I think this class has some central design problems, and I'm not sure what can be done about it without substantially reworking the concept. I've played a character building Very Non-Optimally to get a grasp of how it works, and the results seem bad.
(I'm about to get very critical, so I feel like I should say that the concept is very cool and I like the ideas behind Animist a lot! It's one of the most interesting classes I've seen. It's just also kind of a mess.)
The first thing that stands out to me is that the class is pretty weak in terms of defensive options, in a game where defensive options are your lifeline. I've never seen a game as willing as TOME to just drop you down to 20% HP as an enemy's first move.
So what do you have? You have the passive Ether Barrier, you have Gnome's Redoubt, you have Salamander's Blessing, you have Winter Mist, and you have the stance-switch heal. Wind Step and Sear are sort of in the same category, but four squares generally isn't going to help you if you need to bug out, especially since Wind Step can't go through one or two-square walls. Of these, Salamander's Blessing is more passive than active (beyond highly encouraging you to constantly spam Salamander abilities, since you have no other included status healing), and so is Ether Barrier (you can rest between fights to heal it up, but there's no way to suddenly boost it mid-fight beyond stance-switching). There's Winter Mist, but the central problem is that most enemies don't remain at range long, so it's more something you can use sometimes than something to centrally rely on. (There's a reason most defensive effects like that are passively on, like the Chant.) Luna Dial COULD have been a defensive option, except there's a restriction specifically so that it isn't. So there's Redoubt and stance-switching.
(Also notable: the Gnome shield doesn't have Block itself and I'd suspect Eternal Guard doesn't work with Redoubt, so that's one additional defensive option out. You're also in a magical class, so no Antimagic, Feedback, or Call of the Wild.)
But the stance-switch heal is pretty good, right? Except that relying on it for survival ends up at odds with the class concept. Switching is supposedly to be central and important, but the fact it's also serving as your central safety net means that you want to conserve its usage and only switch if you really have to. Except that Ether doesn't replenish on its own, you have to switch stances for that. So it feels like the calculus is "if I can blitz it, I blitz it; if I can't, then I should probably sit in Gnome and rely on counterstrikes, because otherwise I have no healing." Except that this means you have no status healing, because you're not earning stacks of Salamander's Blessing, and statuses are generally where things go from bad to worse. I think Animists are just generally doomed if they run into Nightmare Horrors without a big stack of Salamander's Blessing already up. A good teleport rune feels compulsory.
And for a class seemingly based on finding synergies, lot of the class just feels weirdly lacking with regards to parts that feel like they SHOULD interlock.
- If you're in Gnome, Gnome has no big damage skill to take advantage of Counterstrike.
- Sylph's Cutter and Cyclone both want the enemy at range 2, but Sylph has no knockback and no automatic movement (like hitting and then retreating)
-- Wind Step could fill the above niche, except that its cost increases every time you use it without a cooloff period.
--- Even when you DO use Wind Step to set up for Slyph's Cutter or Cyclone, the relatively high speed variability of the class (what level is Sylph? is Cyclone up? is Ether Flux in effect?) means that you can't really be sure whether you'll be at exactly the two-range you need.
-- Sear could too, except it moves them to range 4, which Sylph can't do anything with (except using Wind Step to close back into melee, and why?)
-- You could use Luna Dial, but it requires you to start in N&U.
- Undine's Chill prefers spreading out its shots when multiple enemies are in range, which makes it bad at setting up for Grand Hailfall, which requires at least two shots to hit a target for them to be pinned for the big hit
-- Grand Hailfall's wait period means that it's most reliable when enemies are engaging you at melee, except White Death is giving you a damage bonus at range.
--- Sear is your only knockback, but it's four tiles away and White Death requires six; so too with Wind Step, only with movement instead (and if you just use it twice you're getting a cost penalty for doing so, plus you're potentially eating two ranged attacks)
- Salamander's Lash is your best single-target damage outside of Hailstorm, especially when they have sparks, which also gives you Salamander's Blessing. The only ways to set up sparks for Salamander's Lash's additional damage are... Salamander's Lash, and Dancing Flame, which consumes its own sparks.
-- Consume Warmth also consumes sparks, for an effect no stronger than just having another enemy to take warmth from.
- There's no way to restore Ether except by switching Stances, so no matter what you have a hard. Ether Reservoir decreases cooldowns of abilities... Starting with the talents of the stance you're already in, which lets you stay longer in the stance. Except that you still can't, because Ether.
- Spiritual Awakening says that it swaps your weapon when using a stance's talent if you're not in it at the time. Salamander says that at max level, you sometimes follow up spells with Salamander's Lash. All of the Animist talents are spells. If this means you no longer get the Salamander spell follow-up, then Spiritual Awakening is seemingly a nerf to both damage and utility at endgame, because you're not getting the free damage and free Salamander's Blessing stacks while using other talents in Salamander. (Undine talents are a bit of an exception, in that Hailfall procs can probably make up for it, but...)
- Having Ether costs on Sustains makes me very reluctant to take them when Ether Knit's effect is based off a percent of max Ether. It's decreasing your fuel tank AND your fuel recovery.
I also just don't like Sharpened Spirit, since it feels like your choices are between "spend a bunch of Generic points to remedy the Giant Mess that is your weapon stat distribution" or "further undermine your durability by having no points to spare on extra HP or saves." Either way, its existence feels more like a penalty than a boon. I also don't like Egosmithing, mostly because the "only adds Egos near enemies" facet of it is just kind of annoying. Something like "you'll only get a new Ego near a new enemy" would be much less bothersome.
I don't have very concrete recommendations beyond the above, because this doesn't feel like this is a "make small tweaks" situation. Random seat-of-my-pants proposals, take with a grain of salt:
- Ground Disruption should probably be replaced with something defensive. (Bring up a wall to block movement+visibility?)
- Sylph should probably have more range on Cutter and Cyclone.
- Winter Mist should probably be replaced with some other form of CC to better suit Grand Hailfall and White Death, and so that Undine's Chill isn't the only way to get Blessing stacks.
- Dancing Flame should probably be replaced with some form of spark set-up, maybe combined with some shield or healing or status healing.
- I'd probably just unlock Nox and Umbra right away. (Gives you more options, rather than mandating you use every single starting spirit.)
- I'd get rid of Grand Animism and Spiritual Armor, or at least the Ether sustain cost.
- Maybe put some activation ability on Ether Barrier so you can bring it back up quickly if needed.
- Maybe reverse Sharpened Spirit? Make it a Sustain that decreases the Magic scaling on your weapons in exchange for other benefits. (Though that'd be messy to program. If you have a bunch of Dex, maybe you want to turn it off on Undine and N&U, but not the others; if you can't do that, you probably wouldn't want it.)
I hope the giant criticism post isn't too discouraging, and I hope to see a V2 at some point the future.