I've been a Powertech three times now, twice in beta alone. I've been monitoring the direction in which the designers have been taking the class and, with community support, I want to pitch some ideas (and report some issues) with the mechanics of the Advanced Prototype tree in particular as it is the least rewarding playstyle of the three trees available to the class.
The template of the following list items will be as follows:
|Searchable ID| Concern/Issue with overall spec or with specific ability/tree skill
Skill Tree Issues and Suggestions:
- |G01| Survivability and Damage Seem Lower than Intended
- |G02| Lack of Slows/Roots/Stuns Makes PvP While Leveling a Pain
- |G03| Tree Useless Prior to Prototype Flame Thrower and/or Hydraulic Overrides, Weak Until Immolate
- |G04| Procs are Unreliable and/or Ineffective
|G01| Survivability and damage seem to be lower than intended
- |S01| Prototype Burn Enhancers: Also affects Retractable Blade (and possibly Rocket Punch)
- |S02| Prototype Electro Surge: Remove another 5 seconds from cooldown
- |S03| Prototype Cylinders: Ion Gas Cylinder bonus instead reduces enemy damage by 3%
- |S04| Prototype Cylinder Ventilation + Pneumatic Boots: Combine into one talent, create new talent
- |S05| Flame Barrage: Flame Sweep now has a 30% chance to proc this
- |S06| Serrated Blades: Also increases armor penetration against afflicted targets
- |S07| Prototype Flame Thrower: Reduce to 3 stacks, each stack also adds slow %, rank 1 = 100% proc but 1/2 effect
- |S08| Charged Gauntlets: Each RB tick grants 1 stack of Charged Gauntlets, increasing Rail Shot crit by 20% and crit damage bonus by 6%. Stacks up 5 times.
- |S09| Kolto Vents: 10% over 5 seconds after Vent Heat, also reduces Kolto Overload cooldown to 2 minutes (from 3 minutes)
- |S10| Stabilized Armor: Also reduces cooldown of Carbonize by 3 seconds for each second you are stunned or incapacitated
- |S11| Prototype Weapon Systems: Also increases RB and FlameFundamental Issuesge bonus
As reading the Powertech forum for three minutes will indicate, players feel the AP spec deals significantly lower damage than the PyroTech spec. Spamming Rail Shots every few seconds with the up to 90% armor bypass (while venting heat at the same time) is difficult for the current Advanced Prototype to compete against.
However, I want to also add that survivability is an issue for the class. Where PyroTechs get Energy Rebounder and Automated Defenses, both of which can help a lot with survivability in longer fights, the Advanced Prototype instead gets Power Armor (which is good for its location in the tree) and Stabilized Armor (which is amazing since we get stunlocked all the time, but doesn't do anything when we aren't getting stunned). Furthermore, because the PyroTech can operate at a slightly outside-of-melee range, ideal for kiting Jedi and Sith, Scoundrels and Operatives, he in turn gains some bonus survivability.
Still, both the PyroTech and Advanced Prototype are fairly squishy despite donning heavy armor, and it seems the route the AP is supposed to take is that of a more a defensively-minded, unkiteable melee juggernaut to the PyroTech's ranged kiter playstyle.
A trend I've noticed about tank ACs is that they have less control powers than do the other ACs, ESPECIALLY the stealth and healer ACs (keep in mind that Shadow/Assassin were stealth DPS before they were redesigned to be tank ACs; they are exempt from this rule). This would make sense if armor rating made more of a difference in both PvE (but healing + 60 sec sleep > ~20% more mitigation in heroics) and PvP (way too much elemental and internal damage flying around). AP (and PyroTech) should gain some extra defensive boons to make up for the lesser control. For example, imagine if Retractable Blade reduced enemy accuracy and alacrity per tick, up to 5 stacks. More debuffs would help the AP shine.
|G02| Movement speed boosts < ability to slow/root/stun in PvP
The 15% movement speed boost is fairly standard for melee-oriented DPS specs who lack a charge ability. However, four of said specs are also stealth DPS specs, and the stealth abilities achieve the same purpose as a charge: gap closing.
So, a 15% movement speed boost from HEGC is inconsequential when you are a burly Mandalorian-armored warrior because people will see you miles away and just stunlock and kite you to death (if you choose to save your Hydraulic Overrides for maintaining melee distance). It would be great for Advanced Prototype to have a real gap closer such as Jet Charge, but it would be even better if Advanced Prototype could actually maintain gaps with a slow while using HEGC. Instead, they have to spec into Shieldtech and use IGC for the slow and mitigation because the AP spec and HEGC fail to offer enough PvP survival and control.
|G03| Procs are unreliable and/or ineffective
Flame Barrage, Charged Gauntlets, and Prototype Flame Thrower define the identity of the tree. Unfortunately their procs (chances, effects, or both) are way too unreliable or ineffective, especially before you get Immolate.
Furthermore, since the spec does not receive any cooldown refreshes, Heat-free Rocket Punches and auto-crit Rail Shot procs are often wasted; the cooldowns for the abilities that benefit from those procs often do not refresh until after combat is over.
|G04| Entire tree utterly useless in PvE+PvP until 20/21 points, still weak until you get Immolate
If I were to reroll a new Powertech, I would not spec AP before level 40.
This is a melee-centric DPS tree of a base ranged-centric class that cannot effectively melee in PvP until you get Hydraulic Overrides (21 points/level 30). On the other hand, Scoundrels, Operatives, Assassins, and Shadows get to melee at level 10 thanks to stealth and their jobs become easier at level 20 via in-combat stealth and increased stealth levels. In essence, the AP (Tactics for Vanguard) spec is the only melee spec in the game without a gap closer. This is the Enhancement Shaman/Paladin dilemma all over again.
Solution: Get rid of Hydraulic Overrides, make Jet Charge baseline, change 21 pointers for Shieldtech and AP. As much as I love HO, I'd rather have a more meaningful way to close distances and earlier into leveling, especially on groups of enemies to unload Flame Thrower attacks.
Until you get Hydraulic Overrides (PvP) or Prototype Flame Thrower (PvE and somewhat PvP), any points you spend in AP will have been better spent in Shieldtech and PyroTech. For that same point investment during level up, you could have much more control, damage, and/or survivability if you chose to spec into those trees instead, making the leveling process much smoother as a non-AP.
The issue is that this a melee DPS spec who has way too many early utility talents that delay its DPS bonuses until higher in the tree (via Prototype Flame Thrower, which has its own set of problems) and who cannot genuinely melee in PvP until you obtain Hydraulic Overrides.
You have no real reason to use Flame Burst (obtained at level 10) as an Advanced Prototype until Flame Barrage, which requires 15/16 points (i.e. level 25/26), because you are better off using that Heat for Unload and Flamethrower (both channeled attacks that work contrary to AP's mobile melee playstyle). On the other hand, Shieldtech and PyroTech gain great utility from Flame Burst as soon as even one single point is invested in their trees.
Finally, the difference between 30 AP and 31 AP (with Immolate) is night and day. Immolate is the highest damage attack in your arsenal, has a mere 8 Heat cost, and grants you a Heat-free Rocket Punch every single time via Flame Barrage. I love game-changing 31 pointers, but AP can't even hold its own without its 31 pointer unlike most other skill trees, especially the Shieldtech and PyroTech.
Skill Tree Issues and Suggestions:
|S01| Prototype Burn Enhancers: Also affects Retractable Blade (and possibly Rocket Punch)
Every tree focuses on using one specific non-fire attack and, save for AP, properly supports that ability with amazing talents. PyroTech obviously caters towards Rail Shot, for instance. And while every tree utilizes Rocket Punch on cooldown, Shieldtech clearly favors the ability because it ties its cylinder's DoT to the attack and refreshes the ability's cooldown upon shielding an attack.
AP tries to make Retractable Blade a staple ability to the spec but makes a poor effort to increase its power; APs try not to use RB unless there are no other DoTs/CCs on the target to exploit for Rail Shot purposes. I believe we should make Retractable Blade THE primary attack for the spec by improving its power as early as tier 1.
I propose Prototype Burn Enhancers should also increase the crit chance of Retractable Blade and its ticks or affect melee attacks as a whole (Retractable Blade, RB DoT, and Rocket Punch).
|S02| Prototype Electro Surge: Remove another 5 seconds from cooldown
In short, the tank ACs seem to have much weaker control than healer ACs due to their mitigation advantage, but then that advantage is undermined thanks to all the internal and kinetic damage being thrown around in PvP. In essence, DPS-specced healers are in a much better position than DPS-specced tanks.
Given the above observation combined with the fact that most other classes' 60 second cooldown stuns can be reduced to 45 seconds via talents, I feel Prototype Electro Surge should also reduce Electro Dart's cooldown by 7.5/15 seconds instead of 5/10 seconds. This is especially important during level up (since we don't get Carbonize until level 46!).
|S03| Prototype Cylinders: Ion Gas Cylinder bonus instead reduces enemy damage by 3%
This doesn't affect a DPS AP, but the talent is still in the tree so I figure it makes sense to address this. The 8% bonus to IGC damage is minimal and is nothing a tank would ever care to dump 6 points into AP to obtain.
Let's make it more attractive: Prototype Cylinders reduces the damage of targets afflicted by Ion Gas Cylinder by 3% instead of increases the cylinder's damage by 8%.
|S04| Prototype Cylinder Ventilation + Pneumatic Boots: Add extra benefits to each OR combine both into one talent and create a new talent in same tier
PCV and PB are great talents, but I feel each talent could be improved to offer a little bit more to make HEGC a bit more attractive (4 points spent on talents specific to IGC or CGC offer more benefit at this tier).
I propose that each talent grant the Powertech some sort of defensive boost on top of their current bonuses. I'd like to see a passive Combat Technique/Dark Charge-style passive HoT (could be added to PCV) as well as an internal/elemental damage mitigation boost (makes sense to add to PB since both bonuses would be more PvP-centric).
|S05| Flame Barrage: Flame Sweep now has a 30% chance to proc this
Until you get Immolate, this talent is basically useless. The amount of Heat you spend spamming Flame Burst just to get a free Rocket Punch is better spent on Unload (even in PvP because it does more damage) and even Missile Blast (for PvE knockdown into a Shoulder Slam/Rail Shot).
I feel the AP could greatly benefit if Flame Sweep, just like Flame Burst, had a 30% chance to proc a Heat-free Rocket Punch. Since that means 30% on each target damaged, Flame Sweep could almost guarantee a Heat-free Rocket Punch if used within a group of four enemies (it would be ~76% chance for 24 Heat, much better than 30% chance for 16 Heat).
|S06| Serrated Blades: Also increases armor penetration against afflicted targets
Other than the 60% armor pen for Rail Shot, this tree has no talents at all that increase the damage of Rocket Punch and Retractable Blade's initial strike sizably. Furthermore, PyroTech's Rail Shot is so powerful that it single-handedly is accountable for a major portion of the DPS discrepancy between the two specs: the ability's CD refreshes, it vents 8 heat instead of costing 16 (in ideal situations), it bypasses 90% armor, and it gets 30% crit damage boost.
With an armor pen boost to victims of Retractable Blade's DoT, not only are APs more inclined to use the ability but also we gain a sizable increase to the rest of our primary attacks. As it is now, there's no point using Retractable Blade just like there's no point using Incendiary Missile unless we want to stop door-cappers or if no one else put a DoT on the target for us to exploit.
|S07| Prototype Flame Thrower: Reduce to 3 stacks, each stack also adds slow %, rank 1 = 100% proc but 1/2 effect
Rank 1 is useless (important during leveling up) because it's a 50% chance to gain 1 of 5 stacks. Also, the talent loses value in PvP since you can have your Flame Thrower be interrupted, you can be stunned/knocked away, or enemies can run away while you are channeling, all of which are bad news for a melee DPS spec that relies on this talent.
I propose the following changes: Flame Burst and Flame Sweep grant Prototype Flame Thrower, increasing the channel speed and tick speed of your next Flame Thrower by 16/33% and its damage by 5/10%. Stacks up to 3 times.
This way you trade 20% damage at 5 stacks for the sake of:
1) Gaining a reliable proc at rank 1
2) Worrying about 2 less stacks
3) Increased mobility and reliabilty since you can deal the full damage in only 1.5 seconds (2.25 seconds at rank 1).
|S08| Charged Gauntlets: Each RB tick grants 1 stack of Charged Gauntlets, increasing Rail Shot crit by 20% and crit damage bonus by 6%. Stacks up 5 times.
I love Rail Shot and when it crits it is just glorious. However, 25% chance to proc this talent with those two abilities is very low. On one hand, Rocket Punch has a 9 second cooldown but Retractable Blade has no cooldown; why then do they both have the same chance to charge your gauntlets? Furthermore, the more +crit gear you get, the less valuable this proc becomes.
Either give Rocket Punch a 100% chance to proc Charged Gauntlets or allow Rocket Punch's cooldown to refresh via Flame Barrage (as explained above). A Heat reduction and/or Surge boost and/or guaranteed 100% accuracy to Rail Shot via Charged Gauntlets would also be very welcome.
|S09| Kolto Vents: 10% over 5 seconds after Vent Heat, also reduces Kolto Overload cooldown to 2 minutes (from 3 minutes)
7% max HP healed is great, especially for a heavy armor wearer, but 10 seconds is way too slow, especially since the talent is tied to an ability with a 2 minute cooldown. For how high this talent is, this should be 7% over 5 seconds.
|S10| Stabilized Armor: Also reduces cooldown of Carbonize by 2/4 seconds for each second you are stunned or incapacitated
Mimicking how PyroTech's upper tier talents reduce the cooldown of Energy Shield and Kolto Overload via a proc, I'd like to see Carbonize improved similarly within AP. This would cement AP's role as a close combat disruptor (and the control would in turn improve its lackluster defenses in PvP).
|S11| Prototype Weapon Systems: Also increases RB and Flame Thrower crit damage bonus
I think that says it all. If Retractable Blade and Flame Thrower are so important to the spec, we need to increase their crit damage.
The equivalent talents in Shieldtech and PyroTech affect fewer abilities, yes, but they affect the ability that is getting its cooldown refreshed every few seconds (Rocket Punch for ST, Rail Shot for PyroTech). Since AP doesn't refresh cooldowns, I don't see an issue allowing Prototype Weapon Systems affect five abilities (to Flame Surge's two and Firebug's four).