I think the tech skill tree isn’t balanced enough to compete with all the combat bonuses there are in other trees. They’re simply not as good as the others.
Let me give an example of something you can do with the skill tree. Say, the gun is an AG4. I pick component damage from the hacker tree. I put 2 in the single shot with automatic weapon to get that bonus. Alternatively, I can get the Commando bonus and get an additional 15% extra damage on that first shot. Let’s not even talk about marking and extra damage I can pile up on top of that.
If I do it right, I can definitely one shot an unsuspecting hunter. Now you see it, now you don’t. If I get commando and the explosion skill, I can take out a group of machines.
In contrast, with the Hacker specialization, you get restrictions. I get a second counter, I get a difficulty, and I have them inclined to attack other machines, but they may just stand there anyway and not change to another event in their AI. This simply doesn’t compete with all the bonuses you can get for combat nor is it close to being as effective and quick.
The combat skills go with you everywhere and affect EVERY combat situation. The hacking skill is only temporary and affects a small area with a single target. A hacked target stops and waits to detect other machines and starts becoming hostile with them. Sometimes it just stands there. The effectiveness of the skill is apparent when you consider the possibilities. If there are a bunch of machines around, your hacked target is going to be destroyed rather quickly before it can do much. If there are few, your hacked target still isn’t likely to destroy anything, even if it’s a machine you can one shot like a runner, tick or hunter. Either way, the effectiveness of the skills don’t balance out. I can one shot a hunter, but I might not kill a single runner if I hack a tank.
I have a few ideas.
AI. The AI for the hacked machines goes to finding a target for 5+ seconds. This cuts into the hacking time, and the hacked machine isn’t very aggressive. Put a sticky flare on a harvester around some runners though, and watch that harvester get chopped down. The hacking skill should be more useful than a single item you pick up.
Beacons. I think without beacons around in the area, hacks should become permanent and the difficulty to hack them should be lowered. Even if it’s a tank, you’ll either have a bunch of machines around or a few. Let’s run through both scenarios. If there are only a few, you may destroy another machine or two that you could likely one shot anyway with combat skills. If there are many, your tank is going to be destroyed probably. Permanent hacking isn’t going to unbalance the game when you compare the combat skills to it. Even without destroying the beacons, the timer should be longer.
EMPs. I think an EMP blast should lower the difficulty to hack a machine. Part of it’s memory has been corrupt making it more susceptible to hacking.
Engineer specialization. As it stands right now, I think getting tick pods are much to difficult to be very useful. For one, you have to kill specific targets to obtain them, and when you do deploy them, they aren’t very effective for much. Take a tick pod and release it in the beginning area against a runner. Try it. I betcha you’re not going to even destroy it your first try. I could one hit a runner in the beginning using the gun you get in the beginning, but I work hard for a tick pod and I might get some damage? That doesn’t seem fair. I have a few suggestions.
Tick AI. Have the tick attack targets like they attack people. As it stands right now, they only explode.
Tick Explosion. It’s an explosive you prepare and deploy. Stands to reason, the explosion gets your explosion skill bonuses. Also, the explosion should have an EMP effect and have bonuses from the hacker skill tree as well.
I think those changes would make those specializations almost as good as the bonuses you can get from the combat options.