The Force Staves, a key part of the Psyker’s identity and play style, are just are flawed and full of potential as his class features. Being this integral, I felt it was important to try to give some detailed feedback about them in my experience thus far.
Testing weapons at this time is incredibly difficult, as many are dependent on their Weapon Traits, difficult to obtain or gauge the roll-ranges of, and can’t easily be tested for many scenarios like cleave/target capacity. The best I can do is test in the Meat Grinder and review very choppy footage, so please correct me on any mistakes you see.
My original feedback post can be found here, covering more general aspects of the Psyker Kineticist and its issues.
- - - - - - Foreword: ‘Lingering’ Peril and ‘Instant Pop’ Glitches - - - - -
Before addressing anything specific to staves themselves it is vital that we address two major issues with Staves.
The first issue is ‘Lingering Peril’, which seems to be an invisible ‘surcharge’ that occurs after casting a staff’s charged ability. This frequently causes a staff to trigger Overload despite only barely grazing the Critical threshold, and is very easily reproducible by charging a Surge Staff above the halfway point while above 70% Peril. This is an enormous detriment to the usability of Staves regardless of power level.
The second issue is ‘Instant Pop’, which is when the game bypasses the Overload animation entirely to instantly kill the Psyker on the spot. For some reason this is incredibly more common with Staves than with Brain Burst and the Force Sword peril costs, and when combined with the above issue can cause a Psyker who has made no mistakes managing their Peril to instantly die when visibly under 100% Peril.
These issues transcend balance and design problems and are outright flaws that need to be addressed as soon as possible for the Psyker’s staves to function as intended.
- - - - - - Primary Fire (Psy Bolt) - - - - -
The unassuming Psy Bolt at first appears to be a simple and effective projectile with an average amount of damage and stagger, very similar to weaker weapons like the Las Pistol, but upon taking your first steps with a Staff and firing it at a real enemy the flaws become apparent and overwhelming.
Psy Bolt has a slow travel time and, more importantly, a delay before the projectile launches. I won’t mince words: the delay on firing Psy Bolt makes it unusable. This is not a ‘this weapon has a flaw that makes other weapons preferrable’ like the 1.05v Force Sword had, it is not a difficult-to-use option within some sort of context or that requires significant mitigation on the part of the player. This is outright an unusable attack.
You cannot reasonably land a shot without tracking the target for the entire duration of the delay and limiting your own movement, and even then, with the slow travel time it is very easy to miss most targets due to enemies’ erratic movements and sudden animations like ducking into cover or flinching from suppression.
Suggestion: Slightly increase the projectile’s speed and remove the delay before the projectile launches completely.
A Note On Psy Bolt’s Failure & Its Impact
Psy Bolt not being a functional attack makes Staff Psykers dramatically more helpless than the other classes, especially in terms of dealing with the danger of flanking/lingering enemies and mid-range firefights. This unacceptable weakness results in most Psykers completely ignoring the primary fire or Staves themselves entirely, as it can’t be used reliably to trade shots from cover or defend oneself.
Making Psy Bolt into a reliable attack gives casting Psykers the same ability to deal with lingering trash other players with firearms have and gives them back the ability they had with a gun to attack ranged enemies without the positioning and charging requirements of Staff alternate-fires and Brain Burst.
Even the most basic of starting firearms outclasses Psy Bolt in this basic functionality, and it shows.
- - - - - - Quell Speed - - - - -
Quell Speed is a unique trait of the Force Staves and is an excellent example of class-unique weapon design and variable stats. The additional mobility while Quelling, the increasing speed of Quelling as one attains better staves, and the ease of having access to Quelling immediately after casting expensive charged abilities are all fantastic.
Giving the Psyker this more efficient means of managing Peril lets them lean more heavily on their casting, which is vital for high level play while still promoting them to work with their team, utilize good positioning, and to be cautious with their spending.
Suggestion: None. Quell Speed is a good addition in its current state.
- - - - - - Special Attack - - - - -
This is a complete joke, doing single digit damage to most armor types and not flinching anything larger than an unhelmeted shooter even if you managed to get them into your tiny range. However, the idea of shoving someone away with your staff has potential!
Suggestion: Replace the ‘staff bap’ with or augment it with a Force-push effect like the Force Sword’s Push/Push-Attack. A Peril cost would be appropriate here, as it isn’t replacing other standard defensive mechanics, and would further differentiate Staff Psykers from their counterparts!
- - - - - - Trauma - - - - -
Trauma is the first staff unlocked, and it leaves a bad impression in the hands of most novice Psykers.
Not only is the Psyker’s first interaction with the non-functional Psy Bolt, but it is arguably the least useful and weakest of the staves. The ‘conflagration’ of the alternate fire is slow to charge, expensive, and has rapid damage falloff from its center. No fledgling Psyker wants to use this, especially not when a single fully-charged cast is nearly as expensive as a Brain Burst for dramatically less effect, and as enemies become more aggressive, frequent, and dangerous it only becomes less attractive.
Suggestions: Increase the castable range and charged area of effect. Dramatically reduce the damage fall-off for non-centered units.
- - - - - - Surge - - - - -
The second staff unlocked, and a fun reward for those willing to take a second swing at using Staves, it fails to hold up in harder content despite its unique and entertaining aspects.
The Surge staff charges to release an automatically targeting and chain-arcing blast of lightning that delivers a powerful electric stun to the first targets it hits, providing the only effect in the game that is not stagger or damage based! This is fantastic for the lower Threats it is first introduced in, but as players progress to beyond Malice they will find the weapon no longer functions as intended.
The blue-stun itself seems to be limited to first/nearest (6~8) targets, and the arcing appears to generate from these limited targets. This gives the weapon a severe drop-off in usefulness as the density and frequency of enemies increases with difficulty level—an ability that once disabled most of the average Dreg Shooter gang now barely grazes half a patrol when one makes the jump to Heresy!
This cap on the targets effected by the stun, coupled with rather low damage (taking multiple charged casts to kill basic enemies even on Malice difficulty) makes the weapon difficult to use, but what truly make the weapon a mess in higher difficulties is the lack of control you have over its targeting.
The fact that targeting is automatic makes the weapon completely crippled in most situations, especially with Psy Bolt severely lacking. You are unable to do more than roughly guide the targets selected by the shocks, with an overwhelming focus on proximity. You are unable to target units even partially behind most forms of cover. You cannot properly target units that are on a different elevation than you, even a small one like a few steps up to a catwalk. You cannot target specific enemies, especially ones hiding behind other enemies or ones at any sort of distance beyond the first target of the staff. The additional bolts of lightning from a charged attack are incredibly inconsistent in what they target.
All in all it’s a fun weapon, but it unfortunately feels like a gimmick that simply cannot hold up when you’re playing in the big leagues facing down four ogryns, half a dozen ragers, and an entire Dreg patrol mixed in with dozens of ambient poxwalkers—especially when one poxwalker stood off to the side is enough to divert your entire charged blast as you desperately try to ward off an approaching Specialist.
Suggestion: Rework the Surge staff’s targeting. I suggest doing this by having the actual cast create a raycast directly in the direction of the crosshair and targeting the enemies closest to the first enemy struck (preferring Specialists and Elites where possible) and reverting to this much more random ‘spray’ if the raycast does not connect with an enemy within range. This would let the Psyker properly aim at enemies, especially those in scenarios the ‘random’ pattern can’t properly address and keep their charged shots from veering off to blast a single pox-walker to the side while also enabling them to use the more random proximity targeting when they can’t or don’t wish to select a specific target!
Greatly expand the number of ‘primary’ targets the charged blast can hit and arc from, especially at higher charges (50%, 100%). The current number of targets shocked by the staff is incredibly small compared to enemy pack sizes at higher difficulties, and the weapon and its random targeting simply cannot compete with mixed hordes of even ambient spawns on Heresy.
As an additional note, this staff is affected by far the most out of any staff by the issues addressed in the Foreword, and fixing them would help it a great deal.
- - - - - - Purgatus - - - - -
The third staff unlocked, it is the first staff to feel well-rounded and usable, though it is partly reliant on an archetype of Kineticist that isn’t yet flourishing.
Replacing the Psy Bolt with a unique flame burst already sets this staff far above the previous two, giving its wielders the ability to protect themselves from oncoming threats and quickly respond to enemies and hordes with piercing, staggering waves of flame that deliver Soulblaze stacks. Fantastic!
The charged attack is somewhat underwhelming, with surprisingly good range and serviceable damage against most armor types. It is, however, slow to charge (I believe the staff outright lacks a Charge Speed staff and there is currently no other way for Psykers to boost the weapon’s Charge Speed), and slow to build stacks without a specific weapon trait.
The staff itself has a strong synergy with Kineticist’s “Soulblaze/Ascendant Blaze” archetype, but given how difficult it is to maintain the necessary stacks and score kills with Soulblaze even in Malice it’s not particularly worthwhile at this time.
Suggestions: Slightly increase the charge speed or improve the damage and stacks granted by higher charges of the alternate fire. As it is, it’s not worth using (and especially charging) the alternate fire in most scenarios.
Otherwise, just improving Kineticist’s kit and the Ascendant Blaze archetype as discussed in my previous feedback post, will let this weapon fulfill the potential it obviously has!
- - - - - - Voidstrike - - - - -
The last staff currently available, Voidstrike is the closest to fulfilling the promise that Staves have and is the only truly viable staff in current Heresy-Damnation without specific trait-rolled synergies or team builds.
Void delivers a reasonably powerful, piercing, exploding projectile that is fun to use, highly effective, and versatile. While Psy Bolt is as useless as ever, even Voidstrike’s much more expensive lowest charge delivers a much larger, more effective, and explosive projectile that doesn’t have anywhere near the same issues with usability as its little brother while covering for its gaping weaknesses. Capable of assisting in wave clear, being charged up to hammer heavy-hitters, and delivering potent staggers through a chokepoint it’s the only staff that doesn’t suffer from some crippling flaw in application and weak numbers.
It does, however, maintain the incredibly awkward delay that Psy Bolt has on its charged attacks release, and this makes the ability very frustrating to use with any precision or while moving. Most Psykers are forced to rely on its large size to ‘bowl’ into groups and targets, and struggle to make use of its weapon trait synergies because of this.
Suggestion: Remove the clunky delay before the projectile releases, just as you should for the primary fire. Otherwise this weapon is fantastic as-is.
- - - - - - Bonus Feedback: Force Sword MkII (Again) - - - - -
Now that I’ve experienced the melee prowess of the other classes, I can safely say that the Force Sword is very bad compared to the unique options of other classes. It has a very awkward moveset, does low damage, struggles against all armor types, does not benefit from its Special Ability in the way chainweapons and the power sword do, has very bad stamina, has mediocre mobility, and no useful weapon stats or weapon trait synergies. Yes, that includes Deflector, which is currently horrendously broken and ‘blocks’ dodged ranged attacks at great expense.
Suggestion: This weapon, or ideally higher levelled and more specialized variants of it, need big buffs across the board. This is a weapon that has no purpose whatsoever and is severely outclassed by even basic shared weapons that benefit from useful stats, good movesets, and weapon trait synergies.
- - - - - - Final Thoughts: Staves As A Whole - - - - -
Staves are a cool concept that I can’t wait to see refined and further explored, however in their current state they are unequivocally worse in every way than the unique weaponry that non-psykers get in both general and specialized fields. Even direct peers, like the Purgatus and Flamethrower, show a clear gap in usability and power level that the Psyker has no way to make up for.
All staves also possess a crippling weakness or struggle to serve a purpose beyond stagger/utility while other characters are carrying more powerful, more useful weapons like grenade launchers, bolters, and fully-automatic las machineguns that aren’t hamstrung by glitches that will instantly detonate them and invalidate their last-chance survival mechanism.
At the end of the day, it feels really crummy to be the guy with an inaccurate sling-staff that can’t zap more than a dozen pox-walkers while the Veteran next to you just vaporized a Crusher’s skull and the Zealot is emptying rocket-powered explosive shells into an entire patrol to the cannon-overture of a gleeful Ogryn.
Thank you for your time and attention, have a great Thanksgiving (or just… Thursday, you European weirdos.)