Good day Travelers!
Welcome back to another day of the Pre-Patch Hype Week Blog Posts! Today we’re going to be taking a closer look at some of the skill updates and changes coming in Beta Patch 0.9! Skills are the topic that most often tends to take the spotlight in any ARPG. Whether you’re slicing through enemies with vicious heavy swings of a weapon or calling down meteors to destroy swaths of enemies in a single act, skills play one of the most defining roles in the experience of an ARPG. That’s why for 0.9, we’ve revisited many of our skills to improve their combat feel.
In some cases, this can mean mechanical adjustments to better allow a skill to fulfill its fantasy. In others, it may mean visual changes to convey the impact behind it better, and sometimes, it may mean both. With 0.9, we’ve gone through and adjusted over 90 skills to some extent, and in today’s blog post, we’re going to be covering a few examples of different skills which received some changes, and what those changes bring to the table!
Manifest armor is an example of a skill that mechanically was quite sound. The skill tree was fun to build around, it was mechanically interesting, and it had a good amount of power to it (even perhaps a bit too powerful in some cases…). However, it was a skill where the visuals were certainly in need of a big update to really fulfill the fantasy provided by the skill. The old model, a transparent sentinel model with a couple pieces of armor slapped on it, wasn’t really doing the job of conveying the idea of a war-ready magical construct created by a character that’s out to slay a god such as Rahyeh.
As an existing skill, Manifest Armor started with some restrictions around the design of a new model. It needed to be able to support having a shield, a weapon, a ‘flame thrower,’ and be able to go without them depending on how the skill is specialized. Working within these constraints, our design team set to work creating a number of concepts undergoing review, and adjustments until eventually a design was chosen.
Here we can see the original concept that would be turned into the eventual model for the new Manifest Armor minion, created to be modular to support the skill as it existed. Some of the goals of the design were to capture the “forged” essence of the entity by having an intangible body, armor plates which float upon a summoned body of furnace fire and designing the armor plates to mimic the grates of such a furnace. However, there’s more to it than just a model. An example here is the summoning and idle animations for the summon. By having it emerge from a pool of fire, it helps to reinforce the nature of its construction, making summoning the Manifested Armor onto the battlefield a more tangible experience. By giving it idle animations, such as performing a familiar motion and slamming the flat of its blade against the shield to intimidate enemies, it also helps reinforce this minion’s presence in the world with a bit of personality.
This newly re-envisioned molten companion of fire and steel is yours to command if you so chose as a Forge Guard in Patch 0.9 - The Convergence.
The Acolyte’s iconic Bone Golem was another example of a minion skill with a model which was in strong need of a new model. While perhaps not as much as Manifest Armor, with the finished result, I think we can all agree the update was certainly well worth it. With something like a large undead Golem, there’s a lot more leeway in how such a creature can be designed, and some of the earliest concept art of when we started looking at the Bone Golem goes to show just how many different ways a creature of this origin could be created.
As the Bone Golem’s central place in the Necromancer’s army is that of the “Tank,” we wanted to make sure the model really enforced the idea of a heavy, front-lining creature. While at the same time, we wanted to ensure it was very distinct from the Primalist’s minions, such as the Primal Bear, and matches the undead and necrotic theming of the Acolyte. After some discussion, a decision was reached on the first concept art, which would become the Bone Golem.
Skeletal hands grasping spears and chains arising from its back, layers of bone armor protecting its core frame, and several ever-watching heads adorning its mantle, it’s hard to mistake the nature of this beast. A nature most certainly not approved of by the College of Welryn. Also, like Manifest Armor, an update to such a minion needs more than just a model, which is where animation steps in. Even in idle animations, it’s important to convey the mass this creature represents with its swaying, as well as the unnatural state of its creation with its many faces constantly peering and moving in different directions, even down to the momentum of the chains hanging from its body.
Unlike Manifest Armor, however, Bone Golem’s skill tree wasn’t in quite as great a place as it could have been. While it had a couple of builds that saw common use, much of the tree was rarely seeing use or provided enough variance to the skill. As such, with this visual update, we are also changing up the skill tree with balance adjustments, adjusting the paths available on the tree, as well as a completely new node allowing for the creation of a Deathchill Golem.
While the Golem tree itself can support having up to two of these behemoths of undeath at your command at once, we’ve heard some rumors there may be a way to obtain at least twice as many in the Convergence. Will your Bone Golem serve you by shielding you from blows or by crushing your foes?
Rive as a skill is another example of a bit of a different case than our previous examples here. This Sentinel skill has been a strong standby for many players. Able to put out fairly strong damage as a primary skill, fill a support role as a mana generator, and providing a strong area of effect for a zero-cost melee skill. At a glance, it seemed like Rive was already in a really good place, being flexible and robust. However, we weren’t quite happy with Rive; while it felt good as a combo skill, it could still, at times, feel a bit ‘generic.’ For 0.9, we wanted to revisit Rive to not only make it more visually distinct as a skill but to make the tree reflect the role it fills as a base Sentinel skill.
One of the ways we wanted to do this was by providing the skill more feeling of specialization. As a master of arms, the Sentinel has a strong tie to many individual weapon types, and we wanted that reflected within this skill. One example of this is the new “Foe Cleaver” node which can be found on the Rive tree. Doubling the effect of Damage Stats and Ailment Chance provided by a two-handed weapon, Rive is provided more flexibility for choosing raw damage over speed, making those hits with a large two-handed weapon really land with high impact.
Another example of a new node Rive has seen introduced for 0.9 is the new “Weapon Specialist” node. This node reinforces the Sentinel’s Mastery of Arms by building for specific weapon types. With this node, you’ll be required to build for specific attributes alongside the weapon, but in doing so, gain more of the powerful added damage stat with each attribute point gained.
If you live by the adage “You do not have me surrounded, you have merely placed me in a target-rich environment.”, perhaps Rive will be the skill of choice for you during the Convergence.
This is an example of one of many skills which have yet to receive changes as extensive as Manifest Amor or Bone Golem, but instead as part of our overarching goal of improving Combat Feel throughout Last Epoch. Lightning Blast is an iconic skill for mages of all kinds. With that in mind, we’ve made a revisit to Lightning Blast. While mechanically, it’s been a very sound skill and sees a lot of use, we felt it could see a considerable improvement in combat feel with even just a few adjustments.
Our goals with these changes were to make the skill match the iconography of Lightning. The old Lightning Blast, in this regard, felt a bit too predictable and concentrated. While it may have a set discharge point, there’s so much energy in the bolt that some of it gets discharged along the way. As it travels to its target, it also has some variations in its pathing as it finds the path of least resistance through the air itself. We’ve taken these concepts and re-applied them to Lightning blast to give it a stronger visual, better matching the idea of “lightning” and providing more impact to the blast as it finds its path to its target.
Arcing bolts of lighting to multiple targets, chaining lightning between groups of enemies, or perhaps creating a repeating conduit to a single target: If you seek to control the power of high-voltage electricity to destroy the creatures of the void, the Mage awaits you at The Convergence.
And so many more
Many more skills than those listed above are coming to patch 0.9 with visual improvements, sound updates, balance changes, or even new interactions. We can’t wait to see what kinds of builds and combat styles everyone manages to come up with, both solo, and synergies in parties, with the much anticipated Multiplayer Beta on March 9th!
Farewell for now, Travelers, and we’ll see you again tomorrow for another look into another set of improvements coming to Last Epoch in only six days with the Convergence!