It’s no secret by now that I think FL4K’s pets are the worst in the series, and that as a build FL4K’s pet build is the worst in the series. I don’t think it’s a novel opinion. But I’m reminded of it every time I start up the game and try to play, only to find that it still feels as terrible as it did last time. I spend way too much time on this forum discussing with people why that is or how to fix it or what have you, but since my jimmies are adequately rustled after trying yet again and being disappointed yet again with their performance (and we’re all in quarantine anyway), I’m gonna make a proposal here that some may disagree with, but is the greatest hurdle : the thing that is dragging down FL4K’s pets is the notion that they in any way need to be balanced: That they already provide so much through their passives and permanent up-time that improving upon their damage would make FL4K “too good” or something (no one ever mentions if it would take away from the game play, which is the only thing that matters. I doubt it).
I’ve seen these arguments repeated for months in various places. Let me be frank. That’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because (1)we can find several examples of other skills that provide similar bonuses with as much up-time as the pets and far more damage and (2) the notion that FL4K’s pets damage, if too high and combined with FL4K’s already high damage, would be too powerful compared to what other vault hunters can output, is flawed because it assumes the DPS of a Rakk or Fade Away build, not a Gamma Build with pet’s in mind.
Let’s do some comparisons.
- Rakk Attack
Whether we’re comparing them at base or with full investment, rakk always outperform FL4K’s pets, even though the difference isn’t as big early on.
- Base (meaning fresh character with no skill points or gear) - Rakk provide far more damage, Falconers feast for healing, but both of these have a cooldown whereas the pets do not. However, the pet’s give 1% healing or 10% max health (5%? I honestly haven’t checked to see whether Beefcake gives the listed amount) compared to Rakk’s 35% heal, and definitely don’t compete damage wise even considering their consistent DPS. The pet passives are very low, and once you start to spec into improving them you simultaneously improving Rakk, and at that point the competition ends.
- Full investment - as you acquire means to reduce Rakk Attack cooldown, it begins to overtake the pets in every way. You can spam 4 Rakk every 2 or 3 seconds, dealing over 100K damage that scales with most of your damage bonuses and benefits from ASE anointments. They also keep ASE anointments procced 24/7, giving you either 200% increased damage total through ASE element and Rakk anoint, or 100% damage and 15% life steal. Both of those bonuses eclipse BY pets and the Gamma Burst anointment. Considering that BY is a common factor across both Rakk and pets (and BY only gives at best 50% elemental or 75% total gun damage compared to 100% elemental and a 100% V2 bonus), the only point of comparison is between Rakk’s anointments and Gamma’s. The 115% GB anoint, while impressive, does not equal the 200% total damage or 100% and life steal you get from Rakk. So even in the “worst case scenario” where you only have 100% damage for rakk and 115% for Gamma, Rakk can still at least provide 10X more damage than FL4K’s pet, and the difference is only 15% more damage as radiation vs 15% lifesteal.
While it does have the disadvantage of being stationary, the clone can take your equipped shield and weapon, counts as an extension of your damage and so activates skills and relic effects, and taunts just like FL4K’s pet does. Even if you don’t take Double Barrel, Boom Enhance is more than enough for the clone to completely eclipse anything FL4K’s pets are capable of outputting. Most importantly, Zane was designed, either through CC or the new Seein Dead COM, to keep his action skills up all the time, so this clone is a permanent companion of Zane’s as long as you can keep it up.
Auto bear, though it doesn’t provide the same level of utility that the clone does, still provides a ton of power through IB exit anoints and Some for the Road, and can be kept out a majority of the time with either the Rocketeer COM or just exiting IB immediately upon summon. Auto Bear also puts out far more damage than FL4K’s pet and scales off of Moze’s gear and anointments.
Wolf and Saint
Wolf is the most direct comparison I could think of to FL4K’s pets in terms of function. Wolf didn’t scale with gear at all. It did damage, but not nearly as much as DT or Digi-Jacks. It distracted enemies just by flying around, it didn’t need a taunt. One of it’s primary purposes was to provide buffs to Wilhelm, but it could be specced to provide damage as well. Wolf, like FL4K’s Jabbers, avoided damage by not being hit. It wasn’t immortal per se, but functionally there were very few enemies in the game that could kill it (only Iwajira and maybe EOS IIRC). Given that point, let’s compare what 2 immortal pets provide for their classes:
- Wolf and Saint gave Willy an 88% multiplicative damage buff in UVHM, 20% damage through Fortify, 40% shield restore, and 2.5% health regen just for being out and 3% increased health regen through Energize.
- You could spec Wolf for 30% bonus move speed, 15% damage + 88% from Laser Guided + whatever you had from Rolling Thunder, 125% fire rate, 25% shield, and 40% health.
- Fl4k’s pets give them 65% damage reduction, 2% health regen, 40% damage, a taunt (noted above, Wolf was a flying taunt), revives, and whatever passives your pet provides.
- You can spec them for 310% damage + IPS and Big Game bonuses (not possible yet, but that is the max amount) on top of Sic Em’, Go for the Eyes, and Gamma Burst; give them all of your regen (WRW, SRS, Turn Tail, FA, spiderant, not sure which other things count) for 12% health regen; 10% move speed; and 15% max health.
There isn’t that much of a difference in what their pets give them. Health regen is almost the same for both (5.5% Willy to 7% FL4K), damage is similar, and distraction is similar. The biggest difference is between the 40% shield restore and the 65% damage reduction and revive. For that, I’d give the edge to FL4K. Still, I think this should at least show that FL4K’s pets aren’t that much more powerful in this regard.
In terms of what the pets receive from their masters, FL4K blows Wilhelm out of the water in terms of damage and survivability given to the pet, but lacks in utilities such as attack rate and move speed.
FL4K’s pets should perform better in every metric, yet they are undoubtedly the worst pets in the franchise even with full investment.
As to FL4K being “too good” if pets deal enough damage to easily kill enemies, consider this:
- To have a pet build, you need to use Gamma Burst, so you need to use Gamma Burst anoints as explained above. Your damage is lowered.
- To have the most pet damage possible, you need Atomic Aroma. Bye bye Emphatic Rage. You deal less damage.
- The spiderants deal terrible damage because they deal 50% damage vs 2 health types. You have to take the Skag or Jabber. You are less tanky.
- You would need to use a cryo build with high cryo efficiency to freeze enemies. Your loadout is limited.
- For max damage, you need to fit in terror anointments, which take up two gear slots and force you to use underleveled gear.
- To get the most pet damage possible, the Red Fang is not a good choice. You lose survivability.
Going with a pet build already imposes tremendous challenges on you. You deal far less damage, have less safety, and are limited in your gear choices. The payoff for this should be having a pet that somewhat makes up for the difference. If it doesn’t why are you making those sacrifices? That’s why the pets need to be buffed (obvious and universally agreed upon) and also why they don’t need to be balanced (more contentious). You already give up some much to run with them, so why should you be penalized for making your companions the best they can be? I’m not expecting digi-Jack levels of damage, but Wolf did 75% of the things FL4K’s pet do while still being pretty much unkillable and did enough damage to at least help thin out crowds, but could take on beefier enemies with skill investment and some time. The fact that FL4K’s pets can’t but Zane and Moze can with far less effort or sacrifice is the only thing that is unbalanced.
The game only suffers for this being the case. We only lose options. There is no positive to having things be the way they are right now. Forget whether something sounds “balanced” or “OP” for a second and just ask yourself: would I have more fun with FL4K if I could play them with a pet damage build? If the answer is yes, then stop worrying about whether a fringe build with walls to climb needs to be brought in line. I can guarantee you, if Wolf lasted forever, Wilhelm still wouldn’t be OP, so FL4K’s pets being immortal and doing damage wouldn’t be either.