You can beat Avernum 3 on torment without an incredible amount of difficulty...so long as you reload enough. I find it more enjoyable to place a limit on the number of times my party can die though. This forces me to plan things out better and makes ambushes and surprises seem more enjoyable and challenging. This is intended as a guide for that kind of play-through, where your goal is to maximize survivability.
Discussion of the four main traits, strength, dexterity, intelligence, and endurance:
Strength adds damage and accuracy to melee and pole weapons. It doesn’t do anything else besides increasing your weight-carrying capacity, which will never be a major problem anyway. Your characters won’t need any of it unless they’re using melee or pole weapons.
Dexterity gives an evasion bonus of 5%, a speed bonus which makes it more likely for your character to take their turn before your enemy, and improved damage and accuracy for bows and thrown weapons. On torment, if you’re going to get much of this, you should always get as much of it as you possibly can. This means, get all five of the dexterity increasing traits too. This is because dexterity can provide massive evasion bonuses against physical attackers that aren’t using area attacks. With maximum dexterity, you’ll find a large percentage of enemies have a 5% to hit chance with physical attacks. Depending on how you play, this can even include tough, late game physical attacking enemies like alien beasts (keeping in mind that alien beasts don't only use physical attacks). If you’re not constantly pumping dexterity, that evasiveness will rapidly drop down to nothing though. It’ll also boost evasion against some elemental attacks, like fire and energy, although I’m not sure how much. It’ll never boost evasion against cold though.
I know dexterity helps evade non-area affecting physical attacks just fine. I think it'll help evade some area-affecting physical attacks too. I just don't know if it'll affect all area affecting physical attacks.
Endurance: adds five points of health, and 2% better poison and acid resistance. The lower your level, the better this is. Before you have 150 health, this increases survivability better than hardiness. Keep in mind though, that you can hit as much as 300 health in the late game, and that'll make each additional health point considerably less useful than in the early game. Also, accuracy is a major issue on torment, so of you put too much of your skill points into health and not enough into strength, if your character is a melee user, your character won’t be able to hit anything. Likewise, if you invest too much in endurance and too little in intelligence and you’re a spellcaster, many of your spellcaster’s spells will be garbage. It’s definitely helpful insofar as increasing survivability is concerned, but you need about 2/3 of your points, minimum put into strength if you want your melee or pole user to not have major problems with accuracy, and about 2/3 of your points, minimum, put into intelligence if you want your magic user or priest to be good at casting all spells, so don’t put too many points into endurance, and it’s probably not useful to put any into endurance in the late game at all...with the possible exception of tanks that don't do much because sit around and absorb damage.
Note that endurance also increases evasiveness towards cold. That won't matter much for most characters on torment, given how rapidly evasiveness fades into nothing if not constantly being improved, unless you want a tank that puts most to all of their points into endurance. That might not actually be a terrible idea for a character build though, particularly given how many spells work well even with low intelligence.
Intelligence: increases mental resistance and makes many of your spells, although not all, more powerful and gives 5 more energy per intelligence.
Some spells require high intelligence to work well. Others do not. I’ll list which is which below:
Spells that require high intelligence to work:
*Daze, howl of terror, domination - none of these will do much without high intelligence. Note that the ensnaring ability of daze is much more likely to affect enemies than the dazing ability of daze. The further you go into the game, the more enemies will become resistant to the dazing effects of daze. Eventually, it'll get likely that even relatively dedicated spellcasters will have trouble dazing much. However, the ensnaring ability will remain pretty reliable throughout the game.
*Every damaging spell is affected by intelligence in some way. Most are useless without high intelligence because they become too inaccurate to hit anything. Some can still retain positive effects even with low intelligence. Intelligence increases spell damage too. Damaging spells that still have uses even with low intelligence are call the storm, pool of fire, pool of ice, pool of corruption, and curse the land.
*Rain of curses depends on high intelligence for hitting enemies too. Note that spellcraft increases the length of the curses it causes.
Spells that work perfectly with low intelligence:
*all cloaks, all wards, All summoning spells, capture soul, simulacrum, slow, dispel barrier, haste, protection, war blessing, curing, mass curing, unshackle mind, bless the land, divine restoration, all healing spells.
*Note that spellcraft increases the duration of the blessings haste, protection, and war blessing.
*Note that the effectiveness of healing spells depend on the level of the healing spell in question, and priest skill.
Spells that work decently with low intelligence, but work better with high intelligence:
*Pool of fire, pool of ice, pool of corruption, curse the land – these spells have two effects. They deal a large amount of damage to an area of enemies as soon as they’re cast. They also infect any enemies that walk into the areas they were cast with conditions that damage them over multiple turns. The initial damage requires high intelligence to hit. The infectious, lingering damage just affects anyone who walks into the area the spells were cast.
*blink – Blink lets your character teleport across the map while in combat mode. It also ensnares nearby enemies. You can use it to teleport with low intelligence, but its ensnaring ability won’t work without high intelligence
*call the storm – this blows away enemies even if you have low intelligence. It won’t damage them unless you have high intelligence though.
Summary: So, you can actually have low intelligence, spell-using warriors or archers that will work well. They just won’t be able to cast certain spells effectively. For example, you might have an archer priest with low intelligence that’s fast enough to go first and cast mass curing on your team before poison does much damage, or you might have a low intelligence tank with 16 levels of priest skill so they can survive area attacks that wipe out the rest of your team then cast revive to bring their teammates back, or you might have a duel wielder with eight points of mage skill so they can use blink to rush up to enemies to attack them, or escape quickly…but low intelligence characters will never be good at dealing damage through spells, or using mind control or daze because their low intelligence will make them too inaccurate to hit much.
Hybrid characters: You need at least about 2/3 of all your skill points put into strength to be able to hit things with swords or spears. You need at least about 2/3 of your skill points put into intelligence to be able hit enemies with most damaging spells and mental attacks like dominate and daze. More than that will increase your success. You need at least about 2/3 of your skill points put into dexterity for archers…and if you want to get any evasion at all from dexterity, you should probably put all of your skill points possible into dexterity.
That’s why hybrid characters that split their points between strength and intelligence, or strength and dexterity, or dexterity and intelligence, don’t work well on torment no matter how carefully you try to design them. If you try to make, say, a halberd-using mage by splitting your points between strength and intelligence, you’ll just end up with a character who is only very effective against weak enemies for most of the game.
Both your evasion and accuracy do naturally increase with every level. There is about a 3% bonus to evasion per level. I wouldn’t be surprised if the accuracy bonus is something about that amount too. This will result in hybrid characters becoming useful in the late game. They’ll eventually reach the point of having good accuracy against tough enemies…but this could take a long time. This might not happen until level thirty or so.
Note again though, that you can have very useful halberd-wielding mages, or archer priests just so long as you only have them use the spells with low intelligence requirements that I I've previously listed. Fortunately, there are enough of those sorts of spells to make those sorts of hybrids useful in at least some ways.
More about evasion:
There are three ways to permanently get better evasion: leveling up, which gives about 3% better evasion per level, dexterity which gives about 5% better evasion per point, and gymnastics, which gives about 2% better evasion per point. Technically, there are actually four ways. Endurance increases evasiveness towards cold...but that won't amount to enough to affect most characters.
Gymnastics sounds pretty shoddy, given that it only increases evasion by 2%, but on Torment enemies will often be very close to having the ideal 5% accuracy due to your character’s evasiveness, but tough enemies will frequently be just a little above that. They’ll often have, maybe 10%, accuracy rather than 5% accuracy. 5% accuracy is the minimum accuracy possible. Keep in mind that though the 2% less accuracy from gymnastics doesn’t sound like much, if an enemy has 10% accuracy, getting an extra point of gymnastics actually makes that enemy 20% less accurate, so gymnastics can actually be quite useful for characters trying to be evasive. It’s just not as useful as dexterity.
Note that there is much armor which enhances evasion as well.
Note that archers are the only characters who will be reliably evasive...or maybe weird tanks with maximum endurance when someone's trying to hit them with cold attacks...but mostly it'll just be archers. I mentioned previously that if you're not constantly pumping dexterity, evasiveness will rapidly dwindle down to nothing. No one except archers will...or at least should, but investing much in dexterity. Some non-archer characters might get a few points of dexterity to increase their speed, or 10 points of gymnastics to get extra action points, but those miniscule increases to evasiveness will almost never be enough to evade anything but the weakest enemies.
Parry: The parry skill is a way for characters to avoid being hit by physical attacks without investing in lots and lots of dexterity. Each level of the parry skill gives a 3% chance of avoiding any non-area-affecting physical attack from anyone. It effects the physical, non-area attacks of dragons exactly as much as it affects the physical, non-area attacks of goblins at the start of the game. It doesn't take your opponent's accuracy into account. It doesn't take the evasion you have from dexterity, gymnastics, leveling up, or other non-parry sources into account. So, if you have 17 points of parry, every single non-area physical attack from every enemy in the game will have a 51% chance to be parried. When an attack is parried, it causes your character no damage. If you get 10 points of parry, wear a good shield, and get a few more points from items and/or trainers you can reach about a 50 or so percent chance of parrying every non-area physical attack.
That's quite nice, and it's a great way for non-archers to avoid physical attacks. Keep in mind though, that maxed out dexterity can work ten times that well. If you want a character dedicated to acting as a wall against physical attackers, archers are best.
Also, note that archers can use parry too. Parry and evasion use different checks, but they can still work together. For example, if you have an archer with 17 points of parry, through items and maximum skill points put into parry, and enough dexterity for a foe to only have the minimum 5% accuracy, even if that enemy manages to get a lucky hit and pass that evasion check they had a 95% chance of failing, they still have pass the parry check, which they'll have a 51% of failing, and if they fail that, you still won't be hit.
Spellcraft: Note that this does more than just increasing your spell's damage. It also increases the duration of your curses, blessings, (at least rain of curses. I didn't test it on any other curses) and may help in other ways too.
Hardiness: Just generally good for everyone. Increases all your resistances except mental and curse resistance by 3%
Resistance: increases all your resistances by 3% except for physical damage resistance. Note that this skill increases mental resistance, which is very useful for low intelligence characters. This will help keep your massively powerful duel wielders from turning around and swiftly laying waste to the rest of your team when they get mind-controlled. It’s not worth getting unless you’re already planning on getting some of the priest or mage skill that’s its prerequesite, but blink requires eight points of mage skill anyway, and if you get it you can have teleporting warriors, which is always nice.
Gymnastics vs. Sniper : Sniper gives a 5% chance to attack again after attacking with a bow or thrown weapon, and a 3% chance to give a negative status affliction to an enemy (such as poisoning, dazing, or slowing) with the aforementioned bow or thrown weapon. So, 10 points of sniper will give a 50% chance to get an extra action. Note that you can find plenty of items that increase your odds of getting a second attack by increasing your sniper skill. With items, maximum sniper skill investment through skill points, and a couple points from a trainer, you might get 16 sniper skill before you've explored a huge amount of the map, which would give you an 80% chance of getting an extra shot off each turn.
10 points of gymnastics will only give you about a 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 chance or so to get an extra action. However, it gives you an evasiveness bonus, and the game shows you when you get extra movement points from gymnastics, so you can see when you’ll get an extra action, whereas with sniper you have to wait until after you’ve attacked to see whether or not you've gotten an extra action. The extra action points from gymnastics aren't particularly impressive unless your character with high gymnastics skill also has an item that gives them an extra action point each turn. That will work with high gymnastics skill to result in the character getting an extra action most turns.
Note that with gymnastics, if your goal is to use it to get extra actions, get all ten points of it you can get through putting skill points into it or don't invest anything into gymnastics. This is because the way gymnastics works, the likelihood of getting an extra action increases exponentially the more skill points you invest into it.
Note that sniper comes so close to consistently getting 2 bow shots per turn by itself that I don't see it as cost effective to invest in both sniper and gymnastics. It seems like picking one or the other is best. If you want to make your archer better at damaging things, once you've maxed out sharpshooter and either gymnastics or sniper, go after lethal blow next. Archers have pretty easy access to it.
Note also that sniper can only give you an maximum of one extra action per turn. So, even if you use adrenaline rush and have 20 extra action points, it won't work for you twice that turn. Also, note that the haste spell gives the exact same ability that sniper does. It just reduces the amount of action points your bow or thrown weapon used so that, assuming you had at least 6 action points before you fired, you do one other action after that, that turn. If your sniper is hasted, your character can either get a one time action point reduction from the haste spell, or sniper ability, but not both. So, don't expect to be able to fire hordes and hordes of arrows because your character is hasted and has high sniper skill. You'll just get one extra shot off per turn, tops.
Gymnastics and sniper vs. other ways of increasing actions per turn:
*The haste spell: gives you a chance of one of your attacks using fewer action points. So long as you had at least 6 action points left before your last action, you'll be able to do another action that turn. This is the same way sniper works, except that sniper can work more or less often depending on your sniper skill. Haste will always only work less than the majority of the time...although, with haste at level 3 there is a chance it will result in some of your characters being affected by battle frenzy, which will give them 5 extra action points for a few turns. Haste has four weaknesses that can make other ways to get extra actions preferable. #1: it'll never result in your hasted characters having a higher chance of getting an extra attack than not. #2: it costs energy, which can get quite expensive if you're constantly casting it. #3. It's only a temporary boost. #4. It only works within a limited range, so if your characters are spread out all over the map, they might not be within that range and casting it might not help them.
*Adrenaline Rush: A wonderful, wonderful battle discipline that you will enjoy greatly with as soon as you get access to it. It'll give you several actions the turn you use it, but it only works once, and then it takes several turns to recharge.
*Giving a character 2 items that each increase action points by 1: The best and most reliable way of getting an extra action per turn. These action point increasing items are extremely rare though.
*Battle frenzy: Pros: It doesn't require the extra 10 skill point investment sniper or gymnastics require. It gives you five extra action points every turn. It requires 20 weapon skill, but that's not terribly hard to reach. Cons: Activating it counts as an action, like attacking with a sword or using a spell. That costs 9 action points, so it probably ends your turn...which gives all your enemies on the screen who've seen you a head start. It also only lasts for five turns, and it takes 10 turns to recharge. It's biggest disadvantage, to me, though, is that once you use it you can't use the almighty adrenaline rush, which would have given your characters the head start.
Characters like polearm users and duel wielders who have lots of skill at removing fatigue (which might come from the high blademaster, or quick action they have access too) can get the recovery period down pretty low, to the point where once the battle frenzy has ended you're almost ready to use it again. They still have to deal with that ending of their turn every turn it's first activated though. The extra five action points are nice for polearm users and duel wielders though, because it often gives them enough action points to run up to an enemy in addition to attacking twice.
That said, the 80% or so chance of getting an extra shot off every turn that can be gotten from sniper beats beats battle frenzy in terms of getting extra actions. If we look at 30 turns of a character using battle frenzy vs. 30 turns of a character with 16 sniper:
The Battle frenzy character, if they have enough fatigue removal to remove 2 fatigue per turn, can restart battle fury as soon as it ends. Therefore, every six turns such a character would have five turns in which they have 2 actions and one turn of no actions, so they'll have 10 actions every six turns.
The character with 16 sniper will have an 80% chance of getting an extra shot off each turn, so every 10 turns they have 16 bow shots.
So, after 30 turns the archer has made 48 bow shots, and the battle fury character has made 50 actions, which is a little better than sniper. However, that's only if the battle frenzy character has incredible fatigue removal...which can be achieved, but it takes some investment. Also, that doesn't take into account that the archer wasn't using its battle disciplines for anything yet, so it can still access adrenaline rush. Adrenaline rush gives 20 extra action points and takes six turns to recover. Therefore, every 6 turns the archer would get another two actions or so. After 30 turns, that would give the archer about 10 more actions from adrenaline rush, bringing the archer's total actions to 58 actions in 30 turns vs the battle frenzy character's 50....and the archer always had the head start against their enemies using adrenaline rush, whereas the battle frenzy character had to wait a turn before beginning battle frenzy, giving their foes the head start...and that's about as good as the battle frenzy character can possibly get. Without great fatigue removal, it'll do considerably worse. .That's also assuming the archer doesn't have some nice fatigue removal of its own, or more than 16 sniper. It hasn't hit its ceiling yet. Also, the status affliction ability of sniper is probably a lot more useful for archers than extra action points, and if a character is incapacitated somehow through dazing, charming, stunning, or terrifying them, that fatigue counter on adrenaline rush will be fading away after adrenaline rush will likely already have been used, whereas with battle frenzy, it'll be more likely that the character using battle fury will just be losing turns of battle frenzy.
Now...which is better for a priest or mage without good fatigue recovery or much dexterity? gymnastics or battle frenzy? The evasion from gymnastics and the bow skill from its archery prerequesite will both be useless for non-archers, so you'd be spending just a little less than a third of the total skill points you'll have gotten by level 30 on trying to get an extra turn, and it won't even happen the majority of the time unless your character also has an action point increasing item.
Priests and mages don't need hand weapons that can hurt things though, which means they're good candidates for things like the discipline blade, which gives you 30% better fatigue recover, 3 pole weapons and 2 melee weapons, If your priest or mage or priest/mage has 10 hardiness, that also means 10 melee or pole skill. They can buy five more points of weapon skills from trainers, also get the recovery trait that removes fatigue by 10%, and there is other armor that helps remove fatigue, so at least one of them can have 20 weapon skill and some decent fatigue removal to help keep the recovery period of battle frenzy from being agonizingly slow.
Sometimes though, spellcasters are more useful insofar as doing important things every once in awhile rather than constantly doing things, so maybe many of them don't need two actions each turn anyway and can just go for neither battle frenzy nor gymnastics, but just save their ability to use adrenaline rush for emergencies.
Good health, perfect health, robust health – The weakest of these, perfect health, increases your health by 3%. That’s as good as hardiness in terms of increasing survivability, and hardiness is great. All your characters should probably get all 3 of these.
Negotiator - Get it for all your characters, because it’s really good, unless you play as a singleton, in which case you'll have more money than you know what to do with already, but not enough available traits as you'll want.
Challenger – makes it more likely that an opponent will attack the character with challenger, when they're within a certain range of the character with challenger. At times, if you have two characters side by side in front of a foe and your character without challenger is attacking the foe, the foe will still attack the character with challenger. Give it to tanks to help draw attention away from non-tanks.
Garbage traits – sure hand, deadeye, strong back
Those three traits all eventually go obsolete and don’t do much even before they’re obsolete. Strong back increases how much armor you can wear before losing action points. More strength does this too. Strength naturally increases over time though, and you’ll never have huge problems with not being able to wear enough armor. Deadeye and Sure hand give the same accuracy bonus that strength and dexterity give, but without the damage increase.
*I consider it generally wise to get 2 characters with revive. This isn’t vital, considering that you won’t get revive until you’re fairly far into the game so you’ll have to get through much of it without revive anyway, but once you get it, it’s nice to not feel totally screwed when your only character with revive is killed off and you’re in the bottom of some dungeon.
*Avoid outdoor encounters if you don’t know how tough they’ll be, if possible. Instead, gain levels through dungeons. Rely on your nature lore skill to avoid outdoor fights that seem like they might be difficult.
*Run out of a dungeon and back to a town to heal your characters as soon as one of your characters dies. Don’t keep fighting, unless you have to. If you’ve lost one character, that means it’ll be easier for you to lose two or more, and the more you lose the closer to screwed you’ll be if you run into enemies outdoors on your way to a town to heal.
*In some outdoor fights, though not all, even once the fight is engaged, you can still escape the fight if your enemies seem too tough. In fights you can escape, you’ll see a shaded section in the northern part of the screen. If you get all your surviving characters into that shaded section the fight will end. You’ll lose out on any loot you would have gotten for winning forever, and the enemies you were in a fight with will just disappear, but your team will survive. To do this, of course, you’ll have to run past the enemy. The ensnaring ability of daze can help with this a lot. Once you get adrenaline rush or blink, this type of escape becomes very doable most of the time.
*Wands and scrolls that deal damage are useless and should be sold. The accuracy penalties of torment will make it so that they won’t be able to hit much. Speed potions, healing potions, and sometimes blessing potions and scrolls can be extremely useful though. Only use them when your characters don’t have an easy escape route and you think they might not survive a fight, but use those buffing spells and scrolls as soon as the potentially tough fight begins, because if you wait until one of your characters dies, it’ll usually be too late. Some scrolls cast ward of elements. It’ll be a long time until you can cast ward of elements yourself, so don’t sell them until then. You’ll also find revive scrolls. They sell for a lot, but they’re worth keeping. Don’t sell them, even after your characters learn revive. Instead, give them to a character without revive so they can revive the revivers.
*Whenever you come into a new area, do the obviously easy quests first. Generally speaking, the areas you get access to earliest will be the easiest, but even these early areas will have a few unexpectedly difficult fights here and there. Your goal should be to sneak around and try gain experience from a many easy fights as possible until you can’t avoid fighting tougher enemies or enemies you don’t know much about. It’s probably not a bad idea to down some speed potions every time you come across a new type of enemy outdoors just in case it might be tougher than you think.
*Physical attackers are probably the most common enemies, but magical and elemental damage tends to be more powerful. Keep that in mind so that your whole team doesn't get wiped out by one fiery blast from some demon or drake you tragically underestimated. Your characters will all have to deal with some kind of elemental or magical attacks eventually, and they can crumple pretty quickly without at least some respectable resistance towards cold, fire, and energy.
*Outdoor fights can be much harder without the ensnaring and/or dazing effect of daze. That means having at least one high intelligence mage can make things much easier.
Humans vs. Nonhumans:
Nephilim get a 10% damage bonus to bows and thrown weapons and a 10% bonus to cold resistance. Sliths get a 10% damage bonus to polearms and a 10% bonus to fire resistance. Humans get an extra trait every four levels. Nobody gets any traits after level 30, so humans will end up with 24 traits. Nonhumans will end up with 16 traits, so nonhumans are trading eight traits for an element resistance bonus and a weapon damage bonus.
Note that the way the game mechanics of that 10% damage bonus works, it''ll become less than 10% of your total damage over time, as your other damage multipliers increase your damage by greater and greater percentages.
I'd question the value of sliths...but keep in mind that the cold resistance of nephilim is arguably about the best resistance they can get. That's because evasion from dexterity never helps evade cold damage, and archers should have lots and lots of dexterity, so nephilim will be stronger against one of an archer's major weaknesses.
Pros and cons of melee/pole weapons, bows/thrown weapons, and spells.
Archery – massive evasion bonus, speed bonus, hit enemies at range. One downside is that you can’t hit enemies right in front of your character. The ability to hit enemies at a distance combined with an archer’s impressive ability to evade physical attacks can result in them being quite useful for swiftly picking off mages hiding behind their hordes of minions, and then being relatively immune to the physical attacking minions. Note, however, that in my experience it takes about two or more archers to be effective at sniping mages quickly enough to be useful . If you only have one archer, it’s probably best to just make them a tank character whose primary purpose is evading physical attacks. Note that I have no idea what being skilled with a bow and arrow has to do with being largely immune to swords...but whatever. I suppose there's weirder stuff in this game...actually I don't think there is. I think about the weirdest thing in the game, really in any of the Spiderweb games, is the fact that learning to use a bow and arrow well somehow makes you mostly immune to swords.
Thrown weapons – You'll find plenty of crude and iron javelins. These are the only ones that are un-sellable. It seems like bows tend to be as powerful as them, not much less, or even a little more powerful once you get some nice bows...but that might be because I always go for bow skill rather than javelin skill. I wouldn't think that would make an enormous amount of difference though. They still seem less useful than bows, but whereas they used to be completely useless their ability to immobolize and chance of dealing more damage might make them worth it for some characters.
Pole weapons – (halberds/spears/pikes) these are more powerful than bows, but of course you can’t use them at a range.
Duel wielded swords – duel wielded swords will eventually deal more damage than pole weapons. However, they have a 35% damage penalty and a 35% accuracy penalty. The duel wielding skills and traits can help remove this penality. I’m not sure whether duel-wielded swords with no duel-wielding skill or pole weapons would typically deal more damage, but that 35% accuracy penalty for duel-wielded swords, if nothing else, will definitely make pole weapons stronger in the early game, especially on torment. Once you get enough strength for your duel-wielded swords to become accurate, and maybe a few levels of duel-wielding skill, duel wielding will do more damage than pole weapons. However, if you already have a duel-wielder, there are some great pole weapons lying around so that it can be useful to have a pole weapon user even in the late game. Note that the way the game mechanics work, that 35% damage penalty becomes smaller than 35% of your total damage over time, even without duel wielding skill, as you accumulate other damage multipliers over time that increase your total damage.
A sword and a shield – this has no real advantages over either an archer with a shield, or a spellcaster with a shield. However it’ll lack the evasiveness, ranged ability, and speed of the archer and the versatility and mental resistance of the spellcaster. I don’t recommend this as a permanent character type. However, this can be a useful temporary build for duel wielders until they get enough strength…and maybe duel wielding, to make duel-wielding accurate enough to hit anything.
Spellcasters – spells are phenomenal at controlling groups, but they can be useful against individual enemies too. They’re much more versatile than weapons. Spellcasters are definitely the most useful type of character, generally speaking. Without any spellcasters, your game will without question be more difficult, even if you allow healing spells. However, spells require energy to use and they’re not as powerful against individual enemies as weapons. Even bows will nearly always be stronger when attacking one enemy at a time. On torment or hard, note that your own characters can be hit by area effecting spells from your own characters. Note that having a character that invests in both mage and priest spells can be quite useful. Pure priests and pure mages will often find themselves sitting around without enough to do.
Summary: Archers make wonderful mage snipers in pairs, or tanks alone. Spellcasters can do all sorts of neat stuff, including making great magic and element-resistant, high health sorts of tanks. Melee and duel-wielders can deal lots of damage, although not necessarily more than a powerful archer with cloak of bolts up. I personally think polearm users and duel wielders are, generally speaking, less useful than archers and spellcasters. I think they'd be equal to spellcasters and archers if they had had about ten extra skill points. They deal more damage, but the damage bonus from polearms isn’t a huge amount higher than bows, and the higher damage from duel wielding, while impressive, is countered until the later part of the game by major problems with inaccuracy when fighting the toughest enemies. That's not to say that they're bad. I just think there'll just be fewer circumstances in which they'll be outstandingly useful than archers or spellcasters. That said, they'll be very useful for certain party types. If you just need someone to stab things right in front of it really hard, there's nobody better than a duel wielder or polearm user.
Some party ideas I think could work well:
3 archers and 1 priest/mage – strategy: use adrenaline rush to shoot down everything except physical attackers in the first turn, then be relatively immune to everything that remains.
3 mage/priests and 1 glass cannon, offensively powerful, defensively weak duel-wielder – strategy: either blast everything to smithereens with spells, or mind control/daze/terrify enemies into becoming harmless for a few turns and let the duel wielder plow through them
2 archers and 2 priest mages – strategy: use a mixture of mind controlling and sniping at ensnared enemies to slowly pick away at them without ever getting touched.
Anama party – 1 tank archer, 1 tank priest, 1 duel wielder, 1 polearm user – strategy: Constantly have ward of blades up. Where there are physical attackers, send in the tank archer. Where there are magic or elemental attackers, send in the tank priest. The tank priest should have lots of health as well as maximum hardiness and resistance skill. The tank priest should have the best element or magical-resisting gear you can find. The tank archer should have maximum parry and gymnastics. Give both tanks 3 levels of the challenger trait. Once the enemies are distracted by the appropriate tank, send in your duel wielder and polearm user to shred them without as many repercussions as most teams would get.