I am a sparks main, and I have been doing so since 2015, collecting over 200 in game hours as her. SD has been nerfing sparks quite a bit recently, and it really shows who the devs are listening to, i.e., crybabies. In all seriousness though, I feel like the nerfs and changes she is being hit with not only seem undeserved in some ways, but they go directly against her character design. Sparks was fine before this update, and some past updates were necessary in my opinion. She shouldn’t be able to outrange a sniper, and I guess it’s kind of fair that she can’t one shot 120 hp mercs at mid-range, these are still manageable obstacles for someone who can aim accurately and consistently. However, the changes in the Lead & Iron update are both confusing and tragic for sparks players.
The big change in this update is the health pack change, which made her health packs heal teammates more, but herself less. For any other medic, that seems like a fair trade, give up some self- heals to give your teammates some more sustainability. But I have one question about this change: why does SD want her healing anyway? Out of all the mercs who can give health, Sparks’ health packs are the least efficient, since the role is not meant for her. To put this into perspective, she needs to give 4 health packs to a rhino to get him above 150 hp, and he won’t even be at 100% hp unless you have potent packs, and that is after the change. even to almost heal skyhammer, given he lived with 20 hp from a fight, you still need to give him two packs, which is half your available healing gone! People may say that this helps with the “one and done” style of giving health, and it does. by 6 points of health, negligible when you have a frag grenade flying towards your face.
You might be thinking “okay, it isn’t much of a buff, but 5 hp from the medic’s healing can’t kill either, can it?” unfortunately it does, because it makes sparks waste more health packs on herself and, in turn, use less health packs on her teammates, making this a terrible change for both the healer and the team they are on. Imagine you are shot down to <20 hp as sparks. Meanwhile, you retreat and a teammate gets into the fight as well. before the change, you would just use two health packs to get up to at least >60 hp, usually ending up in the 70 hp range. Afterwards, when your teammate gets a frag and retreats for a heal, you give him ~80 hp from two packs, which is enough to get back in the fight if you have a medic ready to revive you. All is well. However, with the new change, you can’t quite reach that 60 hp threshold every time, which is very dangerous for any merc to be in (especially with proxies bunny hopping around the map trying to flank you), so you as a medic are put into a hazard. You instinctively use another one, keeping you out of harm. But then your teammate walks in, begging for heals. With this change, that teammate ironically gets healed 34 less health than before the update meant to help him. You might think “just wait for the next pack to give to him,” but that eats away at time more than you think. by the time that health pack gets regenerated, the enemy they killed could have respawned, the rest of the team could have lost a push, and you lost the game.
This problem doesn’t need to be like this, as there is a much better middle ground which both promotes team play and slows down sparks who trade health with someone just to heal in 3 seconds to finish trading health. Simply put, make it take some time for sparks’ health packs to heal herself. The heal rate would be the same, or possibly a bit slower than how Sawbonez heals his patients, yet keep the amount of health healed the same as before the update. This would be a much easier pill for sparks players to swallow(and god knows you’ve made them swallow much bigger ones), as it doesn’t pressure them to be more selfish when playing a medic, yet it solves the problem this change is targeting.
Another problem from this update lies in her “primary” weapon (not only are they really secondaries, the revivr is the real primary for her), since they nerfed all of them this update. I’m fine with some ammo reduction in the magazine, but the total reserve bullets for each has been neutered severely. I understand that’s how the magazine count works, but, yet again, it makes a medic care more about keeping some ammo ready than healing their teammates and fighting enemies. I would hope that these secondaries get another spare ammo magazine, as it would help sparks players stay in the battle with their teammates, yet it would not be an over-powered change for the characters who use these secondaries as, well, secondaries.
SD isn’t terrible for these changes, and I still love the game, yet they need to acknowledge the nature of most good sparks players. Sparks is not fun to play for everyone, and she is hard for new players to get into (Even though I was a bit of an exception to this when I started), so most players who you see play sparks are either just trying her out for one of their first few times or they are the top dogs who can change the tide of battle. SD ignores this fact, since her high skill ceiling makes players great with her even greater, making player think that a hip-fired dart from long range, which takes a lot of practice to aim, is “OP,” when a sawbonez could both kill you and heal his team more consistently. While Sawbonez is not in any way especially over-powered, sparks isn’t either. Despite this, she gets more nerfs and changes than Fletcher and Fragger combined. Just observe this fact, and the desired changes above, when looking into future balance, for both Sparks and other future mercs, when going forward with the balance of one of my favorite games.