Thoughts on the PTS #3 Changes

The newest PTS is upon us and with it comes some sweeping balance changes unlike the last one. I'll be testing this one extensively as it seems to be really close to the real deal the developers intend to release, minus weapon and mobility quirks.

If you haven't read the changes yet, you can read the official post here. Otherwise I'll post a TL;DR below:

  • Skill tree gets nerfed hard. Everything will feel more sluggish and less heat efficient.
  • SHS gets a slight buff. Clan non-2.0 DHS gets nerfed to 1.1 heat dissipation capacity.
  • Some random changes to laser maximum ranges. Optimals left unchanged.
  • LRMs get longer cooldowns but their spread is reduced.
  • SRMs are 400 m/s now, up from 300 m/s. Hooray! SSRMs get a slight buff too.
  • Gauss gets +1.5s cooldown for 5.5. Desynced from PPCs.
  • AC2 becomes a crit-seeker weapon with less heat. Double damage when it crits.
  • Locking smaller stuff takes longer.

Now let's go through these changes and try to understand why these changes were made.

Skill Tree

Skill tree has been one of the most neglected, yet important features of this game. In its current form, the rewards are too good. Since the skills are blanket percentage buffs, the 'Mechs with already great stats get even better while those with bad stats only get slightly better. I posted my detailed thoughts in a previous post here if you want to read a more detailed discussion why.

With the PTS, skill tree is essentially gutted to provide only marginal improvements. We're talking about nerfs from 20% bonuses to 2.5%s. Suddenly the heavies and assaults will feel more sluggish and will be vulnerable to harassment from fast lights and mediums. Some people disagree, but this has always been one of the issues of MWO for me. Apart from their speed, when elited, most assaults don't feel much different than a heavy except for those at the high end of the weight spectrum. With these nerfs, picking an Assault will mean you'll be sluggish to offset for the firepower you bring. Especially Dires with their anemic engines should border annoying.

Now, this is all good and that, but this change essentially makes the whole skill tree unnecessary. Suddenly stock 'Mechs won't be much different than fully elited ones and eliting 'Mechs will lose meaning. What they should do at this point is to scrap the whole basic and elite trees and offer specialization skills instead. Again, I talked about this extensively in the article I linked above.

DHS/SHS Changes

For the first time since the game is out of CBT, we're seeing buffs to single heatsinks. I'm sure they're careful not to make them as viable as DHS (it's called "PGI tax" for a reason), but maybe they're trying to give them a niche. Currently SHS dissipate 0.1 heat per second and increase the heat capacity by 1 heat. DHS dissipate 0.14 heat per second and increase the heat capacity by 1.4.

With the changes they will dissipate 0.12 heat per second while increasing the heat capacity by 1.1 heat each. What do these changes mean? Let's do some math.

Let's say, we have a 'Mech with a STD250 engine and 5 external DHS. This gives us a heat capacity of 2*10+5*1.4 which gives 27. The heat dissipation is 0.2*10+0.14*5 which gives 2.7 heat per second. With the current STD values we get 1*10+1*5=15 and 0.1*10+0.1*5 and 1.5 heat per second, which is just horrible in comparison. With the proposed values we get 1.1*10+1.1*5=16.5 and 0.12*10+0.12*5=1.7 again pretty bad.

Pound per pound, SHS is still bad in "day to day" applications in MWO. However, with SHS we save a lot of critical space and that comes handy in assaults who have a lot of tonnage to spare. Indeed, there's a niche for SHS in 'Mechs like Banshees which can boat some cheap firepower (let's say 8xMPL) and then have huge amounts of SHS. Let's consider that case now.

Let's say we want to build a BNC-3M with 8xMPL. The rest is up to us. With DHS you can fit do it with STD355 and 23xDHS. Which gives 38.2 heat capacity 3.82 heat per second. With current SHS you can do it with STD325 and 36xSHS. Which gives 36 heat capacity and 3.6 heat per second. With the proposed changes, we'll get 39.6 heat capacity and 4.32 heat per second.

So yes, this will give SHS a bit more utility but your daily driver 'Mech probably won't be able to utilize it.

Laser maximum range changes

Not much to discuss here. Some IS lasers and most of the Clan ERs and pulses get their maximum range increased (optimal does not change). We'll see how this feels in combat when the PTS drops. They probably wanted to give the Clans their range edge back, but this is such a minor change in terms of damage.

IS MPL ghost heat

IS MPL gets a ghost heat limit which caps it at 6 maximum before penalty. Considering the IS-Clan laser balance, this is a very silly change. This change assumes IS MPLs are equal to Clan MPLs, which is definitely not the case. This is also a big nerf to some BJ-1X, BNC-3M, GHR and BLK-KNT builds. 

LRM changes

This is a seemingly random change that's hard to read at the moment. Basically LRMs get a 5-15% nerf to their rate of fire, but they have a tighter spread. Especially the LRM15 and LRM20 get a very nice spread reduction which should make them more viable weapons. Currently nobody wants to invest in those as the LRM spread is simply dreadful and you get more DPS out of smaller launchers.

(S)SRM buffs

This is a big change. SRM speeds go up from a pitiful 300 m/s to 400 m/s. This should make them much easier to aim and more effective above 100 meters. Seriously this is the easiest and most effective buff they could do to SRMs and I can't wait to try it.

SSRM buffs are a bit weird. Basically every SSRM gets a 50 m/s speed buff. The Clan SSRMs definitely did not need a buff at this point, since they tend to be boated a lot already. On the other hand IS-SSRM2s desperately need a buff but this is not enough. For balance sake, I'd have left the Clan SSRMs alone while giving the IS-SSRM2s a ridiculous buff like up to 300 m/s to make them more useful.

Gauss DPS nerf

The developers seem to understand that the upcoming laser nerfs will probably shift the meta to builds centered on Gauss/PPC. The PPCs are already in a good spot with their nerfed speed and high heat, but the Gauss is still too good for a strictly sniper weapon and is good at anything at all ranges (I know, unpopular opinion).

So they nerfed the Gauss cooldown from 4.0 to 5.5s. This nerfs its DPS from 3.15 to 2.4 with the charge up time included. That's 23% nerf to its DPS. This not only desyncs Gauss from ERPPC/PPCs, which in turn nerfs their DPS (since people want to fire them together) but also means this is not a weapon you want to pump damage with anymore. It's strictly for sniping and precision shooting.

This is a pretty big change and I think there'll be lots of resistance, but I really want to see how it works out because this pretty much nips the bud of the upcoming Gaussening. I wonder if this will result in a more brawly meta, we'll see.

AC2 changes

The much hated AC2 may finally be something desirable. They reduced the heat to 0.8 and most importantly, made this weapon a crit seeker with a monster crit multiplier. It has the crit chances of a machine gun, but when it crits it does a full 2.0 damage! So when you get a few of these bad boys, you should be tearing internals apart in no time. I can't wait to try it.

Targeting changes

Basically it takes longer to get paper doll of small 'Mechs, while for the big 'Mechs it is easier.

Survivability changes

Apparently we're getting big internal and armor buffs to every 'Mech. There are no details for this yet, so we'll have to wait and see.
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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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