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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Upcoming Blaster changes

Eliot Lefebvre

Not every game faces the mage problem, but a lot of them do, and it starts back in classic Dungeons & Dragons. The core of the issue is pretty simple to understand: Because mages have so much phenomenal offensive power, they need some staggering weakness to balance that out. As a result, the class is very physically weak and lacks any real defenses. But the counter to that is that this creates many situations in which the mage is just plain useless because he or she has no effective defenses to weather an initial assault.

Blasters aren't mages. Unless they are, anyhow -- City of Heroes is kind of resistant to pigeonholing. Whether your Blaster is an arcane caster or just a guy with radioactive hands isn't important because the class still suffers from the mage problem. Blasters are one of the most powerful classes in the game when it comes to raw damage, but they're also one of the hardest classes to solo, and they're one that goes from hero to zero the fastest.

I can figure out shooting a gun.  Using a bandage, not so much.In some ways, this is entirely appropriate. It mirrors comics, usually: Once the guy standing in the back gets tapped by someone super-strong, he's out for the count. But thematic or not, it's not very satisfying to be playing Iceman and watch him go down every time things get a little out of control, hence one of the big issues being addressed by the changes coming to Blasters in Issue 24, as outlined by the Paragon Studios developers and helpfully compiled by the fans over on the official message boards. There are six major changes but three that are broadly worth discussing: changes to snipe powers, changes to secondaries for survivability, and a couple of minor normalization changes.

The last one is the easiest to discuss. T3 ranges are getting normalized to 80 feet and Dual Pistols is probably getting faster animations, both of which are designed to do essentially the same thing and put everyone on a level playing field. As the game's power sets continue to expand, these are both essential changes, especially since respeccing out of an entire powerset isn't an option. It's fine if it turns out the set that you love does slightly less damage in an optimal situation, but if it's a significant enough difference, then you wind up as an impediment to anyone getting content cleared. No one really wants that.

Snipe changes are essentially meant to handle one of the major issues with the powers in question -- namely, that they're just not worth it. For the time spent powering up one of the sniper powers at the moment, you could fire off a steady and relentless rotation with other powers and do more overall damage. Not to mention that you've got the issue of getting interrupted partway through, meaning even more wasted time and effort.

Now, if you've got more than 22% bonus to hit, the interruptible portion of the power is chopped out and the power activates immediately. I'm not totally sure this is actually a fix, though, seeing as how this makes the sets without a sniper power far less desirable. It's nice to have the option of building a blaster for heavy single-target damage or wide-angle clearing as the situation warrants, but this runs the risk of making the damage of these powers a bit too high, although tuning the damage back down is a better alternative than the current solution of making them completely useless.

But all of those changes affect everyone using certain ranged powers, not just Blasters. No, the part that's being really tuned to the blasty sorts is the fact that almost every single Blaster secondary set is getting a nice big survival boost added in, usually adding regen and recovery to existing powers on top of their current effects.

In many games, this would break Blasters pretty badly. It's already very possible to have a Blaster capable of truly insane damage output. Adding in a big survival power would just be absurd. But City of Heroes doesn't work like many other games, starting with the fact that both solo and in groups, Blasters will expect to get hit by things as well.

Team Blaster here to save the day!You can mitigate this to an extent with your power choices, sure, but there are always going to be things that get through and hit you. CoH is not built around letting high-damage archetypes just bolt around and kill things while solo. And in groups, there are always stray attacks and jumping attacks and things that you just can't avoid, stuff that a little regeneration just doesn't fix.

Assuming that your healer will take care of it also assumes that you have a traditional healer. I'm generally a fan of giving my Defenders and Corruptors some form of direct healing, but not every group is going to have those. It's entirely valid to play either archetype solely as a debuffing monster with the same net benefits because most classes have tools to handle surviving without the need for outside heals. Except Blasters. Blasters who get in trouble tend to stay in trouble because they don't have an out.

This is especially a problem as the Incarnate slots start spreading powers around a bit more. Blasters are pushed to prioritize what defenses they have a bit higher because they don't have any other recourse once they get hit. In a world where Stalkers (the other glass cannons of the game) have some noteworthy defensive powers, Blasters start to really look paper-thin.

Plus, the change helps entice players who want to play the game for free as a ranged character. The idea that you can recover in combat is a pretty powerful one, and it lends itself to developing better strategies and making more interesting choices in combat.

In summary, these are good changes. The only real question is why these are coming now, when the game has been out for so long, instead of years ago. And I'm not sure there's a great answer for that.

I know I was planning on radio missions for this week, but I wanted to strike while the iron was at least sort of hot for this, so I'll talk radios next week. This week, you can leave your feedback down in the comments below or mail it to, as with every other week, really.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.

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