Update 25 has done something terrible with hireling behavior.
The official description from the Update 25 Patch 2 release notes seemed legit:
- Hirelings who are Standing their Ground will no longer leave their assigned area to aid players.
Fixed a bug that could cause hirelings to switch back to “follow” mode shortly after a teleportation that was followed by a quick press of Stand Your Ground.
But the results are worse than I’ve ever managed from our automated mercenaries, even taking personalities into account.
Hirelings are now too passive. It’s like the old jokes that Johnny Carson did on The Tonight Show about Marlin Perkins, the host of the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV show from the 70’s, where Marlin is parodied as sending out his sidekick to do the dirty work while Marlin watched in safety and comfort.
Now, the hirelings are being pseudo-Marlin, treating our player characters as their hired help, and not stepping in properly as they should.
When they’re set to Defensive mode, normally they will fight when an enemy comes too close. This often has the controllable but annoying side-effect of hirelings chasing down an enemy with a ranged attack, often aggroing a dungeon in the process.
But when hirelings are now set to Aggressive mode, they will stand there, watching you as indifferently as a cat as you’re bludgeoned and beaten to a fruit-juicy pulp until you’re forced to hit their Attack button in order for them to pay attention and defend.
Hirelings still get too personal about who they attack. Here I am getting pasted by something and the hireling, rather than attacking what’s immediately punching me, goes after something around the corner. Hirelings now have worse aggro definition than ever.
The worse problem comes with buffs and healing. Like the Aggressive issue, hirelings are even less likely to drop what they’re doing to give you emergency healing and are even slower to resurrect you.
The greatest example of something gone horribly twisted is the behavior of Flower and Larathor, two level 7 clerics. Where normally Flower’s personality is normally offensive when in Defensive mode, she’ll just look at you passively as your life is carved out of your body. Her summoned spider is still useful enough for the aggro-magnet it is, but not as much now, given that Flower doesn’t respond to its cries when under assault.
Larathor is normally a hireling I avoid because he was too passive when I needed a fighting buffer, an light aggro shield mostly for ranged characters like my Zen Archers. But now, although he’s still enjoying watching you get beaten to an inch of your life and beyond when enemies are in close proximity, Larathor often jumps into the fray, rather than sitting out.
Thankfully, the developers saw the cooldown conflict with the Call Hireling command and then telling them to Stand Your Ground, so movement control is much better.
I’ll be putting in a bug report, as all should, on this. Hirelings, in a perfect world, should:
- Always fight off melee attackers that come within a body length of them or their leader, especially if they are attacking their leader.
- Always prioritize threat to closest melee enemy, protecting Leader first, party members second.
- Never run to attack distant enemies that attack them or their leader unless directed to do so.
- Should recognize if they are being attacked from a distance and go into a new passive mode: Block, if Defensive mode is active and no other commands are being handled. They should stay in Block until commanded to do something else or if something comes too close to them or their leader or party.
- Should always heal (if a healing hireling) when leader is at 45% or less HP but never above 70%. This often causes wasteful use of spell points.
- Should have a prioritization of offensive spell use based on number of enemies, intensity of attack on the hireling or their leader, and spell cost. In short, a Cometfall is a bit excessive against one orc. Sir Geoff of Hanna has already praised the berserk nature of Larafay the level 15 Favored Soul. Now, she’s freakin’ insane and will manage to deplete her spell points in your quest’s first attacks faster than ever before.
- Should recognize and remove debuffing spells but prioritize such removals based on incoming commands. In short, don’t worry about my poison curse when I or another need a heal or revive. And always remove debuffs when no other commands are present and a party is not under threat.