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Favourite spell/martial gameplay (aka. "Thread about build paralysis #36490")


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What's this? Another thread asking for help advising on a class choice for a first time playthrough? And asking questions about spellswords too? 

Original, right?

So yeah, to cut through the chaff, I've been reading through countless damn-near identical threads over recent weeks to try and land on a MC class combo that offers a (frankly unlikely) amount of variety and playstyle options. While there are an obscene number of build options to choose from, I'm not sure I've found quite the right blend. 

Inspiration for the sort of character I'm in search of is probably akin to Final Fantasy 14's Red Mage:

  • Good at slinging offensive spells - at range and close up
  • Clutch support options (heals, buffs, debuffs etc.)
  • Capable of diving into melee and holding their own if the need arises - ideally with some melee skills (not just auto-attack spam)
  • Good mobility (so decent stride, Escape etc.)


I am by no means a power-gamer; fun 100% comes first; and while a load of builds definitely look interesting, I do worry that some fall back into set patterns of gameplay - ie. X/wizard = buff up, summon Citzal's Lance, attack -- X/Soulblade = Start attacking, spam SA -- X/Chanter = spam paralysis for crit farming.

Now plenty of builds that I've seen tick some of these boxes - and I think these are probably the closest I've come to settling on.

  • Sage 
    • Mobile and offer beastly melee and casting offences - but lack in support options, and Wizards in particular seem to rely heavily on blowing through spell casts to buff up to be capable in melee, obviously at the cost of spell-slinging potential. Fair observation, or am I being too greedy here?
  • Cantor
    • Looks like it could offer more of the variety I'm looking for; my challenge with this (aside from coming to terms with the class fantasy) is that most builds I've seen seem to rely exclusively on just a couple of invocations - Paralysis and melee thunder spam. Two Fingers of Light looks intriguing as a ranged heal/damage option, but I very rarely see it talked about, so have no idea of its viability or usefulness.
  • Mindstalker
    • A more refined set of skills here, with some great looking mage utility thrown on top of the rogue's usual toolset, and Soul Annihilation offers a tasty bit of melee burst. But beyond that, I do worry that MC Ciphers offer little beyond their one 'trick' per subclass. While mixing things up with Phantom Foes and Disintegrate will no doubt be fun for a time, Ciphers very much seem to be a class that suffers from the lack of options afforded to it via the skill trees. What little they can do they seem to be able to do particularly well though - less may well be more in this case.
  • NPC subclass builds
    • Tekehu's subclasses in particular add some very interesting and exciting spell options to their existing class skill trees. For example, some combo of Monk, Rogue or Fighter/Stormcaller looks very promising, but I have no idea how many of the additional spells are actually worth using vs. standard invocations, nor how slow the phrase generation might be vs. Troubadour or a crit-stacking Skald.

 

Honestly, I could go on listing other builds for an age, but I hope by now my vision and tastes are clear enough. I am also absolutely open to other suggestions too - I've mulled over the ideal of working Druids and Priests into the mix in some capacity, not to mention a passing intrigue in any prospective builds that might make use of melee & ranged weaponry (think Scordeo's set) together. I'm not hunting for gamebreaking combos or anything; I'm just looking for a satisfying package of options and abilities. 

(As an afterthought, I've completely neglected to consider items that grant spells or certain effects. Are there some good options that might fill gaps?)

I feel just need a nudge in the right direction, and perhaps even a reality check from experienced builders. Is my list of wants entirely unreasonable? Am I expecting too much from a single character; am I undervaluing the levels of fun offered by a build that does 1 thing really well vs. one that does a load of things 'pretty well'?

Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to indulge me with this. I'm all too aware just how unoriginal this post is, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little ashamed about it!

Much love

Edited by Jrllo
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3 hours ago, Jrllo said:

Am I expecting too much from a single character; am I undervaluing the levels of fun offered by a build that does 1 thing really well vs. one that does a load of things 'pretty well'?

Yes, I'd limit each character to ~2 roles. It's a party-based game, so you'll still get to play every role. For example, my party is Berserker/Fighter (DPS, offtank), SC Fighter (Tank), Illusionist/Rogue (DPS, afflictions), SC Wizard (DPS, crowd control), SC Priest (buffs, heals, fire).

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  • Jrllo changed the title to Favourite spell/martial gameplay (aka. "Thread about build paralysis #36490")
8 hours ago, Helz said:

Yes, I'd limit each character to ~2 roles. It's a party-based game, so you'll still get to play every role. For example, my party is Berserker/Fighter (DPS, offtank), SC Fighter (Tank), Illusionist/Rogue (DPS, afflictions), SC Wizard (DPS, crowd control), SC Priest (buffs, heals, fire).

That's fair. I am aware I always tend to fall into the trap of trying to pile all the most exciting and engaging stuff on my MC, usually at a cost to the rest of the party. 

After thinking on my question and your response for a while, I've come to the realisation that perhaps what I'm really searching for is an engaging, satisfying playstyle rather than simply a class that boasts everything. I sort of touched on some of my concerns with classes like Wizards, who tend to be used exclusively to buff up for melee; or monks who seem to almost exclusively be used for Helwalker stat increases, and stockpiling wounds rather than spending them on various active abilities. Same with Ascendant ciphers: hit focus cap, spam Mind Blades/Disintegrate... and that's it. 

I suppose the obvious place to develop an idea would be to look back again at my inspiration: the FF14 Red Mage. It's gameplay loop is almost an inverse of Ascendant Ciphers: fling spells from range to build up resource, eventually leap into melee to spend that resource, then leap back out to start the loop over. 

While I'm very aware that I'm not going to get exactly that in POE2, I'm convinced there has to be a way to transfer the spirit of that playstyle here. The ability to seamlessly switch from ranged to melee without having to buff myself up to the nines, but without also simply ignoring the mechanics of the classes I have or deliberately being inefficient.

Perhaps a Paladin/Caster of some sort that is comfortable buffing and slinging spells from range could do the trick, augmenting mobility through equipment for when it's time to wreck face...

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1 hour ago, Jrllo said:

I sort of touched on some of my concerns with classes like Wizards, who tend to be used exclusively to buff up for melee; or monks who seem to almost exclusively be used for Helwalker stat increases, and stockpiling wounds rather than spending them on various active abilities. Same with Ascendant ciphers: hit focus cap, spam Mind Blades/Disintegrate... and that's it. 

Wizards don't need to focus on melee. Normal wizards might be starved for spell slots after buffing. But a Blood Mage doesn't have that limitation.

As for monks, other subclasses also exist. I am particularly fond of the Forbidden Fist, who is great alternative for martial melee and caster multiclasses that are not focused solely on nuking. I actually prefer a FF for Transcendant or martial Sages.

Also your look on Ascendants seems very limited. Sure, those are good spells and nicely spammable. But a IMO a cipher worth his salt will use lots of other active powers as well. Borrowed Instinct, Secret Horrors are almost universal battle openers for me. The awesome Ectopsychic Echo probably had more use over the course of the game then Mind Blades (which are a bit situational) or Disintegration (which comes rather late... and competes with other fun activities). Mental Binding is a great "oh ****!" emergency button... or a way to stunlock some dangerous opponents PLUS root their minions. Psychovampiric Shield is a great debuff for tough cookies. Mind Plague, while comes late, is very crippling for enemies and I love using it. Eyestrike is cheap and can provide plenty of value, particularly in the first half of the game. Tenuous Grasp is a great cheap and fast primer before landing serious CC, particularly early on.

But anyway, my Transcendant was spending only a part of his action time casting those (far more then 2 powers, as you can see). Chain critting enemies paralyzed by Mental Binding or Grave Bound was fun too. Chilling Fogs he conjured when killing skellies summoned by Pallegina were extremely useful too.

Late game rather them spam cipher powers, I often preferred to zig-zag between the enemies with Flagellant's Path (squishier - doesn't mean less dangerous - enemies pretty much explode on arrival), holding Seeker's Fang rapier which provides a mini-disintegrate (that scales damage with current Focus, so an Ascended cipher is great for that) whenever it crits. And it crits all the time with Borrowed Instincts, rapier modal for +20 Accuracy and +5 inherent rapier Accuracy bonus. Not to mention Spider's Flurry is a cone attack that hits each enemy in the cone 3 times... and only 1 crit is enough for most enemies.

He was a Helwalker, but if I made him now, he'd have been a Forbidden Fist, since that's such a wonderful melee move/debuff right from level 1.

Edited by Haplok
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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Haplok said:

Also your look on Ascendants seems very limited. Sure, those are good spells and nicely spammable. But a IMO a cipher worth his salt will use lots of other active powers as well.
[...]

You're right, I certainly did them dirty in my very simplistic description of them. To be honest, I have given them quite a solid look at various points throughout my endless search for a build, but kept finding myself put off by the same combinations being thrown up - namely Kitchen Stove > into power spam (granted more than 2 powers), or looking solely at Witches with their boosted action speed to make them even remotely viable in melee. That's primarily why I began to discount them as an option. 

With that in mind...

Quote

Late game rather them spam cipher powers, I often preferred to zig-zag between the enemies with Flagellant's Path (squishier - doesn't mean less dangerous - enemies pretty much explode on arrival), holding Seeker's Fang rapier which provides a mini-disintegrate (that scales damage with current Focus, so an Ascended cipher is great for that) whenever it crits. And it crits all the time with Borrowed Instincts, rapier modal for +20 Accuracy and +5 inherent rapier Accuracy bonus. Not to mention Spider's Flurry is a cone attack that hits each enemy in the cone 3 times... and only 1 crit is enough for most enemies.

He was a Helwalker, but if I made him now, he'd have been a Forbidden Fist, since that's such a wonderful melee move/debuff right from level 1.

This sounds extremely fun. Flagellant's Path looks like a great ability for starters, and with your earlier breakdown of useful cipher abilities, I'm actually quite convinced this is close to achieving the gameplay loop I'm craving. 

The one hesitation I've had before about working Forbidden Fist into the mix is trying to get the stat balance right. High Resolve seems a given for the ability, but I keep seeing mixed advice for Intellect. But if I can figure that balance out effectively, I think this exact FF/Ascendant + Rapiers setup could be exactly what I've been looking for all along. 

A big ask, but would you be happy to share some more detail on how you'd approach the stats, and perhaps highlight the skills you'd deem vital for the build? I'm legit excited by the prospect of trying this out! (And if nothing else, thanks for the inspiration @Haplok!)

Edited by Jrllo
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6 hours ago, Jrllo said:

After thinking on my question and your response for a while, I've come to the realisation that perhaps what I'm really searching for is an engaging, satisfying playstyle rather than simply a class that boasts everything. I sort of touched on some of my concerns with classes like Wizards, who tend to be used exclusively to buff up for melee; or monks who seem to almost exclusively be used for Helwalker stat increases, and stockpiling wounds rather than spending them on various active abilities. Same with Ascendant ciphers: hit focus cap, spam Mind Blades/Disintegrate... and that's it.

Wizards are versatile. Self-buffing into a melee monster is an option, but I rarely use because I've got a melee heavy team already. They've got interrupts, damage and afflictions for single target or aoe, summons, battlefield control... They can pretty much do it all and you can tailor their abilities to any particular fight, its just a matter of picking the right grimoire for the situation.

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2 hours ago, Helz said:

Wizards are versatile. Self-buffing into a melee monster is an option, but I rarely use because I've got a melee heavy team already. They've got interrupts, damage and afflictions for single target or aoe, summons, battlefield control... They can pretty much do it all and you can tailor their abilities to any particular fight, its just a matter of picking the right grimoire for the situation.

I think I've done wizards a disservice too in how I've tried to cram too many elements into a single build and single combat encounters. In spite of my continuing hammering of them as being 'buff bots' for secondary classes, there's a damn good reason I keep looking at them: the ability to flip between grimoires and potentially change my whole playstyle depending on my mood. 

That and - obvious effectiveness aside - the missile spells are damn cool. 

Pew pew...

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Let's also not forget that Wizards are so beloved (by me included) mostly because of the Blood Mage subclass which is a huge favor Obsidian did to their (IMO) flagship Wizard class. Roll an SC Druid on Solo Upscaled PotD and try to build towards high level DLC boss encounters etc without permabrilliant, perma-whatever... Maybe some geniuses can pull it off, but I've systematically failed because I can't extend my non-existent buffs, and because I can't regenerate my spells at will. And of course Spiritshift is over before you know it.

I love casters in the Unity Engine. I love what Obsidian did with Wizards in PoE1 then in Deadfire, and how they implemented the Blood Mage for power playing and to answer the ridiculous challenges that the game can throw at you. I feel like Druids could have been amazing for Solo with the same kind of love from the developers. It's still a great class of course - but I have an itch for some kind of Blood Druid :).

Edited by Not So Clever Hound
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13 hours ago, Not So Clever Hound said:

Let's also not forget that Wizards are so beloved (by me included) mostly because of the Blood Mage subclass which is a huge favor Obsidian did to their (IMO) flagship Wizard class. Roll an SC Druid on Solo Upscaled PotD and try to build towards high level DLC boss encounters etc without permabrilliant, perma-whatever... Maybe some geniuses can pull it off, but I've systematically failed because I can't extend my non-existent buffs, and because I can't regenerate my spells at will. And of course Spiritshift is over before you know it.

I love casters in the Unity Engine. I love what Obsidian did with Wizards in PoE1 then in Deadfire, and how they implemented the Blood Mage for power playing and to answer the ridiculous challenges that the game can throw at you. I feel like Druids could have been amazing for Solo with the same kind of love from the developers. It's still a great class of course - but I have an itch for some kind of Blood Druid :).

It does feel like Obsidian somewhat backed themselves into a corner with resource management in this game. Agreed that things like Blood Mage and Tactician make for some very compelling power play options, and also ask very interesting questions of the player (ie. burst vs sustain and so on) - but Megabosses for all the challenge and strategy involved do seem to automatically rule out certain subclasses or necessitate the inclusion of others.

So yeah, the inclusion of something akin to a 'blood druid' in execution would be great! Perhaps a perma-wildshape form maybe - and really own that whole were-animal vibe! 😏

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I've been advocating a true* Spiritshift modal since PoE 1. Like all modals it would have needed a downside. Back then I suggested "no spell casting" while shifted. Years later we got the Shifter subclass... 🤷‍♂️;)  

* in the sense of "turn on and off as often as you want".

Edited by Boeroer
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Deadfire Community Patch: Nexus Mods

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1 hour ago, Boeroer said:

* in the sense of "turn on and off as often as you want

Amen to this idea. I think my least favorite thing in Deadfire (with being turned into a piglet) is to run out of Spiritshift time right in the middle of a tough fight. If anything, a Spiritshifted Druid that is being pounded in combat should turn feral (some kind of Frenzy effect) and stay in Spiritshift mode rather than shifting back to his lame human form (could be a nice risk/reward mechanic like Streetfighter for example).

 

Anyway... Hey, my dear Druid class:

  • Your iconic transformation feature is once per encounter with a *hem* 15 sec base duration
  • Most of your strong iconic spells have a ridiculous fast-cast scroll version
  • One of your strongest storm spell that could be fantastic with a Martial multiclass is PL8 (and exists as a scroll and even as an ability in a helmet).
  • Your strongest absolute nuke is PL9 and can only ever be casted once per encounter without Brilliant ( SC Blood Mage with Grimoire of Vaporous Wizardy, Blood Sacrifice... and for good measure a few stacks of scrolls of Great Maelstrom laughs demonically).

But you know what, even if you may not have received all the love you deserved in conception/implementation, players will always love you. ❤️

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8 hours ago, Not So Clever Hound said:

Amen to this idea. I think my least favorite thing in Deadfire (with being turned into a piglet) is to run out of Spiritshift time right in the middle of a tough fight. If anything, a Spiritshifted Druid that is being pounded in combat should turn feral (some kind of Frenzy effect) and stay in Spiritshift mode rather than shifting back to his lame human form (could be a nice risk/reward mechanic like Streetfighter for example).

 

Anyway... Hey, my dear Druid class:

  • Your iconic transformation feature is once per encounter with a *hem* 15 sec base duration
  • Most of your strong iconic spells have a ridiculous fast-cast scroll version
  • One of your strongest storm spell that could be fantastic with a Martial multiclass is PL8 (and exists as a scroll and even as an ability in a helmet).
  • Your strongest absolute nuke is PL9 and can only ever be casted once per encounter without Brilliant ( SC Blood Mage with Grimoire of Vaporous Wizardy, Blood Sacrifice... and for good measure a few stacks of scrolls of Great Maelstrom laughs demonically).

But you know what, even if you may not have received all the love you deserved in conception/implementation, players will always love you. ❤️

Many of these problems were addressed in the Shifter Evolution mod, which really powers up the druid shifter subclass, and adds a number of interesting new abilities. It's rather OP, but might be of interest to those who tire of running out of spirit shifts in the longer fights.

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14 hours ago, dgray62 said:

Many of these problems were addressed in the Shifter Evolution mod, which really powers up the druid shifter subclass, and adds a number of interesting new abilities. It's rather OP, but might be of interest to those who tire of running out of spirit shifts in the longer fights.

Thanks for sharing @dgray62. I had seen it and liked a lot all the creative work behind, but didn't want to use it right away since it's so transformative and seems quite OP indeed. I don't think it's something you can install in modules right? You have to install the entire mod (e.g. you can't just extend the duration of Spiritshift)?

Probably once I'll feel like I've exhausted non-modded Druid I'll give it a shot :).

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The mod has several components. There's the main mod, which totally transforms the shifter. The net effect of the change it is makes a SC shifter viable, by adding a number of martial abilities that one would normally multiclass for. The tradeoff is you lose elemental spells and can't use scrolls. You get some pretty interesting additional shapeshifts, including the well-known shark as well as Lurker and, if you single class, dragon. There are also some optional mods you can download too, including shifter ultimate evo, which makes the game significantly harder (to balance the OP nature of the mod itself) as well as some mods that makes it even more OP, namely allowing spell-casting while shifted and allowing multi-classes to access the higher tier abilities, and adding a spell that gives you the brilliant inspiration as a tier IX ability. It's fun and worth a try if you enjoy playing shifters. I disable the mod whenever I'm not playing it, because it also adds a -20% experience point penalty which, in my game at least, affects you if the mod is active even if you're not playing a shifter. While it is OP, to be honest it's no more OP that playing an assassin in the vanilla game. It just makes the shifter much more powerful, such that you could solo the game and take on megabosses, as you can already with the various assassin builds. And it's fun playing if you like martial casters, as I do.

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If you're open about mods but are affraid of running something that could break the game, I would suggest to have a look at the changes from my Balance Polishing Mod. It is more conservative (and with less creative feature) than the mods quoted above :
https://www.nexusmods.com/pillarsofeternity2/mods/438?tab=description

I had quite positive feedback from @Jayd (if I remind well) specifically about how the Shifter feels with it.

Specifically :

- Shifting duration scaling with PL
- Animal forms slight rework (Wolf & Stag especially, since they felt a bit meh)
- Wildstrike Frenzy procs on Crit instead of Kills, which makes it more usable
- Some high level spell rework, especially Entropy which greatly help Wildstrike Frenzy getting some crits.

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