This is a thread that I wrote in pieces and mostly 6 month ago, and decided to post close to the anniversary of the Feb 25th mega-patch of 2020. The point of this thread is to showcase various errors in that patch that to date have not really been addressed, and have now evolved within the meta to result in some noticeable problems in the gameplay. This thread also exists to highlight some of the good ideas from the patch that proved successful in improving gameplay. Most of this also applies to WvW.
1. Downstate was never updated to match the changes in damage. ( Oversight )
A side effect of damage being reduced across the board is that downstate generally now lasts noticeably longer, and cleaving out a downed target can be a losing game in the presence of support specs. It seems that downstate was just never really accounted for when factoring in the DPS reductions, and this has had some serious repercussions.
-”Support Balls” where multiple support/aoe damage hybrid builds ball together can be all but unkillable if they work together, because they can just instantly revive each other. This has proven an effective strategy in AT s, and is an extremely easy strategy to execute.
-Traits that help with resurrection are now a lot stronger and can at times pretty much instantly revive someone. Blood necro is especially strong at this.
-People in general staying in downstate for much longer than they previously would seems to hurt the flow of the game much more than anything. It also greatly increases the “Team rallybot” problem, where a teamfight can be won not by who plays better but by which team brought more stomp+revive options. “Build wars” aren’t fun.
-Consider reducing the HP pool of downstate, or the HP gained during revives by at least 10%
-Consider nerfing traits/skills that aid in revival
2. Pet / Summon / Spirits HP and stats were never updated to match the changes in damage. ( Oversight )
“Pets” such as spirit summons, Necromancer minions, and other summoned “Adds” were never updated to reflect the changes in DPS. The most noticeable of this being their health pool. This means that builds that could previously be countered much easier by simply killing the adds ( Kalla Renegade and Minion master are two notable examples ) now take a lot longer to take down. It also results in various implementations of the “run away/sustain while pets play the game for me” ""“strategy”"" which are never good for the game.
-Just reduce the base stats of all pets/summons to match the damage reduction from Feb 25th 2020, and the inherent counterplay to these types of builds will be restored. This one is a pretty easy solution, as none of these builds were especially effective pre-patch.
3. Poor visual tells and poor balancing of the "Cast time + Effect" tradeoff continues to be one of the biggest balance problems plaguing GW2 PvP.
One of the good things about the Feb25th patch was that it did focus on some level of the concept that "Big damage should come from big tells." Unfortunately, it just didn't do enough. This continues to be the biggest issue with GW2 PvP, and why so many builds and skills that would otherwise be fine feel extremely frustrating to play against or feel very gimmicky to play due to the fact that a large portion of the damage comes from abilities that have very low cast times and/or poor quality visual tells. There's also the problem of big AoE abilties casting as fast as single target abilities, while doing either the same or even more damage. The result of this is a lot of mindless "Stand on point, spam AoEs" builds continue to dominate in conquest.
A good example of this done right would be looking at the game SMITE by Hirez. All abilities have clear animations. You can easily understand what abilities are being used from a fair distance away. The vast majority of the most powerful abilities have a noticeable windup time to give players a chance to react. There are many reasons why Smite has a pro league and GW2 doesn't, and this one of them.
-This issue is pretty self explanatory. Less damage coming from invisible passive sources, more coming from clearly recognizable abilities. This is something the patch did right, but just didn't do enough.
-Consider adding a system of glowing skill symbols for certain abilities that appear over a characters head, similar to what existed for many skills ( Such as Ressurection signet ) from GW1. These "extra animations" Could be toggled on/off in player options.
-Certain visual tells actually get blocked by damage text depending on your settings. This is a considerable oversight. Consider allowing players better control of the UI so this doesn't happen as often.
-Consider giving more AoE skills the "Shackling wave" Treatment: IE, increase the cast time by double, and then increase the damage proportionate to the cast time increase in PvE to make up for the DPS loss so the change doesn't hurt PvE-only players. Having tons of AoE abilities that can be quickly cast in succession due to all of them being <1s casting time is one of the biggest factors in GW2 that causes the game to feel like the gameplay is "spammy".
-"Reveal on hit" instead of "Reveal on cast" as a stealth mechanic is extremely controversial.
-Consider giving stability a noticeable visual tell. This boon is easily the most important buff in PvP, and yet it has no visual tell at all. This forces players to constantly check their targets status bar. As a basic example from smite, CC immune players gain a golden VFX to their model.
4. The problems behind Condition damage were not directly addressed.
When it comes to power damage, the Feb 25th patch generally hit the mark: Spike damage needed to come down, because oneshots were way too easy as a result of the previous two expansions massive powercreep. However when it comes to how condition damage works, the changes that were mostly the reduction of passive stacks and increase to cooldowns didn’t quite touch on what specifically causes condi builds to be oppressive in PvP.
To put it simply, the real issue with conditions is that they have three upsides to two downsides.
Downsides: 1. Damage over time is inferior to instant damage 2. Can be removed/transferred.
Upsides: 1. Damage is overall higher 2. Stat advantage ( Only 1 stat required -condition damage- VS 3 stats -Power, Precision, Ferocity- ) 3. Condi abilities generally have low visual tells and/or are heavily carried by invisible passives and AoE spam.
The Feb 25th patch didn’t address this disparity at all, and instead tried to mask it with random numbers nerfs and dartboard cooldown hits. The result is that condi builds don’t really feel like they have seen any improvement in gameplay over the last year at all, and still for the most part come down to build wars instead of skill.
-To put it simply, either one of the upsides of condition damage should be reduced, or conditions need a new downside.
-IMO the best solution is unfortunately the one that requires the most work: Condi skills should have the same level of animated tells and cast times as Power based skills. Getting hit with invisible passives and fast casting unblockable AoEs is probably what most people dislike about condi builds the most. In other words, see problem #3.
-A band-aid solution is to increase the number of conditions removed by most condi clears by one. This isn’t the best solution by any means, but it's relatively easy to implement.
5. Not all CC s are created equal, and they haven’t really received the post-rework treatment that most expected. This has resulted in most CC skills being either a lot stronger or weaker than they should be
The basic change to CC in GW2 that came along Feb 25th is something I personally found favorable. Reducing stability and stunbreaks meant people actually had to actively try to avoid CC ( As opposed to just running around with 10 billion stacks of stab and never having to learn what the tells are for CC skills ), while removing the damage from CC also meant that CC now had to be used as a part of a skill combo than as a free kill when it lands.
That being said, the main oversight here is this rework made it so CC that takes a long time to cast and have huge animations are not nearly as strong as they once were, while CC that have poor visual tells or comes with additional benefits such as being multi-hit in a huge AoE, unblockable, or even unevadeable got a huge indirect buff. So yet again, see problem #3. This disparity has not been well addressed over the last year, leading more and more builds to gravitate towards CC spam of unevadeables and unblockables. Gale, Dragon’s Maw, Shock aura, Sleight of Hand, and Darkrazor's Daring are just a few example skills/mechanics that are now much stronger than they need to be. Meanwhile, certain elite CC with huge tells like PLB still seem underwhelming.
-Consider removing the mechanic of unevadeable CCs from the game entirely. Unblockable CCs already perform the job of being able to break through block-spam, so unevadeable CCs don't really add anything to the game other than to further encourage the "Stand on point, spam AoEs" cheese-strategy. Unevadeables also severely lack counterplay and are thus just in general bad for the game.
-Severely tone down CC s that have no visual tell, or give them a visual tell.
-Consider “gain stability for 2s when you break a stun” a default mechanic of all stun breaks, similar to the trait “Glaring Resolve” minus the heal ( You only get the stab if you are actually CC-d when you use a stunbreak skill ). What this does is cut down on the effectiveness of CC spam, without the problems cause by “On demand” stability.
6. While sustain was brought down to match the damage reduction, Indirect sources of sustain really were not.
Many players warned before the patch went live that indirect sources of sustain such as barrier-spam and Necro lifeforce were not really being touched as much as they should. A year later, things have slightly improved, but this issue has overall proven to be a noticeable side effect. This can also result in a lot of builds that are better at bunkering than they should, because they gain a source of sustain that can be easily spammed. "Decap" builds are a solid example.
-Skills and traits that have no ( Or an extremely low ) ICD tend to be the biggest offenders.
-Pay close attention to bunker builds and what enables them. Too much bunker leads to an extremely stale meta.
-Continue to monitor indirect forms of sustain that add more health but don't technically "Heal".
-New players tend to have problems with skills like Defiant stance ( Warrior ) or Infused light ( Rev ) that convert incoming damage into healing. While it's easy to tell these players to "gitgud", and in many ways it really is a L2P issue, it's also another case of problem #3. The visual tell on these skills just aren't good enough to match how serious of a skill they are, to the point where it is easier to notice them by looking at their status-bar than their player model. The stats ( Cooldown/Duration ) on these skills and how they function are fine, but consider adding a brighter glow to them to help the noobs out.
7. "Just increase the cooldown" didn't work at all.
Most of what I warned about in that thread has come to pass. The most effective method to kill someone in the game right now is to +1 them. While this has always been true, it's far easier now since the chances of two players engaged in an on point 1v1 being out of cooldowns is noticeably higher. This is not some weird theorycrafting opinion, it is a mathematically demonstrable fact. If the average CD of skills is 20, and this is increased to 40, the odds of a person being out of CDs when they are +1ed is roughly 50% higher. All "Just increase the cooldown" as a primary balancing method does is encourage outnumbering as a primary strategy.
-Consider why a skill is overpowered before nerfing it. More often than not, the cooldown has little to do with it.
-In the case of GW2 especially, most skills that ended up getting a cooldown nerf actually have a cast-time problem rather than a cooldown problem.
-In other words, see problem #3.
-Consider reverting most cooldown nerfs, replacing them with actual nerfs.