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Crossbow Blood Assassins, Nerfs and problems


Before act 2, one thing was clear: LadyFemme's shop mod had to go. Mind me, it was good at helping me learn how the shops work, but it was very unsatisfying on the reagent front, too powerful on the weapons front, and unnecessary when it came to spells.

Instead, I started from a clean slate by extracting the necessary shop files from the base game again, and rather than just jamming the numbers up from 8 to 30, I restricted the level ranges in shops so that they give act-specific items. This meant increasing their max level, and as a compensation their number by 50-100%.

To give an example, Eirulan weapon merchants give lvl 3-6 weapons on top of weapons that are in your level range (+-5 or something). That had to go, and on top of level 3-12, they give level 12-24 weapons too, of increasing quantities. Same with Aman'lu vendors. Instead of 3-24, they give 20-32 weapons and armor.

For the magic merchants, the spells were actually fine, and never felt off while playing. LadyFemme putting every spell in regardless was just a bad move and I needed none of that. Potions, same, no change was needed. The big deal however were the spellbooks. Spellbooks are only given at your character's level range, so multiclass characters, unless they had lucky drops or purchased well beforehand, could simply not get themselves either enchantable or magical spellbooks. That had to change, so as a compromise I added a set of spellbooks that correspond to the expected levels of combat magic and nature magic for multiclass characters. Rings and Amulets were given the same treatment as other gear.

As a result, now while the selection of items is limited, you can actually snag good items before you can use them, and give your multiclass characters enchanted or magical spellbooks.

Another big issue was the system of reagents.

Reagents are used in enchanting, essentially adding the stats of the reagent onto an enchantable item. Enchantable items have a set amount of slots, that you can fill in with reagents, much like an inventory. Once the desired set of reagents is added, you pay a fee to an enchanter who will output an enchanted item with the stats of the reagents added to it.

Particularly the system of resistance increasing reagents. Back in vanilla DS2, it was a fairly balanced system: Smaller reagents gave more resists, but when stacked into a large item the costs could get astronomical. Large reagents gave less resists per slot, but were cheaper to slam into an enchantable item. This is gone in BW. All reagents give 4% per slot, and the 4x4 grid on a legendary tier enchantable item can support up to 64% resists. That's per gear slot. No rare, set, or unique comes even close to this level of stat compression. By level 20 with 2x3 enchantables, you can have better resist from an enchanted ring or armor than from level 50 magical or rare gear.

To solve this, I took the flat road and gave it a thorough 1/4 nerf:

1x1, 2x1/1x2, and 2x3 reagents all give 3% per slot, for 3%, 6%, and 18% respectively. While I still think this is rather broken, this helps tilt the stat density in favor of rare / unique / set items, and with a few passes on touching them up, should reach a suitable balance.

Now there was STILL one more issue with the bow and crossbow branch of the passive skill tree, one that came up as I was planning my skills. The issue here is that shockwave is based on weapon damage, therefore whichever weapon type, the fast firing bows or the slow firing crossbows, have the strongest DPS, will win out of the two 100% of the time, except for the early game when one is building for power, where it's always better to carry the higher damage and slower ones for power purposes. What better way to solve this than by adding some flat damage to the shockwave based on dexterity, right? Correct. I added it to far shot, as that skill has relatively low usage otherwise.

I also went ahead and did the testing for Shred Blood: It turns out that Shred Blood is a single target single time flat damage proc, while bleed doesn't stack with itself. I also didn't like shred blood not being a damage-over-time skill, so I made the adjustments necessary (reduced int scaling, added a lower duration than bleed, and lower chance than bleed to apply), and finally edited the rules.skrit to actually apply DoT instead of flat damage, and to have bleed stack with itself. As a result of the change the bleed stacks are no longer visible as generic statuses, however it is more than worth it since the damage numbers are visible enough.

Reality check

With that I was ready to go. Sure it took Amren up from 20 to 22 to test everything out, but on the flipside, I still didn't have shockwave (my ranged level was around 22, even though I was 24, the curse of multiclass), and my mages were similarly powerful when I started Act 2.

Problem was, my mages attacked around once per second, maybe 1.3 times, with low single target potential, while my crossbows could attack 3-4 times with full 2-handed damage, and oneshot every miniboss they came across with level 2 (Yes, not even level 3) Take Aim. Whole swarms of tharva fell before they could fly as much as a meter towards me, tough vaarth exploded from the force of crossbow bolts into gory bits, and I nearly fell asleep.

I wondered what the issue was, and by the Elen'Lu isles it was clear.

It was the case of too much candy. One can only eat too much of it before feeling sick in the stomach, and machine crossbows definitely fit the bill. For one character, maybe even two, it was okay. But three? definitely too strong and four made content a joke.

Since I knew how fast it was in real time when I machine gunned, I figured I'd just set the delay and reduce crossbow damage accordingly. It dawned on me after the change how little a crossbow's damage is within the crossbow, and how strong flat adders are. You know them, the reagents, the affixes, rings that can add 10-13, Dexterity with 1 damage per 3 points, it all points towards the faster weapon. However it was not meant for rapid firing. After squashing source after source of this incredible flat power, I realized very quickly that to make it work, would mean breaking all the other ranged weapon types.

I progressed with this constantly diminishing power, and through successive iterations of nerfing, from the isles to the southern vai'lutra forest south waypoint.

After that, it was clear. I had to backtrack, machine crossbows can't be reasonably accomodated into the game, they must be made to work and animate differently. So I went back on the pcontent, the blood assassin buffs, reagents, and then on shockwave and bleed / shred blood too, and for now I wait for help at making siegemax work, and in making the hopefully good new animation for crossbows.