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Damage, Mods, and the Nano Forge
There are very few "verified" points of reference for many of the behind-the-scenes calculations in Hellgate, particularly when it comes to pure damage output. And when you're playing an action RPG where combat effectiveness is the one of the most important elements to consider as you build your character, that can prove to be pretty frustrating. But after playing the game for hundreds of hours, testing various theories, and consulting HanbitSoft's Namo Kang directly, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how the game handles most of the damage calculations.

In order to use specific numeric examples during this article, I'm going to reference the popular Hu's Hypershot quite a bit. As such, you'll want to refer to its stats for the numbers used in the examples below.

The Importance of Divine and Elemental Damage

It's largely accepted that Hellgate's damage formula looks something like this:
    Base Damage * Rate of Fire * (1 + Elemental Damage) * [1 + Damage Multiplier + Critical Chance*Critical Damage Bonus] * (1 + Rate of Fire Bonus)
This formula was originally passed down to the community from Flagship Studios, and based on my conversations with Mr. Kang, it doesn't appear to have been tampered with by HanbitSoft. I don't think anyone familiar with the game would dispute the importance of base damage, critical chance, critical damage, or a weapon's rate of fire (the rate of fire bonus refers to Multishot and similar skills), but it's interesting to note just how important elemental damage is to this equation.

Because it's calculated as a separate operand that's multiplied against your overall critical damage, elemental damage should never be overlooked when modding or augmenting a weapon, particularly for character builds that revolve around maximizing critical chance and critical damage. But not all elemental damage is the same, and let's not forget about the role that divine damage plays in the overall formula, either. Using a Hu's Hypershot as an example, adding a single "Adds 9% Toxic Damage" mod would mean that you're dealing 14-19 Physical Damage and another 1.26-1.71 Toxic Damage (yes, the game uses decimal numbers even if they're rounded to the nearest integer on your character sheet). But now let's stick an "Increases Damage by 10%" divine mod in the gun, in addition to the elemental mod. Now we're dealing 15.4-19.9 Physical Damage (which is the weapon's new base damage) and our Toxic Damage gets bumped to 1.39-1.79 because that 9% is now calculated off a higher base damage. It doesn't seem like that much at first glance, but at 600 rounds/minute with a high critical chance and 1000% or more critical damage bonus, it adds up quick.

Beyond the weapon's three mod slots, you could always take your chances on the Augmentrex 3000, right? Let's suppose you managed to augment an "Increases Physical Damage by 11%" effect on the gun. Because a Hu's Hypershot deals physical damage by design, for all intents and purposes, this works the same as a divine mod - it will increase the base damage of the gun, which therefore increases the effect of any elemental damage mods placed in the gun. But what if the effect you received was "Increases Toxic Damage by 11%" (note: this sort of effect really only comes into play with the random nature of mythic weapons)? On a weapon that inflicts Physical Damage by design, an "Increases Toxic Damage by 11%" effect is only increasing elemental toxic damage that you add to the gun through mods. So using the base damage of 14-19 on a Hu's and the single "Adds 9% Toxic Damage" mod I mentioned earlier, that effect is technically only bringing your Toxic Damage from 1.26-1.71 to 1.40-1.90. It's still something, but it's far less attractive in comparison to an "Increases Physical Damage by 11%" effect.

So what's the best way to mod your Hu's Hypershot? If we're not factoring in critical chance or monster damage resistances and are simply going for raw damage, then you'd want to go for dual 9% elemental damage mods or the preferred-but-considerably-rarer dual 11% divine/9% elemental mods. If you put three of the former mods in, your pre-critical damage would increase to 21.56-29.26 ([14 + 7.56 elemental]-[19 + 10.26 elemental]). If you put three of the latter mods in, your pre-critical damage would increase to 23.65-32.09 ([18.62 + 5.03 elemental]-[25.27 + 6.82 elemental]). That's assuming you have the Willpower to accomodate the feeds on any of these mods - and that brings us to critical damage and the debate over whether or not it's a better damage-dealing choice since it feeds off your Accuracy instead.

Critical Damage vs. Elemental Damage

There have been many debates over the merits of critical damage, and whether mods sporting a ~50% critical damage effect are better (damage-wise) than those sporting an elemental damage effect. In most end-game and all-around-weapon situations, elemental mods above 4% are going to be the better choice since they're always dealing damage - even outside of critical hits (95% critical chance is the cap, remember) - and are likely already being multiplied against a 1200% or higher critical damage bonus when the proper gear is taken into consideration.

But what about the math, you say? Well, let's assume you have a 1200% critical damage bonus (from a combination of skills, expertise ranks, gear, and Accuracy), and are trying to figure out whether you should socket an "Adds 9% Electricity Damage" mod or a "Critical Damage Bonus +50%" mod to your Hu's. That's pretty easy - the elemental mod is getting you 9% more damage (of a different damage type, which is also a major bonus to take into consideration as some monsters are immune or resistant to physical damage), while 1250% Critical Damage Bonus vs. a 1200% Critical Damage Bonus is just over a 4% increase on critical hits only. When you factor in the feed difference (approximately 21 Will vs. 21 Accuracy, respectively), you'd receive another 42% critical damage (2% critical damage per point of Accuracy for 1292% vs. 1200% Critical Damage Bonus), which puts you considerably below 8% additional damage on critical hits only. So even if you're building a weapon specifically to reach maximum critical chance on one boss, say a weapon with a few Critical Chance Multiplier (Beast) mods for battling Kaibutsnatan, you're only going to be doing around 7% more damage when you consider that critical chance is capped at 95%. And all this comes at a loss of Willpower and Power Regeneration with the feed switch.

Of course, all that math changes depending on where your critical damage falls prior to configuring your weapon. At level 50/rank 50 and with the proper gear, players can easily approach 1500% critical damage, which makes a critical damage mod even less effective. On the flip side, if you're lower level or are wearing gear that doesn't complement a high damage build, then critical damage might become more attractive to you. For example, jumping from 600% to 692% with a critical chance approaching 100% is obviously a better choice than adding an elemental mod, regardless of its potency. Generally speaking, if your critical damage is already 1000% or higher, you probably want to steer clear of critical damage mods.

The Nano Forge

The Nano Forge can significantly affect a weapon's overall damage output, but it's a tricky animal to master. Each "+1" that you successfully add to a weapon increases its base damage by a set percentage that slowly increments as you reach higher and higher upgrade levels. For example, +1 gives the weapon about an 11% base damage increase, but if you manage to get the weapon from +7 to +8, you're looking at about a 15% increase. And because these percentage increases take the base damage of the previous "+" into consideration, doubling or even tripling a weapon's base damage is more than doable. Of course, attempting an upgrade beyond +6 runs the risk of destroying the weapon (without the help of protection devices from the cash store), so I make these claims on the assumption that the person upgrading is very lucky or has taken the proper precautions.

The key to why the Nano Forge is so important for damage output is that it upgrades the weapon's base damage. Therefore, divine and elemental mods that you add to a weapon are far more effective at higher "+" levels. For example, socketing an "Adds 9% Fire Damage" elemental mod into a base sniper rifle that does 60-73 damage will net you 5.4-6.6 extra points of pre-critical fire damage. But socket that mod into a +6 version of the same sniper rifle (with a new base damage range of 128-153), and you're suddenly seeing 11.5-13.8 extra points of pre-critical fire damage. In short, bringing that weapon to +6 more than doubled the effectiveness of your elemental mod.

Final Thoughts

While I attempted to cover the virtues of critical damage, elemental damage, and divine damage exclusively above, that doesn't mean that there aren't valid reasons to maximize the shield penetration, shield overload, splash damage, firing accuracy, weapon accuracy, and other such effects on a weapon for specific character builds or encounters. Want to build a Stormcaster-wielding Gundian that can electrify a massive splash area or an Evoker with a fiendish amount of ignite? Go for it! Ultimately, the game is all about building a character that you feel is effective and fun to play.