Wasteland Diaries: New skills

Clones of the wasteland: We are heading toward uncertain times. The February State of the Game was announced last week, and there are some massive changes to Fallen Earth coming our way. The 1.4 patch changed the way we fought, and so did the 1.7 patch. This next patch, which will likely be 1.8 (if not 2.0), will probably be the biggest change to the game mechanics since launch (and 1.4 was no slouch). The uncertainty will not be allayed until we see the new system on the PTS. It's slated to hit the test server in "the middle of the month," so we may see it soon.

In this post, I would like to analyze the SoTG and try to infer what kind of implications this new system will bring forth. There will be some pretty obvious changes but also some subtle changes that nobody will foresee. Although the new skills and mutations system isn't the only thing coming with the next installment, it will be the focus of this post. There is also a new area called Ruination on the way plus major economy changes and scavenger bosses, but I am more interested in the skill revamp. Fallen Earth will be a different (hopefully in a good way) game by the end of the month.

The first thing I noticed when I read the patch notes was: No more stuns. I didn't see a single stun. There is nothing I hate more than losing a fight to someone who simply pressed a button (didn't aim or anything fancy) and stunned me because of a failed saving throw. Mechanics like this are fine-and-dandy in a tab-targeting environment, but not in a shooter. I've been against auto-aim stuns since the beginning, and I am very pleased to finally see the low-gamma, always-hits and almost-always-lands stun button. Goodbye, Psionic Shock 1. In fact, goodbye all stuns and even Knockdown. This change alone will make combat play out much differently. How it will be different remains to be seen.

Another thing I noticed is that Athletics is gone. I have no idea how stealth will work in the game now, but it looks as though the new skill line called Dirty Tricks (or maybe Escape Artist) will determine how sneaky you are. It was also mentioned that consumables will persist through death, but their durations might be shortened. There will also be changes to items and consumables, but none of that information has gone public yet. We'll have to wait until it's on the PTS for all the grisly details. Capstones are gone too. I guess we'll all be respeccing on patch day.

There are new skill lines, and one of the mutation lines has been renamed. I'll go through each one and give you a synopsis of what's new and explain how it will change the face of the game. Most of the ability redundancy has been done away with. There are not nearly as many abilities as there once were. How many different armor debuffs do we actually need? Why use Pierce Armor when Pinpoint Vulnerability always hits and has a range of 20 meters? Some would consider the streamlining of Fallen Earth a dumbing-down of the game mechanics. I disagree. The game is needlessly complex because of bad design. Slowly but surely, the bad design is being removed. I would love to see into the future and take a peek at how epic FE will be in a year. It is certainly on the right track.

I digress. Let's take a look at the new skills and abilities.

Armor Use -- This isn't a new skill, and it will still function as it does now with regard to mitigating damage. The two abilities tied to AU exist in the current game, and it seems they will remain relatively unchanged, except they will hopefully be scaled a little bit better. It looks like Efficiency and Equilibrium will no longer be the stance that everyone is running.

Dirty Tricks -- This is a new skill. It has two listed abilities: Dirty Steel and Kneecap. Dirty Steel is a targeted armor debuff and damage-over-time, while Kneecap is a targeted snare. There is no mention of whether these skills can be used with melee or ranged weapons, or even both.

Dodge -- Dodge does what it did before. It reduces damage taken, though not as effectively as Armor Use and armor do. Dodge used to be compared simply to the applicable weapon skill to determine damage. But now, there are the Precision and Power skill lines, which are offensive in nature. I'll get more into that later. Dodge also has the Duck and Weave stance, which converts some of the damage taken into stamina damage. This is an interesting change, and it will be even more interesting to see in action.

Escape Artist -- With Athletics gone, this might be the new stealth skill. It remains to be seen. All this uncertainty is causing me physical pain. Escape Artist is the new home of Dash, and hopefully it is scaled a little better this time around. Shake It Off is also an ability in this skill's repertoire, and it is used to remove negative effects of all kinds.

First Aid -- This will be the non-mutation healing line. It will have Resuscitation, which will doubtlessly work the same way. Staunch Wound will be a bit different, as it will heal damage and add a heal-over-time to the target as well. Suck It Up will remove weak negative effects and can be stacked with itself to remove more powerful effects. And Renew will remove stronger effects with a single application.

Group Tactics -- This line still has quite a few skills we know and love. Well, actually all my favorite ones are gone, but there are some familiar faces here. Give 'em Hell increases your team's Power (I'll explain Power a little later). Offensive Coordination increases the team's stamina regeneration and critical chance but reduces defenses. Combat Endurance increases the team's stamina and gamma regeneration and also the team's maximum levels. Overwhelm lowers the target's defenses and armor. It's a kind of an all-in-one debuff.

Power -- This skill, in tandem with your weapon skill, will determine the amount of extra damage you will cause when attacking. This damage is moderately reduced by the opponent's Dodge skill, however. There are two abilities associated with this skill: Attack Posture increases your damage output, and Dent Armor debuffs your opponent's armor and even stuns NPCs.

Precision -- This skill, in tandem with your weapon skill, will determine your critical hit chance. The critical chance will be directly opposed by the Dodge skill. There are two abilities tied to this skill. Precise Hit does extra damage and acts as a snare on NPCs. Perfect Timing is a buff that increases your chance to score a critical hit.

Melee -- The Melee skill functions as always, but damage and criticals are also determined by the Power and Precision skills. Melee's abilities are as follows: Charge gives a temporary boost to movement speed and damage done; Provoke will increase your threat level to NPCs and reduce your target's defenses.

Pistol -- The Pistol skill functions as always, but damage and criticals are also determined by the Power and Precision skills. Smoking Sabot Round is still a targeted damage-over-time ability, and Gunfighter is a stance that increases your weapon skill and Precision but reduces your defenses.

Rifle -- The Rifle skill functions as always, but damage and criticals are also determined by the Power and Precision skills. Agonizing Wound now acts simply as a snare, while Bullseye does additional damage to a prepared attack. How much extra damage will be directly proportional to how happy the new breed of Fallen Earth snipers will be.

Social -- The social skill will still get you better prices with the NPC merchants, but it will also have other useful skills. Flag of Truce still makes you neutral to NPCs. Inconspicuous is now a targeted ability and merely lowers your threat level. With the Diplomatic Immunity ability, you are unable to attack, but your defenses are bolstered considerably.

And that's just the skills. There will be major changes to the mutations, items and consumables. The main change in Fallen Earth gameplay that this new patch will make is in the variety of builds we will see. No longer will we see the jack-of-all-trades build. Builds will have to be specialized; players won't all be running around healing, tanking and killing stuff. A medic build will now have to sacrifice DPS due to the weapon skills' being expanded into three lines: weapon, power and precision. A full DPS build will have to make sacrifices in other areas, possibly mutations or Dodge, to maximize damage output. All-in-all, it will be a welcome change for most of us. And group PvP will be more tactical and involve much more teamwork.

That about wraps up the skills-change portion of the SoTG. By the time I see you here next week, I hope to be knee-deep in facts and figures that I have compiled first-hand from the PTS. Until then, I'll see you in the wasteland while I continue my quest for the almighty random AP.

Ed Marshall has been playing Fallen Earth since beta and leads the KAOS clan. Wasteland Diaries is his weekly column that covers all aspects of Fallen Earth: PvE, RP and PvP. To contact Ed, send an email to edward@massively.com, find him on the official forums as Casey Royer, or hunt him down in the wastelands as Nufan, Original, Death Incarnate, and Knuckles Mcsquee.
This article was originally published on Massively.