I usually keep my opinions limited to infiltrator-related gameplay and balance, however this is a subject that has been bugging me for a while. It came to a head for me as I went on a 70 kill-streak with a viper lightning overlooking xenotech labs yesterday. While the viper itself is on the nerf list, I couldn’t help but thinking to myself just how crucial thermals were – I saw every single soldier trying to run around that base, and picked many of them off, from LA’s in the trees to HA’s and medics trying to rush the point. Even infiltrators off to the side who would decloak to fire quickly became spammed with 6 rounds of hot death in their general direction. The TL:DR is that vehicle thermal optics greatly enhance the infantry farming that vehicles can do, and their removal would be a way to improve the infantry-vehicle balance without actually nerfing the weapons or platforms themselves.
Rarely, does the use of Thermal optics help a vehicle gunner to spot other vehicles. The reason is pretty obvious – vehicles are not difficult to see, and rarely require more than looking in the general direction to identify and acquire for targeting. Infantry, however, can sometimes be more difficult to see. They are smaller, and can blend in with the terrain, especially when your vehicle is at greater range such as a liberator or a tank shelling a base. Thermal optics do very little to help you kill other vehicles, but they become incredibly useful when engaging infantry. While the range is limited (with the idea that it draws you closer to allow infantry rockets and AV to hit you), thermals allow infantry to pop out on your screen.
If you’ve ever done some decent infantry farming in a vehicle, you know how powerful thermal optics are, and how much they help you to quickly acquire and kill targets. Whether its a viper lightning, a locked down HE/Heat prowler, or a shredder liberator, once you get into a good position, everything you see on the screen dies. And if you happen to be camping the spawn, you are now representing the heart of what many people feel is wrong with the game. We are marketed big battles, but so many of them quickly devolve into pointing your turret at a spawn room, turning on thermals and killing the inexperienced players who are sad enough o think they can make a difference by leaving safety and trying to flip the objective back.
As an infiltrator, there’s one other aspect of thermals that bothers me. I use lots of little tricks to get into neat hiding places. Trees, nooks in buildings, anywhere that lets me have an advantage over the enemy. Most of the time, it’s not infantry that ruin these locations, but a vehicle user that takes one look through a thermal scope and knows instantly where I am, despite my camo, my lack of noise, and my best attempts to blend with the environment.
By removing thermal scopes, what would happen? Well, lets talk about what wouldn’t happen first. Spawn camping would NOT go away. I won’t pretend this would solve that issue. But it would make it easier for players to sneak out and have a chance at fighting their way to the objective. It would not stop vehicles from killing infantry. Simply put, certain vehicle platforms excel at killing infantry and taking away their thermals will not stop that.
So what would happen? For starters, I think it would make ESF’s and liberators have a much more difficult time swooping in and farming ground targets. They would need to take a slower approach and perhaps even depend on eyes on the ground to know exactly where to shoot by the time they are in range. And to me, that is a good thing. Vehicles that are spamming a tower or suppressing some spawn location will still kill targets in predictable locations, but they will not so easily pick out infantry that are not in their zone of focus. It will allow for players to out-smart vehicles, and have a chance at a good battle. It will enhance the importance of flash suppressors, as vehicle users will depend on more visual ques to identify targets. Vehicles will have more incentive to equip radar to assist with finding targets. Lastly it will give infantry an advantage at night, enhancing their ability to avoid detection. Nightvision, in its current state, is exactly how these types of optics should work.
Why this solution? I think it is a way to shift the infantry vs. vehicle balance in a better direction without nerfing vehicle weapons, changing their performance vs other vehicles, or buffing things like lockons or AV mana turrets. It will not make the vehicle users experience more frustrating, but it will force them to work harder to identify and kill infantry. Which is only fair, considering using a vehicle puts one at a significant advantage over an infantry player. It may even reduce some of the frustration experienced by infantry who die to that HE lightning parked on a hill overlooking the base who fired at you half a second after you moved through a doorway and into that unprotected lane that you have to move through to reach the objective. Now, you might have 1 or 2 seconds before the HE lightning starts shooting.
I’d love to hear other players thoughts and ideas on the subject. And i’ll post some screenshots to illustrate my point later on, once I log into game.