So, uh, this Servant is a thing that exists.
There’s a concept in game balance called “best in context,” which refers to the idea that in a well-balanced game everything should be the best in some context. To apply this (simplistically) to FGO, you might have a Servant who’s the best at farming waves of Sabers, while another might be the best at taking down high-HP Rider bosses, while yet another might be the best at surviving against enemies who spam their Noble Phantasms. While there have been some balance misfires in the past, this is an idea that FGO has seemed to at least make an effort at reflecting.
And then Altria Caster comes along. She is, through this framework, best in every context.
She’s the best farming enabler in the game, she’s the best high-end CQ support in the game, she’s the best budget team support in the game, she’s the best support to double up on, she’s the best support for when you can’t double up, and she’s probably the best at stall, too. She’s straight-up the best Servant in the game and it’s not even close. She more-or-less matches the things Waver, Reines, and Skadi do and then improves upon them, and she makes the value Merlin brings largely unnecessary. If your goal is to run the strongest team possible, there is literally no situation in which you would not bring her unless she is explicitly prohibited or countered.
I’ll go into some detail with regards to what this might mean for the game’s balance going forward in this review’s conclusion, but in the interest of jumping into the bulk of the review, suffice it to say that Altria Caster is really freaking strong.
|Base Atk||1,629||Base HP||2,112|
|Max Atk||10,546||Max HP||14,406|
|Grail Atk||11,544||Grail HP||15,782|
|NP per Hit (%)||0.54%|
|NP when Attacked (%)||3%|
|Star Generation per Hit||11.0%|
In case it’s not obvious already, Altria is absurdly good. Like, “fundamentally change the way we perceive the game’s balance” good. My first reaction when I saw her kit was, and I quote, “This is bad—like, actively bad for the game. Wild.” From a traditional balance standpoint, I stand by that—although it’s a little too early for the kind of doomsaying that’s been going around in some circles.
The next few paragraphs will be a bit of speculation on my part with regards to how Altria might impact FGO’s gameplay as a whole moving forward. It is, again, speculation, so if you aren’t interested in my thoughts about this, feel free to skip to the end of the review.
Altria radically raises the thresholds of what’s possible at the high end—and at all levels of play, really. Top-end Arts teams are by and large significantly stronger than even top-end Quick teams were before Altria’s release. A well-built Altria team should be able to crush pretty much anything we’ve seen in the game to-date.
There are, broadly speaking, two notable alternatives with regards to how this impacts balance moving forward:
In case 1, DW balances around Altria teams, and everything else struggles to keep up. High-end Quick teams do okay but have issues, while low-to-mid-range Quick and anything Buster has an awful time trying to clear content without command seals. Running anything but double-Altria becomes super painful, and the only meaningful gameplay variety comes in how you built your double-Altria teams.
In case 2, content stays on more or less the same trajectory as it has been, and Altria exists as something of a cheat code, or an easy mode. Players who don’t really care about gameplay and just want to read the story can steamroll everything with Altria, while players who want to run more interesting teams can stick with lower-end teams. Difficulty becomes more-or-less self-imposed, determined by the strength of the team you choose to use rather than by the quest itself.
And then there are of course a range of possibilities that fall somewhere in the middle. The biggest concerns about Altria’s release tend to come from people who think case 1 is the most likely, or at least is likely enough it’s worth being worried about.
Personally I think case 2 (or something similar) is more likely. FGO is and always has been driven primarily by its narrative. Provided the game’s difficulty doesn’t skyrocket, Altria provides a way for players who just want to read Lostbelt to circumvent the trickier story fights. From that standpoint her addition makes a certain degree of sense—threading the needle between making story content hard enough to interest gameplay-minded players and easy enough to not discourage story-oriented players can be a tricky one. Altria, it seems, provides an out.
Ultimately, we don’t know what the game will look like in six months. At the very least, Altria democratizes fast farming, which is without question a good thing, no matter what the long-term balance implications might be. It’s absolutely valid to worry about what Altria’s release means for the game going forward, but I think it’s a little too early to panic.
All-in-all, Altria is ludicrously powerful. She is the best at all levels of investment, in pretty much all styles of play. The only thing she doesn’t do is facilitate crits—and who needs crits when you loop your NP regardless? This is a must-pull Servant if ever there’s been one, but even if you miss her (by choice, luck, or timing) a single Altria pulled off your support list will make your life drastically easier. She’s just that good.
Single-Target DPS: 3/10
AoE DPS: N/A
Offensive Utility: 11/10
Defensive Utility: 9/10
Farming Usefulness: 11/10