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Skill tree balance


jag
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These kinds of threads always require context. I haven't finished the game. (Most of the time, I find I most enjoy talking about a game while I'm playing it, so this is sort of a necessary evil.) I'm playing on veteran. At this point, I've worked my way up all the skill trees to the top. I've started branching my characters into trees I didn't start them in to grab the bonuses cross-class bonuses. I'd like to discuss which abilities seem good and which don't. (I haven't used all abilities yet. Those I've italicized are ones I haven't personally used yet.)

 

Best

 

Fast Feint (Combat T2) 1en: Haste and Bless self for 4-5 turns is extremely useful before Battle Frenzy. Still efficient in smaller fights afterward.

Battle Frenzy (Support T4) 2en: Haste and Bless everyone for nine turns using only two energy is very efficient. (On a support w/ stacked blessing bonuses.)

Inspiring Cry (Support T1) 1en: Efficient way to bless everyone until you get to T4. You will also buy this on all PCs to stack blessings later on.

Haven's Command (Royal) pas: +8 damage (at level 9) if standing within six spaces of princess? Ultra efficient.

 

Good

 

Steelskin (Combat T2) pas: Reduce the likelihood of a plethora of negative effects passively. Very efficient.

Magery (Magic T1) pas: 20% bonus to healing, blessing and curses. Must-have on your main support character.

Raw Power (Magic T3) pas: increases energy 1/5lv. Energy is life. A must have for support and mage PCs.

Call Bones (Magic T2) 1en: summon a skeleton. He's not too strong, but he'll eat two or three hits. In the early game, this is worth two or three heals. Efficient. Useless later.

Build Construct (Magic T4) 2en: Provides a reasonably tough summon that can inflict statuses and hold choke-points, giving your PCs a chance to dakka with bows and arrows.

Hide in Shadow (Support T1) pas: Good to reduce aggro on support and mage so you can stack bonuses via robes.

Haste (Support T3) pas: 1/4 of the haste spell effect passively is very efficient.

Healing Wave (Support T3) 1en: Heal everyone for two energy. Use after a fight where the support is still at full energy.

 

Mediocre

 

Hardiness (Combat T3) pas: 10%/lv health bonus. Would be absurdly efficient if it worked as advertised, but my combat PCs only have +10 health compared to the PCs without this ability.

Brutal Blow (Combat T1) 1en: 25% damage bonus and bleeding. Can be helpful in difficult fights with big baddies.

Shock (Magic T1) 1en: "strong" damage, but it barely seems to do any more than a regular attack with a wand.

Weakness (Magic T2) 1en: AOE weaken. Can be useful against some crowds, but very unreliable when you actually need it.

Time Warp (Magic T3) 2en: AOE slow. Unreliable when most needed. 2en cost is stiff.

Speed (Support T2) 1en: 12 turns of haste on one target sounds good. But it's only 3.8 net turns (over the next 12 turns), in exchange for one turn now. Inefficient.

Healing (Support T1) 1en: Healing is not very efficient in this game. Can be good to top up someone when you're about to get energy restored and you're already full.

Curing (Support T2) 1en: I've only needed to cast this three or four times so far in this play-through. Normally best to let the DOT tick out.

Restoring Rain (Support T4) 2en: Might be good except I spent all this tier's points on Battle Frenzy, and filling in Magic tiers is more efficient than getting this ability.

Disruption (Support T3) 1en: Enemies don't usually buff, and even if they do, Haste and Healing Wave are very good.

 

Bad

 

All combat abilities not mentioned above (T1-T4) 1-2en: Combat abilities are too unreliable, considering many of the big bads have a high chance to resist the statuses you would otherwise inflict.

Terror (Magic T1) 1en: Single target CC is useless when it's so unreliable against big bads.

Icy Wave (Magic T2) 2en: Too expensive, seems to get evaded a lot, doesn't really do that much damage.

Poison Rain (Magic T3) 2en: Too expensive, and resisted by many classes of enemies.

Teleport (Support T2) 1en: I've never felt like I'd obtain a significant advantage from teleporting, except in battles I was going to lose anyway.

Silence (Support T4) 2en: I mean, I haven't tried it, but I'm guessing it doesn't work on big baddies given the pattern of other curses, which means it's useless. Even if not, Battle Frenzy!

Haven's Might (Royal) 3en: Same effect as Battle Frenzy, but costs one more energy. Entirely useless.

Haven's Mercy (Royal) 3en: Heal and cure nearby allies. Other cures suck, so I'm assuming this one does too. Considering casting costs, damage would have to be well balanced for this to be efficient.

 

Undecided

 

Shockwave, Fireball (Magic T4) 2en, 3en: Casting costs steep, other direct damage spells seem inefficient, so I haven't tried these.

 

Looking back at my feelings for all the abilities, a few main themes stand out.

 

  • For CC to be and debuffs to be useful, they need to be reliable. Abilities that don't work on big bads are kinda silly. Gradual immunity should be implemented (e.g. can't stun more often than once per four turns, slow has chance to fail on second application, etc.)
  • Healing is so bad that it is only useful if the energy would otherwise be wasted. I understand it was meant to be nerfed but this seems like too much.
  • Blessing and haste are extremely efficient. I'm not sure the game would be playable without them.
  • Bows and arrows are very strong. I kite most non-boss trash encounters. It's still fun, but I'm not sure it would be if this continues to be the pattern.
  • Support bonuses (+15 evasion, +10% speed) are better than magic bonuses (+3 en +1 magic damage). Both are far, far better than combat bonuses, which are very bad (+6hp, +1 physical damage).
  • Everything in the bad and mediocre categories could stand to be buffed. I say buffed because it seems like the content is balanced around heavy use of the good and best abilities. It's challenging despite using those and carefully stewarding energy and flasks.

 

If this thread proves to yield an interesting discussion (and maybe even if it doesn't), I will also post my thoughts on augments and runes. Spoiler: like abilities, there are only a few that are good. Most are very inefficient.

 

Edited by jag
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When you get further in the game you will find:

 

Call Bones is more useful because the skeleton's stats increase with the party level so it lasts longer and if you buff with it's in range after summoning it will gain the buffs for more damage and speed.

 

Hide in Shadows doesn't seem to make a significant difference in avoiding attracting attacks.

 

Hardiness does help and it may keep you alive as well as being a no cost passive ability.

 

Brutal Blow at level 2 is +50% more damage and stacks with critical hits and blessing. (I once got as high as 306 points damage with Brutal Blow, 4 Blessings, and I'm guessing a critical hit. I've also had a few over 250 damage.)

 

Healing is useful until you get Healing Wave since this is your major source of healing.

 

Curing at level 2 is useful when you have multiple statuses of bleeding, poison, and/or slowing because you can't afford to wait for them to run out during combat.

 

Restoring Rain is for the same reason because the energy cost is more efficient to cure and heal with more than one party member not to mention you only need one character doing it for the whole party while the others fight.

 

Disruption is more for the last part of the game when the monster uses Spellshield and/or Evasion and now you are facing 80 to 90% chance of it evading your attacks.

 

Icy Wave, Poison Rain, and Fireball are all large area of effect attacks that pay off when you can get at least 3 monsters at a time. Even on torment difficulty you can clear out groups of monsters with 2 or 3 uses.

 

Haven's Mercy is a stronger version of Healing Wave and Restoring Rain which makes it useful as a backup when the party takes more damage.

 

Magic ability bonuses give you extra energy for using abilities in the more expensive Support and Magic abilities. When you start fighting monsters that have higher evasion and armor against physical attacks you really appreciate having magic abilities for attacks.
 

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Some of my thoughts...

 

Haven's Command - I think it gives a much smaller bonus than you're listing. At level 9, it should only be 2/4 bonus damage, based on your rank. Still a good ability, of course.

Curing - I'm not sure why you're saying it's better to let the DoTs tick down. Late game, there are some enemies that can inflict 8 turns of bleed with a single attack, which is 12 damage per tick at level 20, for a total of 96 damage. That is absolutely worth spending an energy to cure. There are also loads of enemies that stack poison - once you have at least 2 stacks, getting rid of them is a must. Even better, it only costs 4 AP, leaving you an additional action if you didn't have to move. This spell is amazing.

Whirlwind - You didn't rate this, so I want to mention this ability is fantastic! It only targets enemies, so on Veteran/Torment, it's the most reliable AoE for avoiding friendly fire. It scales off your bow damage, so if you have Fool's Shot equipped, you're doing some serious damage with this attack. The upgrade increases the damage by 20%, which is great.

Healing - If you invest reasonably in healing, it can be pretty good (like healing about half a warrior's hp in a single case). It's not as crazy as Avernum, where lesser heal could heal pretty much anyone to full with enough investment, but saying it sucks seems kind of harsh.

Speed - This only costs 4AP, so you can still use another action if you haven't moved. Even with Battle Frenzy at your disposal, it's still pretty good in fights where enemies can inflict slow on various party members.

Disruption - This is another 4AP ability. It's great to have on at least one character, especially for a lot of bosses that haste themselves. Not always useful, but amazing when it is.

Stunning Shot - This hits a reliable amount of the time, and can inflict slow even if the stun doesn't go through. It can be used with ranged weapons, so it is a great tool against enemy mages and archers in the backline.

Shield Shatter - From my experience, bosses don't actually have a great chance of resisting vulnerable. It also stacks multiplicatively, which allows for huge spikes in damage.

Shockwave - A chance to stun multiple enemies is crazy, especially since unlike Avernum, you actually have a reasonable chance of inflicting stun. Absolutely worth 2 energy.

Haven's Might - The tooltip seems to be wrong, it provides more turns of haste and blessing than Battle Frenzy. Still probably not worth it, since Battle Frenzy is usually more than enough.

Haven's Mercy - It's healing values are surprisingly high, and it removes a huge number of status effects, which is great against poison stacking enemies. Basically Restoring Rain on steroids. Best saved for difficult fights due its high energy cost, though.

Mindsteal - You never mentioned this one, but it's such a game changer, it deserves to be mentioned. Due to the fact that enemies can actually fail against mental effects in this game, this ability is probably one of the absolute best in the game. Enemies often prioritize the closest target, so if you hit someone in the middle of the enemy combat line, you suddenly avoid a bunch of potential attacks against you, and the charmed enemy contributes some damage. And only 1 energy, too! The only thing stopping me from calling this the strongest ability ever is that it won't work against undead and it's more or less useless against singular enemies.

Edited by Mechalibur
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I think that Bludgeon Senseless deserves a mention. Weakness and Slow are both good statuses against bosses and large enemies, and Confusion is a nice cherry on top of the status sundae. If you get even one use of Vulnerability out of the confusion then you've more than gotten your energy's worth, and I've had extremely welcome Stuns and Fear activations on top of that. All of the Confusion stuff is bias from the times it worked out, but anything that slows enemies is worth a shot if they have high stun resistance.

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Whirlwind's formula includes your bow level (just like the regular missile attack formula).  It does not scale off your bow's damage formula.  So it will do the same damage with Fool's Shot or with a Havenite Warbow.  It's still great though.

 

I disagree with a surprising amount of what's been said here.  I would say:

 

Rank S

Tower of Might, Steelskin, Haste

Battle Frenzy, Time Warp

Whirlwind Attack

 

Rank A

Brutal Blow

Shockwave

Restoring Rain, Disruption

Magery, Haven's Command

 

Rank B

Shield Shatter

Knockback, Stunning Shot, Terrifying Scream

Curing, Free Mind, Silence

Haven's Might, Haven's Mercy

Raw Power, Vicious Strikes

 

Rank C

Mindsteal, Bludgeon Senseless, Terror
Weakness, Call Bones

Healing, Speed, Inspiring Cry, Healing Wave

Hardiness, Hide in Shadows, Radiance

 

Rank D

Blinding Blow, Bull Rush

Poison Rain, Steel Darts, Fireball

Teleport, Spellshield, Evasion Charm, Build Construct

 

Rank E

Fast Feint

Shock, Icy Wave, Barbed Lance

Edited by Last Electorine of Haven
On looking at the damage formulas again, I was way too kind to Barbed Lance
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4 hours ago, Last Electorine of Haven said:

Whirlwind's formula includes your bow level (just like the regular missile attack formula).  It does not scale off your bow's damage formula.  So it will do the same damage with Fool's Shot or with a Havenite Warbow.  It's still great though.

 

Oh, that's interesting, what is an item's level? Is it the same as its tier?

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I'm finding Weakness to be very, very good on torment.  (At least early-mid game.)  It feels like the Daze of this game- essential for early-game crowd control.  It may not completely disable them, but after stacking a couple casts, they just can't do any real damage anymore.  I prefer it over Time Warp since I prefer monsters that can't really hit at all over ones that just hit less often.

I've found Time Warp more useful for monsters that do annoying non-damage-based things on their turns like cause status ailments or summon slimes.  But for a pack of damage dealers, just cast Weakness twice and maybe Inspiring Cry once, then kill them at your leisure.

Edited by quasius
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Weakness was superb early game.  I had the same experience -- multiple stacks and it basically removes all threat.  Early on it was definitely better than Time Warp.

 

I didn't have to go too far outside of the central area before I found it less effective than Time Warp, though.  (Also on Torment.)  Here's why:

 

1) As you note, non-damage based abilities become more common -- and they are generally more dangerous than any damage-based abilities, besides certain AoEs.

 

2) Although Weakness's impact grows with the target's level, it grows more slowly with that than damage output does, especially if you compare early game monsters to mid or late game monsters.  1 or 2 casts will still certainly prevent a little damage, but you need more and more layers to get the same "no threat" impact.  In fights where quick defense is essential, this makes a big difference.  In short fights, it may flat out prevent more damage, period.  Needing more layers also makes Time Warp potentially more energy efficient.

 

3) Additionally, damage prevention simply becomes less urgent in general, because you have more ways to avoid damage (Tower of Might, everyone will gradually get more evasion from Support bonuses if nothing else, and good armor's not very affordable on any level early on).

 

4) Because of the way speed works, the total impact of Time Warp actually increases as your party buffs their speed.  This means passive speed boosts as well as having the energy reserves available to have Haste active more frequently in dungeons.  Early on Time Warp means you'll go from 1.0x as many moves as the enemy, to 1.67x.  Later, with other speed boosts, it means you go from 1.8x to 3.0x (!).

 

5) In combination with speed boosts and stunning abilities like Stunning Shot and Shockwave, Time Warp allows you to basically lock down any enemy that doesn't have high resistance to stun.

 

6) Because statuses only tick when the character has a turn, Time Warp actually lasts longer than Weakness if they are not cast together.  And in very long fights, which admittedly there aren't toooo many of, Time Warp lets you get more turns in before you have to renew other debuffs, like Weakness.

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This is very interesting. Having lots of disagreement about what is good is the sign of a healthy game system.

 

Some notes about future versions ...

 

1. Silence is currently somewhat broken and doesn't affect as many enemy abilities as it should. It will have longer durationa nd work correctly in v102.

 

2. Teleport now costs 6 AP. It is situational but can be hugely powerful.

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41 minutes ago, Spidweb said:

2. Teleport now costs 6 AP. It is situational but can be hugely powerful.

What does it cost currently?  You made me think it currently cost 4, but I just checked and it consumed all 5 of my AP.

 

On that note, I had no idea some abilities cost 4 until I read this thread.  Could AP consumption of abilities be noted somewhere in their descriptions?

Edited by quasius
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49 minutes ago, quasius said:

What does it cost currently?  You made me think it currently cost 4, but I just checked and it consumed all 5 of my AP.

 

On that note, I had no idea some abilities cost 4 until I read this thread.  Could AP consumption of abilities be noted somewhere in their descriptions?

 

It currently costs 6AP. In v1.00 it only cost 4, and as such was kinda overpowered in a few situations. In particular, you could pull an enemy toward you and wail on them in the same turn, or teleport a party member either out of harms way or into the fray from a distance while still attacking. You could also use it as basically super speed: since you could teleport yourself and one other person in the same turn, two people with teleport in your party basically obviates any ability for the enemy to slow you down should you decide to flee (this was immensely useful after the first fight with the Nisse lands dragon; didn't have to worry about her remaining 9 broodlings, just teleported out of there). 

 

Although honestly I find fleeing a fight basically impossible without sacrificing 2 or 3 people, so I kinda wish that still worked

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1 hour ago, Spidweb said:

1. Silence is currently somewhat broken and doesn't affect as many enemy abilities as it should. It will have longer duration and work correctly in v102.

 

That's a great change. I like the idea of Silence, but a lot of the enemies I want to silence are too mentally resistant or have innate abilities that Silence won't block. It's nice to have options besides Stunning Shot and assorted curses for enemies with nasty AOEs.

 

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Wow, I'm surprised Haven's Mercy doesn't get more love. It probably saved my party from a wipe at least once per location on Veteran. It would generally pull someone (or multiple someones) from almost dead to nearly 100%, plus usually remove all their debuffs, which Restoring Rain generally failed at on both counts. It's expensive to cast, but I compensated by grabbing mostly passive abilities and spending all my energy on healing. I waited far too long to respec the MC away from Combat (where I had a lot of abilities I never used to save energy for Haven's Mercy) to Support/Magic for more passive bonuses and extra energy, where he really shined.

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I wonder if the royal wouldn't be best if they're trained as a Combat/Magic type spellblade. Raw Power gives you a lot of Energy to cast the Haven skills, and going through the magic tree gives you skills like Time Warp, Call Bones and Terror for more crowd control. Surgeon and Duration Augments could be helpful if you go this support route to up the healing and make Haven's Might last for long, grindy boss fights.

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I kept trying to make Combat work, but the MC was just better in every way as spellcaster IMO. It's fairly hard to fully build out Smithies for gear plus Barracks and Guard Towers to minimize theft since iron is the scarcest resource. Carpenters and Weavers are no sweat, though. Plus the armor selection stinks. To tank you have to accept speed penalties, and speed is king, while robes generally provide the same physical protection as the lightweight smithy gear of the same tier as well as a bonus to healing/damage and vastly better magic protection.

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Eventually the best armor overcomes its penalties at 7 smithies. However the reason to keep building them is improved weapons (both physical and arcane) and helmets. 

 

Iron is the problem through out the game which is why you keep going back to Greatport to ask for more and go into the Utak for mines.

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You still get speed penalties for the medium and heavy armors at 7 smithies, they just soak more damage. Just compare robes and leather armor, tier by tier, and robes are always better, while both have no speed penalty.

 

I did end up with 7 smithies at the endgame, I just found myself constantly having to worry about iron to maintain them, and my reward was being able to keep my fighters in weak leather armor to avoid speed penalties, and only giving the mage a wand, because come on, the fighters are expected to wear armor and not wave a wand around at people. I wouldn't really repeat the same thing again. Even if you never plan on using spells, it's a 5 skill point detour to get Magery and Raw Power, +3 Energy, and unlock Tier 3 Arcane Gear and have everyone rocking those Robes/Vestments/Wands and never being forced to building more than 1 Smithy to install Runes/Augmentations.

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When you do the endgame you find monsters have much higher evasion to physical than magical damage. It makes it much harder to get through the Nisse lands with physical and only magical melee attacks.

 

Of course you can switch over with buying new weapons and changing your training.

 

The expert area above normal difficulty is the best example where without wands you probably won't survive. The major advantage of wands is range magical attacks.

 

This is the first game where bows are really useful.

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Bows were really useful in A4, and I don't think anyone loved Sharpshooter Spray in Avadon 1 more than you did Random ;)

 

If you count other missile weapons, slings were pretty great in Nethergate and Shadowwalker/Tinkermage razordisks were also very good.

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I wouldn't say wands are terrible, I just think the speed bonus from daggers is way too powerful. Especially when staves exist, which are barely any stronger than wands, but make you miss out on an off-hand's defense bonus and augments. Staves are the real stinker here 😛 

Edited by Mechalibur
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A lot of good info here. Never realized how good Battle Frenzy is. Here are my favoured skills:

 

All passives save Hide in Shadows (especially Haven's Command, Tower of Might, Radiance, Steelskin, Raw Power, and Haste). I love saving energy, so I generally went for the passives first. I think Radiance and Raw Power are my favourites. Mind control is extremely debilitating, so I'll take anything to clear it.

 

Combat: Fast Feint, Whirlwind, Brutal Blow, Bludgeon, Shield Shatter. I find Whirlwind especially useful to clear the chaff from areas, Brutal Blow for single target, and Shield Shatter to focus down boss mobs. Not sure if Bludgeon is actual any good, but I like stacking debuffs. Fast Feint is my go-to first move on melee attackers, but I really should consider Battle Frenzy instead.

 

Magic: Shock, Call Bones, Time Warp, Build Construct, Fireball. Summons are a must for me. They tank, pull aggro, and do some damage. Not sure if Shock is much better than basic attacks.

 

Support: Teleport, Curing, Disruption, Restoring Rain. Teleport is just broken, imo. It only cost one energy on my game, for some reason (I thought it's supposed to cost 6 in this patch?). Disruption is great against most bosses.

 

Cultural: Haven's Mercy, Mind Steal, Free Mind. Haven's Mercy saved my team a lot early game. I still use it for clutch heals. Mind Steal is like a summon, but somewhat unreliable. Good against mob spam.

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