As it stands right now, with the amount of raw Skill Power given as bonuses on gear, you’re able to be very efficient with your skills with very low Electronics. This means that it is possible to be both a great skill user and a great tank, or a great weapon damage dealer at the same time, with no significant tradeoffs. In order to address that problem, we’ve increased the amount of Skill Power needed to make your skills as efficient as in 1.3 and we increased the Skill Power gained from Electronics. The net result is that you won’t be able to rely on Skill Power from gear bonuses if you want to be a skill specialist. In Update 1.4, increasing your Skill Power will be an active choice you make by investing in Electronics while sacrificing other core attributes, similar to Firearms and Stamina noted above. With the changes made to the Skill Power calculation, keep in mind that its numbers have been inflated compared to what you’re currently used to. This also has the benefit to bring Skill Power to numbers that are more comparable to DPS and Toughness at end game.
Another change we’ve made is that we’ve effectively removed the hard caps on skills. Instead we are introducing a curve of diminishing returns. That means that the more Electronics you have, the less of an impact every additional point of Skill Power will have on the power levels of your skills. You can keep investing in Electronics, of course, and by doing so you will keep making your skills more powerful, but the power curve will no longer be linear, so you might want to consider moving points over to Firearms or Stamina instead.
If we look at the skills currently used in the game, certain skills are incredibly popular while others are hardly ever used. Very often, this is not because they are more fun to use than others; it’ because they are either over- or underpowered, or in some cases simply bugged. The skills that are not percentage based, like Turret – Active Sensor or Seeker Mine – Cluster, are practically not used at endgame in 1.3, since they don’t scale well with the current enemy health and damage. For example, while they are used by many during the 1-30 game, as soon as the player hits 30, several turrets fall out of the meta.
By rebalancing the skills, and fixing many of the bugs associated with them, we hope to bring more of them back to the meta and create an environment where players can come up with new builds and be more creative in how they use their skills. Skills were also a big topic of discussion during the Elite Taskforce workshop, with many of the changes discussed in detail, both from the PVE and PVP angles.
Some changes might be seen as direct nerfs, but as is the case with so much else going on in Update 1.4 it needs to be seen in the correct context. Once enemy health and damage are scaled down, the skills will need to be adjusted as well in order to not become overpowered.
To give you a couple of examples of changes we’ve made, let’s take a look at our most popular skill: First Aid.
First Aid was bugged up to now, healing players twice with the Master Mod and allowing them to move in and out of its area of effect to be healed several times. That was not working as intended and had some undesirable side effects, especially when combined with talents like Triage. Fixing those bugs has resulted in the skill becoming less powerful that it used to be, so to compensate for the effective loss of healing that was coming from those bugs, the base healing of First Aid has been increased. It’s also worth mentioning that First Aid will now heal the user instantly, with no delay.
Two of the other most used skills at end game, Pulse and Smart Cover, have also been updated. In 1.3, Pulse and Smart Cover were almost mandatory in order to clear the toughest content in the game. Even without a fully specialized build, players could boost their team’s damage and mitigation to extremely high levels. In a meta where enemies were too tough and lethal, it was necessary for groups to have access to such high levels of damage and mitigation. In 1.4, with enemies being rebalanced to more reasonable levels of power, Pulse and Smart Cover needed to be adjusted, and their buffs were updated accordingly. Smart Cover now focuses more on defense, and with skill specialized gear, will buff the team’s damage mitigation by 30% to 35%. The damage buff was removed and replaced with weapon stability and accuracy buffs, which are very useful with the adjustments made on weapon handling in general. Pulse still provides critical hit chance and damage buffs, in addition to its recon abilities, but the numbers have been brought down to match the decrease in power of NPCs.
Those are the changes on the most popular skills, but in general, all the skills have been rebalanced, generally seeing an increase in power and for some of them, receiving new functionalities, to make them more interesting.
For example, while First Aid – Overdose will still be great for healing yourself, First Aid – Defibrillator will be better at healing allies and will now revive them from death as well. It makes for a more interesting choice when playing in a group, and is one way to open for a more dedicated support/healer role in group content.
Turrets are getting more health and like Sticky Bomb and Seeker Mine, that also didn’t scale well at PvE endgame previously, will effectively deal more damage due to the lower enemy health.
We’ve also given extra love to Ballistic Shield. It now has more health, since it was destroyed way too quickly before, and many of the bugs associated with it have been fixed. The priority with Mobile Cover was to fix the exploits it enabled. Both skills benefited from the overall change in NPC damage and will now survive enemy fire much longer.
Support Station has seen its healing amount increased and been given more health, so it doesn’t die as soon as an enemy as much as glances at it. The Support Station will also let solo players revive themselves in an upcoming PTS update.
Overall, our aim has been to adjust the skills to the new meta, to make weaker skills viable again, and of course to fix bugs associated with skills in general. In 1.4, more skills will be valid at end game and hopefully the meta will be much more varied as a result. Please try out the new and improved skills on the PTS – all balancing feedback is very appreciated.
Recap of skill changes:
- Electronics will be the main source of Skill Power.
- Skill Power will not scale linearly anymore, instead it will follow a curve of diminishing returns.
- Certain skills are currently much more popular than others. Some skills are overpowered, others underpowered or bugged.
- Skills have been rebalanced to fit the new game balance or to bring them up to par, in the hopes of creating a more varied meta.
- First Aid no longer allows for multiple heals, since those happened due to a bug. First Aid’s healing has been increased to make up for this fix. It will now heal instantly.
- Smart Cover and Pulse have been reworked. Smart Cover is now more defensive and Pulse’s high damage boost has been lowered to make it balanced with the new enemy health.
- Ballistic Shield and Support Station have been given more health. Support Station’s healing has been increased.
- Many bugs associated with skills have been fixed.
Signature skills in 1.3 are not all equal, with Survivor Link dominating the popularity chart, leaving both Recovery Link and Tactical Link far behind in terms of usage.
In 1.4, all three of the Signature Skills have received some changes.
Survivor Link used to be very powerful in 1.3, and was clearly overpowered in the new meta. It has seen its damage mitigation lowered from 80% to 50% and its duration lowered from 15 to 12 seconds.
The remaining two Signature Skills have been buffed and have received some functionality changes.
Recovery Link has seen its range increased and can now be used to revive dead players (outside of the Dark Zone), while also giving more healing overall. The skill also has a new functionality, aimed at helping solo players, that we want to test with the PTS: if you’re playing solo and you have Recovery Link off cooldown, the skill will automatically trigger when you are about to die, saving you from death. This feature is a work in progress and the mechanics of it are still being tweaked.
Tactical Link functionality was changed to make using the skill more fun, without sacrificing its power surge potential. The damage buff was lowered from 50% to 30% and the critical hit chance buff was removed altogether. Three new buffs were added instead: weapon RPM, reload speed and weapon stability. The result is that triggering Tactical Link now puts you in a “shooting frenzy mode” for 12 seconds. It’s proven to be a fun and satisfying experience in our internal testing and we’re really curious to hear your feedback once you’ll have tested it on the PTS.
We’ve made significant changes to how special ammo (incendiary and explosive bullets) work. Instead of lighting things on fire or staggering your enemies, they will instead convert some of your bullet damage to fire or blast damage, damage which in turn is affected by exotic damage reduction. The effects of those two special ammos were previously overpowered in both PvE and PvP, without requiring much skill to use. These changes should make them more balanced, and we’ll keep an eye on how they are used on the PTS.
As you can tell by now, big changes are coming to The Division in Update 1.4. At first glance, it might look as if though we’re just raising or lowering numbers across the board, but mixed with the new enemy balancing and time to kill-changes detailed in our last development article, our goal is to make you feel more powerful once the update comes out. The current big numbers are going away, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel a steady increase in power as you get better and better gear.
Note that most of these changes will be retroactive. You won’t be able to save overpowered “legacy” weapons, instead you will see a direct change to the items in your inventory. While we realize this might come as a shock to some, we’re sure that the overall gameplay experience will be much more satisfying and simply more fun after these changes have been made.
We’re looking for all feedback you can possibly give us on these changes, as we’re trying to build you a much better game. If you’re on PC, please jump on the PTS and give them a proper shakedown, and post your thoughts and feelings on our forums. We’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say!
- The Division Dev Team