To start off our week on Unblogged, I’d like to discuss an interesting topic related to the Bonding Runestone nerf. As a player, you can’t really say you never saw this coming. Bondings being overpowered was common sense, the devs said multiple times that they are not happy with them. So why is there still a massive outcry now that the anticipated nerf finally arrived?
The History of Bondings
To understand what is going on here we need to dive into the history of Bondings a bit. They were introduced in Module 3: Curse of Icewind Dale to make all companions viable. Back then Augments were the meta. Those were the only ones able to transfer stats and no ability of any companion was so strong to overcome that huge deficit. Bondings were meant to close this gap, except they initially didn’t.
We were still in the 60s era, so enchantments and runestones could only be leveled to rank 10. While Bondings were already able to theoretically outperform Augments at a max rank, they had a pretty hefty flaw. All slotted Bondings only had a chance to proc on a companion’s attack, and did so individually. That made them unreliable and most of the time still worse than Augments. In an ideal scenario, players were able to get 195% stats, but that was really rare. Bondings pretty much offered a burst type of boost, yet players like reliability when it comes to building their characters.
Breakthrough in Elemental Evil
Bondings remained in the doghouse for almost a year. It must have been in Elemental Evil that players discovered an overstacking issue with the runestones. Fast-attacking companions, and ideally ones with a dot attack, not only could suddenly reliably activate all three Bondings at once, but apply more than one stack for each of them. It didn’t take long for them to become the new meta. It took roughly another year to correct the overstacking with “Maze Engine: Alliances” and get things to where they are now. This means they will probably have remained in their overpowered state for 16 months before getting nerfed in Module 12b.
Bondings Reigned Way Too Long
Now why is the past important here? Because it illustrates what players are really angry about! The changes make sense, no doubt about that, but look at those time frames. Bondings are best-in-slot since over two years, would probably even be longer if anybody had figured them out earlier. And at least since Storm Kings Thunder, well over a year ago, we all knew that they were over the top.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: By letting Bondings reign for so long, the devs effectively are complicit in the whole mess. I mean what are players supposed to do? Yeah, so there’s this obviously overpowered system that may or may not get changed? Too bad you can’t build your characters around hypothetical nerfs in the future, right? And then nothing happens for over a year, for over two years, everybody else uses them. Of course you are going to upgrade and utilize your Bondings as well…!
I think this explains why players are upset although the change is technically the right thing to do. You just can’t let an issue linger for so long and then expect to correct course without resistance. Especially since the devs even had the chance to tackle Bondings way earlier when they fixed overstacking in Maze Engine. By waiting for such a long time you’re at least making yourself vulnerable to accusations that this was done intentionally to let money sink into the system and then nerf it.
It surely didn’t help that initially the announced nerf was so excessive that it didn’t even make sense. Bondings were supposed to grant 195% stats at max level at a 50% uptime, making them considerably worse than Augments and unreliable again. This has since been upgraded to a 100% uptime, which sound much more reasonable. A lot of the complaints can probably be credited to that misjudgment alone. How players can appropriately measure a change within hours only from the patch notes while the devs do not seem to register the impact during design and QA is beyond me. But that’s a story for another article I guess…
What’s your opinion on the Bonding situation? Are you also more upset that they let this one linger for so long or do you have issues with the nerf itself? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board!
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