including specific Dye and Colour Crystal options. There are also currently dozens of Shipment 1 Weapons and Armour available for direct purchase at quite decent prices, including the Cathar Honour Sword from Shipment 2 for only 500 Cartel Coins. Bargain!

The most annoying thing about this new interface by far is that you can't do anything relating to Chat when browsing it, so if there's something within the Market which you want to link which isn't in Collections, you have to either find it on the GTN or buy it yourself just for the privilege of clicking it into Chat.

I find it absolutely hilarious that of all the face-lifts, the Cartel Market receives the most substantial by far. It almost feels at this point like the Market is being pushed as a 'key feature', which just feels wrong on so many levels.

Still, at least it's not as bad as Battlefront II's 'key feature' cash shop.

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Mask of Atonement

Companion Customisations for all previously-faction-exclusive Companions have finally been made accessible by the other faction, although there are some slight anomalies.

Firstly, while I agree that they shouldn't make the Security Key or Collector's Edition vendor Customisations available to everyone, they should at least provide ways for those who do have access to either or both vendors to also buy the exclusive Customisations available there on the other faction as well. This is especially notable in the case of Inquisitor Companion Ashara Zavros, who only has two Customisations available outside of the Security Key and CE Vendors; one awful Cartel Market one and the Plagued T.H.O.R.Customisation. Anyone who thus gets Ashara and is eligible to access either vendor can't customise her unless they get the two very-much-acquired-taste Customisations.

Secondly, why the ever-living-whatevers do we have access to Lieutenant Pierce customisations as Republic players? He's still Imperial exclusive! This argument may become more prevalent for more Companions if as I suspect they'll make some (e.g Jaesa) Class-specific instead of accessible to everyone, but right now everyone who has returned except for Pierce and Forex (whose Customisations are, much like Ashara's, only Security Key or Cartel) is available to everyone at some point.

Thirdly, I significantly disagree with the Light Side Vendor's Arcann customisation from an 'alignment' point of view and the overall 'point' of both Customisations in general. The Dark Side at least makes some sense from an 'alignment' point of view; it sells his "Darkann" form should be not be redeemed, but the Light Side version is... his default KotFE form, complete with Dark Side eyes. NoNO. The ability to give Arcann back his mask makes no sense whatsoever, since in the story if he is redeemed he sheds the mask to signify his attempts to atone for his past atrocities. It's one thing to say that our choices don't matter, but now they're making it seem that important NPC's choices don't matter either!

Plus, with the confirmed Arcann romance coming in, I just can't see how he can kiss past that mask; it's not a headpiece, but his actual head, so it won't be removed as with 'normal' Companions. 

So, yeah. Both pleased and displeased with the 'newly'-available Customisations. I like being able to put Blizz in a standard Jawa robe on Republic side and having a blue T7 on Empire side, but there are still a few things which ideally need to be rectified. As for Arcann... yeah, no. No sense whatsoever, sorry.

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Achievement Nuisances

In the Roadmap, it was initially communicated that any character who reached Command Rank 300 would apply an additional 25% bonus to the sub-300 CXP Bonus up to 100%. In actuality, this only applies once per mirrored base Class, so if you have both a Sage and an Assassin at 300 you'll only get one stack of +25% CXP, since they're both Consular/Inquisitor.

I can understand why this is (easier to code to ensure that people don't go over 100% and it prevents people with multiple copies of the same base Class on either side from benefiting), but the fact that this wasn't communicated properly is very, very aggravating. Still, at least it shouldn't be toooo difficult for me to get my Trooper up to 300 as my fifth (I spent last week getting my Sorc to 300, thinking that I'd be fine), but it still hurts to know that last week was effectively pointless.

There are new Achievements for getting each base Class to 300, which is okay I guess. Certainly creates the impression - combined with the prior nuisance - that Command is here to stay for quite some time. Yay....

There are also new Achievements for purchasing each of the Strongholds, although to properly achieve each one you need to travel to each for the first time. Simply activating the cutscene again won't count; you need someone who hasn't travelled to your Stronghold to travel to it and get the cutscene for the Achievement to pop. Rather annoying that it isn't retroactive, but eh. Hardly the worst thing to come from this Patch.

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Misc

When it was announced that the victory state for Light/Dark would be increased, most people probably thought that it would be by an additional hour. However, in actuality, the state has been increased to eighteen hours.

Basically, rev up those players because that's a lot more time to go hunting Light/Dark Side bosses and popping packs. 

Unassembled Components have been added to Master Mode Bosses, with each boss giving 35 except for the last which gives 100. Basically, Nefra gives as many Components as at least three PvP victories.

The Command Crates now have an additional slot for Modifications, CXP Buffs and Packs, and a Grand Chance Cube. Because, of course, RNG crates dropping from RNG crates isn't enough RNG!

Daily items on Iokath have had their prices reduced by 1/3. Mouse Droids (which now deal 500,000 - unbuffed! - damage to a Walker) cost 25, Monitors 100, and Walkers 200. Significant improvement here.

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Conclusion

5.5 has a lot of decent changes, a fair amount of questionable changes, and of course several nuisances along the way.

The GSF and Victory State changes in particular are fantastic (although eighteen hours does feel excessive!), and it's also excellent to see such a substantial amount of Components being added to Master Mode bosses. Nefra perhaps being an exception due to how easy she is as a boss... 

On the other hand, the Cartel Market visual upgrade was unnecessarily over-the-top and the confusion through miscommunication regarding exactly how the Commanding Legacy perk stacks worked was especially frustrating. 

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