Friday, January 21, 2011

Choose your mostly redundant role

Having completed the last mission in the desert crisis and made your way back to the vault entrance, you'll be presented with a choice to either dig your way out, ending the crisis and moving on to the rest of the game proper, or returning to the crisis, presumably to tie up any loose ends or finish turning in any missions you may have completed but not cashed yet.

In Iron Will's case, there's nothing left for him to do in the desert crisis and it ought to be over at this point, but I also want to check out the Canada crisis, so I'm returning to the desert crisis instead of finishing it. Finishing one closes the other automatically, as both crisis zones serve the same purpose in the game, to finish teaching new players about the game (buying new powers, the crafting system, and whatnot) and giving them a taste of how the game handles. By the time you're finished with one you should be about the right level to start the missions in the normal game world, and there's really no reason to do both. However, in the interest of completeness and just because I want to, I'll be putting off getting credit for the desert one to do them both. Plus, since there aren't really an abundance of leveling paths available later on in the game and it's pretty easy to get stuck a few levels behind where you should be with no missions left that aren't rated way above you if you skipped some earlier, I figure there's no harm in gaining an extra level or two beyond what Iron Will really needs to start out the rest of the game.

... That was a sentence.

Plus seeing both'll give you a better idea of which one you'd wanna take your own character through if you're potentially thinking about picking up the game yourself after reading this blog, so. There's that.

Before seeking out adventure and fortune in the frozen north, though, Iron Will's picked up a few levels to spend at the powerhouse. Mostly more of the same ranks and talents shenanigans, but he also gets one new power, and, more notably, the ability to switch between different Builds, which opens up the possibility of choosing different Roles. These are a little wonky, I'll show you what I mean.

First thing's first, might as well go ahead and get this new Power that's burning a hole in my already-full-of-holes pocket.

At this point I've got enough Might powers to open up some of the higher tier powers in the Might family, but also enough powers in general to unlock some of the first tier powers in the other sets. I could get another move... Iron Will is sorely lacking a ranged attack, for example... but anything fancy like thrown energy balls or chains or something like that doesn't really fit with the concept of Normal Guy Made Out Of Metal that I'm going for, and I've already got three ways to punch people. I could get a Blocking power, which is pretty handy, but again, force fields and ice shields and the like aren't really what I'm going for with ol' Will here. And he's still lacking a Passive power, which are pretty handy.

Passives are on all the time and don't need to be activated to work. Near as I can tell the best one in the game is Regeneration, which makes you heal damage very quickly, in combat as well as out. Think of a healing factor like Wolverine's... or Hulk's... or, y'know, what every action movie lead must secretly have and never addresses on screen. I've had characters with Regeneration as a passive at it's highest rank who could literally just stand there and let a mob of enemies shoot them, and they'd recover all their lost health points before the enemies could reload and shoot again. It scales with your Recovery stat, though, which I haven't put a single point into with Will, so it wouldn't be as strong on him.

There are a lot of Energy Form passives that really only make sense if you're a shooter of that type of energy... Fire Form makes you catch fire in combat and deal a lot more damage with your fire attacks, for example, or Ego Form turns you into a weird ghostly guy who does a lot more damage with Ego attacks. None of these are any good for a melee fighter, though.

The most obvious choice is one of the Might passives, most of which involve getting stronger and stronger as a fight progresses, buffing your strength automatically with every hit you land and so forth. This is undoubtedly the most effective passive for a might-based character who wants to do a lot of damage to enemies in a hurry, but it's also not quite what I've got in mind for Will. In fact, none of the Might ones are. Rather, I'm gunna go for the rather un-obvious choice of...

Power Armor's Invulnerability. The name, it should be noted, is a huge exaggeration. This really doesn't make any sense for an optimized melee character, as it does nothing to boost the damage you do, which is the most important thing for fighting up close. However, it's damage reduction does scale with Strength, which is one of Iron Will's superstats, as well as a stat that keeps getting boosted by most of his Arms equipment. Unlike Regeneration, it'll provide a substantial defensive bonus without requiring me to respec away from melee damage... it just won't help melee damage itself.

Plus, more importantly, it's animation involves the character in question being covered with randomly occurring sparkles, which evidently reflects a metal's relative durability in power armor builds. Who knew? They're kinda hard to capture in a screenshot, as they're rather fleeting, but here's one on Will's head.


It should be noted that there's nothing wrong with going straight Might, though. Built right, a Might character can typically drop right into the middle of combat and beat most enemies into the ground or knock them into the stratosphere before they take a significant amount of damage, ending most fights in a matter of seconds.

Iron Will, on the other hand, is going to be able to take a lot more punishment than most Might characters, but he's also going to be spending a lot more time beating up his opponents before they go down. It works with the concept: Will's special more because he's bulletproof than because he's titanically strong. Still, it should be noted that I'm somewhat gimping his damage output by not taking a Might passive. However, if you're one of those players who occasionally complains about how quickly their Might character gets killed if they don't manage to kill their opponent right away, consider this option. 'Sides, I'm about to gimp his damage output even more.

Builds are an option that you unlock around level... I'm not sure. Somewhere below nine, which is where I'm at now. They let you set up a few different equipment sets and keyboard layouts, which is kind of handy for different situations. Maybe you have one build that's optimized for offense, say, and one that's optimized for defense, with more damage-absorbing but less power-boosting equipment. They do not, however, let you choose new powers or superstats, so it's not as different as all that. I dunno, I never really use more than one myself.

More significantly, though, with the ability to customize your Build comes the ability to pick your Role.

"Guardian" is the default Role, more or less balanced and fairly good at everything. It's where I've left most of my characters for their full careers, and never felt terribly underpowered. However, choosing different Roles can boost certain attributes while lowering others... I'm not sure exactly how it works, whether it's a fixed value or a percentage or whether it actually applies modifiers to your stats or simply changes the HP value of attacks in combat or what, but it significantly impacts the damage you deal and receive in various situations.

There are five roles to choose from.

The aforementioned Guardian, good at most everything...

The Protector, which boosts your defense at the cost of, well, pretty much everything but buffing yourself...

The Brawler, which boosts your melee damage at the cost of ranged damage and takes away your ability to gain energy from blocks...

The Avenger, which boosts your ranged attacks at the cost of pretty much everything else...

and the Sentinel, which boosts your buffing at the cost of everything else.

The most obvious choice for a melee fighter like Iron Will is Brawler, which lets you dish out damage much more quickly in hand-to-hand combat, and which is an integral part of the afore-mentioned kill-things-in-a-few-seconds Might builds. Also pretty great for martial artists and melee weapon masters. The Protector is good for tanks, Sentinel's good for healers, and Avenger is almost a requirement for ranged characters, as when combined with the right Energy Form it can enable you to kill most enemies before they even reach you to counterattack.

I'd go with Brawler for Iron Will, but there are two problems. One, I've already foregone a damage-boosting passive, so he'd be at less than full strength offensively, and even though this would help, it might be a bad idea to reduce the benefits of blocking when combat is likely to last longer. This is relatively minor, though, compared to the complication that when I switch to Brawler, Invincibility unequips itself.

Turns out, some passives only work in certain roles. Defensive passives like Regeneration and Invincibility not only don't work as well with Offensive roles as they would with Defensive, the game actually prevents you from using them in conjunction. Defensive passives can only work in a Defensive or Balanced (aka Guardian) role, and otherwise provide no benefit to you whatsoever.

Personally, I find this very obnoxious, especially because it doesn't mention this when you purchase the power in the first place. But oh well. If I'm going for tough rather than strong anyway, I might as well go all out. I put him in the Protector role so that he can not only utilize Invulnerability but get a boost to it as well, and head on down to the Powerhouse's little holodeck danger room thingamapoop to test out the new and improved Iron Will against some holographic opponents.

Fighting a pair of (simulated) four-armed red guys like the one who took Iron Will down to half his health a while back, I'm pretty pleased with the results.

While I'm blocking, in the Protector role, with Invincibility as a passive, the mutants do exactly one point of damage per attack.

This is fairly insignificant considering that at this level Iron Will has about 2000 HP to his name. Not bad if I do say so myself. Of course, it takes significantly longer to beat one down than it did back in the Guardian role, but considering that it would take the two of them together approximately half an hour to kill me if I just put a paperweight on the block key and went to make myself a sandwich, I'd say this is a pretty substantial improvement overall. I'll make it a point to put some more ranks into Invulnerability as soon as I have them to spend.

Thusly reinforced, and three levels above where one would typically start it, I think Iron Will ought to be okay in Canada.

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