So I've been playing Hildryn more or less non-stop since her release, and I have to say I'm definitely having fun. But, as others on this thread have pointed out, she has some problems that could use addressing. I'm not a game designer, so I'll focus more on sharing my (the player's) perspective of how she plays and what is enjoyable/usable and what isn't.
-Firstly, I love her combat flow. It reminds me a lot of Halo, Borderlands or other shield-based shooters. Take hits till you get low, find some cover or dodge, recharge, get back in the fight. It's a fun way to play: Not fragile enough to bust in a few hits, but not falling into the Rhino/Inaros school of tanking (just soak everything), I feel like this provides a fun middle ground.
- I really like her synergy with her Arcgun. I think that was a fantastic idea, and it really gives me the feel of being a 'heavy weapons' frame. I essentially have 4 weapons at my disposal, counting balefire, and developing loadouts that give me a wide-reaching toolkit has been an absolute blast. I feel more prepared for most situations with her than I have with any other frame I've played thus far, and it's an awesome feeling.
- I think the system of using her shields for abilities is a great idea, and a fun dynamic. You have to think tactically: Defense vs. offense. Risk vs. reward. It's less about energy management than it is pacing and situational awareness, and that's a very fresh and fun way to play Warframe.
That being said, there are some things that seem to take away from the experience and could use a second look.
She's got Some Very Big Weaknesses:
First off (surprise, surprise) I have to agree with a lot of the "shield-related" problems that have been a big focus of the thread thus far.
Slash/Toxic procs can and will send you immediately onto the defensive for anything above lvl 40. Toxin's not so bad as it tends to be easily avoidable, but slash will kill you dead fast and comes from projectile attacks. I can use my 2 to clear it, but with such a small health pool it only takes a few at best before I have to back up a bit and do damage control. Disengage, cleanse, heal, repeat as needed. It doesn't sound like much, but it gets very frustrating after a while. It's the gameplay equivalent of having your engine die on you every few miles, and you've gotta shift to neutral and and restart it.
What I think it really comes down to is that it's a sour note in the overall Hildryn experience. Having an Achilles heel that big, with the potential of getting downed almost before you have a chance to respond (it has happened a few times) just feels very out of place and wrong. In all other cases, she has a kind of elastic resilience that makes her unique and extremely fun to play.
Unfortunately, it's an enormous argument not to bring her along for some of the more endgame content. And that shouldn't be. The overshields thing was a step in the right direction but overshields last about as long as a fart in a hurricane once combat begins, even using your 2 and Adaptation they just drop too fast. Which brings me to point #2...
It's no secret that shields are regarded to be the weakest and worst "health" in the game. Having an enormous shield pool is a good defense up to a point, but past that point enemies will tear through it like paper should you try standing your ground, sending you into a near-constant shield gate scramble. This forces you to play her as if she was a lighter frame (mag/volt etc.) and focus on mobility and dodges, but without as much utility as those frames have to compensate. More on that in a moment.
I'm aware that the potential solution for this is a rework/overhaul of the shield system in general, and I don't expect it will get addressed right away. That's a really big job, after all. Hildryn's still a lot of fun, and I'm willing to hold out. Maybe there's an intermediate measure that can be enacted in the meantime, who knows. Currently however, between that, the unreliability of her 2, and the aforementioned slash/toxin problem I'd be hard pressed to bring her instead of another frame with more tankiness/cc/utility on a Sortie or Arbitration.
If I had to say that something needs looking at sooner rather than later, I'd say it's her abilities. Her abilities seem to lack the focused intent of many other frames. They try to do a lot of different things, but don't strike out enough in any one direction to be terribly effective at much of it. Most frames, you can pick one or two abilities and stats and go into those to create a viable build that does something specific, but Hildryn doesn't feel that way. Especially in the case of Haven and Aegis Storm, it's almost like the abilities fight with themselves a little bit. I'll try to explain what I mean down below.
1) Balefire - The raw damage is decent on paper. However with a lack of crit or status, Balefire's usefulness tapers off against higher level enemies. Anything beyond the star map, and you're better off ignoring Balefire entirely and using a Primary. Though you can stack power to get a big enough raw number to counteract enemy DR to a point. As crowd cleaners they fall flat, the AoE on them just isn't enough without some additional range to hit like an actual AoE.
What you have is something that's not strong enough to take out tough single targets, and not wide enough to take out crowds. It's designed to be both, but ends up in a middle ground that's neither. This can be fixed by modding for power and/or range, but at best you're modding it to be a slower and costlier version of what the Staticor does naturally. It just doesn't have that specific niche where I'd say "This is a situation for Balefire", and sadly I find myself almost never using it.
2) Shield Pillage - The most useful part of her kit right now, though it has it's problems. It's good against corpus and really high level grineer in theory. But in practice, really only against corpus is it of any use as a shield restore. Grineer armor at levels under 40 isn't enough for any appreciable gain, and against infested it does nothing. Used as a mag-like armor strip, going big into Power mods gets you where you want to go (200% power gets you 50% armor strip) and that's pretty good. The base range actually isn't bad either, but it's limited by line of sight, which cripples it in most areas that aren't outdoors. The status curing and occasional armor strip is really what I use it for outside of Orb Valis.
3) Haven - It's a great idea, but in practice all it does is burn up your shields. To protect my allies with shield regen and gating, I have to keep it constantly channeled, thus preventing shield regeneration and enduring an enormous drain per enemy for a small, near-useless damage tick that I don't even want when they get close. Having a limited range (this is Warframe, people are constantly parkour-ing everywhere) and the LoS restriction, this is only going to help my team if we somehow manage to all be stuck in the same room. I really, REALLY want this to be even half as useful as Oberon's Renewal, as I like supporting my teammates with extra survivability, but as is it's a big investment for a buff that's rarely able to do it's job.
4) Aegis Storm - With Balefire rockets the way they are, this ability doesn't get much use. The drain is very high, the range is small, and I lose the most effective and versatile elements of my arsenal. If I could use my normal weapons, this would be insanely fun. It would, in fact, be so fun as to be the biggest reason to use Hildryn. Humming "Ride of the Valkyries" to myself while raining Opticor magic from on high. Insofar as I can reason, there's no balance reason that I shouldn't be able to, cc aside it's no more of an advantage than being on an elevated catwalk or tower. As it is, it's the same as Haven: Too much cost for something that's spread too thin. It's neither a big enough CC or strong enough 'offensive mode' to really be worth using.
There's more I can say but I've no doubt already run on long enough, so I'm going to wrap this up here. To date, Hildryn is easily one of my top 3 favorite warframes in the game and all that I've said comes out of a place of love. No doubt wiser minds than mine can suggest how to fix these problems, but as a player to the company that created this wonderful game I can only say keep it up. You guys are doing a great job.