Friday, September 19, 2008

I want to be an Archmage when I grow up

I’m a little late to the game to give impressions about the different WAR classes, so I’m not really going to try. This entry is mostly about how I explored the different classes during beta and how I came to the conclusion that the Archmage was my favorite career.

I played all of these careers to at least level 8, most of them to level 12. And while I completely agree that level 12 is a far cry from level 40, I do believe that you can get a sense of whether you will enjoy playing the class. If after 10 levels you find yourself not enjoying it that much – well, chances are good that experience isn’t going to change much over the next 30 levels.

So with that little caveat being said, I thought I would provide my opinion about how these careers felt to me. Different strokes for different folks and all that...

Witch Hunter
Generally speaking, I have always played melee classes in MMOs. In particular, I am quite partial to Melee DPS. So—it should come as no surprise that the first class I played was the Witch Hunter. Both the Witch Hunter and Witch Elf have the reputation for being the “Rogue” class of WAR. This is largely because at level 10, they gain a stealth ability. This stealth is pretty limited when compared to other MMOS. It takes two seconds to cast and drains your Action Points while invisible.

I found that the class dealt excellent damage relative to other WAR careers. The issue is that unlike most of the other Melee classes, both the Witch Hunter and Witch Elf are pretty squishy and easily killed. This is problematic because the career is most effective when engaged with caster types behind the tanks. However, such placement almost ensures instant destruction. At level 8, they DO get an AOE detaunt that reduces damage against you by 50% for 15 seconds. This basically buys you enough time to kill one other player – then you die.

In the end, my main impression of the Witch Hunter was Sacrifice. Yes you get to kill stuff, but you don’t get to live afterwards. Maybe they should rename the career to Martyr.

Archmage and Shaman
These two careers are a DPS/Healer hybrid that you commonly hear described as “mirrors” of each other because they use the same career mechanic. And while that’s true, it’s not true that the available actions are exactly the same. While most are the same, some of them are vastly different. I played the Archmage in Preview and the choose the Shaman in Open Beta expecting them to play the same. I was mistaken.

I really enjoyed the Archmage. I am loosely calling this my main at the moment and will definitely level it to 40. I did not particularly enjoy the Shaman. At level 4, the Archmage gets a nice instant cast dot called Radiant Gaze. The Shaman gets a group buff that deals damage on next attack called ’Ere We Go.

This seemingly minor difference set the tone for how I played both careers. As an Archmage, I played more aggressively and did a pretty even mix of damage and healing. As the Shaman, I felt more like a traditional healer. Yes – Radiant Gaze is only one spell, but it’s also a spell that I found I cast very frequently.

After realizing what I enjoyed most about the Archmage was damage dealing dots, I decided to give the Sorcerer a try (big damage/range DPS). The “mirror” of the Sorcerer is the Bright Wizard. My thought was that I could deal more damage and the ranged nature of the attacks would provide some measure of safety. After all I thought, if I’m not up close and personal – I’ll live a bit longer than the Witch Hunter.

By level 5, I learned that Sorcerers walk around with a big neon sign that says “kill me first.” Healers walk around with a similar sign but the difference is that they can do a decent job keeping themselves alive. The Sorcerer just gets to go “oh shit! they noticed me!” and then die. The net result is that if I wanted to be useful I needed to do a lot of lurking and sneaking.

For the most part, this went well and I more or less enjoyed the Sorcerer. The survivability was the only thing that bothered me and I swore that if I rolled a healer I would always toss them heals. The term “glass cannon” is a pretty accurate description of this career.

The Chosen doesn’t appear to have a “mirror” class. I guess the Ironbreaker is closest, but that really doesn’t seem accurate. Chosen are a Tank class that use a mechanic built around Auras/Curses. Ironbreakers use Grudges or some such. The curse/aura thing is pretty neat because it offers both a buff to you (and party members) and a debuff to enemy players. For example, +8 strength to you and -8 strength to them. It’s an AOE effect, so just being around you grants the buff/debuff. By endgame, you can have up to 3 of these active at the same time.

My big takeaway from the Chosen is that they are a good defensive class. Survivability (especially with a healer) might be unmatched, but I personally felt a bit ineffectual. In other words, my presence really didn’t seem to impact the outcome like the other classes I had played. I felt more like a moving wall. I didn’t play the Black Orc, but it sure seemed like they do more damage. Anyway – I decided that a Tank class was not for me.

The “mirror” for the Zealot is the Runepriest. A friend of mine is playing one now in Live and it appears they are nearly identical. The Zealot often gets labeled as a “true healer” but I think that’s a bit unfair. None of the healing careers are really traditional. One thing to understand about WAR combat is that you rarely need to spam heals to keep people alive. However, I will concede that the other healing careers can do a bit more damage and the Zealot is better equipped to heal.

The unique mechanic for the career is essentially a buff that provides a stat boost and also provides a Granted Ability. This granted ability can be used by the player receiving the buff. Using the ability doesn’t consume the buff, so you can recast it when the cooldown is over. The only crappy thing about the mechanic is that unlike the other healers, Zealots don’t get rewarded for doing damage as well.

Where Zealots REALLY shine is the instant casts. They seemingly have instant casts for everything which means you can do just about everything on the move. This was particularly nice when running away from someone trying to kill me. The really big heals and damage spells are longer casts, but that’s about it. I actually found that I preferred the Zealot over the Shaman.

The last class I tried was also my second favorite. I will almost certainly level an Engineer to endgame in addition to the Archmage. If my worst fears (healers should only heal) come true at endgame, the Engineer just might be the class I end up playing.

The best way to describe the Engineer is to cite an examples from different things. If you are familiar with First Person Shooters, then you will likely know that “gun turrets” are fairly common in a lot of FPS games. They are excellent for setting a defensive line. The first time I ever saw the turret idea was in the movie Aliens. There is a scene where they are trapped in the medical area and have two turrets setup in the hallways. This auto-guns unleash hell upon the Aliens who eventually give up.

Engineers get turrets. In fact, maybe 40% of their damage comes from the turrets. Just plop down a turret, back up – and kill stuff. Very cool.

My only complaint is that you don’t get your first turret until level 3 or so. Until then, you feel really gimped because you are lacking damage.

1 comment:

the beastofyore said...

Hey, I've been enjoying your articles on WAR, especially your analysis of WoW vs WAR - but I wanted to comment on this post because you might not be aware of something. The Chosen doesn't currently have a mirror class because there were 4 classes dropped to make the launch deadline. Mythic has said they had to drop them (as well as the other 4 capital cities) because they didn't feel they were ready yet and would rather spend the time polishing. I'm very happy with the results - but it does leave the two sides slightly asymmetric in the tank area.

The Empire's Knight of the Blazing Sun will use the aura mechanic, but will focus on buffs instead of curses. The Dark Elf Blackguard will be a Hatred tank to mirror the Ironbreaker - leading me to believe that instead of an 'oathfriend' you'll have an enemy target that gets debuffed as you fight.

The other two missing classes are the Orc Choppa and Dwarf Hammerer but they're mirrors of each other so their absence doesn't really change the symmetry of factions.