I really like the Lerk. I play it every time I'm on the aliens team, and I try super hard to do awesome stuff with it. People laugh and say the Lerk is bad, and quite honestly they're right. But that doesn't mean I stop trying! That includes this thread.
First, I'll list what I see as the strengths of the class (from a design perspective, not from the perspective of someone who loves the lerk):
Role is clearly defined and exists throughout the whole game
You are one player with the weight of 25 mutalisks in Starcraft. Your job is to harass things, fly laps around marines like a strafing fighter plane and spike/gas them to death. Your gas allows teammates to get into combat more safely. You can go anywhere just like a Fade, but with fewer gaps in time where you recharge adrenaline.
High skill ceiling and low skill floor on many activities
The lerk's flight is the closest thing in the game to Quake-style bunnyhopping/strafejumping. It's not actually that involved (mechanically), but there is a lot of 'wiggle room' in how you fly. How quickly you get up to speed, how smoothly you turn (and juke peoples' aim/dodge attacks), how you aim while flying, when you glide...these are all things to be developed. You can tell a good lerk player from a bad one by how they fly.
Here are some of the problems I see with the Lerk right now, and some ideas for solving them cleanly:
Weapon range/spread/damage is difficult to gauge
It's obvious to me that both spike attacks have accuracy spread, but it's not clear how much spread there is. This can be solved by some more obvious graphics on the spikes (like nailguns/plasma in quake), or a crosshair change.
The shotgun attack should not have a 'random' spread - it should be available in a fixed pattern. Please don't make this a server option like in Quake/TF2 - just let the community grow up thinking that a fixed spread is normal (because it should be - especially when we're not dedicated to modelling a realistic SPAS-12 shotgun or whatnot).
Damage scales poorly as the game progresses
I'm not sure how to really express this, but it's very obvious every time I play. Of course it gets harder to deal damage because of tech changes, but it *feels* like the upgrade/armor/health values are set against the lerk in some way. If anyone can offer more insight, please do!
Spores are not useful enough
Their damage is decent, and so is providing teammates a blind spot to enter combat. However, every time you use gas you have to either drop it away from enemies, or fly into them committing suicide to lay it in its "ideal" spot. The class is clearly geared toward ranged combat (not having a bite attack), so why make it abandon that to use its gas? This creates a situation where your gas and spikes can never safely synergize - if you're in range to lay "really good gas clouds" you're not in the ideal range to be using spikes (you want to shoot spikes at things that cannot easily shoot back and kill you). If you're in ideal spike range, your gas only serves to obscure your own view and waste adrenaline.
Spores have an extremely low skill ceiling
When I said they're "not useful enough" I was lying through my teeth. They're actually absurdly good *when they work*. When you manage to fly up to someone and lay gas clouds around them, your team gets a free pass to run in and clean up everything with the greatest of ease. When you try to fly up to someone, and they just kill you instead, it was a wasted effort.
One might try laying gas farther away from enemies (to alleviate this problem) but it's so obvious that it ends up to be a waste in several regards. It 'pushes' you away from combat (because enemies now know where you are, and will see you coming through the clouds with stark visual contrast) if you try to attack. There are very few ways for aliens to 'put a clock' on a combat situation (the way flamethrowers, grenade spam and ARCs do), and laying spores outside their ideal place only makes this worse (by providing enemies an escape routine and extra information about where you are).
I'm sure this has been debated a thousand times, but having gas be fired as a projectile solves most of these problems. I don't want to say "Make it like NS1!" but it's certainly something to consider. Is there a middle ground between the 2 ideas? One thing I came up with in another thread was giving the spore clouds some of the lerk's momentum when they are fired. This would make them drop "where the lerk is" but then move to a desired landing zone over time. It would also tie in with the lerk's flight ability, which is nice and allows players to develop intuition about how it works very quickly.
Movement is very predictable
Even though the lerk's movement currently has "the most going on" of the alien classes, it is still extremely limited. This is especially true after the recent patch that lowered the flight speed cap. You can strafe side to side very quickly when you're moving on shallow arcs, and it's nice. However, as soon as you try to make a sharp turn, you lose a lot of speed (because you have to rapidly flap your wings to 'switch' your momentum around). This is, of course, realistic to how a bird's wings would work. However, it is not fun and it is incredibly punishing.
As a flighty harassment character, you should be able to remove yourself from bad situations quickly. If I turn a corner at max speed and end up in the face of an LMG marine, the situation should play out like this:
- I turn around and fly away super quickly - He tries to shoot at me, but he has to try really hard because I'm a lerk and he's just an LMG
What actually happens is you stop in front of the marine for just long enough that he can kill you extremely easily with his basic gun.
Possible solutions to this: higher speed cap, more air control, play with the pitch up/down caps (so you can fly in vertical loops). With the current map design (with fewer open areas), this problem is the biggest of all.
Shotguns are too punishing
Not sure how to articulate this except to say that the shotgun seems way too easy to use against the Lerk. It's 'classic NS' to have shotguns versus lerks, but in this game the predictable movement and locally-dropped spores make it a one-sided matchup. It's also hard to see visually when someone has a shotgun.
Possible solutions to this? Make the shotgun more visually obvious on marines (with a different pose, lighting etc), change the damage cone of the shotgun, add damage falloff (like in TF2) at range
The 'shotgun' spike attack has a very low skill ceiling
Is the point of it to "sneak up on someone"? It would work for this purpose (and ONLY this purpose) if I could turn around and fly away quickly after one shot, at the time when any good player should react. I hardly ever use it since b190 because it honestly seems like it relies on the opponent not being able to aim back at me.