14/08/2019

Further Adventures on the Onslaught PTS

As I was hoping, the PTS was brought online before I had to disappear off across the Atlantic, allowing some time to hop back on and analyse the changes.

Along with reporting on these various changes, there were some inaccuracies in my original post that really needed updating. Granted, some of these were due to updates that were announced or brought in shortly after the post was uploaded but there were some which I had completely the wrong idea about.

I get easily confused by a lot of things these days.

~~~

Bounty Hunters!

Yup, finally both Hunter classes have come across to the PTS and before the first 'serious' part of testing begins. I imagine that we'll see a wipe of all characters presently on the PTS when Phase 2 begins, but for now this allows people to have a chance to try out all four classes before it 'really' matters.

Unlike with the last post, in which I highlighted the classes I play and how different each felt to me, I can't really do anything 'serious' when it comes to discussing the Hunters. I don't have nearly enough experience to know how significant an impact various Tacticals or the change of Set Bonus makes to the various specs.

I think I know which set I'll take for my Powertech, which is the following:


Veteran Ranger
  • (2) +2% Mastery.
  • (4) Searing Wave makes all targets vulnerable to Shoulder Cannon for 5 seconds.
  • (6) Each Shoulder Cannon has a 25% chance to trigger another rocket.

Much like the Sorcerer sets, there really aren't a lot which I think are particularly good for Powertech DPS. That one's okay, but of course Shoulder Cannon isn't an entirely consistent ability to weave into a full-on rotation due to its long cooldown once depleted. That said, in the case of an add-heavy fight, having an extra (and free!) AoE following on from Searing Wave could be very useful, I think. The 25% chance for an extra rocket is neither here nor there, really, but still a decent addition.

Extra damage and self-healing (if specced into), y'know?

For Mercenaries, however, there are actually two sets which I would take were I still playing that class.


Apex Predator
  • (2) +2% Mastery.
  • (4) Activating Power Shot, Tracer Missile, or Rapid Scan increases the critical chance of your next Power ShotTracer Missile, or Rapid Scan by 3%. Stacks up to 5 times.
  • (6) Dealing damage with Power Shot or Tracer Missile and healing with Rapid Scan grant a stack of Power Step, stacking up to 5 times. At 5 stacks, your next Power ShotTracer Missile, or Rapid Scan is more effective and costs no heat.

Concentrated Fire
  • (2) +2% Mastery.
  • (4) Gaining a stack of Supercharge increases your critical chance by 10% for 10 seconds. This effect can only occur once every 10 seconds.
  • (6) Doing damage or healing an ally has a 5% chance to build a Supercharge. This can only occur once per 3 seconds.

I don't know what "is more effective" means exactly in the first set. I'm guessing it just means that the affected abilities do more damage or healing, but it would be nice if we could get an exact value on that at some point. Regardless, this should be a fairly useful set for Mercs regardless of spec.

The latter set is quite similar to the set I had picked out for my Juggernaut (Descent of the Fearless), which makes it so that dealing damage a 5% chance to build a stack of Rabid Furor every 5 seconds. Having Supercharge build more quickly is useful enough, but having an extra 10% critical chance every 10 seconds or so is also going to be extremely useful. I think of the two Merc sets I've picked out, this is probably the one I would choose to run with.

As for Tacticals, there's a nice one which I've picked out for my Pyrotech Powertech:


Flame Dissipation

When Superheated Flamethrower reaches 2 stacks, it applies Flame Dissipation to you, lowering the cost of Searing Wave by 3 heat. Stacks up to 5 times, and is consumed by Searing Wave at 5 stacks. When consumed, Flame Dissipation increases your periodic fire damage by 10% for 10 seconds.


Having done some testing of this, this Tactical makes heat management for Pyrotech so much nicer. Even reducing the cost of Wave by a few heat makes a lot of difference, although for proper 'usage' of this Tactical (i.e. getting 5 stacks before using every Searing Wave) the maximum cost reduction could well be negated through using the appropriate amount of Heat Bursts, even with the free one from Immolate

I don't know for sure, since I'm still a novice with this spec. Regardless, having Searing Wave generate less heat is definitely a useful benefit. 

Since I highlighted which set I would take as a Mercenary, it seems only fair that I do the same with a Tactical:


Primed Ignition

Priming Shot causes its targets to burn. Blazing Bolts, Heatseeker Missiles, and Tracer Missile all tick its damage.


Similar to the Tactical I will be taking if ever I need to go Marksmanship, which increases the damage of Corrosive Dart and makes it so that Followthrough refreshes its duration, I would take this Tactical simply to allow for 'background sustained damage'. Yeah, Arsenal has enough burst, I know, but it does really need a bit more sustained to be brought up to a 'proper' PvE standard. I don't know if this would be 'enough', but I'm happy to leave that to the experienced Merc DPS players to find out. 

As for the abilities, I'm not particularly enamoured by the new Powertech ability, Power Yield. In theory, it's nice; potential +200% armour and +10% damage, but this will only take effect under damage and even then the armour increase won't work against internal damage. Sure, that pesky Marksman Sniper will deal substantially less damage against a fully buffed Powertech with Ambush, but any class or boss whose damage bypasses armour won't notice much of a difference. 

Plus, in PvE, there aren't going to be too many fights where a Powertech DPS can get the full 10% damage boost. AIVELA and ESNE spring to mind, certainly, courtesy of the Countermeasures. Draxus and Corruptor Zero should work, courtesy of the adds and various group-damage abilities from the bosses. Tyrans, as well, provided that DoT damage causes it to spike. I'm sure there are others which work naturally as well, but I can also see some Powertechs doing as Mercs and Juggs occasionally do with their reflects - run under a boss that has close-proximity damage capability with the ability activated and get the +10% boost that way.

Mercs don't get a new ability, being the only class not to receive something totally shiny and new. Instead, they get a second charge to Rocket Out. While useful for PvP, no doubt, I do feel it's a bit of a shame that this class misses out. All other classes get at least something new and shiny, even if it's not too useful for certain specs (looking at you, Volt Rush), but Mercs... don't. Granted, they already had a lot and giving them a new ability hasn't worked out well for BioWare in the past, so I can also see people not really minding this too much.

~

Legacy!

The Legacy function was a bit broken when the PTS launched, both initially and with the first launch of phase 1.5. It wouldn't unlock when jumping straight to 75, necessitating playing through the starting planet if you really wanted it. With this iteration of phase 1.5, the Legacy functions properly with some added benefits.

With the exception of the Hunter, all Imperial Class and Companion buffs are now unlocked as soon as you boost a character to 75. This also means that, finally, we can start to see exactly how the Companion stat-boosts change gearing numbers. It's not too big of a deal that we can't get the Hunter buff to unlock properly - after all, that one's purely Endurance so doesn't factor in at all to parsing to see how the different specs perform!

One thing I didn't mention in my previous post was numbers for stats. This was because, at the time, I wasn't willing to delve into such things because a) we didn't know exactly what Companions would do for us, and b) various boosts came from different set bonus items. For example, on the previous PTS builds my characters needed about 1,881 Accuracy Rating to hit 110.35%.

With the addition of the Companion boosts, the same percentage can be reached with 1,666 rating. That little 1% resulted in over 200 rating needed to be shaved off. 

This is also why I highlighted that we didn't know whether or not stats were 'working correctly', because this hike of about 900 rating between the 'advised' cap on Live (around 735) to 1,666 is fairly substantial. I'm curious to see if this changes or not but, just so people are aware, it is possible that you may need a fair few more things of Accuracy in your gear than you're presently used to.

I don't yet know if anyone has found any 'magic numbers' for Alacrity or Critical.

~

Set Bonus items!

Set Bonus pieces have been updated so that a lot of six-piece sets now have a 'proper' four-piece bonus. Similarly, some sets which were previously only a four-piece bonus are now a six-piece bonus. 

This does, however, create something of an issue with regards to mix-and-matching. In the previous build it was level across the board; both a 'full' six-piece and a 'custom' six-piece had two stat-boosts and a 'proper' benefit, since all six-pieces had two stat boosts. 

In this build, since full six-pieces now have two functioning benefits, a custom six-piece is going to look fairly insignificant in comparison to several of these, since in making a custom set you still have to take two stat-boosts. It's easy to see why, of course; if the 4-pieces were adjusted so that both tiers benefited players you'd get everyone making all sorts of whacky six-pieces with the myriad of benefits they could offer.

To me this seems like it takes away from the entire point of opening up sets to allow for mix-and-matching. I know they're pushing the "play your way" style, but this change is really only going to make a lot of generic sets deemed utterly useless by a good number of the endgame-focused crowd.

Granted, there is a good chance it would always have been like that, so maybe I'm focusing too much on this one aspect of this. 

Some sets have also seen complete changes since I posted about them, most notably the Beserker set, which beforehand had a 4-piece which boosted Power by 25% and reduced armour by 50%. Considering that they're bringing in scaling for everything that isn't the Dxun Operation and presumably the Corellia Flashpoint, this set as it was would, in theory, become utterly useless in those environments: the Power benefit would be lost, but the armour reduction would still take effect.

The set has since been updated to become:
  • (2) +2% Critical Rating.
  • (4) Damage increased by 5%. Damage taken increased by 10%.
I've done some testing on Rishi (the actual planet, not the Stronghold) and switching the four-piece of my Sorc's Beserker set with that of its current partner (Decelerator), thus keeping all stats and set-bonus stat boosts identical, does indeed lower the damage of all abilities. Ergo, this set will function properly in scaled content and is not as worthless as its original incarnation in this regard.

Actually, while I'm on the subject of Set Bonus items...

In my original post, I burbled on about the various stat boosts and what effect these might have on gearing, particularly with regard to the +2% Accuracy Rating one. However, there was one major error with my interpretation of this boost. I interpreted it as increasing the overall Accuracy stat directly (i.e. 107% to 109%) whereas in fact it would only affect the base rating (i.e. 1,600 to 1,632). 

In effect, this means that these little boosts add very little to your character and shouldn't affect any potential 'magic numbers' in any significant manner. I mean, sure, it'll still be a nice little benefit but it will be less than one Augment's worth of difference. 

To address another inaccuracy of the original post, my interpretation of the original boosts meant that I believed that multiple different sets were not stacking properly. As a matter of fact, they were indeed stacking correctly; I was just looking for the increase in completely the wrong place. 

Like I said earlier, I get confused easily. This is why I'm not a 'numbercruncher' at heart.

I won't list all of the sets here, but instead I will once again link to the various threads so you can see the changes there:

Mercenary
Powertech

Somewhat disappointingly, even with the various changes to the different Set Bonus tiers, I still haven't found a set for my Madness Sorc that I view as worth taking over Beserker. This is largely because the Sorc DPS sets turn Force Speed into an offensive cooldown - even more so than they were doing in the previous build, actually! - and that's not something which I particularly wish to indulge in. 

My Sniper and Juggernaut have seen decent upgrades to their own sets, however. Happily, the Sniper six-piece I use has had its four-piece updated so that once again Target Acquired has a 15-second shorter cooldown and it continues to restore 15 Energy when used. A much-needed reversion, in my opinion, and I'm very happy to see that return after its removal in the first iteration of the set. I'm quite convinced that BioWare will just eventually add that benefit to the ability itself considering how many times it has cropped up somewhere along the line for Snipers.

The set I had been using on my Juggernaut was originally a generic Warrior four-piece set. With this recent build, the Descent of the Fearless bonus has been upgraded into a full six-piece; the top-tier bonus remains the same (as said above, dealing damage has a 5% chance to yield a Rabid Furor charge every 5 seconds) while the new middle-tier bonus makes it so that taking damage has a 5% chance to yield a Rabid Furor charge every 5 seconds. It's not much, but it still results in the best set I've found for my Vengeance Juggernaut.

This set is also now the only six-piece which belongs to a specific pair of Classes. Most full sets only belong to one Advanced Class, with some exceptions among the sets which absolutely anyone can wear. Descent of the Fearless can still be used by both Juggernauts and Marauders even with this change.

Speaking of Rabid Furor, I have now worked out why it wouldn't be consumed when abilities such as Shatter were activated. Rather than boosting any sort of damage (I bet at least one person is doubting my ability to read at this point), the ability boosts the damage of all abilities classed as "melee" only. So since ShatterForce Scream, and Vengeful Slam are all Force abilities, they are completely unaffected by this ability. That's a fairly hefty part of a Vengeance Juggernaut's ability toolset right there, but the spec is still perfectly good enough as it is anyway.

~

Scaling!

Okay, so first things first; I had completely the wrong idea about how they were scaling Operations. I was very much under the impression that, much like what they were doing for Hammer Station, they were leaving them at 70 and just scaling us down to that level. However, what they're actually doing is they're bringing Operations back down to their original level and balancing stuff around that.

I don't know why they're setting Operations to one thing and Flashpoints to another. Maybe because Ops have specific balance targets it's easier to balance individual ones for gear-requirements compared to Flashpoints which don't 'matter' in nearly the same regard?

I have no idea. As long as it means that they find a way of making Flashpoints less of a steamroller exercise, I'm all for it. 

The last time I posted, balancing was only in EV, KP, and Hammer Station. Now, it's across all Ops and Flashpoints in the game. I'm very curious to see what they've done for TFB, considering that this used to be a level-50 Operation before being brought up to 55 with the start of 2.0...

Essentially this means that Dxun and Corellia will be the only two group environments at level 75. This also means that, with scaling tech being what it is at the moment, any Stims or Relics which boost Mastery, Power, or Endurance will be utterly worthless in the vast majority of content since those three stats are always brought down to a fixed level. It may be possible for them to fix this, but this would likely mean tweaking all instances of scaling tech in the game for that to be possible and I don't see that being an easy task in the slightest.

I haven't been in any Operations at all since this scaling tech was introduced, and I know for a fact that I won't be for some time, so I can't give a first-hand report of how things feel with this new tech (although apparently Master Mode Operations are insanely easy at the moment, even with players being scaled down). Shortly after my previous post, the bolster within Hammer Station was updated; our gear went from from roughly ~248 item level (130k HP) to about 228 item level (110k HP). It certainly felt more challenging than it did in the previous build, so I'm happy with that. 

I've also seen a few guildies hop onto the PTS and I'm hoping to get at least one more Flashpoint done with them this evening just to see how scaling has affected other instances. Currently there's a bug preventing queuing if you have other content besides Hammer Station selected, but we can find a way around that if it isn't fixed beforehand.

~

Miscellaneous!

In the last PTS build, I ran the Voss Heroics on my Sorcerer just to see how planetary content felt and also to see how my Companion fared. In the process, I discovered that Reputation trophies automatically applied themselves the moment they were granted.

I don't know what to make of that change. I'm leaning towards disliking it because having the ability to stack up a lot of Reputation trophies before using them made it possible to work out a good number for getting the most amount of points on a weekly basis. I also don't know what would happen in this case if you hit the weekly cap - would you just stop getting Reputation trophies, or would they stack in your inventory if they could no longer be used? 

Similarly, if they did stack, what would happen once you logged back into your character after the weekly reset? Would they just sit there obediently, waiting to be clicked, or would they just activate instantaneously until a cap was hit? 

I won't be able to have answers to these questions today, but I'll certainly try and find them out at some point before Onslaught goes live.

Combat Proficiencies have seen a slight update since my last post, when nothing had changed besides a ninth Utility point being added. Now, rather than Utilities being spread across four levels as they are on Live, they're spread across three. Various Utilities have also swapped locations, resulting notably in four, perhaps even five, spectacular Sniper Utilities all being in the final tier.

The Jawa vendors now sell their materials at a stacking cost, with all Grade 1 materials costing one of their respective scrap, Grade 2 materials costing two, and so on. This line ends with Grade 11 materials, which all cost 200 of their respective scrap. Apiece. 

~~~

What more is there to do?

With the launch date for Onslaught still apparently sometime in September, this is a very appropriate question to be asking with the PTS up. Now that all four Classes are up, at least on Impside, this hopefully means they can begin to focus on bringing in everything else and tweak class-balance more in the background.

I've already touched on things like the scaling tech still needing fine-tuning, but here are the things which I can see still needing work before this all hits Live:
  • Republic classes still need to be included in all of this with mirrored versions of sets and new abilities. 
  • We're still to see Amplifiers updated, as right now they're still very vague and even those which are visible don't appear to actually function.
  • The crafting bag still needs to be properly implemented.
  • Renown still needs to be implemented in terms of rewards, as Command crates are still being given out.
  • Loot as BioWare intends it to be (all based on item-level) still needs to be implemented.
  • Companions are likely still due for an upgrade to bring them more in-line with a player's maximum HP. 
We do know that BioWare intend for Phase 2 to be a fairly big one, not least because this is when the PTS Rewards scheme starts. There will be an official blog post about it when this phase begins properly, but just know that one of the rewards will be an actual functioning log mount.

Yes, they're actually doing this.

~~~

Conclusion

It's nice to see all four Imperial Classes available for testing at last. Similarly, it's nice to see the new scaling tech implemented across the board, even if it still needs a lot of fine-tuning as far as Operations are concerned.

We don't know when Phase 2 will be implemented, but I for one hope it will be sometime next week. It may well not be up until a week later than that, but the sooner we get PTS builds the more confident I think we'll all be that Onslaught will indeed be ready for September. Right now there's just more than can and needs to be updated, even with all that's currently there.

Regardless, I hope that I won't miss too much of it while being in Canada!

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