Yes, we’ve all read the Alani nerfs, many of us were unhappy to see a character we liked the look of getting nerfed, and most of us were left wondering what GBX were trying to achieve with the changes. This will be a long post, for the simplified version, I’ll put a TL:DR section at the bottom.
Let me start with the obvious- GBX have in Alani, created a very nice looking character, with a unique story, charming (if at times nasal) personality, the visual aesthetic, character story and concept (building stacks with damage in order to heal, controlling with nano-implants masquerading as magic, an ultimate that is good for everyone but GREAT in the hands of a skilled player)- we do by and large as a community GBX, love what you’ve done with her aesthetically.
Second, I sympathize with the thanklessness of your task. 25+ characters, all of which need to fall within acceptable mathematical parameters, some of which are outside your control (how people play, think, which characters they pick, aesthetic preferences and so on). There are a lot of variables to balance, and players in MOBA style games often take it very personally when a character they’d learned and gotten used to gets hit with a nerf bat, or is changed to be something else. Yet in order to try and create a good play experience, this is both required and necessary for you to do, even in a challenging release environment.
I for one though, really don’t quite know what you’re trying to achieve with the totality of changes you’ve made to Alani’s playing potential. The nerf to her hitpoints from 1400ish to 1k-ish- that taken by itself makes perfect sense. A range character that moves somewhat slowly but has 1400 hitpoints, can heal herself, Eldrid regeneration, push-back, control- you needed to put her hitpoints within the burst-kill potential of characters who are designed to do that. Taken together with the other changes made (and one or two changes which are absent), the original purpose of the base hitpoint reduction has however been subverted.
The new changes as a whole, take the character in a direction that doesn’t make much sense. Let’s look at the changes in order.
Reduced the damage of Alani’s Torrent primary attack by 18% (64 to 52 at Level 1).
Believe it or not, in the right circumstances, this change isn’t just defensible, it may well be a good thing if implemented correctly, in conjunction with other changes. If we take Alani as a support character primarily (rather than damage)- the most important thing for her is osmosis stacks- a reduction in damage hurts her ability to stand toe-to-toe, but it might not matter if stack building was improved or made easier (I’ll come back to this).
Reduced the damage of Alani’s Riptide by 55% (75 to 42 at Level 1)
This is a change whose severity was unnecessary. It severely impacts Alani’s ability to help hold a lane. I’d understand a 25% reduction- that would likely allow Alani to be helpful but not decisive in holding a lane- enough damage to give an enemy melee pause, but not huge incoming damage. All it does now is eat some of the overshield off a minion wave and alert every player within a mile that a slow, relatively low hitpoint character with a pretty weak damage knockback just used that knockback to tickle a group of minions nearby. Even this change however would be defensible if you hadn’t gone ahead and said:
Reduced the damage of Alani’s level 4 Mutation, Wave Shock by 33% (81 to 54 at Level 1)
This taken together with the previous change, basically destroys Alani’s wave-clear potential, and removes any rational reason for taking the middle helix option at tier 4. What do we find irritating as players in a game where helix choices represent a chance to play the same character in different ways? Seeing a helix option that is so obviously inferior that it’s just dead pixels on our screens. Level 4 for Alani had three, genuinely defensible choices. Mobility(and risk!) with riding the riptide, a push-back slow (control), and a wave-clear tool (Wave shock).
If you’re going to reduce the base damage of rip-tide by half- then an increase to Wave Shock is called for, not a decrease! I understand wanting to take Riptide off the direct damage ‘nuking levels’ of damage chart and put it somewhere else. By increasing wave shock’s damage, you’d have provided a serious benefit to taking the middle helix option (having nerfed the base damage of riptide). Even buffed, wave shock is a relatively weak minion clear, which is highly visible and identifies the point of origin where the caster is. Oscar Mike’s grenade, or Thorn’s blight doesn’t have this issue- and even if it did, those are fast characters with good mobility and a variety of escape tools. Alani is slow, relatively squishy and everyone can see where the riptide came from. All this means is that most players will take the slowing effect (left side helix) and the middle option will revert to being a dead space on the helix.
Finally we come to the class-changing, arguably class-breaking change:
Reduced the distance Alani’s Torrent projectiles travel by 20%
This changes the way the character plays in a fundamental way. Building stacks of osmosis is how the character works as a support class. If you want to nerf her base damage, fine- if you want to turn her from a dps hybrid into a support/control class, fine. Making it harder for Alani to get stacks without getting 20% closer (her torrent isn’t exactly long range pre-nerf)- means that it’ll be harder for her to heal. Going back to the initial damage change to her basic attack- I’d be fine if you nerfed her main attack damage down to an almost laughable amount- turning her basic attack into a resource generator with a little damage attached. That would make sense on some level- Alani builds stacks more quickly (without doing damage)- has a big burst heal that requries a bit of skill and medium range to target, and has control to supplement that in a pinch.
Cutting her range means she has to get closer in order to be effective- and her base hitpoints have been reduced. The only thing I can think was intended is to turn Alani into a close-support character with control. If that’s your vision for the character- then her hitpoints have to rise, and probably her movement speed to some extent also. She cannot function as close support effectively without some sort of survivability boost- Miko has biosynthesis, speed, agility and a pretty reliable slow/stun. Alani is slow, squishy, no shield, with slow resource generation (for the first 6 levels anyway)- and is woefully equipped to function as a close supporter. Smart players have already correctly identified this change as the worst one for how the class plays and functions. If closing the distance was easier (movement speed buff) and Alani had her hitpoints back- that might be defensible. Cutting the rate at which her support resource is generated simply means less stacks to heal with, and a weaker overall support class.
Speaking of vision for the class:
Alani is probably best either built as close support or ranged support. This presupposes the idea that she needs to be moved further along the damage ----> hybrid spectrum, which I entirely agree with. I personally would prefer range support as a vision for the class, make torrent easier to land, or stacks easier to generate as a whole (1-2 fewer hits for full osmosis)- but have her main attack function as a resource generator primarily. Generating resources would deal some single target damage in this paradigm, but not much at all. Skills, positioning, and healing would be the primary focus of the class. Torrent attack speed bonuses, rather than a big boost in damage, would amount to a faster accumulation of osmosis stacks
My reasoning for this path is simple- the game at present has only one (1) serious and viable pvp healer- Miko. Ambra has been disempowered as a support class, she’s still playable, but like Alani is now, she’s simply less effective at filling those hitpoint bars under pressure. 2-3 effective healers would be nice, with another 1-2 hybrid support. Assuming a total of 6 healer/support by the time all 30 battleborn are available, that would mean 1/5 characters would be healing or support (eg Reyna or Ambra). At present we have functionally 1 effective healer(Miko) and two effective support (Kleese & Reyna). If you want Alani to play as a closer support character (again, not my preference given her 'agility/monk/waterbender from Avatar aesthetic)- then she needs the hitpoints and survival tools to do it effectively.
Stick to simple balance solutions wherever possible. Alani’s riptide into geyser (+30% damage bonus), into possible ultimate skill with middle helix no. 10 into a rinse repeat (pun intended) dps train…that’s clearly overpowered. That’s what was annoying people. The simplest way to solve it is this- get rid of the 30% damage bonus from the geyser bubble. Or if you want to retain the damage bonus, nerf her main attacks right into the ground and only have them do increased/acceptable damage to a target being controlled by geyser. Then for Transpiration (middle helix 10)- have it reset the cooldowns but with a twist- geysers and riptides cast in this way do 50% less damage and have 50% less range. This would provide a benefit to being able to chain abilities, but the second iteration would be less effective (still good, but not game-breaking). After the regular cooldown time has elapsed, the abilities would revert to standard effectiveness.
This would be a simple and efficient way to balance Alani’s meta- instead of fundamentally changing how the class plays or functions, you’d be keeping the paradigm the same, but elminating the obnoxious ability-chain (and getting rid of the 30% damage buff which is really what causes the feeling of unfairness). Another interesting idea might be to change Wave Shock(middle helix no. 4) like this- keep a modest reduction to base riptide damage, increase wave shock damage substantially (from the previous baseline) but have the waveshock clear all osmosis stacks. You could even scale the DoT effect on wave shock to scale with the number of stacks.
These are just my thoughts on the subject, I’ve discussed this with my gaming friends (all of whom like me are CR 100 and big fans of Borderlands/BL2/TPS)- and we are genuinely concerned with the lack of substantive thought in these changes. We still love the game, the aesthetic, and the thoughtfulness that’s gone into voice acting, responsiveness of the gameplay and so on. It just feels like there is a lack of explanation of the thinking behind major change pushes to characters- while not strictly required, telling us what you wanted to achieve with the changes would be genuinely helpful (to you as well as us!) If you’re going to change certain fundamental ways in which a character plays (functionally removing a wave clear, cutting down range and thereby resource generation- then tell us what you wanted to achieve by doing this.
TLDR: Nerf synergies function poorly with these changes, turning a low base hp character with slow movement and no shield into a close support toon isn’t feasible. Real issue was and still might be the 30% damage boost from geyser, and the ability to use Transpiration to chain a massive dps train. Removing her wave clear, cutting resource generation in the absence of survival tools makes Alani undesirable in the same way Ambra is. Better communication on vision for a class is crucial if you’re going to fundamentally alter how a class generates its primary support resource. A second effective target healer (Kleese proximity and Toby’s shield are effective but not targeted support) needs to exist for players who enjoy healing/support to get into this game more fully. We should all sympathize with GBX for the challenging and thankless task of trying to balance so many characters, and agree with their basic goal (reducing Alani’s burst dps train) whilst criticizing the methods and the apparently contradictory signals some of the changes send to us as players.
Thanks for reading.
(edited for formatting)