This is Part 2 of my review of the upcoming November Update posted to the Test Server yesterday. You can find Part 1 here. Part 3 - covers the new ship classes and their related modules.
Please remember that this update isn't finalized - it could change before release.
[EDIT - I was just announced that these modules will be released on October 28. The balance changes and new ships will be released November 11.]
Last time, I covered the changes to existing modules/game balance. Today I'll cover the new modules being added to the game and ship bonus changes that affect these new EWAR mods.
NEW EWAR MODULES
The biggest change coming with this release is the addition of a number of new Electronic Warfare modules and ships specialized to use them: Warp Scramblers, Target Painters, Sensor Dampeners, Tracking Disruptors, Guidance Disruptors, Interdiction Sphere Launchers and Warp Disruption Field Generators.
I will deal with the last two - Interdiction Sphere Launchers and Field Generators - when I discuss new ships tomorrow. For today, I'll focus on the new stand-alone modules:
The biggest change to PvP will likely be the addition of Warp Scramblers. These modules function similarly to Warp Disruptors, but they are shorter ranged (10.6 > 15km depending on meta level) and have twice the warp jammer strength (2 > 5 depending on meta level). Additionally, these modules negate Microwarpdrives in addition to preventing a target from warping away.
This is a fundamental change to the way small scale PvP will function in New Eden. PvE pilots who have learned to trust in their Aura Warp Stabilizers will be in for a rude awakening, as will Assault Frigate pilots and other speedy ships who relied upon their speed to let them survive at close range. Ships that are able to get in close to their targets quickly or stealthily - looking at you Stealth Bombers - are about to be handed a tremendous gift... provided of course that anyone will be able to afford the blasted things.
The other hot new module preparing to grace New Eden, Target Painters allow a ship to increase a target's signature radius by 23-30% (depending on module level). That will allow missiles, turrets, missiles, drones and, yes, missiles to deal more damage to small targets. Currently these modules have an optimal range of 28km with a falloff of 69km (?!) - and new skills introduced improve the range even more.
This new midslot module will be stiff competition to the Nosferatu and Webs that have become common filler for every empty midslot on a combat ship. Now you'll have a module that can directly affect your chance to hit and, in the case of missiles, the damage you do when you hit. Early testing shows an impressive 10%+ improvement in missile DPS from just one module - an multiple modules and/or ships with bonuses to target painters will likely see bigger returns.
Likely the greatest beneficiaries of these new modules will be Torpedo users in general and, once again, Stealth Bombers in particular - especially when combined with the Torpedo damage boost we discussed yesterday.
In stark contrast to the alarming effectiveness of those modules, the new sensor dampeners are... disappointing to say the least.
In EVE Online, sensor dampeners had two effects - increasing the time it takes for ships to lock onto a target and decreasing their targeting range. That second effect is the kicker - ship specialized for sensor dampening could reduce lock range down to a couple dozen kilometers, making it impossible for their target to fight back as long as they were able to kite. Even if the target did get in range, the increased lock time would give the dampening ship some time to get back out of range again or run away.
The version of these modules in Echoes, however, only has the weaker, "increase lock time" effect. The problem with this - other than the fact that its a weak effect in PvP to begin with - is that, in order to use it, you have to lock the target first. That means that an alert target has probably already started locking you - and if they are smaller, may have gotten a lock before you can even turn on your dampener.
As a result, I can't imagine that sensor damps will see combat except in the most niche circumstances.
EDIT: Reddit user Lintaglen points out that Sensor Damps may be useful for PvP drone pilots. If an opponent targets drones, the pilot can recall them - breaking the enemy's lock - and then apply a sensor damp before redeploying. This will slow the opponent's attempt to relock and thus destroy the drones.
Tracking disruptors are designed to reduce the effectiveness of a target's turrets - lasers, cannons and railguns. When activated, they reduce the optimal range, falloff range, and tracking of any turret weapons on the affected ship by 18-23% per module.
This effect is fairly powerful - a sniper Hurricane might easily be rendered unable to reach its targets, and medium weapons will be hard pressed to even get glancing blows against small targets with one or two of these modules gumming up the works. The limitation, of course, is that they do nothing if your target isn't using turrets - against drone and missile ships these are a waste of a slot. It is also worth noting that tracking disruptors don't hamper all turrets equally - long-ranged beam laser builds will be virtually unaffected, since their range is almost entirely due to their optimal range, while strike cannons will take a much large DPS hit since so much of their effective range is due to their falloff.
I suspect that these will rarely see use outside of very targeted applications / large fleet ops unless cannons, railguns or pulse lasers really dominate the meta the way Rapid Missiles have in the past few months.
Guidance disruptors are to missiles what tracking disruptors are to turrets. When activated, they reduce the flight time (and thus range) of any missiles on the affected ship by 18-23% while reducing the explosion velocity by 12-15% and increasing explosion radius by the same amount. All told, these are enough to significantly disadvantage a missile boat - particularly against small targets.
Whether these will see much use will depend greatly on how prevalent missiles are in the new meta. I suspect that, with the addition of target painters and the buff to medium missiles, that most pilots who already use missiles will continue to do so, and thus guidance disruptors will likely see use on some fast frigates for whom missiles pose a particularly deadly problem. Still niche - but not quite as much as Tracking Disruptors.
SHIP EWAR BONUSES
The addition of these EWAR modules will have a profound effect on the meta as a whole, but will particularly change the way T4 Electronic Attack Frigates, T6 EWAR Cruisers and T7 Force Recon Cruisers which were designed with these modules in mind.
I'll start with the Minmatar and Gallente lines, since these ships didn't "change" - their bonuses remain the same - even though their functionality will be affected by the addition of these new mods.
It is a good day to be a Bellicose pilot. With the release of the highly-effective and widely-useful Target Painters, we can expect the Bellicose line to be in high demand. With the rise of Medium Missiles and the decline of Rapid Mediums, this line of missile ships should prove to be effective solo PvP ships, but their real gift will be to their fleet mates since they will be able to increase the DPS of every ship targeting the ship they designate. The Bellicose Cov Ops looks to be a great platform for Fleet Commanders once the new changes are pushed to live.
The T4 Vigil is a bit harder to predict. While its bonuses to Target Painting will be welcome, I suspect that its low HP and reliance on small cannons will keep it from being a common pick. (Edit: Reddit user hercules_fitch points out the Vigils will make excellent target pointers for large fleets. By painting the target, the Vigil not only increases the damage the fleet does to the target, but also improves their lock times!)
I want to quickly mention the Gallente Maulus and Celestis lines. While their bonuses didn't change - they have always had a bonus to Sensor Dampening - they have now received the promised modules... but as previously mentioned, those modules are garbage. I would be surprised if these ships see much if any use going forward. The dependency on railguns - likely still the weakest of the turreted weapons - and the nearly-useless Sensor Dampeners leave them too weak for competitive play.
Since some - but not all - of the originally promised EWAR modules have been released, several ships have had there bonuses reassigned in order to not have any ships with non-functional bonuses.
The Caldari Griffin, Blackbird, and Blackbird Cov Ops have had their ECM bonuses removed and instead given a bonus to Guidance Disruption. Frankly, I think these ships will see limited use compared with, say, the Minmatar Bellicose line, which I will discuss in a moment. Even if Guidance Disruptors prove to be more useful than I think they will be, the paltry bonuses these ships receive to them (a max of 37.5% for the Blackbird Cov Ops) won't make them much more effective - a Blackbird Cov Ops targeting another missile ship with a 30km range will only reduce that range by 2km more than a ship with no bonus to Guidance Disruption. Hardly a game-changer.
The Amarr Crucifier and Arbitrator lines similarly were switched from "Weapon Disruption" to "Tracking Disruptors." Like their Caldari counterparts, these bonuses will likely not improve these ships that much - the corresponding modules are too niche and the bonuses too small to make much of a dent.
NEW SHIP ANALYSIS COMING IN PART 3
Tomorrow I will be posting a Part 3 where I discuss the new Interdictors and their unique modules. Make sure to check back (or subscribe below) to hear my thoughts on those!
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