Precis: Rangers are, except at around level 60, unbalanced in PvP. All Rogues are overpowered at low levels but this is most apparent with Rangers due to the combination of stealth, ranged attacks, traps, tracking and useful melee combos.
Rangers are particularly weak at 70-79 and barely tolerable at 80. The Bow Ranger in particular is also weak in PvE.
This post aims to address those issues
Understanding how the low-level Ranger is overpowered
A basic feat tree for the typical "gank-ranger" is useful because it shows the differences to the other Rogue classes. While Assassins and Barbarian begin with Stances (Blood Rage, Reaver, Poison and Unholy) the Bow ranger begins with a "clickable" damage-booster.
This grants a high chance of a Bleed (DoT) on any ranged attack, a melee knockback which works on all characters of that level and a +Evade feat.
Without the Focussed Fire clickable and the Crossbow Bleed, ranger combos at this level are not overpowered. Any player capable using Active Blocking and a potion or better yet, stacking their passive shields can survive.
With them, they most definitely are overpowered. A Piercing Shot 2 or Salvo 2 into the back of a rooted player of almost any class will kill them without other damage. And rangers can root from stealth.
Understanding how Rogues in general are overpowered at low levels
When playing a Barbarian, Assassin or Ranger in melee, up until level 40 you will almost always rely for damage on three attacks:
Cunning Strike V
Cunning Strike VI
Vicious Strike II
At level 40, these are just about losing their power but until then, they are the single biggest character attacks in the game.
Naturally, as a Rogue, you use them continually. Not only because they're good but because your "main" attacks, Butcher, Cyclone of Steel and Swift Strikes are actively bad up to ButcherV, CoSV and SSV.
Let me restate for emphasis:
Butcher IV, Cyclone of Steel IV and Swift Strikes IV as well as all earlier iterations do about 2/3 of the damage they would need to be viable as main attacks.
As a Ranger you use CSV, CSVI and VSII because you have no other melee damage combos whatsoever.
Low-level Rogues are overpowered because until level 40, the Rogue General combos are overpowered.
Understanding how High-Level Rangers are underpowered
At some point in the design and development of Age of Conan, the original "low fantasy" concept was discarded and playable Mage classes were introduced.
These classes, with their low-health pools and vast Area of Effect damage abilities have almost entirely supplanted the Ranger class as "the" ranged damage dealer of the game.
As the game went live, so Bow and Crossbow range have been continually reduced in response to player demand. Nobody is disputing that for a fun playable game, it needed to happen. It's no fun fighting someone who will kill you long before you can ever reach them in order to fight back.
However, as the pendulum swings, we can see what has happened. With the exception of Barbarians, all melee classes have a Charge which makes our Range an advantage of 1, maybe 2 seconds. The ability to kill outright in one or two seconds would be vastly overpowered so that leaves us with Crowd Control and argues against increasing overall DPS or Burst damage.
Rangers cannot move while actually shooting, which gives melee characters a huge advantage up close. Also, by circling, it's entirely possible to cause a ranger to lose Line of Sight by use of his own body thus making all attacks miss.
The ability to move while shooting has been requested by many Rangers. It is the view of this player that if Rangers could move while shooting, they would merely snare any opponent and then kill them while backing away. As previously stated, being beaten by someone you can never reach is not fun and is considered overpowered by the majority of players. Therefore, this post will not recommend movement while shooting as a solution.
The Ranger, being a Hybrid class, does have some Melee Crowd Control abilities and these are useful. However, none last long enough to regain any range and then shoot before the melee opponent has once again negated the advantage of range. Being held by Crowd Control while you can do nothing and are helpless is not fun for anyone, therefore this post will not recommend an extension of Crowd Control duration.
The Ranger does have an ability (Evasive Action) which grants a high bonus toward Evade. This is extremely useful while a melee character is in melee range as it increases survivability for ten seconds. However, Evasive Action also reduces all damage dealt by 50% which, given the relatively low DPS a Ranger has, means that using it can only prolong a fight and running for that period - given the unbreakable snare that Stagger places on anyone - is counterproductive: the Ranger WILL have a face full of melee again and Evasive Action will time out. And then the ranger, having done almost no damage to his opponent due to the 50% damage reduction, will die.
Fortunately, a little analysis as above will quickly reveal that all these issues can be resolved without overpowering the Ranger class and leaving combat fun for all involved.
Balancing Low-Level Rogues
The issue, as stated, is the Rogue General combos.
Remove them. Completely. Delete them from the game.
Since they cause such large issues and are in any case discarded after level 40, the logical response would be to take them out and make Butcher, Cyclone of Steel and Swift Strikes more balanced under iteration V. In other words, the damage on these should be raised by approximately 35% to compensate for the loss of the big-hitting Rogue General combos.
The issue this causes is the utter lack of any melee ability for the Ranger. In this case, the solution is to reintroduce Cunning Strike as a Ranger-only combo (minus its agro-reduction utility), iterate it up to Cunning Strike X at level 80 and balance it against Butcher, Swift Strikes and Cyclone of Steel.
Please note - all those other Rogue combos are enhanced by Feating. Since rangers have no way to increase melee damage with Feat Points, this would not unbalance the class.
In this way, there are only 3 combos to balance, "extra" attacks are removed and the issue of level 19 characters with what is effectively a level35 combo is gone forever.
Balancing Low-Level Rangers
The answer here is a Feat Tree rearrangement. Follow the pattern of the other two Rogue classes and work with Stances.
So, Waylayer Tree starts with Piercing Stance, Sharpshooter Tree starts with Sniper Stance. Both become 5-point feats to total the same benefit gained from those stances now.
Focussed Fire and Puncture are moved to the places currently occupied by Sniper Stance and Piercing Stance, changed to 1-point feats giving their existing (5-point) bonus.
Since the same number of Feat Points must be used to achieve the same effect, this is not unbalancing.
Fire Stance and Shattering Stance (the two PvP stances) keep their positions on the Trees, remain 1-point feats and merely add their "special effect" to the stance currently used by the Ranger - that being Blistering Wounds or Knockback - but no extra damage.
This removes the vast damage/DoT buffs that rangers use to destroy anyone and everyone at low levels and places them further up the tree where they will be more needed and more balanced. It normalizes Rangers against the other Rogues in terms of stances and how their Feat Trees work.
Because the end results (at later levels) are identical, it does not alter eventual Class Balance but merely levels the playing field for everyone at low levels.
Balancing High-Level Rangers
Having discarded extra DPS, extra Range and movement while shooting as a) likely to be unbalancing and b) likely to cause massed outrage from every other class, we come back to survivability and ability to do damage close up, something that Rangers currently cannot really do.
Solution: Make Evasive Action an innate (unfeated) ability. Make each Feat Point spent in the current Evasive Feat reduce the damage penalty while it is active by 10%.
This, combined with the above-proposed rehabilitation of Cunning Strike as a Ranger melee combo scaling to Cunning Strike X at level 80, creates a true Hybrid warrior who has a fair chance at range and in melee without being unbalanced in either.
not too sure about making stances the first feat in each tree.
wouldnt it be more logical that the first feat is crossbow specialization and bow specialization so ppl know exactly what they are beginning.
i would set stances behind the spcialization, so for bow you'd get
This is an interesting summary of the most important flaws about ranger-class itself. So far I am confident that a change to the feat-tree could probably solve the "overpowered in lower levels" problem, though I doubt that a simple rearrangement of the "focused fire" feat and the introduction of the ability "evasive actions" as a general ability will produce a final solution.
Skills and Feats - short overview; demonolgist vs ranger
FocusedFire - compared to other classes dmg-boosting abilities and/or passive damage boosting feats this ability ranges at the numeric lower end.
Now compared to a lvl50 Havoc-Demonologist dmg-enhancing abilities...
GenralTree: +43.2dps permanent
HavocTree: +43.2dps permanent
SelfBuff: +21.3dps permanent
At lvl80 a demonologists damage self-buffs outrank any of the rangers selfbuffs by huge amounts (talking about stacking pacts, tomes, general and special selfbuffs offering potential one-shots). Considering the numbers, "FocusedFire" can't be by any means the major cause of imbalance in lower-level ranges especially according to the circumstance that not "cloth wearing" classes, but all other classes are a low-lvl rangers prey, too!
So, trying to balance low-lvl PvP I believe a reallocation about armor-classes is needed in terms of when a certain class is able to wear a certain armor-type. If heavy armor was wearable from lvl20 on and plate armor wearable from lvl40 on (for guards) the defense of soldier classes should be high enough to resist incoming Salvos.
To Cloth/Light/Medium Armor classes I would not offer any kind of change, because all classes perform more or less well in low-level ranges.
Rebalance at high-lvl range
I was surprised by the suggested workarounds on "EvasiveAction" and melee-combos in general. "Evasive Action" is a nice ability which to be honest usually only delays the point in time of a rangers death. Evasion is of no use against mage classes due to magic not being evadable and most of the other classes will just snare or charge you, meaning this ability offers no escape. Actually in its current state it is not worth the points compared to other classes escape/defense mechanisms.
Reading the suggestions on a revamp of the rangers melee abilities I can only agree upon these suggestions. However, this revamp should not be seen as a rebalancing-polish, but as a delayed introduced feature.
In order to rebalance you have to understand the way how combat in general works. In this games current stage combat means: the inital attacker or "first hitter" will most of the time win due to the moment of surprise. This is based upon the very high pure numeric damage of damage dealing classes which offers only a glimpse of reactional time to prevent a sudden death.
In the conclusion this means that a revision of DPS is needed in order to put the ranger in line of the other damage dealing classes.
- Offer Soldier classes earlier access to heavy/plate armor (lvl20/lvl40)
- Introduce a basic line of melee-combos for the Ranger
- Lower Salvo DPS at pre lvl40 by -10%
- Raise SalvoIV and SalvoV DPS by +10%
- Revamp Heartseeker-Combo:
HeartseekerI - lvl40 - current DPS -15%
HeartseekerII - lvl60 - current "at level DPS"
HeartseekerIII - lvl80 - current "at level DPS" +15%
- Introduce a pet-companion WarLion called BattleCat ... just kidding
I believe these changes (the percentage based changes would need some testing though) would offer a more straight solution to the current flaws.