Like many players during the first pre-order Beta weekend I used the time to further explore classes I wasn’t immediately going to play at launch. From when I first began to play WildStar I have seen the popularity of the Medic soar and as an individual who sought the class out early on (primarily because it wasn’t particularly popular) I’m always keen to identify as to why one class is seemingly more popular than another. Opinions coming out of the Beta forums and from discussions with friends lead me to believe that in comparison to both the Medic and the Esper, the Spellslinger is struggling.
Having not played the Spellslinger for a while due to me focusing so heavily on the Medic, I sought about leveling one this weekend, exclusively in Battlegrounds, to try to pin down its current health. I must add that before the Medic was revealed the Spellslinger was my choice of class and I had already invested plenty of time in one before this weekend.
First and foremost the Spellslinger is a high risk, high reward class. It wears light armor, attacks from range and like the Medic or Esper is capable of healing. The key differences between the Medic, Esper and Spellslinger is armor (Medic wears medium), healing functionality, telegraph shapes, mobility and core mechanics. That might sound a lengthy list but the differences are subtle with much of the Spellslingers uniqueness hinging on its Spellsurge mechanic.
With Spellsurge receiving multiple iterations throughout closed Beta, to where we now find ourselves, it’s fair to say that, on appearance, Carbine aren’t entirely happy with it. The idea behind Spellsurge as I understand it, is to provide the Spellslinger with an immediate damage boost so that their time to kill is lowered. In and out of fights Spell Power does recharge but is notably slower to accrue when in combat. As far as the mechanic is concerned it’s relatively primitive with activation increasing the damage of your skills, lowering their cast time or both. If Spellsurge is available to you, you should always use it, though there is a current imbalance in which skills benefit the most. Ignite as one example receives a 300% boost to its damage output (3.41%+1.81 basic versus 13.48%+7.19 when surged) making it wasteful and inefficient to cast the skill at any other time than when you can surge it. This reliance on surge spiking is both a blessing and a curse for the class as rotations become set in stone early on due to the surge imbalances.
A typical rotation with full Spell Power would see a Spellslinger open with Charged Shot (its full cast time is reduced to 2.4 seconds when surged) followed by Ignite and Wild Barrage, with Flame Burst to finish (though this doesn’t benefit any any way from being surged). As far as damage spikes are concerned, this rotation hurts. It’s more than capable of lopping off a large chunk of any opponents health if you were to land all hits. As you might have guessed though and due to the slow accrual of Spellpower in combat, it often means that such a rotation, after the initial onslaught, isn’t repeatable and as a result you’re left with a fraction of Spell Power that you’ll only use on Ignite.
This “drop off” from the damage heights of Spellsurging to having no Spell Power, leaves the Spellslinger feeling incredibly weak: the crash after a euphoric high. Combined with the gulf in which you can repeat your original rotation due to slow Spell Power gain and there’s a significant void period in your damage output. In contrast the likes of the Esper and Medic suffer no such downtime with their “builders and like any other class, is quickly capable of pumping for high damage (Psi Points or Actuators) before dumping (Mind Burst or Quantum Cascade). This consistent approach to damage output, with no down time, is partially the reason why both the Esper and Medic are ahead of the Spellslinger in their overall damage output. There are however other factors affecting the efficiency and potency of the class.
Jump to page 2 below to read about Telegraphs and Healing!
The Spellslingers telegraphs are much more challenging than the likes of the Medic or Esper. Although they’ve certain skills with a typical conal area of attack (such as Flash Freeze or Quick Draw) the majority tend to be narrower and longer than the likes of Esper or Medic. Many of the Esper and Medic’s telegraphs are blunt instruments that are hard to miss with. Due to the narrow nature of a Spellslingers telegraphs, combined with the speed in which players are capable of moving in PvP, leaves the Spellslinger player with a need to be, at times, exceptional at aiming. Admittedly during many PvP encounters there will be more than one opponent thus significantly reducing the need to aim effectively. However, in a case of 1 on 1 the reliance on Chill, Gate or Flash Freeze to hold opponents in place is central to playing effectively.
When these skills are on cooldown life is so much harder. You could argue the same could be said for Medic or Esper - inevitably they too have access to plenty of crowd control skills - but the key difference and not wishing to repeat myself, is that there is no difficulty in aiming any of their skills. The diamond, chevron or spiked conal telegraphs at a Medics disposable make it an accessible class that actually has difficulty in missing: their range might be short (or shorter), but their width is unavoidable if you’re to simply face your opponent. The same can be said for the Esper as although they draw more parallels with the Spellslinger than the Medic, their skills are significantly easier to aim, once again due to their radius and width at shorter ranges.
Although the Spellslinger has a 5-10 meter advantage over the Esper and a 15 meter advantage over the Medic, this distance is negligible outside of PvE encounters. Players are capable of moving so quickly not only due to the native speed in which characters move but through blinks and leaps that this gap becomes inconsequential. This leaves the Spellslinger with mere seconds (you’d be fortunate to cast a single skill at full range in a dual or small skirmish) before opponents are upon you. Anyone who is used to playing ranged classes should be prepared to kite (rightly so) and yet our damage, especially when incapable of or not Spellsurging, does not reflect our need for pin-point accuracy or our mandatory use of Gate/Flash Freeze and Into the Void (at a very minimum). After our initial encounter with an opponent the majority of our fights are fought within the 20-25 meter ranges, leaving us incredibly vulnerable and further reliant on Gate/Flash Freeze/Into the Void.
Although I don’t wish to get embroiled in the argument as to whether or not the Spellslinger is a better or worse heaer than the Medic or Esper (they aren’t) I wanted to discuss the limitations and impact Spellsurge and telegraphs also have on their healing prowess. Similarly to the reasons discussed above, a Spellslinger focused on Healing suffers the same issues as they do when dealing damage and the constant highs and lows of Spellsurge leave our healing inconsistent and overly challenging. The fact that Astral Infusion is almost 50% better Spellsurged or Healing Salve four times more potent (from 5%+2.66 versus 20.85%+11.12) once again becomes a case of rigid rotations while Spellsurging, followed by gulfs of incapability.
On the subject of healing telegraphs, once again the Spellslinger feels much harder work than the likes of Esper or Medic for little in return. The vast majority of our heals are conal or mobile single target variants that offer no improvement, numerically, over other classes when it’s so much more challenging to heal effectively in this way. Having spent significant time healing on both the Medic and Esper they’re incredibly easy to heal effectively with. The radius of their heals, the fact few of the best require aiming or if they do have such large telegraphs you cannot miss, makes healing accessible and much easier. As above, large swathes of combat are undertaken in clustered close quarter environments leaving few moments as a Spellslinger for you to physically sit back and take advantage of your healing range. The narrowness of our heals often leaves us with little choice but to support a couple of allies will leaving others to fend for themselves. Where the Medic is concerned, one can comfortably support a team irrespective of whether they’re in front or behind you thanks to Flash, Healing Probes (and their detonate) or Crisis Wave: the exact same can be said for an Esper with skills such as Reverie or Soothe.
I’m not suggesting that the Spellslinger is incapable of healing or that they’re poor at healing just that the method in which they heal and their sustained healing suffers massively as a result of Spellsurge and their telegraphs. When an Esper or Medic gets into trouble they’re quickly able to build Actuators and Psi Points (within seconds) before dumping their 5 points on Reverie or Crisis Wave. Better still they can then trigger their innate to allow them to do it once with little if no interruption. A Spellslinger is incapable of competing against this and needs to invest in AMP’s just to obtain our viable heal.
Jump to page 3 below to read about Mobility and Solutions!
The Spellslinger is often, in its defence, described by players as having significantly more mobility than the likes of the Esper or Medic, which is why our damage or healing suffers. What frustrates me with this argument is that in our current form we’re no more mobile than the either the Esper or Medic. Every skill available to the Medic is freeform while they have access to two blinks. An Esper, though a little more static, only has a couple of stationary utility and support skills but can still jump backwards or dash forwards. Although we have 3 excellent skills in Gate, Into the Void and Spatial Shift, to equip all three would leave our damage or healing output even more neutered. If we then consider that several of our Assault or Support skills are stationary unless Spellsurged our “mobility” begins to go out the window, especially throughout the course of any normal PvE or PvP encounters. Some of our AMP’s and Tiering of skills do provide us with a much needed boost to mobility (Tier 4 Quick Draw, Tier 4 Charged Shot, Tier 4 Arcane Missiles, Speed of the Void, Homeward Bound, Danger Danger, Frost Armor) but it leaves one feeling a little cheated that for a class marketed as “mobile”, such heavy investment is needed when it should come naturally.
What is the Solution?
Carbine without question have a difficult task on their hands as each healing class needs to retain their own identity, though in their current forms they all bleed into each other somewhat. My list of changes primarily involves normalizing Spellsurge and the bonuses attributed, reducing the “lows” when out of Spell Power and revising skills to ensure they’re all as valuable as Ignite. Further, ensuring clear feedback for players (both Spellslinger and opponents) as to when a Spellslinger is surging is much needed.
- Revisit all Spellsurge skill bonuses so that there is a consistent formulae across all of them. Some skills being boosted by 300% and some by 50% when Spellsurging creates too much disparity and enforces Spellsurge use only on selected skills, while further enforcing those heavily boosted skills are in too greater need on the limited action bar. A flat and consistent damage/healing increase is needed. For every Spellslinger to need Ignite needs to change.
- Raise our base damage when not Spellsurged so that in prolonged fights, when out of Spell Power, our damage doesn’t plummet. There is little need in Raids or PvP for a class that cannot consistently maintain its damage potential. Increasing our base damage in this way will also make up for the fact a Spellslingers telegraphs are so narrow.
- Further increase the accrual of Spell Power when in and out of combat. There is a need, in line with the mechanic, to ensure we have to tactically choose when to spike (healing or damage) and yet this isn’t currently happening. Increasing the amount of Spell Power we’re able to obtain will see our damage healing output naturally increase.
- Remove all “stationary” requirements from skills and have them all as “mobile”. A class marketed as mobile should be just that, irrespective of whether it is a ranged or melee based class.
- Revisit the visual effects of a Spellslinger who is Spellsurging. Opposing players show little fear against a Spellslinger who has Spell Power available and that is wholly wrong. If we’re to have a spike mechanic that significantly increases our damage others should be wary of us when they know we have it. As a result, we and they need clear indicators as to when we are Spellsurging. Adding a more prominent visual animation when Spellsurging is a must as the electric crackle is hard to distinguish. I often think about the Choppa in Warhammer Online and how they grew bigger in ferocity as fights went on (you really knew you had to run then!). Although I’m not suggesting a Spellslinger should grow in size, they need a greater visual cue whether it’s seeing their body bristle with much more electricity or have their pistols glow bright fiery colours.
- Removing the delay when triggering Spellsurge should be a top priority. Precious seconds are lost through the pellsurge animation. Being able to cast Spellsurge and a skill simultaneously is paramount to quickly spiking opponents where as in its current form, despite being off GCD, still leaves a slight delay
- Have the depletion of your Spellsurge only trigger when you use your first skill. If you’re already in combat and use Spellsurge it will begin to deplete (or it has for many occasions for me though I want to investigate this further) and as many will know in PvP encounters, you might have already wasted a large quantity of Spell Power due to having to dodge or your target fleeing. Allowing us to “prime” Spellsurge so that it’s triggered, but not unleashed would be very welcome. This would also tie in wonderfully with new visual cues (“Oh look, that Spellslinger’s pistols are primed - best leave him alone!”)
- Revisit our skills (as noted above) so that no one skill is mandatory. Ignite and Healing Torret (the latter worse due to being AMPed) are too in demand and enforce cookie cutter setups while skills such as Runes of Protection or Chill are simply poor and of little value to any Spellslinger.
- Ensure that all skills have a Spellsurge component. Ensuring all skills have this will further stretch our rotation and the choices we have to make when Spellsurging.
If you've suggestions for how to improve the Spellslinger, drop me a line on lewisb[at]tentonhammer.com