Reports are that Planetary Conquest has become an explosivefest. Full teams battle each other, relying on splash weapons more than harder-to-aim hitscan weapons. They've become chaotic flurries of flux grenades, fused locus grenades, thukkers, and - most prominently - flaylocks. Some people have even taken to using double-flaylock Minmatar gimmick suits in public matches, and they're doing frighteningly well. Why is this happening? How does the flaylock work? Is it really that good, or are people just bitching about being beaten by better players? Let's take a look.
LOCK OF FLAYGES
The flaylock is, at its core, a mini-mass driver. It gives mercenaries the ability to compliment their shield-damaging scrambler rifles with armor-damaging explosives and counter hard-to-hit targets such as pesky shotgun scouts. With only a three-round magazine and a respectably reduced damage dealt to shields, the idea of the flaylock has no real balance issues. It seems to be intended for use as a finishing weapon, a last ditch burst to try and mop up the enemy before they do the same to you. Why, then, are they even remotely useable as a primary weapon?
Let's take a look at the Freedom Mass Driver. It's a prototype weapon, the vanilla variant, and thus a good item for comparison with the Core Flaylock. It has a 6 round magazine, fires once per second, and inflicts 266.2/127.6 direct/splash damage. With a splash radius of 4.4m, a noticeable arc, and slow-traveling projectile, the majority of the time your shots will be from indirect hits. The Freedom Mass Driver does about 48% of the direct damage value on a splash. If you empty the magazine and splash each time, that's 765.6 damage in six seconds.
Now let's look at the Core Flaylock. It's a prototype, like the Freedom Mass Driver. It has a 3 round magazine, fires faster than the Freedom, and inflicts 239.8/214.5 direct/splash damage. With a splash radius of 2.0m, you have to aim considerably better than with the Freedom, though the lack of serious arc and fast projectile speed mitigate that by an appreciable amount. Now, here's where the Core Flaylock (and all flaylocks) differs from its mass driver peer. The splash damage is a huge 90% that of the direct damage. There's nearly no difference between a direct hit and an indirect hit. If you were to fire all three rounds and splash every time, that's 643.5 damage in less than three seconds. That's 84% of the damage the Freedom does with six rounds, and in less than half the time. Talk about burst damage!
TO FLAY A LOCKINGBIRD
Obviously, the flaylock is a very, very good sidearm. It's practically a light weapon itself! But here's where it gets broken: A sidearm can be fitted into any weapon slot. Let's consider an Amarr suit with dual Core Flaylocks. You can empty the magazine in less than three seconds, doing about 644 damage (before shield/armor or any other modifiers, of course). Then, you can switch to another Core Flaylock and do the exact same thing, totalling some 1288 damage in a span of time that's still less than emptying a Freedom. That's 168% the damage output capable from a prototype light weapon by a pair of sidearms. And each flaylock has a reload time of only 2.5s, meaning a dual flaylocker can be loaded with 6 shots in 5s. Reloading the Freedom? That takes 4s, meaning the penalty for firing off so many shots so quickly is only a 25% increase in reload time. Oh, and you can stop reloading after 2.5s and defend yourself if necessary, since you're actually using two weapons. With Uprising 1.2, we don't even have to consider the time it takes to switch between weapons; it's become nearly instantaneous.
A quick glance at the other variants of the mass driver show similar results. In fact, the only way for a lone mass driver to beat out the dual flaylock would be to consistently score direct hits, a feat only achievable by the exceptionally skilled or the exceptionally lucky. The dual flaylock has no such limitation. Splash away, you're only doing a smidge less damage than usual. This is even just looking at dual flaylocks on an Amarr suit; the Minmatar Assaults get a 5% bonus to sidearm weaponry clip size per level. This rounds up; a Minmatar Assault suit could be wielding flaylocks with 4 rounds in the magazine at rank 1. That's 8 missiles ready to go, an extra 429 damage to be dealt before a reload, 1717 damage dealt in about the same span as a mass driver's 766. Incredible.