Yesterday, NetEase gave us our first glimpse of what the promised balance changes and new content that will be arriving in November in the form of a set of Patch Notes for the new Test Server. In this article I will give my analysis of what the changes mean and what impact they will have of the meta starting in November. (For my views on the current meta, check out this article) In Part 2, I discuss the new modules included with the patch, and in Part 3 I discuss the new ships.
Before I jump in, I should not that these are Test Server patch notes, and as such may not reflect the final changes that will be implemented in November. Once these are finalized, I will likely update this article and/or publish a new one giving a more detailed analysis of the final changes.
I will start by discussing the changes to existing module balance, and then offer some speculation on the upcoming new content teased in the notes.
In general, these changes are largely what I expected when I gave my take on the meta last month. NetEase is planning a nerf to missiles and significant buffs to turrets. Most commentators saw this coming - anyone who has seen the hordes of Caracals waiting to enter Jita can tell that missiles were too strong. Overall, these changes feel about right - the nerfs are mild enough not to make missiles unplayable, and the buffs are modest and aimed at the right stats. So far, I'm impressed - most new developers tend to overdue balance changes, but NetEase seems to have used a light hand here that gives me some confidence in the game going forward.
- Small Missile Launcher flight time -15%
- Medium Rapid Missile Launcher damage -15%
- Medium Rapid Missile Launcher flight time -15%
Likely the most anticipated change, NetEase is reducing the effectiveness of Small Missile Launchers and Medium Rapid Launchers. These changes aren't nearly as devastating as a lot of us suspected: Small Missiles will lose ~3km of range, while keeping their competitive damage. Meanwhile the infamous Medium Rapids take a similar hit to range in addition to a 15% reduction in damage. Interestingly, the explosion velocity and radius of Medium Rapids remain the same - meaning they will still be deadly to frigates and destroyers, but only from within 20km or so. That means that, while before, a Caracal or Talwar could reach nearly all the way to max disruptor range, it will now be possible for ships to outrange these ships while still being close enough to tackle them.
- Medium Missile Launcher damage +20%
Perhaps the most surprising of the missile changes is the buff to Medium Missile Launchers. Though eclipsed by the overpowered Medium Rapids, these were already a strong weapon system. Now, they will essentially swap DPS with Medium Rapids, giving cruiser and battlecruiser missile boats a choice between a high-alpha, long range, high-DPS Medium Missile with moderate to hit small targets or a short-range, lower-DPS but highly accurate Medium Rapid. I expect that many pilots will simply switch to Medium Missiles without much reduction in combat ability.
- Small Torpedo Launcher flight time +20%
- Medium Torpedo Launcher damage +20%
Additionally, torpedoes see significant buffs - Medium Torps get a hefty 20% damage boost while Small Torpedoes get a bit more range. The boost to Medium Torpedoes (especially when combined with the addition of Target Painters) should breathe new life into Stealth Bombers of all races.
- Omen Laser Activation bonus -3% to -4%
- Omen Navy Issue Activation bonus -2% to -3%
- Harbinger Prototype damage bonus +8% to +9%
Lasers - being the strongest of the turreted weapons types in the current meta - understandably got the smallest buff. The base modules remain unchanged, but the three most popular Amarr laser boats each received a modest damage increase.
I am doubtful that such a modest change will be sufficient to keep lasers competitive after Cannons receive such a significant boost. Lasers have largely thrived in the current meta because of the sheer number of Caldari and Minmatar shield-tankers roaming the skies. If the meta shifts towards a more armor-friendly coalition, laser ships may find it difficult to remain competitive.
- Medium Autocannon tracking speed +10%
- Stabber falloff bonus +5% to +7.5%
- Stabber Fleet Issue falloff bonus +7.5% to +10%
- Hurricane Prototype damage bonus +3% to +5%
NetEase is set to give a larger - but well-designed - buff to Cannons in the coming weeks. Medium autocannons receive a solid boost to their tracking - which is exactly what these speed-demon ships needed to take full-advantage of their mobility. This is further reinforced by the falloff buffs for the three main-sequence Minmatar Cannon boats. Stabbers and their ilk will be able to hit more accurately, for greater damage at greater range. I would not be surprised to see Stabber Fleets usurp the Caracal Navy Issues as the dominant solo/small gang roamer.
- Medium Strike Cannon tracking speed -15%
NetEase also snuck in a nerf to Medium Strike cannons. While far from draconian, this should help to better differentiate the long- and short- range weapons and tone down the already powerful strike cannons.
- Small Snubnosed Railgun optimal range & falloff +20%
- Medium Snubnosed Railgun optimal range & falloff +20%
- Ferox, Ferox Guardian range bonus +5% > +10%
However, I think this is one weapon system that NetEase could have done more for. Rifled rails in particular could have used a buff. The "long ranged" medium rifled rails can barely clear 30km, and their smaller versions have even weaker range. Giving both rifled and snubnosed rails the same 20% boost - while also giving some larger bonuses to ships like the Catalyst and Cormorant that depend on them - would have made rifled railguns more viable.
- Medium Drone EHP +50%
- Large Drone EHP +100%
In my State of the Meta article, I predicted that any significant nerf to missiles would likely lead drones usurping them as the new flavor of the month, provided that NetEase fixes the known issues with drones (specifically, their cost and problems with the management UI). It remains to be seen whether drones will be cheaper post-patch, but the whopping +50% increase to medium drone HP will certainly leave some Vexor pilots celebrating. The biggest issue with drones in the PvP meta is that they are incredibly expensive and can be destroyed - which is a big disincentive to bringing them into PvP. This HP buff should make that risk more tolerable - especially since Medium Rapid Missiles and their absurdly high DPS against small targets will be less common in New Eden.
EDIT: Reddit user u/TheKoyocire points out that it appears NetEase added a ninja-buff to drones that may make them more accurate against small/fast targets. This likely has to do with implementing previously-non-functioning drone tracking/optimal range bonuses.
- Electronic Warfare skill increases Nosferatu/Neutralizer optimal and falloff
NEW SHIP/MODULE ANALYSIS COMING SOON...
In Part 2 I discuss the new modules - Warp Scramblers, Target Painters, Sensor Dampeners, Tracking Disruptors and Guidance Disruptors - and in Part 3 I will analyze the new Interdiction ships and their unique mechanics. Make sure to check back (or subscribe below) to hear my thoughts on those!
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