Ubisoft's massively-multiplayer shooter The Division is set for some big changes when patch 1.4 goes live next month. In a recent blog post titled "Improving Character Balance", The Division's development team outlined a series of goals that they're setting themselves for this new update, including fixing an issue where "the power difference between optimized and non-optimized builds is too great" as well as wanting to "bring back the shooter feeling, add more decision making and hard choices when building your character, and add more variety to the viable builds."
What this means is that high-end gear is going to be tweaked with new stats and gear score, and talents are going to undergo an overhaul. Going forward, every piece of gear that drops will now have all three stats on it, one of which will be higher than the other two, which players will be able to recalibrate as normal. This new system will "create a balanced baseline which means that your survivability will generally be higher and you no longer risk accidentally making the game much more difficult than it has to be."
Interestingly, Scavenging is being removed from the game. Apparently, the developers have been trying to make this aspect of the game work, but have ultimately failed to do so, making it sense to get rid of it as a function. Any gear you might have with scavenging stats will be rerolled as part of the patch.
Gear Score is going to be changed to be clearer and easier to understand, and gear sets are being rebalanced to allow for more creative and interesting character builds. According to the developers, the game feels quite stale at the moment. They want to change this by equalizing gear and allowing players to make more meaningful and varied choices. The developers summed up these changes in this way:
- All gear in World Tier 2 and higher will have all three base stats – Firearms, Stamina, Electronics – on them, one of these stats will be higher than the others.
- Other bonuses, like crit chance and headshot damage, will be scaled down to fit the new game balance.
- Gear will lose their skill bonuses, but backpacks, holsters and knee pads will gain new performance mod slots, making them easier to customize to fit your build.
- Gear sets will have their Gear Score adjusted to the same levels as High End gear.
- Stat overlaps between Gear Scores have been removed.
- High end gear talents have been rebalanced.
- Scavenging has been removed from the game.
Weapons and weapon talents are undergoing some major rebalancing to broaden their appeal, and enable players to choose what style of weapon and talents they want to use without feeling underpowered. Damage is going to spike less, making it easier to balance the functionality of the different weapons, and the damage of some weapons is going to be lowered – SMGs in particular – while LMGs and sniper rifles will have their overall damage increased. The major changes are outlined as such:
- We want to return The Division to feel more like a shooter, similar to the experience during the 1-30 game.
- New DPS formula on weapons has been introduced, but is a work in progress and will change over the course of the public test server.
- The damage and roles of certain weapons have been changed. Some weapons have seen a damage increase; others have had their damage lowered.
- Named weapons will not be changed in this update.
- Weapon mods will now come with one major bonus and an amount of smaller bonuses, depending on the quality of the mod.
- Damage bonuses are now additive instead of multiplicative, reducing the current spikes in damage which made the game hard to balance.
- The Firearms stat will become a much more significant source of damage output, leading to more decision making when building your character.
- Weapon talents have been rebalanced; some have been buffed, others have seen their numbers reduced.
- The identity of your gear will remain the same, even if the scale of stats and bonuses might change.
Finally, skills and Skill Power are undergoing some major changes. At the moment, it's possible for players to use very little Electronics to gain a quite considerable return. This is being changed so that players who want to become proficient with their skills will have to invest in more Electronics than they have in the past, essentially trading off against other core stats. Skill Power has also been changed to have diminishing returns beyond a certain level, so while you can keep on investing in a particular stat, its effect won't be as powerful as it currently is, making it more worthwhile to invest in another area.
Many skills are being looked at to make them more viable for the endgame content, and several major bugs are being removed, such as being able to use First Aid to get multiple heals. This is to help make certain skills and signature skills more viable, and essentially allow for more interesting choices for endgame builds. The developers summarized the changes in this way:
- 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.
Update 1.4 is currently available to PC players via The Division's PTR. If you're interested in checking it out, there are more details available here. It does require downloading the entire game client again, so you'll need about 45Gb of space on your drive to be able to run it.
I'm pretty intrigued by these changes. I put a lot of time into The Division earlier this year, but ended up walking away from it when the endgame became a bit too repetitive. I also didn't like the fact that the game's weapons were unbalanced, and that only specific items seemed viable for tackling the game's most challenging content. However, the prospect of being able to try different builds and skills, and effectively use different weapons without feeling penalized is quite appealing to me, and will definitely bring me back, if only to check out what these changes actually mean to the gameplay.