Overmix: Timey-wimey spacey stuff

Another prominent art colleague on Twitter, @Frenone, has been kind enough to let me critique her submission for @Ventain‘s contest. So let’s dig in:

C76k5DrXkAALgfd.jpg

Artwork and design credit: @Frenone

Basics:

  • Role: Defense
  • Quasar Jet: Cygna’s primary weapons are her bracers, which emit high-power jets in opposite directions with high accuracy at middle-long range.
  • Gamma Rays: Cygna emits short-range but high damaging gamma rays.
  • Wormhole: Cygna can briefly warp space-time, creating a wormhole for her team to travel a short distance.
  • Cosmic Cleanse: Cygna can absorb matter from nearby opponents, slowing their speed.
  • (Ultimate) Black Hole: Cygna turns into a black hole herself, pulling all nearby enemies towards her, trapping them in her Event Horizon. Those within short range will be torn apart by the strong gravity.

Frenone also provided a bit of additional context for her abilities on her Patreon.

Review:

Role: Assigning her to the Defense role is actually pretty key here, since the big thing about Defense heroes is their function as area-denial specialists. I just wanted to call that out in specific because I don’t think a lot of people grok the notion that punishing the enemy for being in the wrong place is 100% what Defense heroes are about.

Quasar Jets: I asked for a bit of clarification on how these work, since it wasn’t immediately evident from the ability description, and Frenone’s response was this:

So with that in mind, this makes Quasar Jets a VERY interesting skill since you don’t really get to aim the jets; they fire off perpendicular to Cygna, meaning they’re only going to directly hit enemies that are OUT of her field of view, unless they’re right on top of her. Given that they’re also supposed to be accurate at mid to long-range, that means that she’ll threaten more distant targets, but she won’t actually be able to aim at them directly.

Gamma Rays: The idea that Cygna emits a damage aura around herself really doubles down on her as a Defense character, because she specifically makes it bad to be close to her. It also makes it important for her to be closer to the frontline, which among Defense heroes is really only something that Mei does at the moment.

Wormhole: It feels like a big deal to give a hero an on-demand line-of-sight teleporter when Symmetra’s teleporter is still a thing, but if you constrain it to line-of-sight (meaning it would work like Reaper’s teleport) and you constrain it with a reasonably long cooldown (like 10-12 seconds) with a small window for usage (2-3 seconds for folks to run through it, and maybe Cygna doesn’t get to use it herself) then that helps to balance it out. Allowing other heroes on your team to get to places that they generally wouldn’t be able to get to (aka putting Ana on an actual sniper perch) was one of the perks with Mei’s icewall that doesn’t generally get used, so having something purpose-built for that could be awesome.

Cosmic Cleanse: The way the ability is written, I’m not 100% certain if this is intended to be a passive AoE slow or an activated ability. I’m going to angle for “activated ability” because that’s the more balanced option, but also because that’s where Cygna mastery will come into play: using CC on a nearby enemy, forcing them to stay in her gamma ray slow-death bubble, while she keeps murdering them with jet blasts and charging up her Black Hole is going to make her a very brutal Defense hero. To me, that means that Cosmic Cleanse needs to be somewhat difficult to land (or a very close range ability), because if successfully landing it gives Cygna a noticeable uptick in her ultimate charge, getting good at landing it and surviving long enough to pop the ult is going to be a big deal.

Black Hole: Part of the obvious concern with Black Hole is that it feels a LOT like Zarya’s Graviton Surge, since it would effectively draw nearby enemies to a centralized point and deal damage over time to them. A way to avoid that would be to flip the ability on its head: instead of Graviton Surge, Cygna’s Black Hole causes enemies within a wide area (e.g. the size of Mei’s Blizzard) to get snapped on top of Cygna after a short delay, and THEN take a hit of damage from the impact (like a much ruder version of Orisa’s Halt!). The further away an enemy is, the more damage they take.

The key is this: D.va, Winston, and other heroes with big movement abilities can escape Graviton Surge’s draw, avoiding the damage and all the focused fire coming with it. Black Hole would punish players trying to escape more harshly, in addition to drawing them into Cygna’s gamma ray bubble, and if you combine this with other ults that want people in one place at one time (High Noon, Self-Destruct, Graviton Surge, Earthshatter, look it’s a long list) it combos really well.

Assessment:

This is a great kit that draws on some fantastic science. That said, I feel like it almost might be too much: Quasar Jets make her a threat at mid to long range, while Gamma Rays and Cosmic Cleanse make her a big threat in close range, and Wormhole conceivably lets her either close the gap with a hero who has spent an escape already or send an ally after them. And all of this is capped off with Black Hole, which punishes people who are in her general area. She’s a bit TOO powerful in that respect, to the extent that at least one ability would have to get pared off or altered noticeably in order for her to get balanced out. If I had to nominate one, it would actually be Quasar Jets, since that concentrates her threatening range to the space around her, which would then emphasize the black hole motif that she’s all about to begin with.

That still presents some issues: as a Defense hero that focuses on this much area denial, Cygna REALLY makes herself a high priority target for the enemy team to try and take down just as a quality of life measure. Because she’s so concentrated on a short-range area, she won’t have any answers to snipers trying to take her down for exactly that reason (Mei, by contrast, can create cover for herself, has Ice Block as an instant escape/self-heal, and can at least use her RMB to threaten enemies at range). It might swing the pendulum too far in one direction, which is why even without Quasar Jets you’d still need to finesse the total design some more.

I really want to call out Quasar Jets for a moment, because on the one hand, it’s an ability that looks great when you’re looking at Cygna. If she runs up and starts spinning around while spamming that, it just amplifies the notion of her being the center of a ball of death who will ruin the day of anyone who comes up to her. It’s beautiful, and I think it would just be a wondrous site to behold.

What I’m unfortunately stumbling over is the part where a) spinning around while in first person is not going to be something players can sustain and still move with precision on a map in order to avoid incoming fire or effects (aside from whether or not players get sick trying to do it quickly), b) not being able to aim where the shots actually land won’t give the player the visceral feeling of successfully landing shots on targets, and c) as cool as the ability is going to look for other players, I just don’t think it’s going to look good to the Cygna player personally.

Now, all of that being said, this is still a fantastic starting point in terms of developing a kit for a character and getting a sense for what she brings to the cast of existing heroes. I think there’s a way to make Quasar Jets work (perhaps she has a weapon that fires rounds that spawn quasar vortexes on the ground, so the visual of the jets is retained but she still gets the visceraliy of landing shots), but I also think that editing down Cygna’s breadth of abilities would help to concentrate what makes her awesome.

Big kudos to Frenone for giving me permission to critique the design. ^_^

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