Skill Tree Reshuffle proposal, and various other balance suggestions

Thanks to the HG:L 2038 team for all your work in reviving a game I remember fondly and has so much potential.

Which brings me to this post’s topic of Balance. Always a fun one, and something I have a small amount of experience in through several game re-balance projects, both finished and ongoing, which I will list for reference here:

And a bunch of other smaller projects along these lines.

While i’m no expert by any means (and lets be honest no one is when it comes to game balance) If I could be so bold I have a proposal primarily about the structure of the skill trees in 2038.

I have made a google sheet which shows how I would go about structuring each tree which you can find here

I’ve thrown this together over a single evening and its probably incomplete, contains oversights or otherwise bad ideas, but I will summarize my changes here:

  1. Move important build around skills further up the tree, and useful/powerful benefits to those skills or other utility further down the tree:

A common thing I find myself doing in this game on certain classes while leveling is saving up a large number of skill points simply because I have nothing useful to spend them on that wouldn’t compromise my build in the long term. For this reason I have moved many skills to the 1, 5 and 10 skill tiers that you might otherwise be waiting until 15, 20 or even 30 for

  1. Share more skills between classes where appropriate:

In some cases where trees were lacking options or the restriction didn’t make sense to me, I have mirrored skills from other classes inside the same archetype (such as between Hunters or Templars.) I’ve took the most recent patch’s change of duplicating the Toxic line of skills between Evoker and Summoner, but I’ve also added Multibeacon and EMP Blast to Engineer’s arsenal, and Spider Mines to Marksman’s among other things

  1. Cure my OCD by moving skills to trees with names more appropriate to the skill

Minor changes, but in my opinion makes the trees prettier

I’ve also along with this suggested some rebalancing of existing skills, mostly Summoner ones and especially Elementals which you can find as comments inside the spreadsheet, but I will also summarize them here:

SUMMONER -
Remove increasing elemental counts from the main elemental skills, then add/update two skills to add additional elementals at a penalty to their damage which ranks will reduce. My suggestion is around 3 for Fire/Toxic/Lightning and 5 for Force. Compensate for this reduction in numbers by greatly improving their damage, durability and power reservation.

Reduce the ranks for each elemental skill from 10 to 7, have these skills strictly improve the damage, maybe also the HP of each respective elemental, and add another passive skill for each elemental, probably with around 5 ranks, that adds a specialized bonus to that elemental.

I’ve suggested splash damage for Fire, chaining attacks for Lightning, increases to field radius for Toxic, improved Armor for Force and improved Phase chance for Spectral, but there is a lot of room for adding flavor with this setup.

Make the cooldowns on each elemental summon skill much longer (maybe around 30 seconds?) while keeping their ability to resummon all elementals of that type. Also add a seperate skill with a longer cooldown (60 seconds?) that summons your maximum of all elemental types, and heals ones already out (Call the skill something like Convocation?)

With enough base durability this will make Elementals feel like other minions, where their deaths are impactful but not unavoidable as they were in the past. This change will probably be controversial though and i’m not personally against keeping their current spammable form, but if that’s the case I feel you may as well make Elementals untargetable/invincible, with the exception of Force probably.

The balancing factor of most minion builds in most games should be the fact that, while they tend to do very good damage and absorb a lot of damage for you, that damage can also get itself killed and stop dealing damage. That said AI is AI and i’m interested to hear your thoughts on this, especially experienced Summoner players.

HUNTERS -
Remove the Rapidfire restriction on Tactical Stance to allow its use with defensive builds that make use of Overshield, allowing you to compensate for Rapid Fire’s loss of mobility.

Would also be nice if we could remove the ROF cap that Rapid Fire can hit with the fastest firing weapons. If not technically possible, a fixed fire rate boost along with a damage boost built into the skill could be preferable and Heightened Senses could be changed to a critical chance bonus, giving MM more options for building crit.

Make the round skills activated passive buffs, like Templar Auras, which should at-least semantically make them usable with skills like Rapid Fire if not technically. This has the added side benefit, for me at least, of removing the annoying activation sound that plays when you start using a Rounds skill, due to you only activating the skill once.

TEMPLARS -
Nerf Sword of Justice into the ground!.. is what i would like to say, but honestly it seems more the case other builds, and just damage in general, needs to be buffed closer to SoJ level rather than SoJ being nerfed to theirs. Ill cover my thoughts on this topic in the next section, as Templars are mostly fine tree wise except for the issues covered above. Let me know if you have any particular issue you feel I haven’t noticed or covered here.

GENERAL BALANCE -
There is an important discussion to be had here, and will likely come down to groups of players who want a specific kind of game feel which is mutually exclusive to what other players want, but hopefully we can find some consensus on this topic.

As I see it there are a few game feel archetypes you can pursue with an ARPG like HGL, but you can boil them down to two approaches:

  1. Many enemies, fast time-to-kill, focus on AoE and hitting multiple targets and very fast gameplay

or

  1. Fewer, stronger enemies, longer time-to-kill, focus on single target damage and all that entails, slower gameplay

Personally my choice is always 1 in this case. There is nothing i dislike more in games featuring guns than bullet-spongy enemies and unfortunately this is exactly where 2038’s HGL lands at the moment, barring extremely well geared endgame characters.

But before we continue with any general balance changes we need to ask ourselves which balance archetype we want to follow, or how much of a balance we want to try and strike between them. The two I listed are by no means the only approaches but they seem to me to be the most common for this sort of game.

I am very interested to hear the community’s thoughts on this, and the tree/balance suggestions I’ve made, and thanks for reading this giant wall of text up to this point :grinning: