This is a doc I’ve been sitting on for a while, and now would be as good a time as any to share
Disclaimer #1: This is strictly a personal concern I’ve had for a while; it’s not indicative of the views of anyone else on the team but me, nor is it indicative of the future of the class.
Disclaimer #2: This is an idea I’ve entertained manifold, in many forms. It is by no means my belief that this is the only way the class should/could go; I’m only entertaining an idea that I find to have some merit, and would like to hear the players’ views on.
The Elementals tab has always been wildly popular, so it should be no surprise that the majority of the current feedback on the class revolves around it, no less than how Flagship (arguably) treated it in the TC. The tab came, and comes, with the practical advantage of providing damage, but also comes with inherent disadvantages that I believe Flagship intended to address through power reduction and Dark Lord. Thus, I’ll try to consolidate these factors and argue for a radical, albeit already introduced by Flagship (in the case of Spectral Elemental) solution; reducing Elementals.
- What Elementals offer.
Elementals are semi-specialized sources of dealing damage, while also serving as meatshields. Pre-TC, they were the sole way a Summoner could attain more damage than the practical cap of a maxed Warper, since the player themselves rarely interacted with or damaged enemies, and they lacked a direct damage-increasing means/stat (ie ACC/STR).
Excluding the Force and Spectral ones (the former being strictly meatshields and the latter already being 1), the other 3 are diversified by their intended role. Fires can ignite, Storms can reliably kill flying enemies, and Toxics produce a field on hit that can poison and synergizes with Brom’s Curse.
Lastly, the Elementals offer the center for Elemental Nova; the only AoE spell the class possesses, Nova is centered on all Elementals present and produces a field based on their elemental strengths.
- What Elementals lack, and how T3 and Flagship addressed them.
By nature, sheer dependency on Elementals creates an array of factors that hamper the functionality of the class.
a) Gear dependency. By design, the class objectively has more desired properties. There are 3 +minion stat properties, at least 2 beneficial +stat properties (STA/WILL for feeds alone or ACC/STA/WILL for DF), and complementary properties such as +power and +shields. Equalizing all other factors, a Summoner’s armor requires much more finetuning to start paying off than an Evoker’s does. Put another way, the effort/performance curve is much steeper in this scenario.
b) AI dependency. While it could be argued that this is the concept of minion-based classes, Hellgate’s frame renders this dysfunctional. Massive numbers cause the AI to divide DPS among undesirable targets, while the nature of their attacks often causes them to miss entirely. Lastly, the AI can simply choose to not engage with enemies, both limiting the maximum engagement range and imposing a unique disadvantage on the class that is arguably not compensated for through any means.
c) Role inadequacy. Elementals lack a distinct role beyond a basic differentiation and, by extension, so does the class. Higher numbers of any Elemental only add DPS, with the added power cost only offering more critters on the field.
d) AoE/debuff vulnerability. Lastly, large numbers of said critters create a uniquely disadvantaging situation, where a single AoE or such Auras as the Tormenters’ one can drastically reduce DPS, to the point where the current CDs cannot match the rate in which they’re destroyed. Moreover, a sole Ignite applied to one Elemental travels more easily within a larger group, decimating the group in a short time.
Apart from purely performance-related concerns, Flagship allegedly had issues with large numbers of Elementals due to them causing lag for parties. They addressed the issue by enforcing small numbers of Elementals (Feral gear power reduction, small minion stats, high minion power costs and CDs), while introducing both a direct means of dealing damage (DF, thus relocating the “cap” elsewhere) and minions that are dependent on the player’s actions but not tied to the power pool (Dark Minions), while being capped at 3 in number.
T3 remedied the issues of Elementals in a different manner. Higher base and bonus stats, 1’’ CD, and Mass Summon, all guaranteed that Elementals would survive more. Their decision to then enforce a global minion damage cap seems to have been based on their business model (Nanoforge creating revenue) rather than game balance concerns, so I believe it is of secondary importance.
- What the game offers conceptually as alternative approaches, and what they may achieve.
Apart from T3’s simpler approach of simply buffing the Elementals to desirable levels, I’d argue that the game itself offers alternative approaches that may be worth considering. Such approaches (or a hybrid between them and T3’s, ie buffing) may be more suited to 2038 than purely T3’s approach, which was framed by entirely different encounters, factors, and numbers.
a) Limiting each Elemental type to 1, possibly apart from Forces.
This is the concept used for the Spectral Elemental. Limited to 1 in number, more points in the skill provide a buff to the base Elemental. Forces are excluded from this suggestion for the sole reason that their role is mandatory in most endgame encounters, and decreasing their total numbers would require more/different means of compensation compared to strict damage dealers.
b) Sfx multipliers and added projectiles.
The former being drawn from most Evoker skills and the latter from Rocket Bot, both are concepts that already exist in the game and can provide inspiration.
In terms of class performance, limiting each Elemental to 1 would reduce total DPS (unless their base damage values are increased manifold), but it would also free up a considerable amount of WILL (excluding feeds) that can then be invested in ACC/STR or STA to boost DPS or survivability. Moreover, fewer total Elementals would partly alleviate the practical issues of them dying en masse and “contacting” Ignite, as well as potential party lag.
In terms of build diversity and class role, providing sfx multipliers and possibly added projectiles would arguably allow the class to follow the concept of Evokers; specialization in an element provides the option of reliable sfx of choice. This could allow the class to specialize against such bosses as Dessy in a comparable way to the Evokers’ Swarm sfx multipliers, fitting better into a “debuffer” role. Added projectiles would allow each Elemental to deal damage both in a wider range (ie if Fire eventually scales up to Flameshards) and more reliably (as one projectile often misses against moving targets, while many shouldn’t).
Lastly, adding sfx bonuses and reducing the total numbers would allow Elemental Nova to apply sfx more reliably, and Master of the Elements would be freed to be modified into any desirable passive boost of choice (since a reduced power cost would practically be needless).
Minor tweaks would certainly still need to be made in other areas to frame such a suggestion properly, but the TC’s evolving state has arguably already left behind the need for such tweaks. Regardless, I feel such an idea may very well have been among Flagship’s future plans, given their direction outlined above, and it may be quite productive to entertain it.