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Hildryn: The Dangers of Overspecializing


-Bluhman-
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So, Hildryn was a frame I really wanted to like. One of my favorite frames in terms of appearance and concept. Thing is, I decided to drop her pretty quick, because the use-cases she had were just too narrow. While she looks buff, the way to play her doesn't reflect that at all, and attempting to use her to her fullest capacity, in terms of abilities, often is what puts her into situations where she becomes cornered and vulnerable. A laudable job to try and break up the health-meta in terms of tankiness set by other heavy frames like Nidus or Inaros, but it doesn't pan out effectively, due to a combination of a lack of mods that contribute heavily to shield effectiveness, and (as the title implies) how every aspect of Hildryn draws from the exact same resource pool.

Heck, right now, Gauss is a better example of how to do a shield-tanky frame correctly, but he still has some critical survivability weaknesses he can't overcome (toxin damage and overwhelming burst damage). Frankly, in his case, that just reins in his capabilities to just be a bit more reasonable, and elements of it match up with the rest of his theming (shields are out? I'm Gauss, I can just run away.) Meanwhile, Hildryn absolutely could have potential to cover those shortcomings while still preserving a lot of her unique qualities, and developing a playstyle that matches her brawny and bold looks.

So as per usual of the world's most verbose player, let's go through all her aspects in detail. Analyze, give my subjective feedback, and then suggest what I think should be done to balance it.

Base Stats
First big red flag: the health amount. There's no reason it should be so low, and all it serves to do is limit her flexibility and applicability against specific enemy types (a theme I'll revisit a bit later.) Toxic damage destroys her if she's not set up properly to resist it using her passive ability, and while the high armor is a nice sentiment, it doesn't really serve much due to it not applying to her massive shield reserves.

Speaking of which, the shield-as-energy gimmick: essentially, it backfires. She looks sturdy, but once she's out of shields, she's out of everything. If they run out, and your sentinel (which you almost certainly have equipped with the Guardian Mod) is either dead or on cooldown, you cannot use abilities, you are extremely close to death, and your only option left is to either hope you can finish targets off, or run for it. Then you're just relying on Hildryn's average mobility options.

This does have an interesting effect however, making Hildryn a bit more challenging to play in some ways than the average 'Frame. This can be seen as semi-comparable to Harrow or Gardua, who have abilities that can sacrifice their survivability for solid support options or massive gains in damage output and energy to use. Of course, then, those are serving as complex interplays between mechanics of health, shields, energy, and abilities all fitting together - precisely the opposite of what Hildryn is doing.

Suggestion:

  • Give her above-average health. This gives her a fighting chance to stay up when she's out of shields, and helps protect her from the obvious toxin weakness, would enable a wider variety of builds that might leverage a Vitality mod, and allows her to take more advantage of her high armor.

Passive Traits
It's a large, complex set of passive effects that heavily define her role and abilities, and the overall deal is pretty sweet. She's perhaps the only warframe that provides benefits when using an actual archwing (the shield-gating extension even applies when using one apparently), which I did not know until today. Almost makes me regret subsuming her.

However the benefits of the passive simply apply in way too niche of situations. Overshields aren't common because they get depleted both by ability usage (save for one very specific case) and by incoming damage. The improved shield-gating duration is a nice thought, but as stated before, once she's in this situation she is extremely vulnerable. Trying to leverage that grace period for offense rather than running away is incredibly foolhardy, especially considering that once you're at that point, none of your other abilities are even usable. At that point, if you're going all-out offense, you're essentially praying for an energy orb to show up, and that's not something you can reliably get without some very specific mod setups (and parazon setups??)

Unlike almost all other notably-tanky frames, she doesn't have any inherent bounce-back factor. Not like Rhino (can regenerate his shields and health while iron skin is up), Nidus (undying obviously, and his energy-using abilities to rebuild mutation), or Inaros (has several mechanics and abilities, and also synergizing mods and companions, that let him restore his gigantic HP pool). The reason these work is because they're safety-nets. They can go all-out and dive into combat and use their other abilities without worry, and keep themselves relatively safe. Hildryn has to make the tough decision to either use her abilities and put herself at extreme risk, or to play entirely safe and utilize only her basic weaponry - which she doesn't exactly have anything to bolster their strength in of themselves like Rhino does with roar.

Suggestions:

  • Add a backup battery mechanic. Each time she enters an overshielded state, she gains an ability charge. This charge negates the energy cost of an ability when used without any shields active, and she can store up to 3 of these charges.
  • Overshield efficiency buff. Once you reach your overshields, you get extra efficiency applied to your other abilities, enabling you to use them more liberally while in this state.

Balefire
I really want to like this ability; arm cannons are cool. But this Staticor reskin just doesn't cut the mustard and doesn't feel good to use. Replacing your secondary-slot weapon means it can be left on and also swapped-out with your primary or melee, but it also means there's headache of keeping track of whether you have the Balefire toggle on or off, and most of the benefits it could possibly provide as such are frankly hamfisted (when considering a specific later ability I'll be discussing.)

Its toggled nature also works against the very nature of Hildryn's shield-energy mechanics - Balefire is an ability that you can toggle on or off, but the nature of Hildryn's shield usually means you need to be precise in how often you use abilities. This'd be a whole lot easier if the ability was just something you fired off once, like, say, Volt's Shock.

Suggestions:

  • Convert into a fire-on-use ability. Not only would this make managing the ability easier, but this could also allow it to be linked into attack sequences alongside gunfire to provide pressure while, say, reloading (especially if it were treated as a one-handed ability).

Pillage
Yup here's the one ability you'll constantly be using, the safest option, the most effective survivability option, and also an extremely good reward for subsuming her! That's not to say the ability is free from flaws, because hot damn does it make Hildryn situational. It straight-up does not work on enemies who don't have armor or shields, so if you're fighting an army of common infested, good luck. In fact, it's basically a triple-whammy because here we have Hildryn, the low-health overshield-dependent warframe facing up against a faction that doesn't consistently give her overshields, can damage her underlying health with toxins, and on top of that, is a melee-oriented faction that will relentlessly pursue a warframe that (in this specific situation) is reliant on distancing and recharge periods to become effective again. Basically this is like the old version of Ember turned upside-down: opposite faction effectiveness, but it's still going to need the same treatment to get it into a state that feels reasonable.

If anything, the ability does too much for what it is. It's a status-clearer (for your team even!), defense-debuff, and self-heal all in one. It's falling into the same rut that Valkyr has with her Hysteria in that it is always (well ok not when fighting infested) the correct choice for how to use your abilities. That leaves no extensive use cases for the other three, and once again revisitng the theme of "overspecialization", once she dips below enough shields to use this ability, she's done being a frontliner.

This does bring up some of her other strengths I have neglected to focus on a bit, and that's some of her applicability as a team-playing defense unit. I don't consider that a huge factor because it's something that both Rhino and Nidus can do (Roar's damage buff, and Nidus' ability-strength buff with Parasitic Link and his healing capabilities with Ravenous) and even if they're slightly weaker or less effective, they end up being more reliable due to them not sacrificing survivability. In Pillage's case, though, its use is almost always a net gain.

Suggestions:

  • Dealing Damage. If a target either has no armor/shields, or has run out of them, have Pillage inflict a stun and fire damage. This effect will immediately trigger a health restore to Hildryn when it happens.
    • This is somewhat similar to what the Blazing Pillage augment does, but the trigger effects are obviously different. In this case I'd urge changing Blazing Pillage to do a different damage type, since it's not likely to be triggered on Infested enemies - that is the rationale as to why I chose fire here, because Gas doesn't really make much sense for Pillage to generate, does it?
  • Remove Status Removal. This ability already benefits more than enough from its other effects.
    • The only (major) argument against this I can think of, however, is the benefit it gives as a subsumed ability are diminished: from a status-effect removal and massive shield buff to... just a massive shield buff. In the case of balancing this specific frame, to make Hildryn's ability use a bit more interesting, this would get moved to a different ability...
  • Hold Activation. Avant-garde-ish idea, but perhaps an alternate activation can be introduced here that allows Hildryn to charge up a dramatic flex that instantly generates a boatload of overshields, a second of invulnerability, and deals knockback and impact damage to nearby enemies? In this case, the overshields would not scale with number of enemies hit, introducing a lengthy, risky (since you're getting hit while charging it up), but consistent way to generate an overshield.

Haven
While another nice sentiment that further reinforces Hildryn's more support-based role on a team, the benefits are, as with Balefire, often more energy than they're worth. I believe having the energy cost scale per ally linked is very counterintuitive, and while the ability helps in giving her some commanding crowd-control up close, it's also an increased load on her shields for each target. Once again, another mechanic that inadvertently leads the buffest-looking frame to try and seek more distance from the action.

Overall I'd say this is her second-best ability, as it provides widespread pressure that doesn't prevent Hildryn from using Pillage and her other weapons. Yet, it's still heavily flawed: another toggle ability on a frame that requires very precise usage to avoid playing themselves into suicide, and without proportionate benefit to really show for it either. If it's going to be worth using, it still needs to do more for what it is.

Suggestions:

  • Add the Status Removal/Resistance Here. Make Hildryn immune to status effects while this is on (would fit with the ability's aesthetic as well) and for allies when their shields are up.
  • Convert to a Flat Energy Cost while active. To make managing her energy use simpler, and to also make the most of the control and damage this ability can provide, without incurring an increased cost. This would be another factor that would allow her to contribute as a brave, frontline guardian.

Aegis Storm
Ok so hey, what if we took Titania's Razorwing, and instead of making it control like a dragonfly, made it control like the Hindenburg? And also got rid of the guns and stuff? In fact, make it drain shield constantly while it's up, and make it so that their only option for directly attacking is to activate Balefire (manually might I add), and spend even more energy to deal focused damage? Also let's make Pillage unusable while this is active because obviously that would be overpowered for some reason??

To be fair, this ability does do constant damage and crowd-control to enemies caught inside its radius, and it does have mechanics by which to keep it going with energy orb generation (haphazardly), but using Aegis Storm in any reasonable way is boring. It's just you and a bunch of enemies hovering in place until they die while your allies are either helping the enemies die faster or focusing on more active threats.

Ironically (and I only read up on this just now) you can transference out of Hildryn and do operator stuff while she maintains it, which is probably the single-strongest use case of the ability honestly because otherwise you're not really doing anything. That's one of those things that requires exploitative vertical thinking to really realize however, and really the number of abilities that strip agency from players should be reduced.

Suggestions:

IMHO, this warrants BIG mechanical changes. This format of Aegis Storm I'll suggest aims much more for flexibility and active usage of her attacks and powers:

  • Aegis Storm is a limited duration toggle with only a shield cost for activation (i.e. Mesa's 2 and 3). While active, Hildryn deploys extra shields on her shoulders but will still move as normal.
  • While active, Hildryn's armor rating applies to her shields, and her shield regeneration will automatically apply overshields.
  • She can enter a flying stance (similar to the old implementation of Aegis Storm) by holding down the jump button in midair. If held down constantly, the flight will activate as soon as she reaches the peak of her jump.
    • While flying, she will generate Radiation Geysers below enemies for extra shield cost.
    • Can use dashes/sprinting while flying. When she does this, her AoE geyser effect is disabled.
    • There's no practical limit to her altitude anymore, but she won't generate the geysers if she's too high.
    • If Haven is active, the range of its effects on allies are increased the higher she is flying.
    • She can use her weapons as normal while flying.
    • She can stop flying either by double-tapping the crouch button, or by doing a melee ground slam attack. This does a unique slam attack that deals increased impact damage, and uses the old slam animation used by Aegis Storm.

The intent of the end result? A strong, shield-based tank warframe that can focus less on balancing their shield reserves, and more on fighting with the other big boys and still granting them plenty of protection. Her abilities would focus heavily on crowd-control, support, and survival over pure nuking. To contribute to her strengths in providing support, she'd have the tools needed to bounce-back from a misplay or overextension, without having to rely on random drops or sentinels, and become a solid fixture to more Warframe teams. Keeps all the unique quirks of Hildryn, but way more useable, and way more effective.

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Hildryn is fine, frames don't need to be inherently strong against all factions all the time. That's what variety of choice is for. Mag is also ineffective against Infested for similar reasons, and that's fine too.

Of all the frames that need reworks or fixing, she is very far down that list. So long as Trinity remains in her irrelevant state especially.

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I personally haven't build Hildryn yet... but I'm pretty sure that when its built, my apparently "wrong Warframe build because it doesn't focus on abilities so its sh*t and sucks barbed wire like there's no tomorrow" is going to make it outstandingly good...

 

But its a nice in-depth explanation of your Hildryn experience... I just wish that, I don't know... people to actually accept that abilities are very situational and tied-to utilities for those specific ideal situations that usually... never happen.

Its ok though, its quite... extensive and clearly shows your Hildryn experience... *thumbs up*

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You're waaay overthinking Hildryn. I've made a post on the quality-of-life things I'd like her to have, but she's one of the best tanks and DPS frames... in one.

  • Her 1 is one of the best exalted weapons. Killing droves of enemies in basically one-shot, until level ~90 armor, and then one cast of Pillage or Eclipse and that's no longer the case.
  • Her shield pool is always topped off mid combat. Pillage, Adaptation, Arcanes, 1 second recharge delay, Guardian, etc... Even in infested sorties I do fine just being slightly more moderate.
  • Her ability to face-tank near anything, to not care about energy in any capacity, her DPS, etc... make her a great frame.  
    • In terms of tanking, toxin is the only issue, and basically all sources are easy to avoid/do little damage except Nox and Liches.

She has some issues, but not like you're laying out.

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I don't wanna pile on the "Hildryn is fine" message, but they aren't wrong. I can completely understand what you dislike about Hildryn, because they are mostly valid complaints, and I would actually agree with a few of these changes, but as mentioned before...

3 hours ago, Jokie155 said:

Of all the frames that need reworks or fixing, she is very far down that list.

Asking for significant Hildryn changes is kind of pointless when we have many frames that need large reworks, especially with DE's extremely slow reworking pace. It would probably take close to five years for us to reach a point where Hildryn is considered for an update, because we have to get through half of the roster before she's even considered.

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This did convince me to retry using Hildryn. That said, I believe a lot of the feedback I gave still stands.

20 hours ago, Jokie155 said:

Hildryn is fine, frames don't need to be inherently strong against all factions all the time. That's what variety of choice is for. Mag is also ineffective against Infested for similar reasons, and that's fine too.

Of all the frames that need reworks or fixing, she is very far down that list. So long as Trinity remains in her irrelevant state especially.

I'd argue that it isn't really fine, and frankly Mag is probably a frame that would warrant a rebalance of some sort as well. Even with that said though, the degree to which Mag is weak against infested isn't to the same degree as Hildryn IMO, because the only ability that absolutely doesn't work with Mag in that situation (polarize) isn't her only useful ability. Pull is no worse off in this situation (no better either obviously. It's pull), Magnetize's tap activation still works as well as usual, as does Crush (which even has its setup via magnetize still operate properly).

Just about every other element of Hildryn's kit hinges on her being able to use Pillage, especially if she wants to keep contributing to a fight without waiting.

20 hours ago, sunderthefirmament said:

Are you using shield arcanes? 

Not when I first tried her, but now that I got a bit more time under my belt, I've got the luxury to see how they work on her.

I wouldn't say that's an excuse to say that Hildryn's "fine" either, because the only other frame I can think of that gets such a dramatic increase to their functioning from arcanes that I've used is Inaros (who, even then, he still can restore his health without them: it's slow, but it's completely safe and doesn't force him to move away from enemies).

17 hours ago, KitMeHarder said:

You're waaay overthinking Hildryn. I've made a post on the quality-of-life things I'd like her to have, but she's one of the best tanks and DPS frames... in one.

  • Her 1 is one of the best exalted weapons. Killing droves of enemies in basically one-shot, until level ~90 armor, and then one cast of Pillage or Eclipse and that's no longer the case.
  • Her shield pool is always topped off mid combat. Pillage, Adaptation, Arcanes, 1 second recharge delay, Guardian, etc... Even in infested sorties I do fine just being slightly more moderate.
  • Her ability to face-tank near anything, to not care about energy in any capacity, her DPS, etc... make her a great frame.  
    • In terms of tanking, toxin is the only issue, and basically all sources are easy to avoid/do little damage except Nox and Liches.

She has some issues, but not like you're laying out.

This is mainly what convinced me to retry her. Last time I built out a Balefire, I didn't have stacking damage mods, so now I see that its very much a similar build style as Mr. Voidrig's Arquebex - raw. damage.

The statement about overthinking Hildryn, though, seems like code for accepting that some powers on a 'frame just don't have much of a purpose. I could see the same advice being given to a new player trying to make Valkyr's Paralysis viable somehow, or Nekros' Terrify, or heck, Mag's Pull. The overall playstyle of the frame might make sense and still work (especially in the case of Nekros), but it doesn't mean it's not worth trying to think up of ways to improve them.

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27 minutes ago, -Bluhman- said:

The overall playstyle of the frame might make sense and still work (especially in the case of Nekros), but it doesn't mean it's not worth trying to think up of ways to improve them.

It is good to try and refine frames that are powerful enough as they are, but it's not really worth it to spend time posting changes for these frames since there are the others that are more in need (and everyone will remind you of that fact). If you enjoy making reworks for frames that are fine, then obviously you should do as you like, just don't get your hopes up that DE will actually change Hildryn.

Personally I'd love to see changes to frames like Mesa, Revenant, Baruuk, or Equinox to make their kits the best they can be, but I understand that I will never see them because of Hydroid, Nyx, Valkyr, Chroma, Trinity, Banshee, Mirage, etc...

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Eh, I don't know... thing that I found, through not a lot of extensive use, but in a lot of crash testing, is that while Hildryn does need her two Augments that allow Shield regen from every faction... she's actually pretty good all round at almost any level.

If built for Strength, for example, she's similar to Trinity in that she regens more Shields than she spends on any given cast. If you replace her 4 with something complimentary to her first three abilities, such as self buffing ability with a bit of CC like Shooting Gallery, it makes things a little easier to play her in the relatively simple way of 'strip everything of its defenses, blow it up with a high damage first ability, and be able to tank enough hits to actually take advantage of the poor design of Adaptation'.

This is purely anecdotal on my part, but I've spent plenty of Steel Path missions, on all factions including Infested, never dipping out of my Overshields, and so never having to worry about things like Toxin damage. You mentioned yourself that she had to be built specifically to take advantage of that passive, but it's not really a specific build for it, it's just 'press 2 with enemies in range, tap it again to recall it if you can't wait a few seconds', and repeat whenever for CC, Damage and Regen...

That 2 of hers really is that good of a cast, to be fair... and being able to build a high damage Balefire just means that when enemies are stripped down with her 2, they die to her 1, while her 1 will regen Shields beyond the cost of the shot as long as you're on target (which is easy if you've set everything on fire with her 2/3 combo or made them stagger with something like Shooting Gallery).

Yes, you do need Augments to make her work against every faction, or work where the damage levels have ramped up to otherwise spoil your fun.

But no, I don't think that makes her all that badly laid out as a Warframe, and no I don't think it needs the kind of drastic measures that you're pitching to fix the problems that exist.

It's no different to another, fantastic shield tank in the form of Protea, who can use her 1 to consistently just pick up massive shields, and her 3 to bring back any health she lost to that one specific damage type that she doesn't do well against. If Protea had the same passive function of immunity to Toxin while in Overshields, then that would be that, the frame would never die.

And I find that the exact same thing with Hildryn. Use her one ability that makes her not die, use it often, and mod for her Augments as much as for her abilities... and she just doesn't die.

(And I've never tried any of the low-shield exploits for permanent invulnerability with regen mods/arcanes, so I'm not even going to attempt to address those...)

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3 hours ago, -Bluhman- said:

but it doesn't mean it's not worth trying to think up of ways to improve them.

I agree, but in your OP you talked about how you didn't mind not having a Hildryn at all and simply subsumed her (I was more referencing this). I think every frame in the game could always use a bit of Polish, even meta frames. And I think some of your ideas are good and similar to mine, but you phrased it like there wasn't much merit to them, or the ability for Hildryn to be good in the first place.

This is my retouch for her, if you're interested. 

And I'm not a fan of sharing my builds in GaaS, especially underrated ones like Hildryn. But just know how you build her is not very straight forward, and any video you've seen of her online has probably built her wrong.

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  • 2 months later...

I'm a little late to this party, but I agree with the general consensus: Hildryn is fine.

I think a lot of people feel like she got screwed by universal shield gating because other frames can use that to shield tank with Brief Respite or Augur mods, and Hildryn can't.  It's true, that does mean Harrow, Protea, and Volt are better shield tanks than Hildryn in a lot of cases.  Hildryn is held back by her actual biggest weakness: she can't cast abilities when she is out of shield, so taking it in the face is not a good strategy for her.

But if you can get past the expectation that big shields = tank, Hildryn is actually really great.  She's an active frame that needs to constantly be moving and Pillaging to keep her shields high, and then the reward is she is effectively unkillable, has unlimited energy, and provides really solid damage and support.

I do have one QoL improvement I'd love to see though.  I wish her 1 and 3 didn't need to be recast every time you bounce off the shield gate.  In really hectic high DPS situations, it's not uncommon to be bouncing between zero and max shields as Pillage waves cycle.  Her 1 and 3 are pretty much unusable then, because there's no time to stop Pillaging to recast them.  It'd be nice if the effects just switched off while shields are out, then resume as normal when shields are back.

Also her 4 is pretty weird, and I 100% understand why it is one of the most replaced abilities in the Helminth system.  I don't think it needs to be reworked though really.  In a normal build, it is still useful for emergency CC or to generate a bunch of quick energy for your friends.  In a specialized build though, you can park her in "helicopter mom" mode while you run around in operator or necramech picking off frozen enemies and picking up unlimited energy orbs.  It's kinda unique, and even if it isn't the best 4 in the game, her other abilities are strong enough that she can afford to have a quirky one like this.

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I don't know why people complain about frames that don't really have issues but then don't mention frames that really need attention.

Hildryn is a top-class tank with high DPS potential and a possibility to be a nuker with one of her augments. She may need some QOL changes, but overall she's fine.

You should look at frames that have actual issues, like Atlas and his Rubble not being as good as it should, Chroma and his boring playstyle of just hitting 2 and 3 occasionally or Inaros and having only a single genuinely useful ability that sinergizes with his passive of restoring health when killing enemies with finishers.

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