When I first started playing Warframe, a friend of mine with many, many more hours than me told me to look at all the frames and choose one whose abilities and look I liked the most. I settled on Hildryn, and I was gifted her as my second ever frame (I started with Volt).
I've since completed the star chart mainly with her, have done the story quests, and daily run sorties and hunt kuva liches with her. She doesn't go down hardly ever (in fact, I'm often in the front lines taking down the heavy gunners and nullifiers in high level missions because she can take a few bullets to the face at level 100 that my squishier teammates can't take), and I have not seen a challenge I couldn't tackle with remarkable ease with her.
The main thing about Hildryn is that she must be built and modded with a slightly different frame of mind (having started with her, I think I have a slight advantage in that I didn't know the "normal" modding rules, and had to learn how to mod her as I went). If you know how to build her, she becomes an insanely powerful, incredibly tanky, and very reliable support/tank frame to add to teams.
First, her passive. Everyone knows about the shield gating, where if you take enough damage to drop your shields completely, you have a 3 second window of invulnerability and you do not take direct damage to your health. The less known portion of that is that if Hildryn has any overshields (which she should almost always have if you are playing her correctly), any damage that would bypass her shields (such as toxic or slash) instead are taken from her overshields. This alleviates a lot of the concern people have about her health pool compared to her shield pool, and makes up for the possible fast death from toxic or slashing damage. (Edit: As an added bonus, Hildryn applies her shield gating to her archwing while in archwing form, and to any ships she's aboard in railjack.)
Her Balefire Charger is a rocket launcher disguised as a pistol (thankfully, with no self damage). She fires a rocket-like projectile of damage that has AOE splash damage. With my current (not yet perfected as I need to forma her more and find a few more ideal mods), she does 60,000+ damage 2-3 times per enemy from multishot, plus splash damage to nearby enemies. She also ragdolls them, giving me the chance to fire another shot once I find where it is they managed to land should the first shot somehow not kill. I also don't have to be extremely accurate, as the splash damage more than makes up for my poor aim.
Her pillage is an INCREDIBLE support ability. At 100% power strength, she steals 25% of enemies' shields or armor and converts it to her own shields. As the stealing is scaled by percentages, it means that she does better the higher that enemy levels get. I can go from no shields to full overshields (4755 for my current build, but I will eventually be higher) in 1.5 seconds from this ability, while opening enemies up to future damage from me and my teammates. At 200% power strength, she is stealing 50% of enemies' shields. And in case you were unaware, this ability goes out basically as far as I can see. It hits EVERYTHING. Oh, and did I mention it cures her and all of her teammates in it's range of any and all status conditions? Toxic damage? Slash damage? Gone in the click of a button. Her low health no longer is a worry.
Haven is probably her most underrated ability from what I have seen of others online. At 100% power strength, it provides 500 extra shields, a faster recharge rate, and shield gating to her allies. Along with that, it does low amounts of "chip" damage to nearby enemies. At 100% power strength, it can kill almost everything instantly up to close to level 20. At 200% power strength, it can instantly kill enemies around level 30 around her simply because she exists in proximity to them with it on. Combine it with Pillage to lower shields and armor before she gets in Haven's range and you have a recipe for destruction throughout much of the star chart. It is by far my favorite of her abilities. (Squishy casters, stay in range of Haven. It will save your life!)
Aegis Storm is a great CC ability that does moderate amounts of damage. It is by far my least used ability, in part because I don't need much CC (a product of how Warframe is played currently) and in part because it does have a hefty drain. IMO, it is the one ability I think could use a rework as it seems less useful than it could or should be. It is still very fun to be a rocket launching helicopter whenever I want to be, though.
As for builds, I have some general rules I follow in modding her. I mod for strength and efficiency, while dropping duration a little bit through Transient Fortitude (for those that care about the nitty gritty of how her abilities interact with her stats, see below). I also ignore range, while making sure I don't drop it much, as some range is good. Too much is a bad thing, though.
And that brings us to the main difference between Hildryn and most other frames: Too much of any one thing in Hildryn's build ruins her utility. This is the key problem I've seen in all the builds that people claim "don't work". They try to max her strength, or her duration, or her range, or her efficiency. The reality is that Hildryn needs to be in balance, not leaning too much one way or the other. Does that make her a jack of all trades? Probably. Can other frames do any one thing she can do better? Yep. Can any frame do EVERYTHING she can do as well as she can do it all? Definitely not.
The numbers I shoot for in her build are: – Strength: 180-220% (not more) – Duration: 70-100% (not less) – Efficiency: Around 130% (but having more never hurts if you can fit more) – Range: 100-150% (depending on your main focus – more support? Lower range. More rocket-launcher pistol and helicopter action? Higher range.)
Ok…the nitty gritty of her abilities and how they interact with each of the stats on her are:
Balefire Charger: Starting with the easiest one… Strength impacts damage. Range impacts how far you can shoot. Efficiency and duration impact shield cost.
Pillage: Strength impacts the percentage of shields taken. As a result, having a strength that is too high will mean you can only pillage from an enemy once. Ideally, unless you or your teammates are killing enemies so quickly that you will only get one chance to pillage them, you will want to be able to pillage each enemy around twice. As a result, at 200% power strength, she will be taking around 50% of shields and armor, so that is what I shoot for. Duration impacts how far out Pillage goes. At 100% duration, Pillage goes as far as my screen will render objects. Since enemies must be in line of sight to be impacted, the duration can be dropped slightly without a major negative impact on Pillage. Dropping the duration too far causes problems I will talk more about in Haven's section next. Range only impacts how far out the initial burst of Pillage hits, not it's final range, which is a little counter-intuitive, and it's why I don't build for range. Having a range too large can negatively interact with Haven as well, as discussed below. As always, efficiency impacts the initial shield cost of casting Pillage.
Haven: Strength impacts how many shields you are giving your allies, and how much damage per tick you are doing to enemies. Duration impacts how fast shields are restored to allies (they get a +80% boost at 100% duration, but it drops from there as duration lowers). Dropping duration too low means that she isn't able to restore allies' shields quickly enough. Range impacts how far Haven reaches. At first glance, you might think you want this to be as large as possible, but if Haven's range is too large, it starts eating away at shields before you get the chance to Pillage them. Along with that, Haven's drain is determined by the number of allies and enemies connected to Hildryn. If the range is too large, you are connecting to everyone halfway across the map, and the drain is not sustainable. A moderate range, then, is ideal. Efficiency impacts the cost to have allies and enemies connected to Haven. Higher efficiency means that Haven costs less per ally and enemy, as is to be expected.
Aegis Storm: Strength impacts how much damage she does per tick to enemies in the affected range. Duration and efficiency impact drain. Range impacts how far out her damage goes.
And that, my friends, is my general rundown of how you can make Hildryn a useful frame to play alone or with friends.
PS: "What do I do about the infested?" Rakta Dark Dagger gives her shields and overshields from enemies that have radiation procs if build right. That literally solves all problems with fighting infested as it helps her build up the overshields needed to resist the toxic procs caused by infested.
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