On my previous Health Check, the the biggest facing the Esper was a lack of mobility through Telekentic Strike and unfortunately that still very much remains the case (I believe it is well and truly stuck at the moment). However, this Winter 4 update has seen predominantly AMP changes to the class and some skill tweaks. The best change is the level reduction on Psychic Frenzy (an Espers melee builder). Its seen a significant increase to its damage and cast times though it sadly still feels clunky to multi-tap it. When combined with Life Steal AMPs and Bolster however, its a very viable alternative if youre willing to get up close and personal and can cope with its clunkiness.
Other welcome changes include buffing Telekinetic Storm, which is now a viable alternative to THE BIRD OF DEATH (also known as Mind Burst) as it pairs fantastically with Psychic Frenzy due to Telekentic Storm actually being a damage over time skill that sticks to a target. Where issues are concerned, the biggest discussion at the moment (despite last months Health Check) is their healing functionality and over-reliance on Soothe and Mental Boon. The reliance on these skills (because theyre pretty awesome) is putting every other healing skill on the back-burner. Carbine have, to some degree, tried to address this by making Soothe shorter and more expensive to cast, while also making Mental Boon available in later game (level 31 instead of 24) but it hasnt really displaced either skill off peoples bars. Other issues include:
- Psi-Blades on Chuas being tiny
- Spectal Swarms damage nerf has seen the skill be used much less
- Telekentic Strike and its lack of mobility still rages on the forums
- The fact the class only really comes alive above level 25
The Medic still remains my favourite class in WildStar but its evident over the last patch or two that its popularity has soared. They deal massive damage, are ridiculously hard to kill and are amazing at group healing. Theres very little at this stage that the Medic isnt good at and Carbine have a great deal to do to bring other classes up to its standard. My biggest concern with the Medics healing is the fact its pretty brain dead. Few heals are targeted and its area of effect heals are so good in terms of numbers and area its hard to miss. The change to probes so that Mending Probes in particular detonate when you use Triage or Flash further highlights this lazy method of healing. You can effectively keep players up permanently in PvE and PvP when timing your skills and even at level 30 heal up to 5 players, repeatedly, for over 5,000 (Flash + Mending Probes Detonate). A recent PvP play test with Carbine highlighted this as me and a fellow journalist whomped to victory: almost invincible against 5 or 6 other Exiles and throwing out over 700K healing to 0 deaths.
Despite the hope that the Medic would be toned down somewhat in this patch, I actually think theyve been improved. Their animations are now gorgeous and some of their skills despite numerical tweaks (mostly down) are still incredibly powerful when AMPed up. The change to Gamma Rays, making it a truly viable single target dump skill is most welcome, especially against Quantum Cascade. Calm is now amazing and Urgency rightfully toned down. What the Medic needed however was a small radius on its healing skills. The fact positioning from a healing and DPS perspective is so negligible on a Medic (its telegraphs are enormous) make it far too easy to hurt or heal compared to the Esper or Spellslinger and I feel that needs to change. Other issues include:
- Requires little skill in aiming heals or damage due to enormous telegraphs
- Exceptional damage and survivability in comparison to the Spellslinger and Esper
- Probes are incredibly powerful and perhaps too good with Detonate
- Becoming incredibly popular in Battlegrounds and PvP
With a couple of tweaks to its damage output and Spellsurge system, the Spellslinger is a much better position than it was a couple of patches ago. Its far from perfect and feels miles behind the Medic but its heading in the right direction. The biggest issue facing the Spellslinger at the moment is, as always, its Spellsurge mechanic. Theres an exceptional post by ArbatrazzSquizz that really knuckles down on the whole concept and is the first Ive seen that approaches Spellsurge sensibly (see below as this really deserves to be read)
And that leads me to the second point of Spellsurge -- the current implementation doesn't feel conclusive in its play pattern. I think this largely comes from un-surged values being too low, but that's a conversation that needs to be tabled until the next section. The goal of Spellsurge seems to be the creation of a higher decision making paradigm for the Spellslinger. When you compare it to other classes, they all have some means of builders and finishers, which are more obvious and more restricted. Spellsurge is a more free-flow decision making paradigm, however in order for it to achieve this effect (and make its higher burden of knowledge worthwhile), every spell needs to feel like it's worth being Spellsurged.
This is where the unsurged values become a worthwhile discussion. As it currently stands, not every spell is worth Surging because certain spells feel like they have to be Surged. When ignite is 300% better surged, and Runes of Protection else-wise feels completely useless, suddenly I am making 25% fewer decisions than I would be. Given that I can only spellsurge once every 15 seconds (effectively), and the majority of my spells are on a 15 second (or shorter) cooldown, the decision making just isn't there. Why would I NOT spellsurge Healing Salve and Runes of Protection every time when they are unnoticeable otherwise? It's like tier 4 vit burst -- how do you NOT get that, or T4 Healing Torrent?
To me, the fundamental problem with Spellsurge currently is that its reality contradicts its intention. Any time I feel like I have to use Spellsurge for the spell to feel effective, decision making is limited. Now, this can be a design choice -- for example, the fact we have 25 points of our LAS tied up in Healing Torrent and Vit Burst can be a variable that Carbine wants us to make a choice around. These types of limitations can create interesting game design standpoints, and it's really a design choice -- Blizzard, for example, would argue that the T4 should be changed on both of these abilities and they should be retuned based on how they balance their game. Carbine can say "Hey, Spellslingers HAVE to spend these 25 points this way, but let's make the choices they make around their remaining 16 points significant."
From my perspective Carbine need to approach Spellsurge just as he states but also as Ive requested in the past, adding something more to Spellsurge than simply increasing damage. Adding utility to skills would create a sense of choice as opposed to one, as ArbatrazzSquizz rightly points out, of pure damage numbers. Other issues facing the Spellslinger includes:
- Medics are the go to class at the moment, leaving them relatively unpopular
- Its a lot harder work to be effective on a Spellslinger than Medic or Esper
- Little survivability if Gate/Into the Void are on cooldown
- Healing Torrent is too sought after
- Many skills remain outright terrible: Runes of Protection, Dual Fire, Vitality Burst, Regenerative Pulse, Affinity
We'll be publishing our Health Check for the Engineer, Stalker and Warrior tomorrow morning so stay tuned!