New Hero MMORPG, Old Habits

I’ve been working hard on burning out from Champions Online so that I can get back to work on my game and, while I have not quite reached this goal, I have at least reached the level of familiar alt-a-holicism.  Today, I go over my various experiments with character concepts, so you don’t have to.

My first weekend was spent with Shifter Prime.  In a way, he was a bit of a careful foray to familiarize myself with the release-state game, as he heavily emphasized durability while using powers from a set I knew I enjoyed from back in beta: Force.  This power set lent well to a Endurance/Constitution focus, and there was really nothing in Gadgeteering against the idea of taking them, too.  Offensively and defensively, a pretty respectful character, capable of taking quite a few hitpoints of damage while throwing out Force Cascade, Orbital Strike, and having both Munitions Bots and Field Drones out to provide even more support.

My Endurance/Constitution focus turned out to be a little too heavy – everything this character did was rather belabored.  I was tired of having to resummon my pets who (without any bolstering from presence) tended to die whenever something sneezed on them.   Bowling for bad guys with Force is fun, but monotonous when that was my entire range of moves: knock em’ down, they get up, repeat.  The pets were having more fun than I did.  While I knew that Personal Force Field was not really built for a protracted siege, I did not know about the maximum damage per hit limit on the personal force field, and so I was really pretty helpless against the big hitters.

My second weekend was spent with Contrast.  I had decided to draw from the Telekinetics and Telepathy pools but not limit myself to both.  Since I was already heavy on Ego from Telekinesis, I made his secondary statistic Dexterity, and he does very respectable damage. However, he was wiser for my experiences, with much more rounded stats – he had reasonable scores in everything but Strength.    He would not take pets, so would not have to worry about maintaining them, and he would hopefully take some crowd control (for to the interesting tactical implications).

Without an emphasis on Constitution, his durability normally would have been lacking, but Contrast had a core power synergy that worked well.  By combining Ebon Shield (advantaged to absorb more damage the more that was taken) with Regeneration, and throwing out Ego Sprites (advantaged to heal) between bouts of turtling, Contrast had a remarkable ability to turn around an otherwise impossible fight.  When operating like this, he could be more durable than Shifter Prime, a character built for durability.

I originally planned to use Psionic Vortex to inflict damage while turtling, but Psionic Vortex’s damage is currently way too low for this intention.   I’ve also found much less room for crowd control than I expected I would, because Contrast tends to be too busy attacking.   He’s also really no better at a cosmic-level fight than Shifter Prime in anything other than a support role – Shifter Prime can survive hits Contrast can’t.

These minor concerns aside, Contrast has been a very successful experiment, a nice multi-role character that would operate in a defensive, offensive, or support role — he even tended to be amongst the top three scoring list of every PvP match.

Invitation To Distraction

Neither character was particularly broken.  Unlike City of Heroes, I’d yet to feel as though any character was completely beyond salvaging.  The retconning mechanic makes it easy to change any recent power acquisition.   If I was not able to afford to retcon out what I did not like, simply gaining a few more levels would earn the necessary power or advantage points to turn things around.  Even if I had reached level 40, with no more levels to earn, what else is there to do but to earn resources towards retconning out what I don’t like about my character?

Fate intervened to bring about another reason to roll up more alts.  A couple days ago, I learned that the developers were about to drop a free total retcon.  So I created some new characters specifically so that, in future times, I would have that ace in the hole if I decided to advance those characters.  Those characters remain mothballed, but alt-a-holicism had taken root.  I kept creating new characters even after the free total retcons had already been distributed.

My horizons had been broadened a bit, and I realized that there was one power set I knew I just had to try out: Sorcery.  Sorcery is a superbly versatile set that essentially had about three or four ways to do anything, and that’s just the kind of thing an alt-a-holic like me can get behind.

After taking Hazzard (a new pure Sorceror) up to level 9, I tried out Circle of Primal Dominion and got pretty excited.  Here was a power that apparently let me stand in one place, regenerating a massive amount of damage while being fairly resistant to knockback, and reap destruction upon my foes.

What potential awesome could I get out of combining Circles, Sigil, and Aura powers of various roles?  With Contrast, I could switch between an offensive, defensive, or even in a support role… but with this new Sorcery concept, I might be able to do all three simultaneously!

The rise and fall of the Cybernaut

Then I had a really interesting idea: what if I combined Sorcery’s Circles with the Power Armor‘s natural mitigation and ability to toggle on multiple channels of continuous destruction?   In theory, I’d finally have my Cosmic foe combatant, capable of rooting himself down with Circle of Arcane power while unloading big damage.

The idea kept getting better: throw in a Sorcery support passive and have both Field Drones and Munitions Bots out, and I could emphasize Intelligence and Presense and be some kind of deadly pet master!

The Cybernaut was the result.  Creating and advancing this new character consumed Friday.  As of level 18, I’m about ready to give him up entirely.

That problem was mostly the choice of Power Armor, which turned out to have a fairly bad synergy with Sorcery.  A Power Armor hero’s attacks are mostly cones and beams (with a few AOE attacks).   To get really good use out of cones and beams, you need to be moving to sync them up with your targets.  Sorcery, however, is focused on sitting still and claiming one area.  The resulting dissonance was a death knell for the character.

On top of this, I was disappointed with how much damage I was getting out of Power Armor.  Investing three powers (not counting the energy builder) in Power Armor to have three channels of attack earned me Concussor Beams, Micromunitions, and Mini Gun.   It would have worked great if all three worked together for continuous damage, but the Concussor Beams (where the majority of my single-target damage was supposed to come from) were a massive energy hog that would soon leave me completely tapped.  I could have achieved a better damage to energy ratio from just spamming a single ranked up AOE power (e.g. Force Cascade), and it’s possible the DPS would have been better too.

So, for the first time, it seems I’ve managed to create a character who is relatively irredeemable in Champions Online.   Maybe Targeting Computer and Circle of Arcane Power, operating together with a bunch of recovery gear, might have solved my energy problems to allow me to perpetually keep my three channels of attack up… but levels won’t solve the problem that the Power Armor/Sorcery combination required I be in two places at once.  I could keep slogging onward and see what some new powers and advantage points would uncover, but that seems awfully masochistic considering he’s operating on such a shaky foundation.  Maybe another total retcon credit will show up sooner or later, and that’s 18 levels I could spend on whatever.

Next Distraction

I still think Sorcery has a lot of potential.   However, because a Sorceror is stationary, and most of the powers in the game are built around the players being mobile, a Sorceror has to pick carefully to mix and match that set with anything.

Staying with pure Sorcery is not a bad idea – the set already has both versatility and power, so you have everything you need.  If I wanted to throw in a curve ball (perhaps for the originality of it alone) I bet I could find some good powers to borrow out of Force, Fire, Ice, Electricity, and Gadgeteering.   Basically, powers to avoid would be beams, cones, melee attacks, or anything else that requires the player regularly move to use effectively.

This opens up another question: why sit around?  Champions Online is very much an action packed, visceral game.   This stationary mastermind approach may well be going against the grain of a more enjoyable experience for me.  Sorcery may be a red herring… or it could be a mental shifting of gears to keep the game interesting, an ironically good contrast against my highly mobile hero named Contrast.

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