Good evening everyone,
Having had close to 2 weeks now with the purple tree, I’d like to share my thoughts on what this tree does well, what it lacks in, and how it could be improved. I should preface this review by reminding everyone of my biases: I’ve been a FL4K main since launch, I’ve only played FL4K, and the main build I’ve played has been any variant of a pet damage build, which has taken several forms throughout the months. I’ve also spent (and am still spending unfortunately) a fair amount of my playtime with this tree bug testing. My review is going to consider the tree in it’s current state with bugs included, since I can’t talk about something in a state it doesn’t exist in.
With that out of the way, I’m going to break this review down into a few sections:
The Action Skill
Gravity Snare is an AOE Crowd Control ability that suspends enemies in the area for about 1.5 seconds before dropping them back down. It will repeat this process every 2 seconds for the duration of the action skill. This is actually the third such ability given to FL4K, as the Red Fang Class mod and the Fade Away augment Not My Circus have both provided AOE taunts and were in the game since release. Gravity Snares augments provide extra loot and health drops from enemies while they are suspended, increases the radius and duration of the ability, throws it a target if it is off cool down when you go into FFYL, and replaces the suspension with a confuse that goes off periodically and refreshes duration for any enemies in the snare.
Gravity Snare is a good thematic fit for a tree named Trapper, but that is where it’s good qualities end in my opinion. Borderlands is a fairly fast paced game with a mix of melee and ranged mobs who frequently move in and out of various ranges to engage you. Even at it’s largest, Gravity Snare simply can’t cover a wide area of most spaces you’ll be encountering enemies, which means there will usually still be some enemies shooting at you. On top of that, the CC duration is short. Holding an enemy up long enough to shoot them once or twice before putting them down isn’t that helpful, especially when many melee mobs can simply run out of the snare once released. To me, the confuse augment is the best choice, but the issue there is that it is strictly inferior to Dominance. Both skills rely on having an enemy present for a taunt, but Dominance is in a tree that provides FL4K with far more damage than Trapper, and is not gated behind an action skill cool down. There also isn’t that much variety to the skill either. The radius and duration increase is mandatory since the extra drops augment and the confuse augment don’t work with each other and the FFYL augment just isn’t that useful.
This skill is interesting in that, on top of it’s CC capabilities, it can be used for both ASE and ASA anointments. However, to use the Snare for ASE is incredibly clunky at best. To keep the cool down at level that the skill can be spammed for ASE, you would need to toss the Snare down, and then immediately recall it. If the Snare is used this way, you have no choice but to use the Confuse augment since Forage will only life enemies once while the confuse lasts 8 seconds. You also have to consider how using the skill for ASE effects how you use it: if you want to spam it for ASE you need to deploy it and pick it up as soon as possible which would mean tossing it at your feet, but if you want to get any defensive use out of it you’d need to toss it into a group of enemies, let it do its thing, and then run up and recall it. It is a similar dilemma to Burst Aid, where you need to choose whether to deploy it close to you for the healing (and thus attract enemy fire from your Red Fang pet), or toss it into mob to keep the fire away from you (but having your heals in the middle of a camp).
All in all, the Gravity Snare doesn’t provide anything that you couldn’t get in another skill. The CC of the skill at base is weak, the area too small when FL4K has a screen wide taunt, and it has boring augments.
Ion Loader cannot use his attack command, meaning he has no access to the pet terror anointment for 200% increased damage. That instantly disqualifies him from viability from a damage perspective. Bull Loader is essentially Beefcake jabber with more basic attack damage and a longer range attack command that gets stuck on terrain. War Loader is powerful, but it is also dumber than a sack of rocks, frequently misses attack commands, and doesn’t do big damage consistently. Each pellet the shotgun loaders fire has a chance to crit independently, meaning that their basic attack damage varies wildly from shot to shot. See for yourself, let War Loader shot Kevin for a minute and you’ll see damage values from 20k to over 100k. This variability means that building him for pet damage is a mixed bag, he may be powerful or may be dreadful depending on RNG. His grenades are powerful, but it is not an attack he does often (for valid reason, it nukes everything). All in all, while the loaders are flashy, I find it incredibly frustrating to work around their wonky AI and bugs for damage builds.
I focus on damage here because they don’t have much utility at the moment. Loaders do not stack Frenzy from their basic attacks, they are not effected by Barbaric Yawp, Ion Loader’s elemental resistance passive seems to increase the damage you take and not reduce it, and Bull Loader’s shield passive scales off of your base shield, meaning it is adds 20% of your base shield to a Deathless. Loaders basically don’t work with any of the core skills that make up the FL4K-pet synergy in the Master tree.
I can’t speak favorably to Loaders in any serious capacity due to how bugged they are at the moment. They are new and novel and fun in that way, but they are broken in crucial ways and don’t fit in with FL4K’s pet design as they currently stand.
Lethal Force Authorized – in the state it’s currently in, this is FL4K’s worst skill without a doubt in my opinion. It basically gives Loaders 1 free revive, after which the next time they would’ve gone into FFYL they immediately die and go on a 40 second cool down. Putting aside how nonsensical it is to give us a skill that basically instantly kills our pet in a tree that is meant to keep them alive, the biggest issue with this skill is that it kills the pet even through Gamma Burst. If your pet reaches 1 HP after activating this skill, even if Gamma Burst is active, it will immediately die and go on cool down. This skill needs to go period.
Wooly Armor – FL4K’s pets have millions of health, numerous life steal and health regen skills, are literally immortal while Gamma Burst is active, and Trapper gives them access to your shield AND shield regen skills. Wooly Armor is pointless, redundant, and lazy, even for a 1 point skill.
Keep them Safe – I spoke at length in Pets From the Foundation on the issue of active pet abilities like the attack command anointments being exponential worse in value for effort spent than more passive bonuses like Frenzy. This skill encapsulates the very worst of every criticism I levied in that thread. This is a 50% shield restore that only activates when you or the pet are below half shield and is then STILL gated behind a 12 second cool down while Fuzzy Math can regen 50% in 3 seconds easily. Even considering the interaction with the Cmdl3t COM, this skill would still (in a perfect world where the COMs cool down overrode the one on the skill) take 6 seconds to do what Fuzzy Math does in 3 and costs a class mod slot.
Monkey Do – while this skill is great in theory, in its current state it is one of the worst skills in the tree. Monkey Do provides FL4K with 70% bonus damage after the pet hits a crit, but it also converts FL4K’s damage to kinetic damage meaning you lose out on the matching element bonus. If you are using Kinetic weapons or mismatching elements the skill is great, but since this skill is additive with other gun damage buffs, trading elemental damage for this skill is a massive decrease to damage. Monkey Do further exacerbates the damage deficit caused by investing in this tree, and for that reason until it’s fixed (unless your aim is a 100% pet damage build or you use non-gun sources for damage) this skill should be avoided at all costs.
There are a few other skills that are redundant or just not that good (Success Imminent, Better Toys, Capacitance, Not Even a Challenge), but I don’t think those skills drag down the tree as much as the skills listed above which are either outright detrimental to FL4K and the pet or so redundant that I can’t find any reason to ever take them.
This tree doesn’t have any FL4K damage skills in the state it exists in right now due to the Monkey Do bug, so going down this tree is going to lower your damage, there is no denying that. The trade-off for losing that damage is supposed to be increase survivability and pet damage. However, both of those aims of the tree work against each other. If you want the pet to deal max damage, there are no shields aside from Amp that benefit from being full (and due to the mentioned inconsistency of Loader damage, amp doesn’t end up performing that well). You want the shield to be depleted or as close to depleted as possible to abuse shield break effects like the Messy Breakup drones, nova shields, and Roid damage. This means that ideally for a pet damage build you want few points or no in Fuzzy Math, discarding nearly all of the survivability this tree has to offer. However, if you want FL4K to have to most survivability they can you’re going to want to use shields like the Beskar/Madcap, Transformer, and other shields that do nothing for your pet.
In spite of everything I’ve said above, I think the Trapper tree is a serviceable tree IF YOU PLAY TO ITS STRENGTHS! The only damage you get from the tree right now is pet damage, and you don’t need to spend as many points in the tree if you go that route, saving you points to spend in the other trees that provide you with more damage. I think this tree is at it’s best when used primarily for pet damage, and I believe that if you don’t intend to build primarily for pet damage then this tree has no value for you at all.
I say this because this tree’s “survivability” is not good. Survivability is broadly defined as “the ability to remain alive or continue to exist.” In the context of Borderlands, remaining alive means not having your Bleedout timer reach 0. Going into FFYL is not a sign of poor survivability so long as you can reliably get out of it and not die. FL4K can do that easily because they have a ton of damage bonuses that are active in FFYL. By investing in purple tree, you lose some of that damage and become more likely to die due to lack of damage. You could consider the tradeoff being that you can “survive” better outside of FFYL, but you don’t actually survive longer with Trapper, you can just facetank longer. You can eat more bullets before going down. You aren’t any more effective once you take a knee. It is far better for survivability to not be hit at all than to heal through damage.
If FL4K can do this without any purple investment at all
Then it becomes difficult to justify using Trapper for anything gun related. You can clear raid content with 1 hp by simply using taunts/confuse and having enough damage to kill enemies quickly.
How to Improve It?
Myself and others have listed some of our suggestions in this thread
But to quickly summarize:
- Fix the bugs quickly! Many of these bugs are too debilitating to wait a year to get fixed like Big Game and Rage and Recover did. It shouldn’t even need to be said since it is so obvious, but I reiterate that no other change to the tree will make it truly worth the money paid for it if the bugged skills aren’t fixed.
- Add more FL4K damage skills – I understand the purpose of this tree was to have FL4K give up their damage to make their pet stronger and make themselves tanky, but those goals work against each other. You either cut your damage to have a strong pet that at it’s best still can’t equal Iron Cub in a Moze focused set up, or you cut your damage for facetanking ability that is replaced by either a single COM, shield, skill, or augment. You can’t have the strong pet AND the tanking potential. So just add in some FL4K damage so it isn’t so painful to invest in this tree.
- Give us a reason to want all those shields – Even with M10 enemy damage being fixed, why would I want a 100k shield? If I use any taunts/confuses, I won’t take anywhere close to 100k of damage, so the large shield isn’t doing anything for me. This tree should reward us for keeping a full shield with some damage, not more redundant survivability.
I do think this tree can be brought up to par with just a few changes. I don’t think it will ever equal the mayhem scaling ridiculousness of Moze’s tree, the raw uncapped power of Zane’s, or the balls to the walls craziness of Amara’s, but I think it can be made into a worthy tree for FL4K. It filled a vital hole in FL4K’s kit, I don’t want that to get lost in my criticism of the tree. It gave the pets everything they were missing that I’ve been asking for: more movespeed to work around their AI, more multipliers to buff up their damage, easier access to crit (and true crits, not post-add like Go for the Eyes), interesting shield effects, etc… Although FL4K’s pets are still worse than Zane’s in almost every way, at least now they are viable to use in all content, which as a dedicated pet main is the best thing to happen in this game for me yet.
For $15 though, that’s seems like a low bar to reach. Considering Moze was able to buy a pet stronger that every pet sans War Loader nades, I think we are within reason to push for more improvements to the tree.