tl;dr: I want to try to propose a somewhat more detailed and objective system of comparing and rating LW2 Perks.
Because there's no easy and direct way to compare success and viability between runs of XCOM 2 besides hearsay fraught with tons of variables (difficulty level and playstyle), there's very little objective data on the power and viability of certain choices. In many online games for example, the competition allows for there to be publicly available winrates for different items, classes, characters, maps etc.
But in XCOM, in this case LW2 specifically, a good portion of the rationale given behind certain choices or avoidance of certain choices is frequently summed up with circumstantial reasoning or personal preference. For example, someone might say they like Perk X because it gives them survivability, or because it counters certain enemy types, or they might like this item because it protects against X.
But simply shooting an enemy to death also counters them/grants survivability/protects against their special abilities, so these positives cannot be viewed in a vacuum. The degree and context also matter before we say that "This perk is good because it can do a lot of damage." (Which, ironically, is an unironically good justification.)
tl;dr: Each perk can be quantified with 4 values, I'll try and assign some values to each class with my personal opinions, subject to debate, and we can also see if the rating system works.
So I've devised a prototype for a system that quantifies how good a perk is by splitting it into 4 parameters: Power, Reliability, Versatility, Efficiency.
If you assign a score out of 10 and add them up you will... get an arbitrary number that does not directly correlate to objective value, because the parameters aren't all of equal importance and the ratings are subjectively given by me anyway. I will be assigning my personal scores first, with the intention of modifying them towards the average of everyone who replies (which I understand, may be nobody) and those who give objectively good justification.
In this way we can be more detailed than by simply claiming that an ability is good or bad for arbitrary reasons.
I'm interested more in the framework of the rating system than of the actual accuracy of the scores I give, which will likely change as everyone pitches in, as my single opinion with limited experience probably will under and overrate many aspects of the gameplay. However it is my theory that **most** players do this because of a lack of standardization when we discuss our runs, and that very few people actually hold no "crazy" opinions related to X-COM. So I want to at least set some guidelines/a rubric where we can all agree and discuss things with some small degree of objectivity, with that in mind, here are the parameter descriptions.
Power: The degree to which this ability influences the game in relevant situations, factoring in both the maximum possible potential and minimum possible potential.
Reliability: How often does this ability work or make a difference in the relevant situations?
Versatility: How many different situations can this ability be used in? How often do those situations come up?
Efficiency: Does this ability have any drawbacks? Costs, uses, cooldowns? What is the opportunity cost of having this ability/what are the mutually exclusive abilities?
And there are so many other factors that will be extremely hard to consider and factor into the appropriate spheres. For example, abilities that synergize with each other might influence the power score (synergy unlocks maximum potential) and in turn the efficiency score (synergy [dis]incentivizes you to take certain other abilities). In general, this system will try to focus more on standalone power, but will of course need to consider both.
So naturally we must make a few assumptions before we can make standardized rankings:
1. This assumes Legend/Highest difficulty, always.
2. This assumes a standard playstyle towards missions, as in you steadily creep up with your soldiers as a pack working to eliminate pods one by one for most missions, and will probably defensively camp on the untimed missions. Some examples of non-standard playstyles include: being over aggressive with SMGs and flanking on everyone, completing over half of your missions in stealth/without kills, using one soldier as dodge-tank bait etc. This is not because alternative styles are bad, it's because we cannot account for them all, and it is too much to expect most players to know how to play them well enough. We can make sidenotes or asides to account for any outliers for alternative play, however. Subject to change.
3. Obviously, you have no other gameplay altering mods besides LW2.
Here are a few of my personal tendencies that will color my personal ratings
1. (+Alpha Striking, -HP/Healing) I played a lot of base EW and XCOM 2 as well, which tended to encourage alpha striking (best defense is a good offense) even when mods like LW2 discourage it. What exacerbates this even more is that unlike in LW1, in LW2 ablative armor can't be healed, is less plentiful and applies before Armor/DR, which seems to suggest to me that you really should avoid getting wounded. Changes on the strategic layer, such as limited recruits, the fact that wound time stacks on top of fatigue/infiltration instead of replacing fatigue, and that you can't force fatigued/"infiltrating" units to fight anyway means wounds are even more crippling. In short, I don't treat medkits with the same respect that others do, perhaps erroneously.
2. (Overwatch) While I like the idea of full overwatch builds, I can never get them to work for me due to the abundance of Sidewinders, Scouts, enemies that eventually get lightning reflexes or just high defenses, or just move out of LOS. As such, I have a hard time successfully completing full OW builds and have less information on them than I should, and likewise do not necessarily trust suppression builds.
I'll start with Gunners, because we all like Gunners.
Gunner Ratings (Subject to change)
Gunners get access to Knife Fighter (Power 2/ Reliability 7/Versatility 2/Efficiency 9), Suppression (7/8/8/8) and Area Suppression (9/8/8/7.5), the latter of which are amazing, and also are allowed access to probably the best weapons in the game, dealing increased damage and having amazing ammo capacity.
At LCpl, Gunners are allowed to choose from Center Mass (6, 5, 9, 9), Combatives (9, 6?, 4, 4) and Grazing Fire (5, 8, 9, 9).
Cpl: Flush (3/8/8/2), Formidable (6/8/7/10), Lockdown (7/8/7/7)
Sgt: Hail of Bullets (6/10/10/8), Shredder (6/6/5/8), Mayhem (7/6/7/6)
SSgt: Chain Shot (9/4/7/6), Iron Curtain (8/7/5/5), Demolition (6.5/9/8/7)
TSgt: Cyclic Fire (9/5/6/4), Danger Zone (8/7/7/9), Cool Under Pressure (8/8/8/7)
GSgt: Rupture (7/5/8/6), Rapid Fire (9/8/10/10), Kill Zone (9/8/6/6)
MSgt: Saturation Fire (10/8/9/7), Combat Fitness (4/7/7/8), Traverse Fire (9/6/9/7)
I was planning on giving an entire argument for every rating, but realize now that would be too long, and nobody's going to read this as it stands anyway. So I'll give a few justifications for examples and for setting some standards.
Knife Fighter: The low damage and range contribute to low Power and Versatility respectively. However, when the knife is actually used, it's actually quite accurate, so the reliability is good, and because it's a single, non turn-ending action, the efficiency is actually a base 8, but is bumped up to 9 because this perk is free, and there's no competition for it.
(Area) Suppression: It is a reliable aim/ability disable so I'd give that a 7 in power, unfortunately the enemy has a choice of running it so I'd take points off, but sometimes using suppression to force a specific enemy to get shot is a plus, so I'll leave it at 7. It's very reliable, even if the overwatch isn't always going to hit, the enemy doesn't run it frequently, and it's very versatile and usable in almost all situations. The efficiency isn't that high since it's a turn ending action (base 5), but I'd say it does more than a standard shot, plus it's easily acquired (free), so that bumps it up to 8. It does cost a fair bit in ammo though, but it's usually manageable since the gunner gets a lot of ammo anyway. Area Suppression is of course, much more powerful due to AOE, but due to the nature of the AOE (centered on a target) and the fact that if you run out of ammo, ALL suppression ends, I wouldn't necessarily say it's much more reliable in this case. Ammo is also why efficiency takes a small hit.
Center Mass/Grazing Fire: I'd like a base shot to be power 5, so a slightly stronger one is 6. A base shot is also reliability 5, but as we all know, shooting is versatile. Early, straight upgrades to gunfire are quite efficient, as it is a pure upside to what you were doing before. Grazing Fire is not a base shot, but it does increase in power as your weapons do, so I'd like to give it a base 5 power score due to innate scaling; it is, of course, very reliable, or at least improves the reliability of all your gunfire significantly.
Combatives: This, among other, might be controversial. A single-target stun is an 8-9, but with the addition of knife damage it's a 9. Mutons trigger this relatively reliably, but Mutons+ do not, as they can use their first action to war cry, which leaves them much more predisposed to not move towards you with their melee, meaning you can't just be close, you have to be right on them. Stun Lancers attack vulnerable targets and not just the closest one, so they're not reliable to counter either. This may just be bad luck, but with 20+ dodge shinobi this ability has been missing about a third of the time for me as well? Even without disorientation or repeat attacks, so I can't give the reliability too high of a score personally, but I might just be unlucky and incorrect. If you're able to use an ability about once a mission, I'll give it versatility 5, and I'd say you'll get a chance to use this once a mission or so, however, gunners cannot always move into melee range easily, and if you do charge ahead there's a dangerous chance that you'll activate more pods, so I'll have to detract a versatility point for that. Coupled with the fact that you'll have to give up a move, or even dash to get this activated, I also think this is low efficiency for gunners, and I'm sticking by that for now.
Some other quick takes and notables.
Mayhem is efficiency 6 purely because it has to compete with Hail of Bullets. If Mayhem and Demolition were switched, I'd sincerely give Mayhem a higher efficiency score since I think Hail of Bullets is just that good.
Cyclic Fire is efficiency 4 for obvious reasons, because it takes two actions and FIVE ammo, which means you can't reload and use it in the same turn and also need to be very high on ammo to use it. Also has a long cooldown.
Cool Under Pressure is efficiency 7, compared to Danger Zone efficiency 9 because of opportunity costs. I believe that there are other ways to make your suppression/overwatch do more damage and hit more reliably to the point where you may not need many more, but there are no other ways to increase the AOE of your suppression, it is both powerful and unique, while CUP's effects are not necessarily irreplaceable.
Iron Curtain is specifically power 8 since it is a good concealment breaker, like all AOE, but it's especially good at slowing the pod so it can't scamper well, especially with poison.
Shredder is reliability 6 because it is full power even on a graze, unlike Center Mass which needs a full shot to be effective.
Rapid Fire is efficiency 10 because there are almost no situations where it worse to use than regular shot, even with the aim drawback, and because it has no cost or cooldown, which means it is nuts with an officer's command, especially for a stealth officer.
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