With the successful deployment of the February patch, CCP has released finalized patch notes. As expected, the most noteworthy changes are those to assault frigates, which become significantly more powerful, and Upwell structures, which become significantly more vulnerable. Additional changes include the addition of the Guardian’s Gala sites and reward implants, new tech 2 fittings for Upwell structures, and a myriad of bug fixes and visual updates.
Assault Frigate overhaul
The assault frigate class of ships received a much overdue balance pass, with the biggest changes coming to the Minmatar Jaguar, Gallente Ishkur, and Amarr Retribution. All assault frigates now enjoy an increase in maximum velocity (18%), a reduction in mass (10%), and an increase in capacitor capacity (30%). In addition to these global assault frigate changes, the Retribution now has a larger power grid (62, from 56) and bonuses to rate of fire replace those to tracking speed. The Ishkur gains tracking speed, but loses previous per-level bonuses to drone bay size, though this is balanced by a flat increase in drone bay size to 50m3, from 25m3.
The Jaguar is the real gem of the assault frigate changes, however, with a total remake. Previously a projectile weapons platform with bonuses to shields and built on the Rifter hull, the Jaguar is now a missile platform built on the Breacher platform and a capable drone boat. The weapons themselves have been replaced by launchers, and the bonuses revamped to reflect this, with rate of fire improvements to rockets and light missiles per level of Minmatar Frigate. Assault frigate levels will give per-rank improvements to rocket and missile damage and explosion velocity.
The Jaguar also gains 10mb of drone bandwidth, and 20m^3 of hangar access, allowing it to fit and deploy two light or one medium drones. It gains a medium slot but loses a low, and replaces the three turret, one launcher configuration with one turret, three launchers. It additionally gains another 15 CPU, for a total of 185.
All assault frigates and heavy assault cruisers are now able to fit the Assault Damage Control Unit, a set of special damage controls, which, in addition to their usual passive function, have an active mode that increases resists to all damage types by 75%. Well-timed activation of this resistance could potentially save the ship, or provide needed survivability to outlast a target. The ADCU is released with a full suite of named variations for compact and enduring fitting.
Detailed information on both the assault frigate and assault damage control units can be found in this thread.
Upwell Structure changes
Upwell structures, including citadels, engineering bays, and refineries, have undergone changes in their vulnerability windows as an attempt to balance player concerns about difficulty in attacking them with dev concerns about making them worthwhile. The biggest change is that attackers can now begin their attack at any time. Once the shield reinforcement mode is entered, attackers can set the vulnerability window between 22 and 50 hours after their attack concludes. This allows more flexibility for attackers to accommodate player schedules. The final reinforcement timer for structures occurs at a time set by the defenders, with some variation in the window depending on security status of the space in which the structure is placed.
The second major change is the introduction of “low-power” mode. Citadels which do not have at least one online service will enter this mode, which reduces overall shield and armor EHP by 33%. Structures in low-power mode will also skip the armor reinforcement cycle entirely, going directly from shields to structure vulnerability, after which the structure is destroyed.
Players will be able to discover the final vulnerability window of a structure by hacking it, allowing attackers to time attacks against structures to quickly bring them down. Structures which have not had their new windows set will have their timers set to the default of 1800 UTC on Saturday. Changing the window will take one week.
Upwell structures are also gaining a significant number of new weapons. Larger structures gain access to supercarrier-styled burst-projector superweapons, while all citadels will gain access to new, specialized Upwell Fighters. These fighters do not benefit from player skills or require players to be trained in fighters. Instead, they come with significant upgrades that allow them to function on the level of a highly skilled fighter-trained capsuleers without the hassle. Upwell fighters will not be interchangeable with regular fighters, and any regular fighters that were loaded have now been dropped into inventory. These fighters will also automatically return if players release control from the structure, so they cannot be lost through the negligence of players who may not be familiar with fighter mechanics.
Upwell fittings have gained naming consistency with other weapons: the previous small, medium, and large anti-subcapital missile fittings are now “Standup Light” “Standup Heavy,” and “Standup Cruise Missile Launchers” respectively. Anti-capital missile launchers have undergone a similar renaming. Damages on missiles have been adjusted to accommodate the addition of T2 fittings as well. Additionally, there are new options for capacitor management, allowing structures with neutralizers to become that much more effective. The base targeting range of all structures has also been increased to 350km.
The third major change for Upwell structures is the availability of moon mining in high security and wormhole space. This opens up a new market for highsec capitalists, though the moon goo found in highsec moons will be of a lower quality and lesser value than that found in nullsec. A variety of other small convenience changes were made for the options and interfaces of station managers, and NPC factions can now be added to the station’s access control list. Full details on all Upwell changes can be found in a previous devblog.
This year’s Guardian’s Gala begins with the release of the patch, with Guristas and Blood Raiders shipyards found in all null and low sec space. The sites come in two formats, one of which, the “VIP” site, may require fleets to complete successfully. The sites are specially dropping skins, cerebral accelerators, and the new Inquest ‘Eros’ Stasis Webifier MR-80x, a slot-8 implant that increases range of stasis webifiers. There are also two Agency missions for pilots to complete to earn related rewards. The Guardian’s Gala ends on February 27th.
General Fixes and Tweaks
Some objects received graphics updates and adjustments to their appearance in space, as CCP continues to update the game visually over time. Several other fixes were made to the game, including fixes in graphics, adjustments and tweaks in some career missions, and fixing of bugs that allowed faction warfare requirements to be bypassed in markets. DUST514’s memory was also expunged as DUST related chat options were removed from the chat menus.
In general, the patch is solid. It’s yet to be seen if Upwell structure changes will have the desired effect. Certainly, it is a move in the right direction to allow attackers to have the convenience of surprise in attacking when they choose, as well as to be able to time attacks so as to coincide with the final timer. Improvements in the variety of defensive measures gives structure owners more options in cost to benefit analysis of defensive arrays and more options for how to defend their structures. Assault frigate overhauls have been long overdue as the class has generally suffered, with Minmatar assault frigates, in particular, being fairly overlooked. The class is almost certain to see a new use in faction warfare as their tank and versatility have been significantly improved in this patch. The Guardian’s Gala is generally well received and building on the Yioul Festival’s “Rogue Swarm Nest” design seems like a great idea, although some pilots are already learning to heed the warnings about going with a fleet. In general, the patch seems like a well thought out, if perhaps cautious and conservative, step towards handling existent balance issues.