Discussing the recent changes to Arena, how it affects Shooters and why Shooters need better parts
Today I bring you something different than the usual parts review I do. This is a topic I've been mulling over for a while, and we recently had major changes that both helped some minor issues related to the topic and highlighted the glaring remaining issues.
So, just in general, a sword fight is always more exciting narratively and visually than a fight with guns. The fights last longer, the sequences are more visceral, there's more room for expression and dialogue. Gundam as a franchise is no exception. Oftentimes we remember moments where the two suits clash with Beam sabers or axes or whatever, as opposed to the moments where they just shoot each other from far away. The clashes are the climatic moments, and oftentimes even the deaths by Beam Saber tend to be more flashy, with more flourish in the moves, than when people get shot. How often do you see a Gundam slash some grunt in half while doing a spin, and then while facing away from the now exploding grunt, burst off towards another enemy? Now how often do you see a ranged kill happen where the Gundam does one of those sick pistol spins in their hands? No? How about a cool one liner before a particularly difficult snipe? Thank god for Lockon, bringing Shooters some love in the show that isn't just "fire a million missiles and bullets at once".
Even in game, ranged attacks are handled by pressing a "shoot" button that does that. Meanwhile melee attacks are done by tapping the screen, which is a lot more dynamic, especially since you need to be close to the enemy as opposed to being far out of reach. All told, melee is more frantic and hectic, which gets your adrenaline running more, while shooting is more calm and collected, making sure to bait and dodge and then keeping things cool while you shoot them down. So it makes sense that both in the show and in game, melee gets a lot more love than ranged.
Where am I going with this? I'm just going to come out and say it: GBGW has a Shooter problem.
So recently we had the 1.2 update that adjusted how the Battle Assessment Formula is calculated. Prior to 1.2, Total damage accounted for 0.337 of a possible 0.341 total points, with taking zero damage being 0.001, and time being 0.003 of the final total, which was 0.001 lost per 10 seconds that passed in Arena.
Now, after 1.2, the exact numbers haven't quite been figured out yet in that fashion, but damage seems to have been capped to 0.250, down from 0.337. Time has also been increased in importance slightly, though it seems like the maximum cap has gone down from 0.341 to 0.260 or thereabouts.
So, what does the change in Battle Assessment have to do with Shooter builds, and why are they an issue? Well, pre-1.2, Melee were the king of Arena. They not only hit the highest damage numbers in a perfect build, but they also had the most options and substitutes to get a high end build and they even had the best AI behaviour, being very difficult to abuse outside of the Jaburo map. Shooters, on the other hand, had a lower top end than Melee did, had a significantly smaller selection of good parts to use, and their AI was the easiest to abuse since they would constantly get locked into Special Shot animations. Despite these issues, Shooters, while not really able to compete for 1st in Arena, could hang out with the big boys near the top of the ladder regardless. Post 1.2 changes, however, this problem gets worse, as Shooters still suffer all the same problems, and one problem in particular, the lack of viable parts, is really hurting them currently.
"But wait, Scubasage," I hear you saying, "didn't Shooters just get FOUR new Shooter focused suits that all have Ace Exclusive as a tag recently?" Yes, they did. The Hi-Nu, Enhanced ZZ, VEETWO and Providence Gundams. It's great that Shooters are getting some variety now, but there are still a couple of issues...well, a lot of issues, really. Firstly, half of those suits are Sokai suits, so the parts are very limited, which doesn't help. Secondly, the best parts of each of these suits compete with each other and other best parts of older Shooter builds, rather than filling in slots where Shooters just kinda had to "make do". Finally, these parts mostly fail to address the biggest two issues with Shooter viability right now, and that is Overkill skills and CD reduction traits.
Let's start with Overkill skills. This is an name I use to describe A damage skills with a CD of 120 (30) or thereabouts, that do the most damage of any skills in the game by far. There are currently 14 of these skills in the game, 4 of which are on Sokai limited parts. Of those 14, 12 are Melee skills, and only TWO are Shot skills. To make matters worse, one of those two Shot skills is a Sokai limited part, compared to the 12 total Melee skills, with only 3 of those 12 being Sokai limited. So already the choices for Shooters are quite slim to begin with for their best skills. Next, let's look at where those Overkill skills are situated on parts. Melee skills are primarily on the Arms and Back slots, with a couple of outliers like a single Melee Weapon, Torso and Leg part each having an Overkill skill. Shooters, on the other hand, have a Ranged Weapon and a Leg part. Where the skills are is important for later, so keep this in mind. Anyways, none of the Hi-Nu, Enhanced ZZ, VEETWO or Providence parts come with an Overkill skill.
Another point to discuss here is whether Overkill skills are really needed in the new Arena, and the answer is "less so than before, but still mostly yes". Strong, non-Overkill Skills and Magazine skills can work as acceptable substitutes, given that the damage threshold is lower than it used to be, but you still need fairly high damage. Assuming you have enough CD reduction to use them right away, they still give the best results.
Next, let's look at CD Reduction. The trait that boosts Initial EX Skill Charge is what we're looking at here. In total, you need somewhere in the ballpark of 20-25% total CD reduction in order to use your Overkill skill right as the match begins. This is important because Time plays a much bigger factor than it used to, so most builds should be trying to reach those numbers. A lot of the CD traits, once they reach lvl 10, provide 20% on their own, which means even one single part is theoretically enough, but outside of whales that's not a realistic goal. You usually need to stack three-four copies of a lvl 1 6% CD trait in order to get close enough to instant. None of the four recently added suits have a trait for this.
So, remember how we looked at how the Overkill Skills are split amongst Melee and Shot? Let's do the same for the CD traits. There are 16 total traits. Of those 16, they are split as such: 3 Pilots, 4 Melee Weapons, and 9 Ranged Weapons have the trait. Of those 3 Pilots, 2 are intended for Melee use through their Job License or AI behaviour, while the third is a Support with devastatingly low ATK stats. Of those 4 Melee weapons, 2 of them are strong enough to use on Melee builds, and 2 are very low ATK, making them intended more for Shooter builds. Finally, we have the 9 Ranged Weapons. Of those 9 Ranged Weapoms, only the Shield Buster Rifle has a Shot ATK that is above average for a 4* part. All the others are either ~3177 or lower, making them all candidates for Melee builds almost exclusively, as there is no real benefit to using them over the Gundam Rifle which has an Overkill and the same Shot ATK, especially given that the only other Overkill option is a Sokai limited part. So of the 16 Initial trait parts, we have 3 that realistically could fit on a Shooter build. That's not great.
That doesn't seem too bad at first glance, 3 out of 16 parts is still a lot, right? That's like ~19% of those parts, after all. But then, remember how I said to keep in mind what slots the Overkills are in? Melee primarily have Overkills in Arm and Back slots. Notice how not a single CD reduction trait exists in those slots. Shooters have them in Legs and Ranged, which are the majority of the CD parts, causing a conflict there. Melee builds can afford to stack multiple CD traits to reach the 20-25% number, since those traits don't interfere with the Overkill parts. Shooters don't have that luxury, often being unable to stack traits high enough. Even the one viable Pilot for this, Mikazuki, loses out on the 10% Shot ATK boost from a Shooter Job License. Melee builds have the luxury of picking and choosing and having options out of Melee focused parts. Shooters have to make do with average, non Shooter focused parts.
But wait, it gets worse still. Let's look at part Attributes. The best possible Melee build is a Technique attribute build. It combines all the best parts available. It has double Buffs, an Overkill skill, two passive Melee Power boosting traits and a CD trait that hits 20% when maxed out. It's about as pushed as you can push a Gunpla in this game so far. Here's the thing though, the Power and Speed Melee builds are honestly not that far behind. Power is very close behind, while Speed is the worst of the bunch but still very much able to hang out with the best of the best. The reason the three are so close is because the best of the best Melee parts are not dependent on Attribute, it just so happens that of the combination of other parts that do care about Attribute, the Technique ones are the best, offering a stronger boost to Buff skills and CD reduction. Power offers less boost to buffs but same CD, while Speed doesn't offer boosts and instead only has CD reduction.
For Shooters, it's the same ordering, with Technique, Power and then Speed, but much, much worse, with a lower top end by far than Melee builds. So why is it so bad? Well, let's look at the standout parts from each Technique Shooter suit. Dynames has the Head, Torso and Ranged Weapon that are great. Hi-Nu has the Head and Ranged Weapon that are great. VEETWO has the Head and Ranged Weapon that are great. Providence has the Torso that is great. See the issue? They all compete for the same slots. The Hi-Nu brought us a Rifle that boosts EX damage when using a Technique Gunpla, and in a vacuum, is the best Rifle in the game, but you have to run the Freedom Legs to have an Overkill skill alongside that, meaning you need a separate Sokai part from months ago to utilize this newest Sokai part properly. The VEETWO gives us a Head that boosts Shooting Power if using a Technique Gunpla, but then you give up the Dynames Head's Archer Stance (Y). The Providence Torso has very high Shot ATK for a Torso and Ace Exclusive as a Technique part...except then you can't run the Dynames Torso to boost Shooting Power if using a Long-Shooter, or the Nu Torso that boosts Shooting Power if attacking with Beam. Which is another thing, Freedom Legs don't work with the Nu Torso because they are a Physical Overkill, not a Beam one. So you can never get the perfect harmony that Melee builds can achieve, not with the current parts available.
I could go on, but the point is that Melee builds rarely have conflict between parts that should synergize, and have significantly more options, than Shooter builds. Shooters need a lot more love if they are ever going to be on par with Melee builds. Sadly, I don't think there's much left for them. Think about which suits are well known for being Shooters, like the Dynames, or are more mixed but have a really iconic ranged weapon, like the Wing Gundam. Now which aren't in the game yet? Unless they start touching Build Fighters and Build Diver custom units like the GM III Beam Master and the like, they've probably already gone through half of their powerful shooters already, which is not looking good for those of us who prefer Shooters.
If Shooters are to thrive and really compete with Melee in this game, they need a bunch of Overkill skills in ideally the Back or Arm slots and they need a bunch of Attribute or Long/Middle Shooter job specific Initial Skill Charge parts in the Arms or Melee slots.