Wednesday, June 2, 2010

DDO: trials an trubulations of a wizard wannabee

I'm still slightly obsessing on DDO. My main (a paladin) is almost level 8, and I'm really happy with how her build is performing. The other character I've put the most time into lately is Warforged Wizard, and until last night I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with him.

Warforged are kind of an oddball race. They are magical constructs that can't wear armor. Instead they start with a small natural AC bonus and can purchase low level resistance to all attacks (for example, mine currently has -2 to almost all incoming damage). They are also immune outright to several forms of attack, and can stay underwater indefinitely because they don't breath. Healing spells don't work very well on them. However arcane casters can cast repair spells that work just as well as healing works on fleshies. That makes a Warforged Wizard or Sorceror a really powerful combo, at least in theory, because you get all the DPS of a full arcane caster and can heal yourself.

My first attempt involved a pure Wizard. Unfortunately, at level one your damage spells are so weak as to be fairly useless. That left him doing most of his damage by flailing away feebly with his staff. I got guy up to level two before I decided I needed a change.

My next attempt involved taking a level of Rogue and then going Wizard at level two. The result was a character that could do almost anything. On one character I could open locks, sneak, unlock traps, and back stab on top of casting spells. And honestly, it felt a bit cheap. I also didn't really like the rogue weapon selection. I was not willing to commit enough points to Dex to qualify for dual wielding, which meant my melee DPS was always going to be mediocre.

Finally, I settled on one level of fighter followed by wizard from level 2 on. By using the free fighter combat feat to specialize in slashing weapons, I ended up with a character that can very reliably hit things with an axe or sword at low levels. I'm sure all the min-maxers on the DDO forums would be aghast at my choice, but the fighter splash did exactly what I needed it to do: it made the low level game playable for me. Plus, I got to use a giant glowing two-handed sword :-)

At first it was a lot of fun. I was doing a decent damage in melee, and had a summoned pet and charm spells (spells that make foes your allies temporarily) to break up crowds. However by level three I was starting to feel like an almost pure melee character . . . . but with with charm person. My damage spells still weren't doing enough damage to waste mana on, and apart from hypnotism (an AoE mez that lasts until broken) my other crowd control spells were pretty mediocre. At level four (wizard level three), I got access to second level spells. That opened up a new pet, a more powerful heal, and bull's strength (+4 to strength, a big melee boost), as well as a spell for opening locks. All good stuff, but not really why I rolled a wizard in the first place.

Things started to look up by level five. My damage spells were finally starting to be worth casting. However, given how much damage I could do for free just by swinging a sword, they were still situational. Really, I still needed the mana for repair spells more than anything. Again, not really what I envisioned when I thought of playing a wizard. I knew I'd get level three spells at level six (wizard level 5), so I resolved that I'd stick it out until 6 and then ditch the 'toon if he didn't really take off.

Fortunately, he did. I hit level six Monday night. My level one damage spells are maxed out now, and I finally have sufficient mana to cast them frequently while still healing, buffing, and charming (though still not enough to waste mana on maximized or empowered spells). I also got a new pet, a Hell Hound. It breaths fire (woot!), and goes into stealth when not in combat. Finally, fireball kicks butt; particularly since I have several passive abilities that boost fire damage.

My guy is finally starting to play a lot closer to what I had in mind when I first rolled him. I suppose a pure Wizard would have gotten there a level sooner. But my experience soloing as a pure wizard was so painful that it's not very likely I would have made it to five, even if I had stuck to my original build. I'm finding over and over in DDO that (A) it takes trial and error to find a build that you enjoy, and (B) builds that theoretically aren't optimal long term are more fun at low levels.


  1. Heehee, adding the screenshots does make a difference, and I am reading this post for the second time today. :) The graphics in this game are actually quite lovely, I'm actually kind of surprised.

  2. @mmogamerchick: For a game as old as it is, the graphics in DDO verge on astounding. The shots I took don't even really show them off. I sense a future blogpost with lots of screenies focused on required hardware throughput versus visual output in the future.

    And thanks for coming back by! I hope my initial wall of text version didn't doom the post to obscurity.

  3. Haha, I recently started using the google reader, so I catch all posts from people on my blogroll. When there are images, it does sometimes make me go to the site to look at them closer :P I love pics!

  4. That's fascinating. I'm amazed at your perseverance. If you're the kind that likes to tinker with rule systems, it sounds like a lot of fun.

    I'm having trouble deciding if all that flexibility is a good thing for the game or a bad one.

  5. @Jomar: thanks man, I'm just glad he's playing more like a wizard now.

    @Anjin: I do like to tinker, so for me it's pretty fun. Right now, I think the system is good for some players but likely bad for the overall popularity of the game. However, two fixes are coming in the next patch that may help:

    1. Prechosen path characters (i.e., ones where you pick a class role and then just need to hand pick feats, skills, ect.) will now be able to take advantage of 28 or 32 point builds. Right now to make a 32 stat point character you have to customize.

    2. Character paths are getting optimized to be more effective, and focus on more generally useful traits.

    Together, this means that players that don't feel like getting hip deep into the complex character generation system should be a lot closer in effectiveness to custom builds than they currently are.

  6. Flexibility is king in my book... but respecs are a huge part of making it work for me.

    Also, I can't help but be a bit annoyed with a character that isn't fun to play until a third of the way to the level cap. That's bad design in my book.

  7. Sorry for the necro comment but. . .

    My "main" is a warforged Rogue/Wizard. Currently level 1/7 and mostly I play in a static group on Tuesday nights so I don't level very fast. I've still done a fair bit of soloing on him in order to "keep up" with the group from the times I couldn't make the Tuesday night, and let me tell you, on any other toon that can't find hidden doors, disable traps, or open locks I feel kinda gimped.

    Add in that I now have Wall of Fire which does amazing damage and I can stand in it blocking with a tower shield (10 DR and most hings still only hit for up to 8) while it kills 30 monsters I dragged in to it, and. . .. yeah, it's kinda cheap feeling.

    But even with that, I still worry about dying and feel "squishy."

    My human cleric on the other hand. . . .I feel invulnerable while playing it, even though I actually die MORE on it than on the wizard. Go figure.

  8. @Tesh: I completely agree. A well designed class is fun from level 1 on.

    @Magson: another reason I didn't play up a Rogue/ Wizard is that I wanted to save the rogue stuff for a rogue. Having played one up to four now, I can see what you mean. Disarming traps and unlocking stuff is easy to get used to.