Cataclysmic Conflagration

Encircled by grotesque monstrosities.

Creatures wrought from the foulest sorcery conjured to protect their detestable master. One who twists the deceased into despicable shadows of their former selves, that fashions lingering souls into horrifying beasts, and that wreaths their fragile mortal shell in an explosive shroud of flame. Who proves that heroism manifests in different forms, and that wielding a righteous blade tempered by unshakeable faith is only one way to smite the wicked. Some employ poisonous beasts that spew corrosive acid instead. Or ravenous beasts engulfed in hellish flame.

Or rapidly deteriorating skeletons.

But then these trials could be nothing more than a convenient plot device. One designed to plunge would-be-heroes into ceaseless combat against seemingly inexhaustible opposition, which would only facilitate those who wish to bask in the magnificent radiance of abundant randomised loot.

But that’d be silly. Silly and ever-so-slightly addictive. Not that I’ll ever find any equipment appropriate for my chosen character class amongst that abundant randomised loot. But that’s why I store that equipment in my shared stash, so that it can be neglected by every other build because I’ll forget that it’s in there. Even if I did retrieve an amulet from the shared stash for this Warlock. That was a fluke, and only happened because I let randomised loot dictate his development. Hence why he now relies on his pets and minions to deal damage for him. It’s been a fascinating experience, though. I’ve been considering statistics that I tend to ignore (such as +%Companion Health and +%Gem Strength). I’ve also been experimenting with different equipment sets, enchantment bonuses, socket types, and gem bonuses.

Devoured by the voracious horde.

Repeatedly scrutinising the benefits afforded by each to get the best returns. I usually prioritise +%Critical Hit Chance and +%Overpower when adding sockets, but I’ve been weighing both +%Critical Hit Damage and +%Companion Damage heavily with this build. Guaranteeing critical hits is relatively easy, but multiplying the damage of those critical hits is just as important, especially when he has the inherent +%Gem Strength from Kingsrock, as each individual gem is far more effective than it usually is. Allowing him greater diversity for his favoured statistics.

Diversity being his greatest strength.

Unlike the frost Warden build who had but one pet, his merciless menagerie demands that he be proficient with multiple elemental damage types. He doesn’t have the staggering damage of the lightning Berserker build, nor the retaliation of the holy Templar build, but he does have flexibility.

Hence why I tend to avoid builds that rely solely on their pets or minions. Not only does bathing in demonic viscera in close quarters suit me better, but I’ve never felt comfortable relying on others to do what I could do myself. I also don’t trust an AI to not make perplexing decisions. Not that this build is solely reliant on pets or minions, but I’ve been collecting pieces of both the Demon Lord’s Regalia and Summoner’s Garb sets, and I’d even consider swapping Kingsrock for the ring in the Master’s Command set were I to happen upon one. This is just an unusual build (for me) but it does offer a fresh perspective. A surprisingly passive perspective. Much like the aforementioned holy Templar build, which relied on enemies dealing damage to her for her to be able to deal damage to them. As unconventional as that may be.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Champions of the Dale

Together they could overcome anything.

No challenge proved insurmountable for the combined talents of Bruenor Battlehammer and Drizzt Do’Urden, whose campaign across the harsh and unforgiving landscapes of Icewind Dale ended in resounding success. Together they’ve felled colossal frost giants, fanatical cultists, ferocious gnolls, ravening verbeeg, a horrifying beholder, and even an ancient white dragon. Together they’ve done what neither could do alone. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is an enjoyable (primarily) co-operative ARPG that loosely follows the exploits of the Companions of the Hall.

Unconventional as they may be.

I’d usually avoid co-operative experiences, but I’ve uncharacteristically completed the entirety of the content with a friend and it was surprisingly fun. It definitely feels more satisfying when exploring together. Which is exactly what a co-operative experience should feel like.

Knowing that my friend would always be there to resurrect me should I fall in battle. Knowing that I’d always find every treasure chest as their lust for loot is more insatiable than mine. And knowing that we’d share the disappointment of discovering nought but trash in the reward chest. But that didn’t dissuade us from returning to face challenges far beyond what our combined Combat Power suggested was possible. Not that we could ever make sense of the Combat Power mechanics, as they were clearly skewed towards wearing legendary equipment even if it was vastly inferior. Nor would we heed the advice of an algorithm. As evidenced by our innumerable attempts to defeat bosses on the highest difficulty levels and our countless successes during those attempts. Not only when adventuring together but when adventuring alone, too.

The intoxicating rhythm of battle.

We were, however, somewhat discouraged by the lack of high quality equipment found during these attempts, which is my only criticism of this experience. The higher difficulty levels aren’t as rewarding as they could be. They’re certainly challenging, but that doesn’t feel nearly as fulfilling when the rewards aren’t proportional to the effort. Especially when each new difficulty feels insuperable compared to the last. Acquiring a full set of equipment also seems exceedingly difficult despite information to the contrary, as it should be possible to reliably farm every set.

But the rewards never seem to reflect that.

These are concerns that could easily be addressed with the post-release DLC, though. And I’m hoping that they will be. As Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance has an incredibly solid foundation, which could be built upon to create a truly invigorating co-operative experience.

I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, but I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging I found it to be. Crawling through dungeons and slaughtering unholy hordes is nothing new to me. But I’ve found this experience to be an oddly compelling one, and one that was made better by having a friend along with me. Or maybe I was along with them. They were the one dealing ludicrously high amounts of damage while I stood unflinching against the relentless assault. But that’s why I’m looking forward to the aforementioned post-release DLC, as I’m sure that our misadventures will continue. And I’m sure that Drizzt will continue to carry the party with their damage output. Which is why I recommend this experience to those who love to crawl through dungeons with friends, as it has been immensely entertaining.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

King of the Valley

His axe has a thirst.

Whether it’s the savagery of the verbeeg or the persistence of the goblins, the dwarves of Clan Battlehammer have witnessed countless atrocities. Prior to the rule of Bruenor Battlehammer, their ancestral home, Mithral Hall, was overrun by hordes of duergar and it was decided that they relocate to Kelvin’s Cairn to escape their aggressors. Only to discover that Kelvin’s Cairn had equally unsettling hardships for them to endure. Bruenor isn’t about to stand idly by and watch his people be slaughtered, though. Nor will he allow them to be driven from their new home in the Dale.

Not that he’ll face these challenges alone.

He’ll be facing them with other Companions of the Hall. Of which, having attempted one run with each, I’m reasonably proficient with Bruenor and Drizzt, despite Wulfgar seeming like the obvious choice for me. He just feels too cumbersome in combat. As does Catti-brie.

I’m not particularly fond of ranged damage, as that requires me to fire from a safe distance, and I rarely keep a safe distance, but Catti-brie has an unusual fighting style that involves kicking creatures. Kicking creatures and occasionally firing arrows into them. However, her ultimate, Arcane Arrows, is ridiculously powerful and decimates elite or boss encounters. So I can definitely appreciate how powerful she could be. But, much like Wulfgar, whose hits land with staggering intensity, it’s the quirks of their respective fighting styles that elude me. Especially when I’m accustomed to the unflinching might of Bruenor or the exhilarating burst damage of Drizzt. I’m continually discovering new equipment sets, too. So it’s entirely possible (and very likely) that their equipment is affecting their respective capabilities (or lack thereof) in combat.

Two heroes are better than one.

While Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance can be experienced alone, it’s easily at its best when experienced with others. Not only does combat become immensely satisfying, as each party member confidently exhibits their own strengths during encounters, but there are innumerable conversations between characters relating to their histories or to past events, which serve to deepen your understanding of the world around you. This isn’t exactly unexpected of a (primarily) co-operative experience, but the subtle execution is what makes you pay attention to the dialogue.

It feels like a natural conversation.

One that helps you to understand their individual motivations and how the current journey is affecting them. Which, as I’ve not read any of the source material, is welcomed, as I don’t know of their personalities or the adversity that they’ve faced during their past adventures.

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance certainly isn’t for everyone, as you aren’t able to build your own unique character, and this isn’t an epic tale of heroism experienced through character sheets and dice rolling, but it
is an enjoyable adventure through the inhospitable and unforgiving wilds of Icewind Dale. One that can only get better. As the developers have acknowledged numerous issues from their (underwhelming) launch, and are currently implementing patches to fix the most egregious of them. And they’ve expressed their intentions to support this experience with post-release DLC. Of those currently announced, two are being delivered for free and one requires an additional purchase. But the idea of new locations to explore, treasures to plunder, and enemies to face makes me happier than anything else.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Blinding Blitz of Blades

Shadows in the smoke.

Shadows that probably aren’t as effective as they could be, as I’m reasonably certain that they can only cast Shurikens and Acid Flask should I use those skills. And I’ve not specialised in either of those. Nor do I use them. I did specialise in Acid Flask briefly, but I replaced it with Smoke Bomb so that she could blind enemies and leech additional health per hit. Mostly due to her increasingly concerning fragility. Not that I expected this build to be the hardiest, as the Bladedancer dual-wields weapons which considerably increases the damage that they take.

Hence why I prioritised leeching health.

While it didn’t prevent her from taking the damage in the first place, it did allow her to recover from it without using her potions. Which was helpful during the surprisingly deadly boss encounters. Either she really is ridiculously fragile, or those bosses are significantly stronger now.

Or both could be true. The bosses could be stronger than they once were, but she could also be fragile enough that this becomes apparent. Not that this was the only change that I noticed. Regular enemies
seem to have become stronger, too. Which is just what I wanted. It really is. I’m not being sarcastic for once. Shrines have also been implemented. Those that I’ve found (and activated) seem to be solely beneficial, but I’m still hoping that non-beneficial variants exist as well. That’d be neat. I also can’t remember if quests were always this detailed or diverse, but there certainly seems to be more to do in each region than there was before. Not that any of this surprising. Updates such as these are the standard for these developers, and are the reasons why Last Epoch deserves the praise that it gets.

The inescapable corruption of the void.

Of the five character classes, the Rogue is, in my experience, easily the most versatile. I’d previously been impressed by the versatility of the Mage and its Spellblade Mastery, but the Rogue introduces mechanics that seem to unique to them. I’ve not seen any skill behave as Cinder Strike does. Nor have I seen any skill afford mobility in the same way that Dancing Strikes does. Mobility seems fundamental to the survivability of the Rogue regardless of their chosen Mastery, but I am curious as to how (if at all) the Falconer Mastery will benefit from that.

Or what the Falconer Mastery will actually do.

Looking at the character classes (and the multitude of Masteries) it could be just about anything. Thoughts such as these only make me more enthusiastic about the Masteries that haven’t been implemented yet, as they may also exhibit mechanics that we’ve not seen before.

I’ve been following the development of Last Epoch for some time, during which I’ve conceived many interesting character builds. Of which this build is no exception. Despite the mistakes that I’ve made, and those can easily be rectified by specialising in either of the aforementioned skills. Or both. Shadows didn’t really become relevant until the Bladedancer Mastery was unlocked, either. Prior to that, I only had them because I’d specialised in Smoke Bomb. Of course, had I not specialised in Smoke Bomb, they would have been contributing to her damage output, as they would’ve been replicating Acid Flask. But I’d like to believe that it would’ve been a minor contribution. If it wasn’t, I’d feel awful silly about not realising how those mechanics worked. And I wouldn’t want to do that now, would I?

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Frigid Fusillade

Rain arrows down upon thee.

Following a rather successful poison Warlock build during its time in Early Access, and both a lightning Berserker and holy Templar build after its full release, it was finally time to revisit Chronicon with a Warden. The one character class that I know absolutely nothing about. I don’t think that I’ve ever built one, even during Early Access, prior to the conception of this build, and that’s not hard to believe. Seeing as I’d sprint into the fray ignoring my bow (and ranged skills) circled by my wolves, rather than taking calculated shots from a distance to decimate my enemies.

I’ve become too accustomed to close quarters builds.

And I’m sure that, were you to invest in Evasion and Damage Reduction, you could fashion a reasonably decent close quarters Warden. And that’s possibly what I should have done when considering this build. But I’ve made this awkwardly cumbersome bed, so I’m going to die in it.

A death wrought from hubris and aggressively increasing the difficulty level. The first for some time, too. However, not the first on my account, as I had to earn that achievement to spend crystals on resurrection somehow. It was a refreshing moment, though. One that I’ve anticipated for a while, as I’ve been too cautious when making the leap between difficulty levels prior to this build. This time I was purposefully making things more difficult for myself. Which probably wasn’t the best idea with a class that I’m wholly unfamiliar with, but I digress. Besides a single death, which haunts me even now, despite my protest to the contrary, this build has developed in interesting ways. I’ve been investing in different statistical bonuses such as +%Critical Hit Damage, +%Companion Damage, and +%Companion Health to name but a few.

Wardens aren’t supposed to be next to their enemies…

I’ve also been exclusively relying on enchanting and transmutation to acquire an equipment set that has persisted throughout her adventures. Instead of acquiring an entirely new equipment set at Lvl 100, I’ve been using the abundance of Legendary and True Legendary equipment to empower her existing set, which has exponentially hastened her development towards Anomalies. I’ve also been focusing on Critical Hit Damage. It’s fairly easy to guarantee critical hits, and to bolster those with Frost Damage, or Overpower, so I’ve been favouring higher multiplications for them.

Progression has definitely been smoother for it.

The Warden is a surprisingly diverse character class, and they’re afforded unexpected versatility through their skill trees. Notably, they could be a capable summoner, which I’d briefly tinkered with, but I’m not overly fond of having pets fight for me. I’d rather be dealing damage myself.

I’ve always enjoyed the complexity and diversity of the character classes (and skill trees) present in Chronicon, and the Warden, along with this build, is no exception. It’s delightfully malleable. Able to adapt to challenges and overcome them with relative competency, especially when I remember to avoid being hit by keeping my distance. Given the continued investment into +%Critical Hit Damage, it’s not dealing as much damage as I’d hoped that it would, but that might be due to how I’m playing this build. Now that Wolfpack can taunt I’m slightly safer than I was. Not that I’m able to completely avoid taking damage, but I’m able to funnel enemies into convenient bottlenecks and pelt them from afar. Which is what a Warden should be doing, right? Serious question. I have no idea what I’m doing. Please send help.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie