ToME: the Tales of Maj'Eyal

Everything about ToME
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:12 pm 
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I meant to write this shortly after my 1.6.5 Insane RL Reaver win but am terminally lazy so it didn't happen. People who are more attentive, dedicated players than me have addressed the more immediate issues of 1.6 so I'm not retreading any of that. I know forums are a dead medium in the post-Discord era but hey.

As a preamble, my ToME playstyle tends to be to pick a race/class combination and bash my head against the game until I get lucky and manage to win. I am not a pro top gosu player by any stretch of the imagination so take these observations with a grain of salt.

It may be helpful to contrast my winner with the one who just about made it back from the East, here. I thought this was a pretty decent attempt at a standard dual melee weapon Reaver with worse-than-usual luck on gear. It sucked. Even after getting my second prodigy, I never hit that inflection point of 'damn, I'm powerful' I've gotten with other classes. Instead I felt like every encounter required super careful positioning and play for questionable payoff.

I kept trying variations and while the dual staff setup I ended up winning with wasn't quite a hail mary, it was close. My original plan was to hit the sorcs (and probably die), then make a Corruptor to see just how superior they were, then give some hopefully constructive feedback. That didn't quite happen, so Reaver thoughts follow - this is not a build guide or anything, more like a rambling character report followed by a bit of feedback.

- I went Cornac (on both) for faster levelling and because I thought Vile Life + Curses was potentially a winning combination and wanted to try it out.

- I turned off Embers of Rage for this character. On one hand I think if something's in the game you should drive it like you stole it. Play to win. On the other hand: I hate dealing with the completely unfun tinker classes, every time I pick up a randart steamsaw/steamgun I die a little inside, and I absolutely despise the existence of tinkers (the generic trees) in AoA. A choice that is always optimal to take isn't much of a choice and I opted out. I may never turn EoR back on for AoA characters. If you think this invalidates my win, wait until I talk about my savescumming in High Peak.

- The early game was played like a sad Corruptor - 2h staff and run around floating points in Drain + Soul Rot. Reaver's early skill distribution feels very rigid - beeline Bone Shield, 2/5 Bone Grab, 2/5 Virulent Strike, Ruin to 3, 1 in Dark Portal, then save up to get Rot operational so you can survive the T2s while also picking up Corrupting Strike ASAP to perform one of the few unique and satisfying things this class can do: easily kill Oozemancers.

- I got two 1h staves in Sandworm Lair. Neither were great but they carried me through Dreadfell. Not long after I got them up and running I realized why it felt so much better to play a staff reaver. It's not the offensive power - in fact, the damage was a bit lower than my melee Reaver - it's the effect of the spellpower and blight mod on your healing. This was a noticeable survivability increase in the T2s and made for a much smoother midgame experience.

Damn near everything you do as Reaver scales with spellpower - Ruin damage, Bone Shield threshold, Pestilent Blight proc chance, Acid Blood armor reduction, Life Tap healing, Curse and Hex power, and the impact of the Disease tree full stop. Around Old Forest I realized massive armor was a fool's game (before I put points into it) and I used robes for the rest of the game.

- Inscription -> Rot -> Vile Life -> inscription -> Curses. Vile Life is really good. Having to spend a cat point on it as a class that has no innate generic trees worth a damn is really bad. More on that later. Vile Life:
- Blood Splash is awesome. If you crit something and kill it, you get both procs. Reaver has so many chances to proc crits in any given turn that once you finish with magic and start pumping cunning you're reliably getting it every turn. It can proc off of getting a crit on something that doesn't do damage or hasn't made contact with an enemy yet. It scales with healmod (obviously) which is, incidentally, a great stat on Reaver.
- Elemental Discord isn't worth more than one point but the number of Orc Cryomancers I autofroze (this includes Vor) meant it was entirely worth the sustain cost. I'm not smart enough to know how these things work but I am 90% sure I froze things that were stun immune with it. Random blinds and dazes (moreso the latter) were nice too.
- Healing Inversion is maybe overkill on Reaver depending on what other abilities you're picking up but I used it here and there.
- Vile Transplant is completely amazing. It's a spell so it procs Corrupted Strength. The cooldown is relatively low. You can put all sorts of annoying slows, stuns, Hexes, Curses, random garbage on enemies - the health cost is largely ameliorated from Blood Splash + Ruin in the lategame. You can target a worm with it and guarantee the transfer. It's so good.

- Stat distribution as a staff reaver has big benefits. Going mag->cun->dex instead of mag->str->cun not only meant that Blood Splash was more reliable early, it also meant that my defense was occasionally relevant, up to and including dodging attacks from Argoniel.

- I savescummed to try both Ethereal Form and Flexible Combat. I think either would be viable; Ethereal Form's defense boost was pretty crazy with high mag but I'd picked up Fist of the Destroyer and it seemed too good to pass up.

In addition to Reaver hitting a lot per round for more flex procs, they proc Ruin for more healing and the procs on FotD hit hard. Shadowflame also gives Reaver a valuable tool missing from its default kit: a huge AoE to pull things around corners (no, Vimsense does not count). I'm not sure if it's worth going Flexible Combat if you don't find these but I did and it was great.

I also found Masochism which sealed the deal. I'm amenable to the idea that Black Robe is superior but I heavily valued the flat damage reduction in conjunction with Bone Shield and a Stormshield rune. It also gives flat damage on hit which is nice when you're hitting 1-5 times per round.

- Using Track followed by Vimsense aggro'd every enemy I could see with Track. I have no idea if this was a pre-existing interaction or if it was something exacerbated by the (now-dead?) Skynet AI nonsense but it was an alarming discovery.

- Vor and Rak'Shor Prides are your reward for struggling (or not?) through the game as a staff reaver. There are so many staves dropping that it's unlikely you don't find multiple T5 short staves. I lost Blood of Life in Rak'shor trying to facetank the mini-arena at the start and eating a bunch of Soul Rot crits. From this point on I was -1 ring slot as I ran Ring of the Dead for the rest of the game.

- Gorbat Pride is your punishment for playing a Reaver. Getting your sustains dispersed hurts this class like crazy, so it's potentially really slow going. This is the point you will wonder why you are playing a class that has literally 0 passive defense in either its default class or generic trees.

- I picked up Life Drinker in Gorbat Pride and made the jump to dagger/staff. This was mostly just bet-hedging for the endgame in case I needed to swap to Spelldrinker (which I did) and still do some mainhand damage through Dagger Mastery. It wasn't a big deal either way up until that point.

- I savescummed like crazy on HP3. For all the talk of crazy Skynet AI teleporting onto your feet, I never ran into anything too egregious until I aggro'd a single Orc Pyromancer and two Uniques teleported right on top of me from 23 and 27 tiles away, through multiple walls and no LoS. I won't even pretend to know how or why it happened, but there was absolutely no way I was going to lose a character to this nonsense, so I had to keep reloading and trying to figure out how I could avoid it - the answer was to completely sidestep that entire side of the map. Stupid.

- There's so much going on in the sorcs fight that I think it's disingenuous to pretend your skill as a player is the primary factor (but maybe I'm just bad) instead of which sustains you disperse, who gets targetted with what, where Elandar phase doors to, et cetera. It's just a flustercluck every time and even with several Insane RL wins under my belt I never feel like I have a strong handle on it. It's probably just being bad though.

I movement infusioned one tile south of Elandar at the very bottom of the arena and he Stone Wall'd us in together, letting me deplete 80% of his HP before it ended. Would I have won if that hadn't happened? Who knows. I'm inclined to say no, though.


IS REAVER GOOD: uh, I don't know, but I'm thinking not overly so (at least on Insane!). Here are my problems with Reaver in no particular order:

- Spellpower spellpower spellpower. By running melee weapons you're gaining raw damage and losing out on so much else. Bloodlust is a bandaid. You need that spellpower to help you land Hexes/Curses/whatever as a pre-engage, to pump up your Bone Shield threshold, to make your first disease bigger, but Bloodlust doesn't help you there. Doing a damage rotation first to build Bloodlust stacks before using Curses means you aren't benefitting from the respen/defense reduction/burning hex/whatever. You're a melee class but running heavy armor is yet another penalty to spellpower relative to running robes. I don't know if this is an intentional decision to give you two different build paths, but it's janky. Malediction is good but what if you don't find it? (I didn't) Meanwhile you're missing out on 60% Blight mod from two staves and potentially a lot of spellpower. Balancing all the different crap this class needs as a melee weapon character requires EX luck with gear and just skipping it and going staves simplifies your gear requirements a lot.

Solutions? I am not a class designer but I'm inclined to say it needs some sort of conversion passive or similar that gives you a spellpower and/or Blight mod boost that can't be leveraged with staves. Roll it into Bloodlust or Corrupted Strength. Make it less than you'd get with two T5 short staves but enough to close the gap somewhat and make you more resistant to bad weapon RNG. This is of course assuming the intent is to play the class as a double melee weapon + heavy armor/massive armor class.

- No non-sustain passive defense or survivability at all. I assume this is a consequence of Bone Shield being strong but it really blows when you get dispersed... like, a lot. Does this need to be changed? Maybe not. I think a passive in Bone (no one will miss Bone Spike, sorry but it's true) could potentially be a way to give the class something. I would personally settle for a massive reduction in Ruin's cooldown - this has the side effect of making Worms That Walk much less frustrating when you have to deactivate Ruin to damage them if you can't easily pull them away from a group. Seriously, 30 turns? Weapon of Light is 10 and Shadow Combat is 5.

- This class has SFA to do with generic points especially with the removal of Anorithil escorts and while the obvious decision is (sigh) Tinkers, the far better solution is to give them Curses unlocked or - my personal preference - Vile Life locked, unlocked after eating the Corrupted Heart. I can't overstate this enough - if you take nothing else away from this rambling wall of text, give Reavers Vile Life locked. You're still giving up a early-mid power boost when it matters a lot by delaying eating the normal heart, you still need to do what is potentially a couple dangerous boss fights to access it (because you aren't leaving Hexes on the table either) and the tree still has some wonky stuff limiting its power like beating saves to Vile Transplant things onto enemies. I actually don't think the class would be broken by any means if it got both trees but yeah, Vile Life, seriously.

- It feels bad putting more than 2 or 3 points in your Scourge attacks. This is variably a pro or a con depending on your perspective.

- It's really weird that you can Hex enemies without aggroing them.

- Should Worm Rot strip physical sustains? The answer to this is definitively no but I wish the larvae hatching stripped a single one. Reaver has very few interesting decisions to make as far as point expenditure goes and this would provide a good one that would also mix your skill priority up in combat, I think.

- Vimsense is probably awesome on lower difficulties but feels dangerous on Insane. I recognize the intention of the class is probably for Vimsense to be what props up melee Reaver's lack of spellpower/blight mod, reinforced by Curse of Vulnerability on priority targets, but... maybe I was just gun-shy after the Track->Vimsense interaction and I made the game harder for myself.

- The whole Disease/Plague interaction on Reaver feels underbaked. Plague at 1.00 seems like an unnecessary class point tax (Vim/Sanguisuge doesn't matter) and I'm not sure if I like the new Virulent Disease over the old instant version. Not a big deal to me but it feels like something is missing on Reaver, maybe intentionally so? Apropos of nothing, if you're a Drem with Frenzy, it works for 'free' on Virulent Disease and Pestilent Blight.

- Leech, Absorb Life and Bloodcasting all feel completely dated with how Vim works now. There's probably room here to introduce some actual interesting class point decisions here but I guess the problem is that both trees are shared with Corruptor so you have to use a light touch. Leech is a peak joke talent though.

- I should probably edit this more but I've already spent too long on it and I'm just going to click the Submit button


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:19 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:37 am
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I agree with most stuff you wrote. Anyway, in my opinion:
- The Sanguisuge class talent tree is outdated, and can probably be removed from the class without big issues;
- Virulent Disease and Bone Spike work well on Defiler but not on Reaver;
- Reaver could use one more locked class tree;
- Reaver could use one more unlocked generic tree.

Reaver is a bit fragile, but with hard-hitting melee and a bunch of ranged skills, it fits a hybrid melee archetype pretty well... it could be better but it's decent enough.


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