While it’s fun having the pets, they’re not as useful as they could be, and I think this is about more than just their raw damage and survivability.
Most attack commands just aren’t worth the effort of using them. For example, the Eridian Skag has a Singularity as its attack command - which is really cool! - but its range seems to only be about a meter, and even within that range, it only inconsistently disables enemies.
The other two basically just do AoE damage, which I don’t think is what someone should expect of an ability like that on a long cooldown. Typically you can get more damage just continuing to fire your main weapon than by relying on an unreliable and slow move by your pet.
With that in mind, it would be nice if the ‘Gold-Tier’ pets instead had abilities that offered some sort of utility, not just a medium-damage, mediocre attack.
For example, the Spiderant could shoot a barrage of sticky webbing that would bind and slow their target for a few seconds before they break free. The Jabber could shoot concussive rounds from his rocket launcher, that stun and send enemies flying. And the Eridian Skag’s Singularity effect would be fine if it were just larger and more consistent. At least that way you would have situations where they’re useful for more than just their raw damage.
Pet Boosts / Barbaric Yawp
Pet bonuses are, unfortunately, virtually unnoticeable. This becomes especially egregious when you consider Barbaric Yawp, which at 5 points Triples the bonus offered by your pet.
With the Eridian Skag, that means one point in Barbaric Yawp gives just 2% fire rate and 2% damage; even after the power of the skill was doubled, this is still an inefficient investment compared to other skills; Pack Tactics, for example, gives 5% damage and health to both Fl4k and his pet. If a skill triples an existing bonus and still is barely worth it, is it a problem with the skill? Or is it a problem with what the skill is boosting?
I think that Barbaric Yawp is a bandaid for the real problem.
On a deeper level, the issue is that the bonuses provided just aren’t distinctive. No pet offers a bonus that changes the way you play, because none of the bonuses they give are unique. Most offer things like bonus health, bonus damage, bonus resistance.
Consider these alternatives:
Spiderant: +10% of health as Armor. Additional armor-health does not impact effects based on health percentage, such as The Power Inside. +1% Health Regen.
Eridian Skag: +5% Chance to Crit on any part of an enemy. +5% to shoot a bonus projectile with each shot.
Gunslinger Jabber: +5% Movement Speed, +5% chance to add a bullet to the mag on crit.
Each different pet now offers a distinct boost that can synergize with other skills and effects in a player’s build.
Gamma Burst Invulnerability
While I enjoy pets being invincible in Gamma Burst, and it’s definitely convenient, I have to feel like it’s a bandaid on the deeper problems, which are their bad AI and lack of player control.
In a dangerous situation, you cannot order your pet to run to cover, so it doesn’t matter how tanky they are, or how much you increase their health, as nothing can tank the insane damage put out by multiple badasses at once. The only solution is to make them completely invulnerable. The problem becomes that all skills dedicated to pet durability and healing become completely superfluous. As long as Gamma Burst is active, I fully expect my pet to be sitting at 1 health, and that seems like poor game design. And if you don’t have Gamma Burst, you basically just expect your pet to die, and it’s pointless to rez them.
At the very least, when Gamma Burst is active, change the pet’s healthbar from red to gold, and just make them truly invincible, that way you don’t have to deal with your pet instantly dying the moment Gamma Burst ends.
A better solution would be to give the player a deeper level of control over their pets, and we already have the tool to do it; the Mark key. Simply make the pet run to a marked location as quickly as possible, and it will give players the ability to control and protect their pets to keep them alive in dangerous situations.
Also, pets really need to have their level of responsiveness improved. Yesterday, I ordered my Skag to attack an enemy, and he missed twice before finally hitting the enemy. Some skills require the pet to simply hit an enemy within a short time to maintain stacks, and they’re often unable to do it fast enough! If their target moves at all while they’re winding up to attack, they’re virtually guaranteed to miss. That’s frankly embarrassing. If a pet is going to be that incompetent, giving it a healthbar seems very unnecessary, and gives significant risk the pet will be more a hindrance than a help. This is borne out by the way many M3 players just let it die every 30 seconds or so.
At the very least, some way to order the pet to stay back and use its ranged attack would be very nice. A little bit of help while alive is still better than nothing while dead, and the player could at least crawl to it for a free rez.
General Pet Tweaks
After all that, there are still a few skills that could use some basic tweaking.
- Go For The Eyes
This is a cool idea in concept, but it’s both not worth the bonus, and somewhat misleading. Typically, critical hits deal 2x damage, so the skill implies that the pet will do 2x * 1.15 damage per level on the first hit, which would actually be pretty good. Instead, it’s just a bonus 15% damage on the first hit, which is really lame. If the skill were just three points, with the first point giving a guaranteed 2x crit, and the next two points giving further enhancement to that, it would be a better skill and fit in better with other crits across the board.
Dominance is a fun idea…but it’s not implemented very well. The enemy you dominate isn’t marked in any way, it doesn’t benefit from any of your pet skills, it’s not clearly indicated when an enemy is dominated or stops being dominated, and it keeps you from damaging your dominated enemy. All of these combine to make for a confusing and unreliable skill that can as often get you killed as help you.
If you’re not going to be able to damage the enemy, it should at least clearly indicate when the enemy stops being dominated, so you have time to react to suddenly getting a new enemy right behind you. And not getting bonuses from your other pet bonuses just seems like a huge missed opportunity for synergy. How cool would it be to shunt much of your damage off to an enemy via Shared Spirit and Hive Mind? Or to reflect enemy damage back from that enemy?
Overall, I think that the pets have great potential, and could be a lot of fun, but need some help. I recognize that some of these things(like the Pet AI) are more long-term issues, but hopefully the dev team can get working towards a more smooth design for the end-state of the game.