So, full disclosure here, my FL4K gameplay is nearly exclusively devoted to pet based gameplay. I don’t mean a master tree spec only. I use everything I can to increase pet damage short of resetting Mayhem modifiers. Pet FL4K was the build I was most excited for pre-release, and compared to how it was when the game first came it it’s gotten much better. However, there are a number of issues that are preventing pet gameplay from being satisfying or rewarding, and these NEED to be addressed for this play style to be fun. Not strong, not viable, but fun. Because at the moment, optimal pet gameplay is clunky, unresponsive, and immersion breaking and offers no reward for playing well.
I’ll start by outlining the strengths of the current design and what it offers over previous pets. Then I’ll go into the weaknesses of FL4K’s pets, then list some some suggestions that will address those issues.
This may not necessarily be considered a strength by some people, but Fl4k’s pets have far more personality than any pet in the franchise, which is a major plus for me because I like having another player on the field, and having pets with fun personalities makes it more enjoyable to be around them for hours on end. The puppy-like behavior of the skag, the kind of cringey suaveness of the Jabber, and the eccentricity of the spiderant are all just adorable, and I love having them around me all the time.
FL4K’s pets have great utility. One of their best traits is how useful they are in battle outside of providing damage or distraction. The buffs they provide are very useful for the most part, and being able to share damage with them, be revived by them, and gain power from their attacks makes them a solid addition to FL4K’s kit.
FL4K’s pets are well integrated into their kit. Especially after the November 21st patch, FL4K has many synergies with their pet between the hunter kill skills, and the max health requirements of the stalker tree capstone. Both paths provide an engaging skill dynamic of balancing as many of the bonuses as possible.
So it’s fair to say that FL4K’s pets are useful. They provide buffs, they heal you, and they’re cute. But are they fun? This is where FL4K’s pack starts to fall apart. They are fun to have around, to pet them and watch their antics, but as a battle buddy they are less fun than a sack of potatos. Here’s why:
Their utility is great, but not as great as other pets in the franchise. For example, the Doppelgangers Clones were tremendous aggro draws. Even when standing right beside them, enemies would often prioritize them over the player. On the other hand, without a Red Fang class mod, a Gamma Burst pet does not provide nearly the same amount of aggro relief.
The pets also can’t provide any sort of debuff. In previous installments, players could equip pets with gear or abilities that debuffed enemies and increased efficacy for an entire team. DT could Slag with Make It Sparkle or an Antagonist, Wolf had Laser Guided, Jack could equip his clones with cryo nova shields, and Bloodwing could Daze and spread corrosion to entire mobs. Fl4k’s ets cannot equip gear, and there are no debuffs they can inflict. Unless the Red Fang COM is in effect, FL4k’s pets provide nothing to team play.
The pets aren’t idiot proof. This has more to do with their AI than anything, but they have nothing to mitigate their own stupidity. They have slow movement speed and slow attack speed. They can’t fly, they can’t go through walls, and they don’t have homing attacks. They need to chase down each individual enemy, attack it until it dies, then run to the next one as quickly and efficiently as possible and do it all over again. Moreso than any other pet in the franchise, FL4K’s pets do this slowly and clumsily.
Attack commands are extremely unresponsive. This is why most people hardly if ever use them. To successfully land an attack command, a player has to put their crosshairs on an enemy, hold down the LB button for 3 or 4 seconds, then wait for the pet to run over, complete 2 or 3 other attacks, then do the command. This is one of the largest roadblocks to effective pet builds, since it wastes so much time proccing anointments that are dependent on landing them.
This is doubly bad since pet damage is locked behind attack commands. Normal pet attacks have 4 multipliers (Deadeye, GammaBurst, Go For the Eyes, terror anointment) while attack commands gain a fourth with Sic Em’. Attack commands also do much higher base damage than normal attacks. Considering that Go For the Eyes only works on melee, making it completely ineffectual for 2/3 of the Jabbers, Sic Em’ is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to boost pet damage overall.
Fl4k’s pets have no interactivity with the player. We can’t debuff enemies for them unless we have Mayhem 4 gear or It’s Piss. We can’t CC for them because the pet’s enemy tracking and movement speed are slow and moving enemies will decrease DPS. We have no control over their positioning and no control over which attacks they use or what they attack. We have no way of interacting with them at all for the most part. It makes pet game play boring since you can’t really help your buddy do anything. You just leave it to do it’s thing while you do yours.
1. Rework attack commands
Attack commands are one of the few vectors of interactivity FL4K has with their pets currently. It allows you to mark a specific target for attack. The problem is that it is incredibly slow to activate, so slow that it can take 5 or 6 seconds holding down the button on the same enemy if they move a lot to activate it. And the pet doesn’t perform the action right away either. It seems to have a delay of about 2 or 3 attacks before it does the command. Considering that there are several anointments tied to the successful landing of an attack command, one of which is the 2nd most powerful multiplier for their damage, the abysmal activation time of these skills are a serious concern. To make the attack commands more responsive, and thus increase Fl4k’s interactivity with the pets, the following changes should be made:
- Decrease the amount of time the the LB button (or PC equivalent) needs to be held to initiate the attack command. I’m sure most players would rather err on the side of activating the command too soon than not being able to activate it at all.
- Make the pet perform the action immediately. Even if it’s in the middle of another attack, make it stop and perform the command right away. It is imperative that the activation and execution be as quick as possible for anointment proccing.
- Teleport the pet to the command target. Waiting for the pet to run over and attack the target takes too much time. Teleporting the pet will prevent it from lingering and attacking other foes, prevent it from getting stuck on obstacles, and add an element of interactivity by strategically relocating the pet on the battlefield.
- Drastically increase the pet’s aggressiveness towards the command target. As of now, even if another target is marked, the pet will continue to attack other enemies. It needs to prioritize the enemy WE tell it to attack above all others.
2. Cryo damage should buff pet melee attacks
I don’t know if this is an oversight or a bug, but pet damage currently isn’t increased by Cryo damage. Considering that pet damage is primarily melee, it should receive this bonus. Allowing this would increase the interactivity between players and pets, giving us a debuff we can weave into combat, and let us scale pet damage for higher difficulties. If pets can’t receive melee damage bonuses (since that would put Jabbers at a severe disadvantage) add another property to cryo that increases the damage of summoned allies like Iron Bear, the pets, sentinel and/or digi-clone.
3. Implement Dynamic Scaling based on difficulty level for flat damage abilities
Borderlands 3 has a lot of flat damage abilities, of which summoned allies comprise a fair number. Still, even skills such as phaseslam and phasecast fall into this category. In Borderlands 2 and TPS, there were skills that were scaled for specific difficulties. Krieg’s Light the Fused did 6X damage as soon as you went to UVHM, and Wilhelm’s Laser Guided Skill increased from a 25% damage bonus to 87.5% upon entering UVHM. Scaling flat damage abilities in this way would make it so that builds based around these abilities would always be comparatively the same regardless of the difficulty. Large health spikes, such as those between Mayhem 3 and 4, wouldn’t invalidate builds that rely on these abilities for damage. It also future proofs those builds against further danger in the future when new difficulties could severely weaken them in the same way the pet buffs have been largely undermined with the introduction of Mayhem 4.
4. Go For the Eyes and Dominance need reworks
There is currently no reason to use either of these skills, though for different reasons.
Dominance is extremely disjointed from FL4K’s kit, requiring melee attacks (or a facepuncher) to mind control a single enemy. Besides putting another target on the field, this skill provides FL4K with nothing. Putting aside that enemy units under FL4K’S control may not attack, or won’t necessarily take enemy fire, FL4k already has a permanent companion to do what dominance does, and it doesn’t require melee. Honestly, melee builds for FL4K become severely gimped by taking Dominance. As it currently stands it offers too little for the capstone of the tree.
Go For the Eyes is an extremely weak conditional buff. For 1 melee attack, you can do not even double damage. For attack commands that do a hefty amount of damage this may be a good skill, but considering the problems outlined before, we can’t actually make attack command spamming a viable play style right now, leaving this as a one time buff for basic melee attacks.
Both of these skills could fill valuable niches in pet game play with some additional effects.
For example, Go For the Eyes seems to be intended as a buff to attack commands. Instead of doing 75% extra damage on the first hit, I would change it to give extra effects to all of the attack commands. i.e.
- Spiderant Centurion- charge attack will knock up enemies
- Spiderant Scorcher- charge attack will leave a pool of lava at the feet of the damaged enemy
- Spiderant Countess- Enemies damaged by the explosion will be pulled toward the countess
- Guard Skag- Enemies damaged by corrosive bile will have reduced movement speed and damage for a short time
- Great Horned Skag- Enemies knocked up by the skag will emit a shockwave upon hitting the ground, dealing damage and knocking back enemies
- Eridian Skag- Skag gains bonus movement and attack speed based on the amount of enemies it pulls in
- Jabber- Throws 2 radiation barrels
- Beefcake Jabber- The Jabber swings a larger bat, increasing the AoE
- Gunslinger Jabber- Fires 1 massive rocket pod that leaves a pool of radiation damage
As for Dominance, I feel that Dominance would tie in much better with FL4K’s kit if it was activated via Attack command rather than melee. As was stated earlier, melee builds don’t even go down far enough in the Master tree to reach Dominance, so tying it to melee and needing to risk your character’s safety for something your pet provides is kind of pointless.
Dominance also needs an extra effect make it worthwhile. For example, “while Dominance is activate, FL4k and their pet gain increased attack speed and health regen”. Something to make mind controlling targets a thing we actively want to do rather than it being something we do only because we really feel like it.
I feel like these changes would make FL4K’s pets far more fun and interesting. They would still retain their current utility, but would gain even more through CC abilities. We would be able to manipulate their movement around the battlefield and exert actual control over the pets as the Beastmaster title implies. We would also have new strategic uses for attack commands, and have a simpler time activating command related anointments.
If you agree with these changes, please like this post and share more ideas below! Fl4k’s pets need so many changes (aside from bugs and skill fixes) to be made fun. I’m sure those us who came to the Beastmaster for pets were expecting a class who could wreak havoc on the battlefield with a wild partner, not a sniper with a sentient stat stick attached. Let us have this Gearbox. Let these little critter do some work!