Monday, September 22, 2008

A Guide to Playing the Chosen - Warhammer Online

Originally featured on on September 22nd, 2008.

It’s not hard to notice the lack of actual informational material presented about Warhammer’s career paths these days.  Sure, there’s plenty of glorification of their ‘mechanics’ available, with some lore mixed in, but when it comes time to sit down and get into the action – all that really accounts for is a nice back story about how angry you are from your troubled childhood, and how you somehow got hold of that gigantic sword you suddenly decided it was a good idea to start swinging around.

The intention with these articles – focused on RVR and PVE career mechanics for Warhammer’s characters, is to really provide an in depth look at what each of the many paths has to offer.
Now you may find yourself asking, “Who the heck is this guy, and who cares what he has to say?”  I wish I had a satisfactory answer that could convince everyone I’m 100% right about everything.  I’m sure most of us would like that ability.  I’m simply someone who’s been PvPing in online games (mostly MMO’s, earlier on in MUD’s) since their debut well over a decade ago.  I look at myself as a fair and balanced writer with an approach to analysis that provides everyone with a fair and in depth glimpse of what they can expect as if they were actually playing the character.

I should note that I’ve beta’d WAR for the majority of their closed beta, and leave it at that.  Each analysis posted isn’t from a 3-4 hour experience I had RVRing one day like so many others decide to throw up because they got rolled in Nordenwatch.  They come from hundreds of hours of playtime in PVE and PVP scenarios.  I won’t review classes I haven’t extensively played – and I won’t assume to provide you with any information I haven’t acquired first hand.

With that out of the way, I’d like to start with the Chosen career – A tank class that can best be described by combining EQ’s Bard class with Steroids and enough utility skills to fill up four action bars.  I date myself a bit and reference a class from the first Everquest because the Chosen use auras to buff themselves, and/or debuff anything within 30 feet of them.  These auras activate instantly, with a 2.5 second cool down; lingering for 12 seconds before they deactivate – meaning you can have as many as three active at one time if you constantly rotate their activation, and sneak in an attack every once in awhile.  Granted, its worth the buffs, but as anyone who played a Bard back then knows its not very fun to constantly spam 3-4 buttons over and over and over while watching everyone else smash things.

The auras range from strength and toughness buff/debuffs, to adding resistances to yourself and your group and even making everything around you more vulnerable to magic.  There’s a lot of utility at the Chosen’s disposal, and not just from his Chaotic Auras.

While some of your skills are general cookie cutter push X to deal damage, push Y to taunt skills, the Chosen gets quite a few skills early on that really stand out.  As early as level 5, you’ll receive a melee attack that does entirely spirit damage (Ravage) which completely ignores your target’s armor and goes straight to a resistance check, which is lovely because lower level NPCs (and a decent amount of PCs until their 30’s) actually have nearly zero resistances to magic, and you’ll mow right through them, cleaving off about 1/10th of their total wounds each shot.  While you obviously won’t be doing 10% of someone’s total hp in PvP using Ravage, you’ll still be dealing spirit damage and seeing a very irrelevant amount of it mitigated.

At level 8, you’ll get an attack that can’t be defended against (Cleave), however it really doesn’t do enough damage to warrant usage. With Ravage’s spirit damage, it just makes more sense to keep using what works – even if it occasionally gets blocked, it still does more damage over a period of time.  Cleave does come in handy if you find yourself against another tank class that’s used a morale ability or just happens to be blocking everything you throw at them, whack then with Cleave a few times, while low on damage, its better then not doing any.

At level 9 you get your standard snare + damage ability (dizzying blow).  It’s nice to have something to keep things from getting away, it cools down in just 5 seconds (it lasts for 7) so you’ll be able to spam it on someone attempting to get away.

Before mentioning the very tactical skill you get at level 10, I should state that the Chosen have very high Wounds, and coupled with some toughness points from your equipment and RR abilities, you’ve really got a character that can withstand a ton of punishment.  Hold the Line is a shield skill that increases your chances to dodge and disrupt (essentially ignore) enemy skills by 45%, for 12 seconds.  It also provides everyone in your group (behind you, up to 40 feet) with the same bonuses at 15% as long as they stay behind you.  This effect can stack three times on someone, meaning a tank could have 75% (45 + 15 + 15) added to their dodge and disrupt chances if they had 2 tanks in front of them using the skill.  Hold the line is a very cool and potentially life saving skill if you’re covering healers and/or ranged DPS while under heavy fire.

Another attack that should be noted is Withering blow, which deals damage and removes your target’s action points (great for shutting down healers).  Along with Repel, a knock back ability with often hilarious results, as at times it looks like you picked up the player and threw them like a hail mary pass instead of just tapping them back a few yards.  Try knocking someone off a hill when the opportunity arises… wave afterwards.  This tactic is effective with all classes that receive a knock back ability, as you can literally propel your target completely out of a fight by knocking them down a hill or off a cliff.  Instead of bothering to go straight for the healers, or to focus your damage on a particularly tough tank, just line yourself up and smack them out of the area – they’ll have to waste valuable time heading back, and will be completely taken out of the action for a while.

Another ability of the Chosen that really stands out is acquired at level 16 – a morale ability (built up over time in combat, triggered at any time you’d like – they’re found in the lower right hand side of the screen by default) called Grapple.  Grapple holds you and your target in place for 10 seconds, and there isn’t anything they can do about it except hope you die.  While you can still cast spells and use abilities, it effectively denies any escape, or tactical advantages some classes receive by attacking from the side/rear.  A truly fantastic and menacing skill, usable once every minute as long as you’ve built up your morale bar.

Getting tied down too much in PvP?  You’ve got the Juggernaut ability to look forward to; it removes all roots, snares, stuns and disarming effects immediately, and can do so again in 60 seconds.  Later down the road you’ll receive a career tactic that reduces that cool down to every 20 seconds – aptly named Unstoppable Juggernaut.  I really don’t see a need for that tactic, however, if you’re getting disarmed over and over, retreat and throw up a few auras to debuff your enemies a bit.  Aside from in PvE, I rarely get disarmed in PvP at any level, its just one of those situations that doesn’t arise often enough to warrant tactical consideration.

Blast wave (level 15) is another notable ability, as it deals PBAOE (point blank area of effect) spirit damage to everything within 30 feet, which is also the range of your auras.  I note that here because everything under the effect of an aura when this spell is cast also loses a ton of resistances for 20 seconds.  And by a ton I’ll throw in some perspective.  At level 5, your targets would lose 47 to all their resists.  This scales almost ludicrously with your level.  It’s enough to effectively negate any chance they have of not taking almost complete damage from any spell cast at them.  You can use the Blast wave skill in conjunction with the level 25 aura, Dreadful agony, which deals moderate spirit damage every 3 seconds.  This effectively makes you a walking DPS machine to an opposing group, dealing damage after nullifying their resists.  Follow up a target of choice with an ability like Ravage, which just deals spirit damage, and you’ll watch them scatter or drop like files.

Maybe you’re still having a problem getting things to stick around when using the combo mentioned above.  Are dizzying blow or grapple just not cutting off your enemies escape quick enough?  Use the petrify ability (level 30); it’ll root anything within aura range (30 feet, up to 4 targets) for 10 seconds.  Damage gives them a chance to break the root, however.  So pick your target wisely when you decide to start swinging after activating petrify.

Finishing up the Chosen’s already insane number of aggravating abilities are the Bane Shield, and Touch of Palsy skills (attained at levels 35 and 40, respectively).  Bane shield is one of those abilities you activate when you know you’re probably about to die anyway.  Let’s say the enemy group finally decided to single you out and surrounds you, 8 or so enemies swinging away.  Bane shield makes them all take a moderate amount of spirit damage every time they hit you.  Every time.  If they hit you 7,234 times, they take damage each time.  Combine this with the blast wave and dreadful agony and you’ve got a decent chance at wiping out half the enemy group before they get you.

I mentioned touch of Palsy in the previous paragraph; however it really bears mentioning separately, as it’s absolutely devastating.  If you haven’t figured out by now, it’s difficult to get away from a Chosen.  However, now I’m going to say let them run – but cast touch of palsy on them first.  They’ll take damage, albeit low damage, every half second they’re moving.  Every half second.  Even if it deals 50 damage, every half second, just about anything will be dead or close enough to it when it realizes what is happening.  It only lasts 10 seconds though, so be careful when you cast it, if it’s a healer standing still, don’t bother; however if they turn and run, let em have it.  Also, note the people that jump around and think that circling you makes them good at PvP, hit them with this too.  Point and laugh after they kill themselves.

Now when it comes down to picking a mastery tree, really any of the three are viable paths.  While you can’t directly enhance the Blast Wave/Dreadful Agony combo from one tree, splitting your points between the Dread and Discord trees is certainly an OK move in my book – as much as I’m usually opposed to that sort of thing.  Doing this will enhance a lot of key abilities and really give you the spirit damage and debuff skills you need to tear through just about anything.

Throwing three points into Corruption for the Dire shielding tactic isn’t a bad idea either if you’re just playing around.  This allows your Bane shield to also take hold on any group mates within 30 feet of you.  Great for those situations when everything just turns sour and you’d like to walk away knowing at least a few people went down with you.

In terms of overall statistics for your Chosen, go with Wounds for . . . wounds, Toughness for the damage reduction and strength for damage.  Ballistics and willpower are almost useless – but you can throw some extra RR points (if you have them) into intelligence to boost your spirit damage on some attacks.  You can also consider the initiative tactic so you’ll have a slightly smaller chance to get critically hit and evade attacks.

I should mention two more things to wrap this up.  Most people’s perception of 30 feet in real life is probably quite wrong.  It’s just as inaccurate in WAR, as 30 feet roughly equals between three or four of your characters put side by side.  Closer to 3.  Line of sight applies to all auras, as it should. I should mention that anyone wishing to play a Chosen really needs to be aware when playing this class.  To put it nicely, to be effective you need to know what your doing.  If you can’t watch your targets debuff bar (under their picture when you target them) while timing auras and attacks correctly, you really won’t be much more than a glorified meat shield lumbering around aimlessly.  Anyone looking to just run around and smash things should probably steer clear of the chosen class, as you won’t even be close to as effective as you could be if you weaved auras and used your debuffs and skills effectively.   Anyone who likes to play a melee utility class, the Chosen really stands alone, I should note, however, that without timing and skill behind your ability activation, your dps will be rather low compared to most other classes.

So what is the downside to all this?  Action Points.  Your abilities need to be used in constant succession and tactically in order to remain effective.  If you’re sloppy, can’t stop hitting the “1” key over and over, or do some other mundane effects and mismanage your action points, you’ll find yourself standing around unable to do anything for a few moments.  While this is generally not a big deal – your auras and other skills cool down slightly longer then the global cool down.  You’ll really be hurting if all you’ve got left is expensive-to-cast skills at a crucial moment while your lacking the action points to use them.   Finishing this off  - you’ll want to stick with the sword and board combo (Shield + a one handed weapon) while its tempting (and certainly viable since you have such high HP) to go with a two-hander for the extra damage you lose your mitigation from your shield’s armor and blocking % (which can easily get over 30%), meaning you’ll die faster overall, and your auras and abilities won’t have the time they need to really harass your enemies.  The RVR shields have almost unfair blocking %’s on them.  I fully expect them to be toned down a bit, but for now using a shield = a whole lot of damage not getting through.