Let me start with the good about this patch. I love the sidekick system, and for the first time in a good while, I've been able to do things like dungeon runs or leveling without having to wait for a full group when there's simply not enough people available. Multimen make excellent fillers and just with two or three friends we can have a "full" group and do well enough even in middle to high-level dungeons and against bosses like Vampyro. It would seem like Multimen are indeed kind of "late bloomers" and when at first they don't seem that useful at all, when around level 100 or so they surely become adequate fillers, still no better than any player, but certainly good enough to at least make battles possible and PP locks reachable. Even the Astrub Knight, while lacking the most flexibility and indeed probably intended to be a free demostration of the system, still lends to be a good tactical asset and a savior for newbies due to his cheap attacks, high base HP and decent damage bonus from his passive, and the fact he deals Chromatic damage, so it becomes easy to adapt his damage to the group's needs. All in all, they're an alternative for those who are unwilling/unable to use multiple accounts and still want to participate in PvE content.
However, I think the Challenge system, while it might have good intentions, it's completely out of wack and is in dire need to get looked at. First of it all: We received a Prospecting/Wisdom cap of +150 with this patch and a reduction in Wisdom from formerly general-purpose sets that traded effectiveness with flexibility and a Wisdom bonus (Apprentice/Initiate/Sage sets), in order to "make up" for the fact challenges make bonuses more accesible.
This is not true at all way too many times, so it ends up as an effective hindrance to our progress. Part of this stems from the fact that plenty of challenges are not only incredibly difficult against entire families of enemies or certain classes, but effectively impossible, which hints at a lack of forethought. For example, Wily against Lenalds and Northern Trackers, Nomad when fighting Brrblis, Maniac with Bilbiboys/Bilbigirls and so on. Limiting the possible challenges against these families would be a good start, but it's just handling some of the consequences of the changes, not the changes themselves.
Developers and Community Managers have tried to justify the caps, particularly the Prospecting cap, in that it was necessary with the challenges and with oncoming changes to the way drops work, but I find this detached from reality, or at least what we players have experienced so far. Even if it were all true, it also garners bad blood from players whose playing styles have been forced to change and even making an entire class have a far more limited scope of usefulness. We used to complain how Enutrofs would always get all the loot, but quoting Pixar's The Incredibles' villain, Syndrome:
"...and when everyone's super... no one will be."
We now have challenges that close the gap and help us break PP locks and loot gear sometimes. The problem is, it's just not most of the time, or even rarely: It's just completely unfeasible in high level content, precisely where they'd be needed the most. I'm just asking for honest feedback from players, community managers and developers on what the course of action would be from here. Even increasing the caps would help a lot. Unlike others, I think Ankama has been heading in the right direction, but with every step forward, they take two steps behind.