As most know the Advent Loyals are currently one of the game's weakest factions all considered. I've spent the better part oft he last week mulling over their problems and what is causing the faction as a whole to be rather lackluster. Until recently I often put a lot of blame on the coronata, but in all honesty with recent buffs to the coronata and the nerfs to snipe(which used to vastly overshadow Unity Mass), recently I've had a change of heart and have come to believe att his point the Advent Loyal's issues have much more to do with their techs then their titan.
Honestly their basic model isn't flawed, but many of their techs were just poorly implemented and as a result don't really fufill their roles. In some cases synergies that should by all rights exist don't, which is a major problem in that synergy is the bread and butter of any advent faction. I will proceed with going over each of their techs individually, discussing the problems that they have(if any).
A brief definition on tiers: I've noticed there is often a bit of discrepency on tech tiers. Many players discuss tech tiers from T1-T8, others from T0-T7(the way the entity files refer to techs). For this post I will be using the former- when I say "T4" I mean 4 labs required, not 5. Seemed I should define this formally at the start of my post to avoid confusion.
While most of this section will be devoted to discussing specific problems with techs, there are a few overarching issues I'd like to discuss:
Culture is even more a part of the advent loyal's toolkit then their rebel brethren, but the age old problem persists: Culture, even with the advent loyal's perks, isn't very useful for much beyond the easily obtained economic benefits of filling your territory with your own culture. Offensive culture is prohibitively expensive and easily countered.
As a result rather then fight an uphill battle of trying to make culture into something it's not(a major reliable offensive force), my discussions and proposed changes to culture will be focus more on the economic aspects of culture- allowing the advent loyals to pump out and utilize home ground culture cheaper and more easily then other factions.
Even areas that necessarily touch on offensive culture such as Actualization of Wills will be focused more towards making culture pushes more cost effective rather then unstoppable- hopefully resulting in enemies late game being able to stop advent loyal culture- but having it cost the advent loyal's enemies as much or more to stop the culture then the advent loyals spent starting the push- resulting in a net economic advantage for the Advent Loyals.
The point is simple- I suspect much of the reason culture techs aren't hugely useful is because they try to force culture to be useful at something it's intrinsically not efficient at doing. Focusing culture techs on a more economical mindset would in my opinion produce better results.
Heavy Split between Research trees:
Most of the Advent Loyal techs are in the Harmony tree, but by far their highest impact tech, Ancient retribution is deep in Hostility. No other faction really has this problem this badly- Almost every other faction has all of their main goodies focused in a single tree. The only other real exception is the Vasari Loyalists, who get a tech that gives them a bunch of free labs.
A great many techs the Advent Loyals have have multiple conditions(some official, others unofficial) which result in thier effects being far too niche. A perfect example is Planet-for-a-Planet Which augments your fleet, potentially allowing you to win a major battle or take an enemy planet WHEN you lose a planet IF you had a fleet intact when the planet fell(buff is not applied to newly constructed ships) IF you can rally your forces and force & complete a battle inside the 10 minute window of the buff. That's one official condition and 2 unofficial ones. Having 2-3 conditions to really reap the benefits is surprisingly common among Advent loyal techs, resulting in many being just a bit too situational.
Discussions on Specific Techs:
Confluence of the Unity:
This tech suffers from 2 problems:
First it has a ton of prerequisites. Researching it's prerequisites and the etch it's self costs 3200 credits. Add in the cost of a first temple of communion and we're in the neighborhood of 4000 credits. Spend that much on culture early game and you are going to get crushed by the enemy who spent that much on improving their economy or building a fleet.
Second it's a culture tech that ONLY gives culture spread rate. Due to how weak culture is, there's a reason that players only even consider buying culture techs for their secondary benefits. Even with 5x the spreadrate bonus, without some more tangible benefit, this tech's usefulness is IMO rather suspect.
Acclimatization of Wills:
This tech's problem is simple: it requires you to start causing allegiance loss to do anything(a difficult proposition at the best of times with how easily culture is countered). Otherwise it's a wasted 1700 credits. Not to mention T3 is an odd place for this tech. Honestly the easiest 2 times to cause allegiance loss(and even then it's not very effective) are T2(when non-advent don't have culture buildings yet) and super late game in a game that has dragged on too long when culture bombing becomes possible against a heavily entrenched opponent. Honestly The way I see it, this tech would have been better placed in a later tier with a more potent effect.
This tech sounds really cool, but it's effects are disappointing. The "faster population gain rate" Actually just means the planet starts population capped when colonized-which generally means 10 extra population. In the time it takes to research the first population upgrade 4-5 or so of that could be generated normally- which means this grants about a grand total of 40-48 seconds worth of population growth.
The Damage boost suffers from being too circumstantial- It is gained on colonization, lost as soon as ships leave the gravity well, and most disappointing of all Repossession- What many ahd assumed was a reliable way to apply the damage boost does not activate Assimilated Populace. Only normal colonization grants the benefits of assimilated populace.
This has always been a very controversial tech. Honestly I'm of the opinion that the concept isn't flaw- the implementation is just too restricted and consequently the etch is too situational. Mostly 10 minutes isn't quite enough to RELIABLY marshal one's forces and mount a counteroffensive. After forces are marshalled and the transit time to whatever from the advent loyals want to attack, often a scant few minute remain to fight a battle and bombard a planet. Which means this buff is very subject to beign circumvented by enemies retreating and then returning once the buff is gone.
Another controversial tech here- the effect when first revealed sounded so amazing- people assumed that it was going to be the signature etch of the advent loyals. But the reality of the matter is that it comes out far too late to really be useful. 10 culture rate per planet isn't nearly enough to mount an effective culture offense and by the stage of the game this tech comes out, the advent Loyals have long since already built a few temples of communion to spread home ground culture. It has some usefulness repelling culture from newly conquered planets, but that alone isn't worth nearly enough for a T5 faction specific tech.
Fury of the Unity:
Many players are particularly put off by this tech- it's T8 and yet it's effect is rather meager. 5% extra damage is certainly significant, but it seems like a slap in the face after seeing techs like SttC & Starbase Mobilization. Honestly though I think this is one of the less important techs to tweak. Due to Ancient Retribution's place in the Hostility Tree, reaching T8 harmony is no easy task- practically speaking buffing the earlier tier harmony techs would have a much larger impact on Advent Loyal performance.
It's usefulness is very niche, but it does what it's supposed to. Honestly while not super strong due to the weakness of mine, I think this tech is just fine as is...it was well implemented and performs the role it was designed to well enough.
This is one of the thematically coolest techs the Advent Loyals have. It also suffered a very poor implementation- The fact that ships are stolen after entering phase space means your newly recruited 5% immediately gets slaughered by the loyal 95% on the other side of the jump.
This tech is amazing, absolutely no changes necessary.
In general my changes have 3 goals with my changes:
1). Make some of the Advent Loyal's culture techs a bit less situational
2). Shift the early game focus of culture techs towards economy related applications of culture
3). Shift the late game focus of culture for the Advent Loyals towards a an economical pseudo-offense that merely causes some economic damage by forcing the opponent to spend a bit more on culture buildings to defend against culture then the advent loyals spends.
Before I get into specific changes, I'd like to put down my standard disclaimer: numbers may not be perfect, but consider these ideas more then anything else as proof of concept rather then finalized numbers.
Confluence of the Unity: Remove prerequisites, in addition to current effects increases the maximum allegiance of your planets by 2/5%. Move up to T3 from current T2.
[comments: Allegiance is the aspect of economy most heavily tied to culture and thus an obvious choice for making early culture have a greater focus on personal economic benefits. This tech would probably pay for it's self in roughly 25-30 minutes, so it wouldn't always be a no-brainer when in starting positions that result in early conflict.]
Global Unity: move down to T2(so same tier as temple of communion is available) from current T5. Grants it's benefits over 3 ranks instead of 2(3.3/6.6/10.0 culture rate per planet instead of 5.0/10.0)
[comments: Global Unity never belonged as a high tier tech. The place it would be mostly useful is in serving as an alternative to temples for providing local defensive culture. If it comes out late game it's not needed as such an alternative as you have long since already built culture buildings.
That said, I felt it was necessary to stagger it's benefits to 3 ranks instead of 2 to keep learning the full technology expensive. My thoughts are early game players may just grab the first rank, allowing to get that +10% allegiance at each of their planets cheaper and easier then any other faction, and then grab the second 2 ranks much later in the game when they need the full effect of global unity to defend against enemy culture.]
Acclimatization of Wills: Move up to T5 from current T3 position. In addition to current effects reduces culture decay from moving through gravity wells by 50/100% (which is to say reduces culture decay to (two thirds)/(one half) of it's normal effect with the way sins calculates reduction)
[comments: This is the change that took the most thought. I know it seems strange at a glance, but think about it: With Global Unity the Advent Loyals are pumping out a small amount of culture at every planet. Reduce the culture loss from moving through gravity wells and they will be pushing on their cultural borders with a large portion of the combined force of that 10 culture rate from each planet.
It wouldn't be enough to overpower enemy's culture entirely, but a 7-10 planet empire might be pushing on it's borders with the strength of 2-3 temples without building a single temple. The result is that the opponent will have to build a temple or two just to defend against the advent loyal's passive culture generation once they reach T5 and get this tech, which results in hurting the enemy economy without really hurting the advent loyal's own economy- a net economic gain from culture.
Not to mention something feels very thematically appropriate about late game Advent Loyals having a significant culture push that originates from no single point but is instead the combined push of each of their worlds.]
Assimilated Populace: Activates upon use of Repossession in addition to during normal planet colonization. Replace current instant "+5000 population" effect with 10 minutes of +50% population generation rate at the colonized planet. Drop down to T3(3 temples requried) from T4
[comments: I know this sounds very strong, but think of it this way: The vasari have a 2-point passive T2 tech that grants +50% population generation. Assimilated populace is 1 tier higher, but only a single rank. It's main advantage is it also gives a situational damage buff, but in return the Vasari tech pulls ahead in population generation after the first 10 minutes. This sounds as roughly a fair trade off.
The drop from T4 to T3 was mainly added because T4 is a bit late for a tech who's economical aspect only really improves colonization.]
Planet-for-a-Planet: increase duration from 600 to 750. Replace current "+10% firing range" effect with "+30% planetary bombing speed".
[comments: Pretty straightforward- a 25% increase in duration, combined with a bonus to bombing speed means you can more reliably get something done during the buff duration. The buff will last long enough that just "ignoring the pissed off advent until their buff goes away" isn't really an option. No to mention given the name and intended purpose to make planet trades a bombing bonus makes a whole lot more sense then the current weapons range boost.]
Coward's Submission: Either apply the conversion before the ship enters phase space and immediately cancel it's jump order or alternatively have converted ships teleported back to the planet they had just left when converted.
[comments: This is more a fix then anything else- rather hard to accurately measure the potency of an ability meant to steal ships if the stolen ships pretty much never really get to tell the tale. With this change we will be in a good position to actually figure out how useful the tech actually is and balance accordingly. ]
Dicussion Topic: Fury of the Unity
One tech I've come to no definitive conclusion on is Fury of the Unity- It's disappointing, but frankly I suspect changing it is FAR less important then other techs as it's mcuh deeper int he harmony tree then the advent loyals are likely to go. I've seen some interesting ideas around the forums such as having it improve deliverance engine, but honestly I have yet to see anything that has completely sold me on changes to this tech. That said, any discussion on this tech is welcome
Putting it all together:
First off I'd like to list the net benefits of my changes:
*+5% max allegiance
*+50% population generation rate for first 10 minutes of colonization(translates to 37.5 extra population at 10 minute mark if population upgrades are always bought in a timely manner so population never hits cap)
*Assimilated Populace & planet-for-a-planet both provide about the same combat benefit, but are easily to fully utilize due to modified duration & activation conditions
*Cowards submission actually allows you to reliably keep the 5% ships it steals.
*Global Unity comes out much earlier
*culture decay reduced by 100%(cut in half)
*Confluence comes out 1 tier later and Acclimitization 2 tiers later then before
*Planet-for-a-Planet loses attack range buff
So in a nutshell it's chiefly a buff to the advent loyal's economy- most notably how culture relates to their economy and to the usability of their combat techs(rather then raw potency changes).
That said it all does come together in a fairly cohesive total image.
If no early pressure is applied the Advent Loyals have a decent economic lineup:
They would grab the early economic advantages of culture(the extra 10% allegiance on each world enabled by culture) cheaper and earlier then any other faction(no need to build a temple or wait for the culture to move down phase lanes.
Come T3 they have techs that encourage them to redouble their efforts at expanding(extra population generation rate from assimilated populace), as well as an increase to max allegiance that allows their planet's allegiance to continue growing.
Then at harmony T4 they hit a transition from their previously peaceful economic outlook: they can use Planet-for-a-planet to transition into a milittary counteroffensive if an enemy has been giving them trouble and taking their worlds. Or if they haven't been under any pressure, they could continue to harmony T5 and transition ito putting a bit of culture pressure on their neighbors With Acclimatization of Wills & global unity.
Regardless of whether their transition begins with Planet-for-a-planet or weaking their neighbor's economies with Acclimatization of Wills, the next stage is probably mostly military in nature.
Of course that's just how their harmony tree would flow in games where they aren't subject to much early pressure.
If fighting breaks out immediately they would more likely just utilize Global unity to get some early defensive homeground.
d culture faster and cheaper then their opponent can buy culture and begin building hostility temples to work towards their main combat tech Ancient retribution. Additionally this under pressure route also gives access to Coward's submission which would make attacking the advent loyals a bit less of an appealing prospect for the aggressor as they risk having their ranks skimmed and added to the defenders.
In addition these changes create a few synergies- which always have been the greatest tools of the Advent. Repossession and Assimilated populace are a natural combo(one people had always assumed already worked) as are Repossession & COwards submissions. Assimilated Populace also combos well with Planet-for-a-planet as it lessens the sting of losing a planet to activate PfaP by allowing the world to quickly recover it's population if retaken. The max allegiance buff of Confluence would also go well with early global unity- as global unity makes increasing allegiance at even new worlds fast and easy.
Honestly All things considered with these changes Global Unity would become the Advent loyal's main game changer.
Anyway, I realize this is quite a laundry list of changes, but I think the total effect would be the Advent Loyals being a more competitive and mechanically cohesive faction.
They would still lack the big single-tech game-changers of most factions, but I'm confident they would have their own unique and interesting playstyle built from the combined effect of a larger number of "small effect". And while this methodology would lack the poster child of a single incredible gamechanging tech, honestly I think a unique identity built up from the synergy of a number of tools suits the Advent Loyal persona(as the "traditional advent") far more then a single individually powerful gamechanging tool anyway.
While I realize this probably isn't the best time to post this(with the next balance patch imminent)- but it's been bouncing around in my head recently and I thought it was time I wrote it all down.
Anyway, while I've though an awful lot of time agonizing on these changes, I understand some people may disagree with many of them- So by all means discuss and post you own thoughts on the problems the Advent Loyals suffer from and possible solutions.