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Thoughts on encounter and class balance over the course of the game.


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Reflecting on all the combat in PoE, I've realized almost all of the encounters where you have the opener, are a cakewalk - at least past the early game. The main exceptions are spiritual undead fights with teleporting, high deflection enemies that bypass your melee line to beat on your squishies, and fights that are just dropped on your party and you're forced to fight out of position, basically in a mosh.

 

This means the strongest parties are those built to deal with these scenarios, and if they're suited to do that everything else is easy. What is of high value when this happens? High accuracy(especially on Path of the Damned), reliable crowd control, and fast ability use. Also, fast/strong AoE healing and damage mitigation abilities are nice. What's probably the strongest, is "reset" buttons - primarily AoE confusion spells currently, or charms but confusion is faster giving it an edge and is almost the same result. Having some tanky characters helps, to take some initial heat of your strong CC characters, and/or remove CC from them.

 

What also matters on the remaining difficult fights is buff stacking and versatility. Having a Druid, Priest, and Wizard seems optimal. Having a Chanter seems optimal to a lesser extent. That leaves two slots open. One should definitely be a Paladin for CC removal and +Accuracy Aura. That leaves only one slot that really feels "free" to me, at least for Path of the Damned.

 

All that said I feel that rather than balancing classes around these encounters, we need both encounters and classes to be tuned. If almost all of the most difficult fights are those we're not allowed preparation, positioning, and the opening move for, it devalues many options. However, some classes certainly make the fights where you are allowed those things way too easy. The most major culprit being Cipher.

 

A Cipher allows you to start every fight by having enemies clobber eachother. This is because confusion turns a hostile into a friendly for all intensive purposes, and the surrounding hostiles beat them to a pulp - which in many encounters also cluster then into a convenient blob to AoE down.

 

Confusion effect needs a fix, period. It's just plain broken how it works right now. A confused enemy should not be considered a friendly.

 

This still leaves charms, but charms at least have more limitations and are generally longer casts and cost more resources. Cipher could potentially also start fights without focus to balance this, but I'm not sure the Cipher would compete as a class without that starting base focus, especially on Path of the Damned where weapon damage output is inherently lower due to higher defensive values on enemies.

 

A Chanter allows for a ~somewhat~ similar advantage in that their summons can be sent in. It's less convenient than Cipher, since you need to chain-pull and keep in combat, ideally leaving one weak enemy alive hopelessly attempting to hit a high deflection tank character for a little while.

 

 

The biggest problem however, is harder to fix. The AI just needs to be better. Better at staying in groups. Better at dealing with adventurer groups using sneaky tactics. They need some scripts to make them behave a little more like a coordinated group themselves. I'm hoping this might happen along with the scripts they're planning on adding for our own characters.

 

 

And last but not least, some classes just need a bump. I've tried making Barbarians and Rangers work in a number of ways but they just feel lackluster. Rogues also feel too limited/gimmicky, although granted they do, as advertised, a lot of single target damage.

 

I think active abilities/talents in general are lacking for non-caster classes as well. Many are limited to per rest unnecessarily, considering they're not that powerful. Many are also just not even worth the time it takes to use them, or the opportunity cost of an always active passive bonus. I think some class abilities for these classes could probably become base, to start with. Others simply need buffs to be worth considering.

 

 

On the flip side, all of the encounters between difficult ones, my casters are boring. Especially on lower difficulties than Path of the Damned, where you can go through many encounters in a row at mid-high levels without using a single spell/rest. I end up saving/hoarding them, often for harder fights that never came and resting eventually happened when a tank's health was getting low or fatigue started kicking in.

 

Giving casters per encounter spells earlier feels like a no-brainer change to me, personally, though I'd have it be a split rather than just getting 4 total spells of a given level per encounter or rest. A progression table rather than suddenly giving them all spells of a certain level as per encounter would be ideal. It'd allow for more variety as well, I got quite tired of spamming Slicken/FoF and Winter Wind/Sunbeam while conserving my higher level spells. Being able to mix a single level 3/4 spell per encounter would've been preferable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think a big part of making Fighter/Barbarian more appealing is by decoupling their instant powers from the recovery period. Even naked, my 18-DEX Barbarian will take several seconds sometimes to activate Frenzy and it's next to impossible to get Barbaric Blow (is that what its called?) to activate in less than 6 seconds or so.

 

Eder will outright refuse to use Knockdown for reasons unknown - I just get the glowing green border and he doesn't use the ability on an enemy sitting right in front of him. Instant powers should activate the moment that a player clicks the button IMO, even on pause.

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I am not really qualified to talk about balance, as I have only gotten to Act 2 on hard, but as far as enjoyable game play goes I really agree on moving some spells from casters to "per encounter" as opposed to "per rest".

 

Maybe when you unlock the next level spells, X number (1/4 for example) can be marked as "per encounter". Like the first spell listed in your wizard book (forgot its name) or even just pre-selected spell for the others.

 

Really, this whole "per rest" thing doesn't actually change anything balance wise, other than requiring me to spend some copper coins to recharge my spells (camping gear is just like a mana potion), but it does make you feel gimped for a while (IMO at least), and really drains the fun from using that class.

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