I've finally managed to find the time to play through Avadon 2. I'm up to the part where you have to pursue Miranda to the Corruption Core, and so far I've been very impressed by both the breadth and quality of content. I've completed Avadon 1, so getting to meet Dheless after all the build-up throughout both games is just fantastic, and he doesn't fail to disappoint. The game also does a great job of building up towards the final showdown with Konstina
I've invested a lot of time into the game and have developed 'gamer's fatigue', so I thought I'd comment on my character builds. The retrainer in Fort Foresight is a welcome addition, as she allows you to experiment with character builds and correct any mistakes you might have made due to lack of foresight (heh). I read snippets of strategy on this forum before playing the game, but most of my character building was trial and error. Still, I doubt any of the following will be particularly novel.
Tinkermage: Probably the best character of the lot due to turrets. Turrets are superior to your own PCs because they don't take the double damage penalty that you incur on Torment difficulty. They are superior to Shaman summons because their area of effect attacks aren't limited by cooldowns. I followed the forum strategy guide advice of investing in frost turrets. Snare turrets were recommended, but I decided to shoot for temporal pylons, and those things are overpowered. They virtually guarantee that all of your enemies are slowed throughout the entire battle. Having a temporal and frost turret makes the early-mid game a cakewalk.
At that point I was debating whether Inferno turrets were worth working towards. I think Slarty mentioned that he had improved them in his rebalance mod, but I found them to be an adequate upgrade to frost turrets. In my game Inferno turrets are dealing 30% more damage to enemies than frost turrets.
After obtaining Inferno turrets, it was simply a matter of filling up the middle column of passive skills, and boosting my razordisk skill in the left column. Ensnaring razordisks work well with turrets, and charged razordisks have the lowest cooldown of any ability in the game.
Tinkermage strengths: Two resilient summons which spam powerful AoE attacks and ensnare/slow. Decent ranged attack that can ensnare, which synergizes well with turrets.
Weaknesses: No self-healing ability, don't have any skills that boost the potency of AoE damage scarabs.
Build strategy: Rush for Frost Turrets early game. Buff your dexterity to improve razordisk damage. Summon turrets and hide behind them while attacking enemies with ranged attacks. Then build up the middle column to boost armor/turret strength, and the razordisk skill to gain the ensnare ability.
Blademaster: I have to admit I usually *hate* playing warrior castes as they are almost always overshadowed by magic users, but IMHO the blademaster is the most well-rounded character, and only slightly less powerful than the Tinkermage. Challenge provides a ridiculous amount of health regeneration, and Second Wind provides extra healing. He has excellent physical resistance, and decent magical resistance. What's rather ironic is that the blademaster may be a better mage than the sorcerer! He has an excellent early game buff (Triumphant Roar, which provides Haste and War Blessing to everyone), and a mass Battle Frenzy (Call of the Frenzy). They have a decent debuff (War Cry), and a highly effective group terror spell (Terrifying Howl). Another thing I like about the Blademaster is that they have a 1st tier skill that has a high chance to stun a target (Stunning Bash)
Blademasters have two big drawbacks, though. Their first is that they don't have a decent AoE attack. Blade Sweep and Sharpshooter Spray are both rather mediocre and do physical damage, which is highly resisted late game. The second problem is that you need to split stat points between Strength and Dexterity, which nerfs the potency of AoE scarabs. Decent AoE attacks are the one thing the Blademaster could really benefit from.
Strengths: Best party buffs, best at regenerating health, great at soaking physical damage, terrifying howl breaks up mobs, good single target stun
Weaknesses: Only do physical damage, and both AoE attacks are mediocre. AoE attack damage from scarabs limited due to having to split points between strength and dexterity.
Build strategy: Get Triumphant Roar ASAP. Then unlock stunning blow and terrifying howl, and work towards Battle Frenzy while investing in the first two tiers of the middle column (I don't find Path of the Berserker that important, as the Blademaster has more than enough health and regeneration ability). I don't equip this character with damage scarabs, instead outfitting him with utility and stat boosting scarabs.
Sorcerer: The sorcerer can either start off very weak, or quite strong, depending on how you build him. Initially I invested in the left side of the skill tree. After all, magic users are supposed to be the king of AoE attacks, right? Unfortunately I found the damage from ice storm, lightning storm and even searing spray to be completely underwhelming. It didn't help that most enemies have decent resistance to energy, and very high resistance to acid. Even worse, AoE scarabs are available early game that have a lower cooldown than even the lower tier sorcerer spells.
Fortunately the sorcerer has one thing going for them early game, and that's their firebolt attack. Fire resistance is far lower than any other resistance in the game. Even drakes have a lower resistance to fire than physical attacks! Better yet, by investing in firebolt and focus mastery, you obtain a ridiculously high chance of scoring a critical. As a result, my sorcerer did much higher single-target damage early-mid game than any other character (including the tinkermage). I've read that the ice bolt is bugged, but it works fine in my game, although I hardly ever need it.
Strangely enough, playing to the sorcerer's strengths involve investing in the middle column. Maxing out focus mastery makes the sorcerer impervious to all sorts of elemental damage due to the Absorb perk. Late game I was taking 20-30 damage from inferno turrets that we hitting for 300 damage. Shadow charm allows the Sorcerer to withstand most physical attacks, so in the end only acid and poison ruin a sorcerer's day. Magical mastery is also an amazing Tier 3 skills. The increase in chance to hit is no big deal, but the reduction in time to recharge your abilities is a game-changer. Maxing out magical mastery has the Cone of Fire scarab recharge after one round, or two at most, and Focus Mastery will grant them a high critical hit chance. AoE spells that have 12 fatigue recharge in 6 rounds (sometimes 3-4 rounds). At this point you can invest a single point into each skill on the left side of the tree, and cycle between AoE attacks, which thanks to magical mastery will be critical hitting on most occasions.
It's also worth noting that Daze and Charm Foe remain useful late game. At level 3 their Arcane Curse will reduce enemy elemental/magical resistance by 20%, which can translate into an 80% damage increase.
Strengths: Best single target attack until late game, can spam critical hitting Cone of Fire and other AoE attacks once you invest in focus and magical mastery, very high resistance against elemental attacks, decent resistance against physical attacks. Daze and Charm Foe are decent disabling spells, and Arcane Curse significantly increases damage input against highly magical resistant enemies
Weaknesses: Fragile against acid and poison, enemies have high resistance to top tier AoE attacks (Searing Spray = Acid, Corruption Rain = Poison)
Build strategy: Max out Firebolt ASAP, and then ascend the middle column. Use AoE scarabs instead of the spells on their left column until you have a decent investment in Focus and Magical Mastery, and then unlock your attacks on the left column so you can cycle between AoE attacks. Invest 3 points in Arcane Curse to reduce enemy resistance.
I avoided playing with a Shadow walker party member until mid-game. When I first tried her out I was rather disappointed, as she seemed to play as a poor man's blademaster. Shadow walker can heal, but they can't heal and regenerate in a single turn like Blademasters can. Shadow walkers have a single target stun ability as their Tier 4 skills, whereas Blademasters have it as a Tier 1 skill. Shadowwalkers have a Tier 4 disabling skill that hardly ever stuns, whereas Blademasters have a mid-level disabling skills that almost always terrifies. Shadow Walkers can haste themselves on whim, Blademasters can battle frenzy themselves on whim (as well as the party at higher tiers!)
Thankfully Shadow Walkers have a few strong points, which are all afforded by their middle tree. Backstab and lightning discipline allow shadow walkers to deal enormous amounts of damage to single targets thanks to backstabs (which occur frequently due to the presence of turrets) and insane critical hit chance. Better yet, the damage bonus and critical bonus afforded by lightning discipline apply to *all* attacks, including scarabs! As such, shadow walkers are prime candidates for AoE scarabs, along with the sorcerer. They also get two decent AoE disabling attacks: Shadowstep and Flash Powder. Shadowstep is almost a guaranteed group stun. Flash Powder's upgraded form (Stunning Powder) is terrible because it rarely stuns, but Flash powder (which ensnares instead of slowing) is quite useful, and you can get a free point from the Shadowwalker boots. Finally, investing in the middle tier gives the Shadowwalker a well-rounded resistance profile.
Strengths: High physical damage to one target thanks to backstab and lightning discipline bonuses, gains massive bonus to AoE scarab attacks thanks to lightning discipline, high damage resistance to physical and elemental attacks, two decent AoE disabling attacks (Shadowstep and Flash Powder)
Weaknesses: Inferior to Blademaster in regards to self buffs, party buffs (no Triumphant Roar/Battle Frenzy!), and regenerative ability. Blademaster's terrifying roar is more useful at cracking groups of enemies than Shadowstep/Flash powder.
Build strategy: Max out that middle column, while getting Shadowstep to Level 3 for that AoE stun. The Shadow walker should get the lion's share of the AoE damage scarabs, unless you have a sorcerer in the party, in which case I'd share them between the two.
Shaman: Good lord do Shaman's suck in Avadon 2. They are beaten by one of the four classes in virtually everything they do. Their summons are vastly inferior to the Tinkermage's turrets. Drakes have under half the damage output and health points as inferno turrets, and you can only summon one. Their AoE spells are even weaker than the Sorcerer, and they don't have a skill similar to magical mastery that reduces recharge time. Their primary attack has a lower damage output than physical attacks, and a lower chance to critical hit than the sorcerer's flame attack. They have only one thing going for them, and that's the ability to heal other party members. Group heal is quite a useful ability, but unfortunately it has a long recharge time.
Strengths: Ability to heal other PCs, high resistance to acid and poison
Weaknesses: Everything I just mentioned
Build strategy: Even though druids are the only PCs who can Mass Heal others, I don't think you can use it often enough for it to be a viable strategy. I'd work my way up to Nature Mastery to boost my magical attack damage, and then invest in the left column (except for Earthquake, which is ridiculously underpowered for a top tier spell).
In summary, I'd say that the Tinkermage and Blademaster are top tier classes, the Sorcerer and Shadow-walker are middle-tier classes, and the Shaman is low tier.