By all appearances, Ubisoft is putting a lot of effort into the 1.4 update of The Division. It flew people to Europe to help out with it, after all. And going by the detailed “Improving Character Balance” blog post that went up today, it's got some very big changes in the works that will dramatically impact how the game is played.
“One issue facing The Division today is that the power difference between optimized and non-optimized builds is too great,” the update begins. “We still want people to optimize their gear and min-max to their heart’s content, but in order to balance the game, we need to reduce the gap between the two extremes. As part of Update 1.4 we also want to bring back the shooter feeling, add more decision making and hard choices when building your character and add more variety to the viable builds.”
Several steps are being taken to accomplish that. Gear is being changed so that every piece of equipment dropped in World Tier 2 and higher will have all three main stats on them—Firearms, Stamina, and Electronics—which will create a “standard baseline," boosting survivability and reducing the risk of “accidentally making the game much more difficult than it has to be.” Gear score is also being changed, high-end gear and talents are being tweaked to make them more viable for endgame play, and Scavenging is being removed outright.
“Scavenging has been an issue for a long time and we’ve always meant to fix it. Unfortunately, all the solutions that we’ve tested were unsatisfying and we’ve finally decided to remove it from the game,” Ubi wrote. “If you have Scavenging on your current gear, that stat will be replaced and rerolled. We also don’t want players to swap gear for a specific result while they are playing; if Scavenging was made too good, for example, we’d end up in a situation where players would switch to their Scavenging gear before killing a boss.”
Weapons are undergoing a similarly comprehensive overhaul, with changes to DPS formula, weapon mods and talents, damage bonus calculations, and other related features. Armor is also being changed to reduce its impact and make player health (via Stamina) the “main source of toughness.” This means that in order to play as a tank, you're going to have to spec for Stamina, at the expense of Firearms and Electronics.
Gear sets are also being rebalanced, skills will no longer progress on a linear scale, Signature Skills are being changed so that people will pick something besides Survivor Link now and then, and special ammo (incendiary and explosive) will have a reduced effect. “Note that most of these changes will be retroactive. You won’t be able to save overpowered 'legacy' weapons, instead you will see a direct change to the items in your inventory, “the post says. “While we realize this might come as a shock to some, we’re sure that the overall gameplay experience will be much more satisfying and simply more fun after these changes have been made.”
As lengthy as the blog post is, Ubisoft said that even more changes are being made, and that “a more exhaustive list will be released with the patch notes before the update is released in October.” It also warned that the update is not carved in stone, and further changes may be made based on how things play out on the PTS, which is set to go online next week.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.
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