TC and the Abyss: A general, broad overview

In the context of analyzing Flagship’s intended direction with the TC in general, I feel it is important to consolidate some key factors of the Abyss itself; each individual factor may be of some significance, but I believe that it’s their sum that may be of more practical benefit.

Note #1, I have delved into Cabalists in themselves in a previous similar thread. Those who may be interested in such analyses are highly advised to read it beforehand, as I will be drawing from it.
Note#2, a TL;DR version of this analysis can be found at the very end of it, summarizing the factors explored.

1) Upgraded boss mechanics, SFX, and novas.

It would not be unfair to assume that Flagship intended to frame new bosses with more intricate mechanics than the regular “tank&spank” approach that such bosses as Moloch arguably require. This has led to heavy use of what can be described as “minion dependency” (ie Talox, Fulrcum, Squadro), but also to such undeniably powerful bosses as Dreadnaught. Coupled with the use of a more complex, crowded map (the “Abyss” itself), this has had a domino effect across classes, SFX, and novas.

a) Crowded encounters, much narrower spaces, and the aforementioned “minion dependency” of bosses made nerfing Shrapnel and reflecting properties/phases a necessity.

While Flagship didn’t have the time in their hands to properly address the issue, they did start by reconsidering the overall nova mechanic (see patch notes) and reducing the drop rates of Shrapnel in later levels. Not doing so would have invalidated the new boss mechanics entirely, as Shrapnel and similar novas were devastating at the time of TCv4 (and even more so in such confined areas).

One might argue that the reflecting properties they added to some bosses may have also been intended to discourage players from using novas in those encounters.

b) When attempting to frame bosses with more intricate mechanics, Flagship tapped into the relatively unused pool of SFX; reflecting bosses could be countered by Ignite, regenerating bosses could be countered by Poison, and special attacks could be interrupted by Stun and Shock.

This is perfectly aligned with (what I perceive to be) their intended direction for the classes’ roles and their TC gear that followed (discussed below), as well as with their (perceived) intention to invalidate critcapping builds (see patch notes, discussed in the Cabal thread, and below).

It is noteworthy that, in this frame, Flagship seems to have made Poison behave in an odd manner in the Abyss; Poison blocks personal healing through Prayer of Healing, Aura of Renewal, and Surge of Restoration, but does not block personal healing through Drain Life and party-wide healing through Templar Restoration, Brom’s Curse, the Witch Doctor, and Medpack Retrofit. Assuming this is intentional and not some massive-scale bug that is present at the time of this analysis, this will be of much significance below.

2) TC gear and class roles.

The above factors may have been significant in the design of TC gear, but they do not seem to have been the sole criteria. Blademasters were also in the middle of a massive rehaul at the time (see patch notes) and Summoners had just received a skillset that was entirely different from their design thus far; Darkform.

It is rather safe to assume that Flagship intended to push classes into a state of interdependency, creating a need for one class to complement the shortcomings of another and encourage party play. This starts becoming evident through the damage absorption of each individual class and the rehaul of both feeds and the absorption formula (see patch notes), but also the general need for classes to depend more on mobility, healing, shields and replenishing them, and such skills as Aura of Vengeance/Deflection, instead of them having the ability to reach levels of practical immortality (such as Guardians and, arguably, Zombie Form Summoners in Global).

In terms of weapons, then,

a) Cabalists have received Bloodshards, presumably in an effort to provide them with a reliable means of applying Poison; Evokers could then multiply the base Poison strength of Bloodshards through Swarm’s massive SFX multiplier, and Darkform Summoners could make use of them through melee attacks and Drain Life.

Note: For the sake of text economy, it is highly advised to refer to the Cabalist thread for a more detailed outline of TC changes within the faction. As Cabalists are the only faction to have received 9 Unique TC focus items across 3 new types, their case may very well be more complex than the other two factions.

b) Templars have received Dissectors and Dissector Shields to similar effect; Guardians could then multiply the Dissector Shields’ massive (~3k) Poison strength through the Shield tree, and Blademasters could make use of them through the universally appealing,rapid-attack Sword of Justice skill.

c) Hunters have received no direct support in the front of SFX through TC gear, arguably apart from Somberg’s Guise (+~100% curse duration); this could imply that they intended to have Hunters focus on (Multi/Elemental) Beacon, Elemental Vision, and similar support skills, in an effort to place them into a more “supportive” role for parties. Conversely, given their lack of time, relative indifference to the faction (see the Making of Hellgate London), and the poor state of their TC Set, it may very well be the result of unfinished work due to time limitations instead of conscious, finalized choices…

In terms of armor,

a) Cabalists have received Feral gear; massive crit and damage bonuses at the expense of power points, and a sum of questionable armor and shields (by Abyss standards anyway).

b) Templars have received Seraph gear; massive movement speed bonuses at no clear, apparent cost, but practically much higher shields at the expense of comparatively less total armor (see above).

c) Hunters have received Cybernet gear; damage and caste damage bonuses at the expense of mobility. Quite possibly the worst of the 3 TC armor lines/Sets, but still in line with the assumed direction of the TC outlined above.

The addition of said TC gear and TC skills has either provided opportunities/advantages for some classes, or has directly attempted to “push” classes into certain “roles”. This does include the traditional roles of RPGs (tank, DPS, heal/support), but also extends to such roles as “debuffer”, scattering unique abilities among classes that may not otherwise fit such roles in a more dedicated level.
A more thorough outline of such changes and additions can be found in spoiler tags below.

Guardian. Dissector Shields, Shield Throw, Aura Stability and Aura of Vengeance/Deflection.

Guardians seem to have received direct DPS support through Dissector Shields and Shield Throw; a bouncing projectile that deals splash damage does wonders for a tanker class, even more so in crowded encounters.
However, it is more intriguing how Throw has allowed the class to excel at applying Poison through Dissector Shields; in confined Abyss spaces, the projectile bounces enough times to reliably apply Poison to single targets. Shield Bash and Shield Turn can now serve a similar purpose as well.

Moreover, Guardians have received Aura Stability; the ability to use up to 3 Auras at once enables the class to receive massive, specialized bonuses for each intended encounter, incorporating previously unused Auras into the player’s core skillset.

In light of this, Dreadnaught (and arguably other Abyss bosses) seem to have been taylor-made for Aura of Vengeance/Deflection. This allows the class to practically tank said bosses, while still being dependent on replenishing shields (through Shield of Faith and Shield Wall), and still welcoming outside support through such means as Shield Generator Retrofit and healing.

Lastly, the massive skillpoint investments into Challenge and Denounce, coupled with the immunity of many bosses to Denounce altogether, seem to have been intended to further push the class into a role of tanker/debuffer, while maintaining skill/party dependencies and avoiding constant aggro maintenance that would overshadow the other TC changes.

Blademaster. Grimaces (thus Aura of Deflection), Templar Restoration, Balance of Power.

The general direction of the TC intended to buff Blademasters considerably; in this frame, Blademasters received various buffs across most skills, and received the Gleamcarver TC swords. 5 slots allowed them to finally specialize their weapons through +ele, +caste damage, and possibly +CCM (since the class is one of only 2 that directly supports crit builds).

Surge Mastery allowed them to trigger Surge of Restoration through Sword of Justice, providing a much-needed survivability boost. Moreover, the class received the TC skill “Templar Restoration”, which allows for party-wide healing on command. Notably, Restoration bypasses poison, whereas Surge of Restoration doesn’t.
The class also received Balance of Power; a skill that addresses the power shortage of the class, while arguably “pushing” the class towards using Hamper itself.

Grimaces specifically offered a unique, previously unavailable approach; by providing ~3 points in Aura of Deflection, Blademasters could max the skill without the need to invest in it. This allowed the class to utilize this Aura in new encounters that required it, such as Dreadnaught.

Evoker. Bloodshards, Glyphshards, Spectral Serpents, Arcane Resilience, Wall of Bone.

Ripshards and Coreslicers/Coreslashers are excluded from this section, as I personally don’t consider them to be either finalized gear or Evoker-aimed gear (see the Cabalist thread for further analysis).

TC Evokers received Bloodshards and Glyphshards, each with a unique advantage that the class could utilize; Bloodshards would allow the class to reliably apply Poison through Swarm, and Glyphshards would provide the class with range and radius, presumably as a means of allowing the class to kite and survive more.
It is noteworthy that, in the front of applying SFX, the class already possessed Elemental Drain. This skill, coupled with the base design of Evokers, would propel the class into an ideal role of a DPS/debuffer.

In this context, the class was arguably in need of a skill that would be independent of the caster, in the same way as Tempest was at the time. Thus, they received Spectral Serpents, a skill that would both benefit from +minion damage on gear (and providing some further sense of a “faction”, possibly) and provide reliable damage while the user would kite. Such encounters as Fulcrum and Talox provide perfect encounters for this skill to truly shine, and allow the class to perform adequately as a DPS/debuffer.

The class also received Arcane Resilience, a passive skill that may seem out of place at a glance. However, this skill falls perfectly in line with my assumption outlined above; Flagship intended to make shields be a primary means of survival.

Lastly, the class received Wall of Bone. This skill seems to have been taylor-made for the confined Abyss areas, as it would provide parties with some breathing room to either recover or counterattack behind it.

Summoner. Bloodshards/Ripshards and Darkform, Dark Minions, Drain Life, Witch Doctor, and Warper.

Contrary to above, Unique Ripshards are included in this section as their design seems to have been specifically aimed at Summoners. The inherent properties of Ripshards and Coreslicers/Coreslashers are excluded from the analysis, however, as I personally don’t consider them to be finalized gear (see the Cabalist thread for further analysis).

TC Summoners were arguably in the most turbulent state among classes, in terms of their overall direction and their intended role alike. Flagship decided to incorporate remnants of the unreleased Metamorph class into the default Summoner skillset, providing them with the Darkform tree; a tree that shifted their entire playstyle from that of a Cabalist gunslinger/ranged combatant to that of a melee damage-dealer.

Thus, the class received Bloodshards and Ripshards as an attempt to allow them to apply Poison and deal direct damage, respectively. Most Unique versions of both focus item types (with the arguable exception of Tuskull) either provided points in Summoner skills or melee attack speed, presumably to further buff the class towards its new intended role.
It is noteworthy that TC also saw a 700% damage increase on Drain Life (which Tuskull incidentally provides); this allowed the class to utilize a now-needed healing method, while also providing a decent means of applying Poison due to its constant nature.

The overall shift away from levels of practical immortality resulted in the class receiving a massive nerf to its minions’ sustainability through a reduction of +minion hp/armor affixes, and the Feral armor line further reduced the maximum number of minions one could sustain. Dark Minions rectified the issue to a degree, however; those are the first minions of the class to be entirely independent from the player’s power pool, while also possessing decent damage and Poison strength. Their summoning condition being melee hits, they served to further “push” the class towards the new Darkform playstyle.

Lastly, in the overall context of the Abyss, the class had found itself fitting into two roles; the Warper allowed the player to deal massive damage with little fear of reflection (albeit inconsistently), while the Witch Doctor could push the class into a healer role.
It is noteworthy that the Witch Doctor’s healing beams, as well as Drain Life and Brom’s Curse, bypass Poison, thus providing uninterrupted support.

Engineer. Drone and Drone Aggressive Mode, Mastodon, Doompulse and Strikes, Beacon.

Of all factions, Hunters probably received the fewest tweaks and additions. Engineers specifically seem to have received the least drastic changes of the two Hunter classes, partly due to possible time limitations and partly due to the class already possessing a core skillset that functioned sufficiently for its intended role as a supporter class; namely, Drone retrofits.

In accord with the general TC/Abyss frame, the Drone retrofit skills already provided party support through both healing (Medpack) and shield regeneration (Shield Generator). Thus, in a presumed effort to further enable the Drone to fulfill its role, the class received Aggressive Mode; a skill that modifies the Drone’s AI, forcing it into the center of the fight where it could both deal damage and support party members more effectively.
Notably, the Drone already possessed massive Poison resistance, making it an ideal match for Toxic Lieutenants, while its specialization in dealing damage was not only unaffected by the minion stat revamp (as +minion damage remained unnerfed), but it was also boosted through Mastodon, a Unique F-S Force Magnum that provides +minion damage.
The Drone was affected by the nerf of +minion hp/armor, however, forcing the user to either invest more into its passive skills and/or Tactical Mode (to replenish shields as a means of mitigating damage), or heal it more often and/or rely on party members to heal it.

Moreover, Strikes seem to have been intended to provide a reliable means of applying SFX and/or crowd control, as Hunters received Doompulse; a relatively underwhelming weapon in itself, that however provided points in all Strike skills. This weapon seems to have arguably been intended for Engineers, as providing them with a weapon whose main purpose is to be a source of skills would allow them to focus less on dealing personal damage (which the weapon is incapable of) and more on using supportive skills.

Lastly, Engineers found themselves receiving a massive boost to their Beacon; while not as specialized as the Marksman’s Beacon tree, using Somberg’s Guise would still provide it with a ~100% increased duration.

Marksman. Camouflage and F-S Force Magnums, EMP Blast.

As above, Hunters probably received the fewest tweaks and additions among all factions. Marksmen specifically received two additions in the front of crowd control in the form of EMP Blast and White-Out Grenade (the latter of which is too generic to analyze here), and two distinct additions in the front of intended gameplay in the form of Camouflage and F-S Force Magnums.

Camouflage and F-S Force Magnums are grouped together in this context, as they both seem to be pushing the class towards crit builds through usage of the Sniper tree. Camouflage further reinforces the Sniper/Escape playstyle by providing a second Escape skill and practical invincibility for 25% of any given fight’s duration, as long as the player conforms to using Sniper, while F-S Force Magnums provide the best weapon option for crit builds, combining a great RoF/damage ratio with 6 maximum slots for +crit and +CCM.

Lastly, the class received a uniquely useful skill in the form of EMP Blast; instantly removing all shields from nearby enemies is in accord with the overall resurgence of shields as a potent, often primary, means of damage mitigation.

3) Damage, SFX, CCM.

Thus, between the aforementioned factors and the TC’s 67% reduction of CCM values (see patch notes), I find it safe to assume that Flagship did not intend to have most classes be capable of crit/critcapping builds. Apart from the unique circumstances of Cabalists (outlined in the Cabalist thread), the only classes that are directly supported by their skillsets in this direction are Blademasters and Marksmen. I believe this is a fair assumption for a few reasons:

  1. In terms of class design, it would be a poor choice. Hellgate Global’s later choice to nullify this change would be a great testament to this, as the primary concern of most players in this front was the dreaded “crit-or-bust” mentality of the game and its later Hell mode.

  2. In terms of the design of the Abyss, pure damage through critcapping builds would invalidate the presumed efforts to shift the endgame towards a more SFX-based, party-oriented gamestate. By extension, this would also overshadow such affixes as +SFX strength.

  3. In practical terms, it would overshadow such affixes as “+damage/-CD/-power cost of X skillgroup” and “+damage/+caste damage”, as the former would become redundant and the latter do not synergize with CDB.

Lastly, it cannot be stressed enough that the game in its TC state does not require that each class critcaps; if anything, it seems to be actively discouraging it. The abysmal multipliers of Global’s Hell mode are not present, and Flagship’s Abyss bossfarming seems to have been intended to be much more time-consuming than Global’s was.

4) TL;DR

To summarize, considering all of the above, I am led to certain observations and speculations.

a) Flagship intended to discourage the use of Novas.

Sources and analysis: 1a, 1b, patch notes.

Related patch notes “Proc-on-Attack properties will no longer spawn.

All Proc properties now base the damage of their effects off of the Item Damage Curve rather than the Monster Damage Curve.”

b) Flagship intended to push SFX into the forefront.

Sources and analysis: 1b, 2, patch notes.

Related patch notes “The cooldown on Elemental Effects Removal and Defense consumables has been decreased to 15 seconds.

The group cooldown on Elemental Effects Removal and Defense consumables has been decreased to 5 seconds.

Effects Removal and Defense consumables no longer share a group cooldown with Adrenaline Pills and Shield Boosters.

Related Properties:
The bonuses provided by standard Elemental Defense properties have been improved, and they now also provide an Elemental Defense to a secondary Elemental Effect.
The All Elemental Defenses property has been improved.

The scaling up of Monsters’ Damage and Elemental Attack Strengths when facing groups of players has been decreased by 60%.”

c) Flagship intended to decrease the overall survivability of individual classes, pushing for a more shield-based, party-oriented gameplay.

Sources and analysis: 2, patch notes.

Related patch notes “The Shield Recharge Delay (time after getting hit and before Shields begin to recharge) has been reduced to 2.5 seconds from 4 seconds.

The base Shield Recharge rate has been doubled to 10% per second, from 5%. This is a static value, remaining constant regardless of level or amount of shields.

Templar Armor lines have been given a substantial boost in Shields, retroactively.

Base (inherent) Shield Overload properties have been removed from all Swords. These are the inherent Shield Overload amounts that were previously on all Swords. This change is retroactive.

The Armor curve has been rescaled to use much larger values to allow for greater accuracy when applying percent bonuses. 5400 Armor is now required to achieve 50% absorption against level 50 opponents. All old armor pieces have been retroactively updated.
Relative Armor values provided by Cabalist and Hunter armor lines have been increased, such that they provide higher absorption than previously. This change is retroactive.

Relative Armor values provided by Blademaster armor lines have been slightly decreased, such that they provide slightly less absorption than previously. This change is retroactive.

Relative Armor values provided by Guardian armor lines have been substantially decreased, such that they provide much less absorption than previously. This change is retroactive.

Relative Armor values provided by Shield items (Templar) have been substantially decreased, such that they provide much less absorption than previously. This change is retroactive.

Standard Armor bonus properties now operate under a new mechanic: they now increase the Armor of the base item by a percent. This change is retroactive. The only pieces left intentionally unchanged are: Yahtel’s Fist, Shinn’s Guard, Aegis of the Ages, Keeper of the North Star, and the Cold Steel dye kit.

The Total Armor Value properties’ bonuses have been lowered to 3/4/5%. This change is retroactive.

The Health Percentage properties’ bonuses have been lowered to 3/4/5%. This change is retroactive.

Inherent Total Armor Value properties found on some Templar armor lines have been changed to use the standard Armor bonus properties, retroactively.

Pet Armor bonus properties’ bonuses have been scaled down, retroactively.

Pet Health bonus properties’ bonuses have been scaled down, retroactively.

Shield Overload abilities on monsters have been significantly toned down. Now, a monster can at most deal 100% extra damage to Shields, compared to 300%.”

d) Flagship intended to promote specific playstyles for individual classes, suited for the Abyss.

Sources and analysis: 2, patch notes.

(Refer to class changes for individual changes, as well as the analysis in 2 for speculation on, and evaluation of, how said changes affect classes and interact with the context of the Abyss.”

e) Flagship intended to discourage crit/critcapped builds, except for classes that were naturally built towards such setups.

Sources and analysis: 2, 3, patch notes.

Related patch notes “The “Vindicator’s”, “Punisher’s”, and “Avenger’s” weapon properties now always provide critical chance bonuses of 1, 2, and 3%, respectively. This change is retroactive.

The “Punisher’s” and “Avenger’s” mod properties now always provide critical chance bonuses of 1 and 2%, respectively. This change is retroactive.

The “Stabilized”, “Equalized”, and “Balanced” weapon properties now provide critical chance multiplier bonuses of 10-11%, 12-13%, and 14-15%, respectively. This change is retroactive.

The “Anchored”, “Fastened”, and “Equalized” tech properties now always provide critical chance multiplier bonuses of 10, 11, and 12%, respectively. This change is retroactive.

All “critical chance multiplier vs. caste” properties’ bonuses have been decreased in value by 67%. This change is retroactive.”

I sincerely hope that this analysis can be of use towards providing a broader context to the gamestate we currently have in our hands. To fittingly quote the Cabalist thread,
“None of the above are claimed to be absolute, objective truth, and none of the above are meant to be used as arguments towards strong suggestions on the matters discussed, such as class limitations on gear and the subtraction of crit chance multipliers from the property pool altogether. My only intention is to evaluate the data at hand as properly as possible, and formulate reasonable assumptions on Flagship’s intentions behind said subjects. Hopefully doing so may benefit us in our decisions moving forward.”