BioWare has updated the PTS to include the final boss, Lady Dominique, in Veteran Mode, meaning the full R-4 Anomaly Operation is now available on the PTS in both SM and VM. In addition, BioWare has made some tweaks to the previously announced balance changes.
R-4 Anomaly Operation’s Lady Dominique VM
The full R-4 Anomaly Operation is now available for testing in both SM and HM since it now includes the final boss, Lady Dominique, in HM. In addition, Lady Dominique has received some balance changes in SM including:
- Implemented changes to mitigate Recursive Blast breaking
- Force Blast now deals damage as intended
- ARIA’s voice line about slicing the Conduit Regulators is no longer disrupted by the cinematic
- Dominique now shields herself at 40% if the Conduit Regulators have not been destroyed
- The time allotted to destroy all the Regulators has been slightly decreased on Story Mode
- The Reaper add’s fixate effect now uses a different visual tell to distinguish it from Recursive Blast
- Energized Shot and Shadow Slash are now used more frequently and deal more damage
- Desublimating Shadows (applied by Energized Shot) now begins the countdown to explode at fewer stacks
- The damage from Shadow Mass (applied by Desublimating Shadows) has been increased
- The healing reduction from Shadow Resonance (applied by Shadow Slash) has been increased
- Attractors can no longer be interrupted
In addition, there is now a console near the very beginning of the Operation that will unlock all the trams and each stop, allowing you to skip to whichever boss you want.
There are also now vendors outside of the current Operation entrance on the PTS where you can get free 340 gear, gold augments, and 330 Legendary Implants. 340 will be the new best gear once 7.1 is released.
If you’ve been holding off on testing out R-4 Anomaly on the PTS until it’s in a more ready state, I would think now is probably the best time since everything is available.
I suspect that we’ll probably only get 1 more PTS update with a round of changes to Lady Dominique in HM responding to player feedback, but it’s possible that BioWare could just release 7.1 to live after collecting all the feedback from players without letting them test their changes first. Either way, there’s not too much time left if you still want to hop on the 7.1 PTS.
Additional Combat Style Balance Changes
BioWare appears to have responded to some player feedback by tweaking some of the changes they previously announced. If you want to get caught up with the previously announced changes, you can check out my overview and analyses for all other Combat Style changes coming with SWTOR 7.1:
Vengeance Juggernaut and Vigilance Guardian
BioWare has introduced a new nerf for Shatter Burst / Branding Burst:
Reduced the damage dealt by Shatter Burst / Branding Burst by 50%.
HALLELUJAH!!! (kind of) Shatter Burst / Branding Burst is easily the most busted ability tree buff in the whole game. It is fun for trash and solo content, but in boss fights with adds like Grob’thokk and Dash’roode, it resulted in ridiculous amounts of damage being dealt to the boss to the extent that other players in the group could take ability tree buffs oriented towards increasing single-target DPS rather than giving up single-target DPS to take AoE buffs and completely ignore the adds.
This brings me to another issue that exists with both Shatter Burst / Branding Burst and Cut to Pieces where Vengeance / Vigilance has access to massive AoE DPS boosts that can also function to increase single-target DPS while almost all other combat styles have to give up single-target DPS to get a much smaller AoE DPS boost.
Almost all other solo content-oriented ability tree buffs are dependent on the player being the one to defeat the target in a more specific way, not just having the target get defeated in general.
I tested it out a little bit on the PTS with the nerf, and it is quite substantial. You can’t just do Shatter -> Vengeful Slam -> Bloodrage / Plasma Brand -> Vigilant Thrust -> Burning Focus anymore; you typically need to do a full DoT spread to trigger a chain reaction. I think this is reasonable and a lot more comparable to what other DoT specs can do, but I doubt solo players will be happy with this change.
I also noticed while testing this out that trash on different planets feels quite different depending on which planet you’re on. For example, on CZ-198 and other level 50-55 daily areas, you barely have time to DoT spread before enemies run out of HP while you need to take full advantage of your capabilities on higher-level planets like Ossus, Onderon, and Manaan.
I’m not sure if this is a product of BioWare’s new level sync system or what, but it feels more significant compared to live. Personally, I’d strongly prefer a more consistent experience across different planets, and even a separate max-level instance for each planet. I know that not everyone shares my view on that, but I digress.
I am still very concerned that Shatter Burst / Plasma Burst will remain quite potent in the same fights even if it isn’t as extremely OP as it was before because its damage output scales with the number of adds.
I imagine that we’ll see Hatred Assassins / Serenity Shadows in a league of their own with regards to AoE potential with Vengeance / Vigilance possibly still a fair bit ahead of the rest of the DoT specs, though likely more due to Cut to Pieces than Shatter Burst / Plasma Brand. I want to be clear that I do not have any numbers to support this prediction.
At the end of the day, I’m really glad BioWare is at least trying to make adjustments to this buff, but their current implementation seems rushed, doesn’t get at the root of the issue, and kind of ruins what made Shatter Burst / Branding Burst fun to use in solo content.
BioWare needs to take a harder look at all of the solo content ability tree buffs, particularly ones that scale their damage output off of the number of enemies present (I refer to these buffs as “echoing AoE”), dial them in so that their effects can take down groups of trash in a fun way and at roughly the same rate compared to other DoT specs, and then universally tack on the following restrictions so they can’t be abused in group content:
- Only occurs when you defeat the target, not just when the target is defeated (most already have this)
- Does not affect Operations bosses (like Diversion for Snipers / Gunslingers)
This should allow BioWare to go a bit crazier with the effects in solo content while limiting their impact in group content.
Marauder and Sentinel
The changes for Marauder and Sentinel focus on tweaking the nerfs to AoE DR. It seems these changes are based on player feedback.
Fury and Concentration
BioWare has tweaked the new Gravtity Vortex ability tree buff:
Force Crush / Force Exhaustion triggers Gravity Vortex, granting immunity to interrupts and all controlling effects for 6 seconds. Cannot occur more than once every 30s. In addition, AoE damage taken is reduced by 15%.
From the previously announced changes, Gravity Vortex now replaces Defensive Roll for Fury / Concentration. The tweaks from the most recent PTS update just make it so that the 15% AoE RDT will have 100% uptime, rather than be connected to the Gravity Vortex buff, making the survivability nerf in PvE far less severe while still accomplishing the goal of restricting Fury / Concentration’s mobility in PvP.
Annihilation and Watchman, Carnage and Combat
BioWare has further tweaked the change to the Defensive Roll ability tree buff, which is now called Steel Self and has the following:
Increases Internal / Elemental damage reduction by 3%. In addition, activating Bloodthirst / Inspiration, Cloak of Pain / Rebuke, or Predation / Transcendence grants Steel Self, which reduces your AoE damage taken by 30% for 10s.
If you activate multiple of these abilities at the same time, the duration of the proc is just refreshed back to 10s. You cannot stack the effect and likely can’t receive it from another Marauder / Sentinel.
Using Predation / Transcendence on cooldown offers 33% uptime for an average of 10% AoE RDT while Cloak of Pain used on cooldown offers 17% uptime resulting in 5% AoE RDT for a combined 15% AoE RDT average, which is the same as what Fury / Concentration will have passively. Cloak of Retribution / Adjudicator can increase the uptime from Cloak of Pain / Rebuke, resulting in a higher average, especially for Carnage / Combat.
This is a significant improvement on the initial change where you only got 30% AoE RDT for 20s on activating Bloodthirst / Inspiration. I think it is acceptable, but it does seem overcomplicated and introduces some yucky incentives where you might want to save Predation / Transcendence for yourself rather than use it for raid utility.
Thoughts on Marauder and Sentinel Tweaks
I still don’t understand why BioWare didn’t just replace Defensive Roll with the current version of Gravity Vortex for all Marauders / Sentinels. They’re still effectively giving Gravity Vortex to Carnage / Combat already and it definitely wouldn’t be broken in PvP for Annihilation / Watchman to have access to it as well, perhaps by having it trigger off of Annihilate / Merciless Slash.
That said, this change is good enough and I agree with BioWare that 15% AoE RDT is a more fitting level of damage mitigation for Marauders / Sentinels. While I would prefer a more streamlined solution, at this point, BioWare’s balance team should focus on other, far more pressing, matters instead.
Arsenal Mercenary and Gunnery Commando
BioWare has basically completely redesigned the AoE tactical they introduced with the last PTS update that is meant to replace Thermonuclear Fusion. It is now called Gyroscopic Stabilizers and has the following effect:
Reduces the cooldown of Death from Above / Mortar Volley by 20s. In addition, Death from Above / Mortar Volley deals 25% more damage to targets affected by your Heat Signature / Gravity Vortex.
This tactical effect reminds me a lot of Prototype Missile Silos / Grenadiership for AP PT / Tactics VG which also grants a 25% damage boost and cooldown reduction to Deadly Onslaught / Artillery Blitz.
Overall, I really like this AoE tactical for Arsenal / Gunnery. It actually makes sense as a ranged DPS AoE tactical, synergizes far better with the discipline as a whole, offers a reasonable boost to AoE DPS, and should even boost single-target sustained DPS by making Death from Above / Mortar Volley deal more damage per GCD than Tracer Missile / Grav Round, enabling it to be used rotationally (it still won’t offer superior single-target DPS compared to Primed Ignition).
As I pointed out before, BioWare still needs to make further changes to Heat / Energy Cell consumption, particularly for Arsenal / Gunnery, though a more significant rework to the resource would also be welcome. With the current Heat / Energy Cell improvements, sustained DPS Tracer Missile / Grav Round buffs + Primed Ignition offer a way to completely omit Rapid Shots / Hammer Shot, so Heat would be an issue with the AoE build you’d use alongside the new Gyroscopic Stabilizers tactical.
This change makes me wonder if BioWare has plans to adjust the other junky tacticals released alongside Unstable Fusion with the last PTS update, Magnetic Resonance maybe Shard of Mortis as well, along with far more significant sustained DPS buffs to Arsenal / Gunnery, Innovative Ordnance / Assault Specialist, Carnage / Combat, and also Marksmanship / Sharpshooter.
What’s left for the PTS before 7.1 releases
I can’t imagine that we’ll get more than 1 more PTS update containing a final batch of changes for Lady Dominique in HM and perhaps some final balance changes, but it’s also possible that BioWare could just hold off on another PTS update and just release 7.1 with changes made according to feedback about this version of the PTS.
It seems that my initial prediction about 7.1 coming out at the beginning of July right when Galactic Season 2 ends will almost certainly be incorrect. I don’t think we’ll see 7.1 until mid or late-July at the earliest, but we still don’t have a concrete release date.
I am still curious when BioWare plans to release Galactic Season 3. It doesn’t make sense to me for BioWare to release a whole bunch of new content only for there to not be a new season alongside the release of 7.1. I can totally see Galactic Season 3 skipping the PTS entirely too if BioWare doesn’t plan to make any major changes like they did for Season 2.
BioWare definitely shouldn’t rush the release of 7.1, though. They need to take the time to get this one right after the disastrous launch of 7.0. I think a lot of players don’t have the patience for another blunder. If 7.1 isn’t good, I bet many will probably unsubscribe and hold off until 8.0.
7.1 does seem to have a lot of great content coming and I get the sense from these PTS iterations that BioWare is actually listening to player feedback, even if they aren’t always going as far as many would like. Even if 7.1 isn’t quite as good as it should be, I know I’ll still be here because I love this game.
If you have missed anything from the recent announcements and patches for the upcoming update, you can catch up by checking out the list or articles under the SWTOR PTS tag.