For the first time in recent memory, Eve is receiving a substantial balance patch. The lack of attention given to balancing is an issue that community has been vocal about for quite some time. In July of 2017, CCP Seagull admitted that there was an inadequate investment into game balance, and that there would be a dedicated team to handle balance going forward. That never actually happened.
The CSM heavily emphasized the importance of iterative balancing during the Winter Summit, and I’d encourage players to read the document. One section is particularly worth quoting, “CSM asks about where the priorities lie with balancing. Fozzie says this has fallen into a nebulous area within the company and they are quite confused about it internally as a side effect of the CSM bringing this up frequently.” Reading between the lines throughout this document paints a picture where the developers are aware of the balance problems that Eve faces, but they’re simply not being given time to address them.
A combination of the sentiment of the general playerbase and a face to face meeting with a CSM collectively communicating that balance is something that CCP can no longer afford to put off likely bought some developer time to make balance tweeks. With the exception of the Monitor, almost all of the March changes to ship balance, sovereignty nodes and even jump fatigue are fixes that essentially boil down to editing values in a database.
The health pool of the Monitor is split evenly between shields and armor with 176k EHP in each at level 5, and the remainder in hull. Armor fleets have ships that already perform better in the same role with the Legion and Damnation. Once you include slave implants and hardwirings, both Amarr ships have an even more pronounced edge over the Monitor.
However, the Monitor truly shines with shield doctrines, where it soaks a hefty 272K EHP in shields alone and easily outperforms the Vulture. Tankier shield options involve either spending a couple billion isk on deadspace invulns, or flying a relatively immobile, brick-tanked battleship like the Rattlesnake. Even then, the Monitor still has a solid armor buffer to help it catch shield repairs.
On top of this, the Monitor can’t be jammed, can’t be meaningfully damped, and has excellent resistances to energy neutralization. As a result of having a better-than frigate signature radius and a resistance to being target painted, the Monitor easily mitigates long range battleship fire outside of hostile web range.
This is a fairly roundabout way of “solving” headshotting. The only choice you have to make when fitting a Monitor is how much you want to spend on your propulsion modules, and as a game design principle, I’m not in favor of introducing mechanics that don’t involve meaningful choices within a sandbox. There’s a good argument to be made that current shield FC boats aren’t sufficient, but I would have much rather seen the Nighthawk or Claymore lose their offensive bonuses and receive a significant improvement to their overall tank. Kotaku probably wouldn’t have written an article about rebalancing command ships though.
-100 power grid
Combat and navy battlecruisers have been ubiquitous in every scale of combat after their massive buff in late 2015. Solo and small gang players use mobile, active taking versions of these to both brawl and kite in a relatively inexpensive and engageable hull. At the bloc level, the two major beneficiaries of that patch were the Hurricane and Ferox. The Hurricane was quickly and widely adopted as a dirt cheap doctrine that could trade isk efficiently given that you had a sufficiently large fleet to alpha battleships and strategic cruisers. Until fairly recently, there were two very good reasons that the Ferox didn’t see widespread use.
Those reasons were the Tengu and Proteus. While the Ferox overshadows the Hurricane in every aspect besides speed and alpha, railguns are locked to kinetic and thermal damage, a problem that artillery doesn’t have. Prior to their redesign in July 2017, Strategic Cruisers had significantly higher EHP and had base resists that were equivalent to their HAC counterparts. Both Caldari and Gallente T2 resistances are primarily focused around blocking kinetic and thermal damage. Post-Strategic Cruiser redesign, and a Focus Group that wasn’t particularly useful, the Proteus is no longer viable in fleet combat, whereas the Tengu is significantly weaker than it’s pre-patch self. After that change, it was the Ferox’s turn to begin its reign as king of the battlecruisers.
As it stands currently, there’s nothing the Ferox isn’t excellent at, and it’s not getting hit hard enough. The base targeting range is the best of all Combat Battlecruisers, both T1 and Faction, and is only beaten by two Command Ships. Combine this with a 10% optimal per level bonus alongside the optimal and falloff bonus that all Combat BCs received in 2015 and you’re left with an absolute monster that can project far better than any of its peers. The base CPU and PG is excessively generous, and allows the Ferox to arm and defend itself nearly perfectly without making any sacrifices in fitting.
These changes try to fix that, but the CPU change is almost irrelevant and only affects some solo active tanking fits. The power grid reduction is sidestepped by dropping a damage module for a power diagnostic system, and downgrading either the microwarpdrive or one of the extenders. In the end, the post-patch Ferox only sacrifices about 1/9’th its railgun damage and nothing else. I’d like to have seen a reduction in the optimal range to either 7.5% or 5% per level. The Ferox will remain dominant after March.
Gallente Battleship bonus per level: 7.5% to large projectile falloff (was 10%)
+30 signature radius
+1 mid slot
-1 low slot
The Machariel is without question the most powerful subcapital that can fight on a hostile citadel grid. There’s nothing this hull isn’t excellent at. The overall damage output is fantastic and of a selectable type. The role bonuses to rate of fire and damage make it an outstanding alpha platform in a meta controlled by long range battleships. The hull has the agility and warp speed of a cruiser, allowing it to travel systems and reposition much faster than its peers. The tank is excellent even when fitted with passive membranes as opposed to active hardeners. Prior to its widespread adoption in nullsec, the Machariel was a staple of lowsec doctrine given how effectively the hull scales with deadspace tank and a slave set.
This rebalance is absolutely on point, and gives the Machariel a slot layout that’s a logical step up from the Cynabal. The nullsec version remains a solid choice, but puts the Machariel in a position where it’s not always the best choice. The lowsec fit naturally loses more overall armor, but remains a very powerful ship.
With the addition of a midslot, the Machariel has more possibilities for active tanking and roaming fits. Admittedly, this fit isn’t cheap, but a less expensive build using a defensive web, or an MJD is going to be fun to fly, especially with the additional cargo hold battleships are getting in this patch.
All T1 and Faction/Pirate Battleships
+25% to cargo capacity
+20% to maximum lock range
The blog even credits Mr Hyde directly with these changes. A former CSM and long time proponent of solo brawling in Battleships, Hyde made the argument that most battleships lacked the cargo space to carry enough cap boosts to run a viable active tank. Additionally, he pointed out that it felt unintuitive for battleships to not have sufficient base targeting range to lock a ship and then pounce on their prey with an MJD, something that battleships will be capable of with this upcoming patch.
Hyde was absolutely right about the cargo capacity, but I’ve got mixed feelings about the targeting range buff. In the years since Hyde has left the game, the fleet meta has been increasingly defined by long range battleships, and has seen the rise of Ravens getting blinked around on grid by command destroyers. I’m very wary of changes that centralize the meta around a specific subset of a ship class in ways that are problematic and unhealthy long term, though I can see why this change happened.
All Attack Battlecruisers
May now fit Medium Micro Jump Drives
This ship class is at best niche, and those niches aren’t particularly affected by whether or not you can fit an MJD. The Talos doesn’t have role outside of being a gank ship. The Naga hasn’t been viable as fleet concept since Darkside was at its prime half a decade ago. The Oracle doesn’t have the fitting to use one in roaming fleet. There’s an exception to this rule with gank artillery Tornadoes, but on the whole, this change is a quality of life fix and standardizes battlecruisers as a whole. If this class is changed and becomes viable in the future, command destroyers still cycle faster than medium MJDs, and don’t require you to sacrifice a mid slot.
+12 maximum velocity
+25 drone bandwidth
+25 drone bay
As it stands currently, the Eagle is one of the HACs that’s most able to make use of the Assault Damage Control. Prior to the introduction of the ADC, the Eagle was eclipsed by the Tengu both before and after the Strategic Cruiser rebalance. This buff to the Eagle isn’t a game changer, but it puts the Eagle at almost the exact same velocity as the Tengu, and drones are always convenient. Expect to see Freedom Fleet fly again in the near future with the adoption of the ADC, and become even better still after the HAC rebalance.
-100 power grid
-15 maximum velocity
+15 signature radius
While in Iceland for Alliance Tournament 15, I joked that if there was going to be a Mordus Legion themed AT in the future, CCP could simply give out Orthrus with the stats they had on release, but with a covert ops cloak and force recon resistance profiles. The only ship that was more broken on initial release was the Svipul. At any scale larger than small gang nano roaming the Orthrus was never viable, as it would get instantly forced off grid or destroyed outright.
In roaming gangs however, it was meta defining. The ship has ample fitting, raw base stats, and role bonuses that make it the perfect kiting platform. These stats allow force multipliers like skirmish links, snake implants, drugs, and faction modules to scale extremely well on the Orthrus. The warp disruptor role bonus allows the hull to kite at very safe ranges with rapid lights that apply nearly perfectly. The scrambler allows the Orthrus to easily defensively screen and outrun tackle that would try to pin it down.
I’d like to be able to say that these changes finally fixed the Orthrus, but that’s unfortunately not the case. The signature radius change isn’t significant, as the ship’s signature was already massive to begin with. The power grid change forces some changes in fitting rigs, but is fairly easy to work around. The meaningful change here is the velocity, which does noticeably cut back the speed, but it still handles excellently. On the whole, it’s a good start to fixing the faux AT cruiser.
Minmatar Battlecruiser bonus per level: 7.5% to Heavy Missile Launcher and Heavy Assault Missile Launcher rate of fire (was 5%)
The Cyclone doesn’t scale well past solo for the simple reason that it’s got an active tanking bonus and lacks any other solid traits besides the ability to go fast. Additional damage makes for a nice quality of life change, and I’d recommend taking one out for a spin. Suitonia’s guide covers this ship nicely and is still relevant. I’ll probably make use of both utility highs for command links.
Drake Navy Issue
-1 launcher slot
Caldari Battlecruiser bonus per level: 10% to Heavy Missile and Heavy Assault Missile damage (was 4% to shield resistances)
The Drake Navy was the only combat battlecruiser that didn’t have some sort of a damage bonus, and was also the only hull that didn’t have a utility high. If you wanted to fit a link, you had to drop one of your launchers. This meant that the Drake Navy was complete garbage, and it still bothers me that someone actually won the AT using them. After this patch, the Drake Navy goes from 8 to 10.5 effective launchers, which results in a massive 31% damage increase. The hull isn’t viable at any scale larger than small gang roaming, and the only small gang roamer who is going to willingly fly a HML boat is Derth. I suppose you can brawl with it, but no, you can’t bring your Drake Navy.
Minmatar Cruiser bonus per level: 7.5% Medium Projectile Turret damage (was 5%)
+150 armor HP
+20 maximum velocity
-10 signature radius
-1 high slot
+1 mid slot
The Muninn is a ship that hasn’t been seen in the wild for quite some time. The ship was last iterated on in 2013 when HACs as a class were rebalanced. Ever since Black Legion fell apart, no one has attempted to use them until the introduction of the ADC, simply because HACs as class aren’t in a good spot, and even if they were, the slot layout prevents it from being used. I’ve never understood why the Muninn has less midslots than its T1 counterpart, the Rupture. Even after the ADC was reintroduced, the ship has the tank of a wet paper bag. This simply doesn’t work past small to mid scale skirmishing as any sizable fleet is just going to alpha a Muninn.
After this update gives the hull an extra midslot, the Muninn is capable of fitting a passable tank for a skirmish ship and gains more leniency on running the ADC. Combined with its improved speed and agility, it works as a small scale kiting platform. Having said that, the Muninn starts to run into some problems that are independent of balancing the actual hull.
First, you either have to use a Loki or Claymore with implants and drugs to keep up with your fleet. Neither of these are particularly well tanked, and this just goes back to problem with shield FC and link ships that I discussed earlier with the Monitor. Second, because of the changes to mining T2 materials, the hull alone costs 300m, which is fairly steep for what the platform offers. At the current market rate, you have to ask, “why am I not flying a Loki or anything else right now.” Unless the upcoming HAC rebalance changes this hull significantly, it’s not going to see widespread adoption given the niche, and that it requires effective use of the ADC to work as a fleet concept.
All of this aside, there is an added Easter egg in this patch. The “+150 armor HP” buff that is listed in the patch notes doesn’t match what is currently live on Singularity. With all level 5 skills, the Muninn currently has 2500 raw armor, and after the patch it has 3776 armor. I’m assuming that the dev blog is supposed to say 150% and that it’s just a typo, but even then it doesn’t quite match. Given that local sounded like this whenever Black Legion was in local, I don’t believe that “3776” is a coincidence. Someone at CCP is shitposting.
It’s a good sign that CCP is iterating on balance, as the game will start becoming significantly healthier if they commit developer time every month or so to balancing the game. It’s a good start, but there’s a long way to go. I’m cautiously optimistic, and for the first time in recent memory, I can say that I’m looking forward to playing the upcoming patch. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive reception that the March release is getting both on Reddit and the official forums, I’m not alone.