Tuesday, September 22, 2009

AI: Spiritmaster Beginnings

It looks like WoW may be patching today, and I'll definitely be checking out the patch notes as soon as they're release, so look for a warlocky and deathknighty run through in the very near future. In addition to (and maybe in competition with?) Blizzard's moves, NCSoft is having a big day today with the official release of Aion. Here's hoping the smoothness and playability of the launch continues.

"But the queues!" - I know, I know. It's been really the central focus of QQ and nerd rage aimed at the launch. However, I spoke some about it yesterday and Naamah makes a great analogy about it too. Still, I realize there is no consoling those of you that paid good money for your pre-order (or CE) only to find out that you were able to take advantage of it at all because of the long waits. As a good friend put it, there really isn't a "casual" right now, since you have to really have a good chunk of time to play the game.

I'm not going to focus too much on it, other than to point out that IF you can get in (maybe a big if in some cases), the game remains PLAYABLE. This is in stark contrast to many of my MMO launching experiences, the most recent (for me) being the ubiquitous Northrend crashes upon Wrath's release. Even the all-mighty Blizzard has trouble managing the in-rush spikes, and they're probably the most seasoned MMO company out there right now. For their part, I think NCSoft is doing a pretty damned good job given the limitations and standards of the industry right now. Is there room for improvement? Definitely! It's my belief, though, that this launch has (so far) been a step in the right direction.

For those of you who feel gypped by your extra money spent on pre-orders and CEs, I hope the in-game items console you a bit. They'll still be there for you, whenever you get in. To be honest, they are the main reason I pre-ordered. That and the beta key. I sort of went into the launch with low expectations, figuring the servers very well might be down an out this entire week. Perhaps that's why I'm pleasantly surprised. It has been a hassle, but it hasn't been the catastrophe I braced myself for.

In any case, I wanted to move away from that and into a short segment about my first chosen class: The spiritmaster. For those unfamiliar with the class, the short version is that the Spiritmaster is the pet-based mage class of Atreia. It's the closest thing to a warlock that I could find. It combines nuking with pet management to produce what I think is a really fun class to play.

Approaching play from a warlocky angle, I've even started to develop a rotation. Being more of a PvP game than WoW, I think there is less emphasis on a set "max" rotation, and more focus on learning to use your abilities in a time- and situation-appropriate manner. Still, it doesn't prevent me from bring my particular approach to the game.

As such, here's what I'm doing:
  • Ice Chain to lead off, finish with the second spell of the chain to knock back your target and stun it
  • Follow up with either your DoT or your Fire chain. It depends on how long the thing is going to live. Since I'm duo'ing everything with an assassin (Fuu), things don't really live long... I usually skip the DoT.
  • If something gets close to you, use your rooting spell.
  • If you draw unexpected aggro - root it and DoT it... all while running away to get into your ice chain rotation.
  • Kite Kite Kite. DoT and Kite. Great strategy for staying alive. Run in circles if you have to with auto attack on. Strafe to keep it in front of you and for the dodge bonus.
  • You have a stoneskin spell, use it. You can probably take about three hits before you're in trouble. Plan accordingly
That's about it. My basic, fall back rotation is Ice Chain, DoT, Fire Chain. It's that simple... at least at level 13. I'll relate more as I learn it.

As far as pet choice goes, I have two at my disposal at the moment. The fire guy you get after ascension and the wind spirit I got as a random world drop. It seems to me that the fire spirit is better suited to tanking (definitely can take more of a beating), but the wind spirit is a bit better on the DPS end. I haven't yet found any test dummies in Aion and I certainly don't have Recount, so I can't give any numbers, only a feel.

Currently, it's sort of a pain that the pets can't fly with you, but that is scheduled to change soon in a forthcoming patch. At the very least, it's on the dev's radar. I think that's been the biggest complaint so far with the class, but it's something that doesn't bother me a whole lot. For now, I've been doing a lot of my questing in "grounded" areas anyways. Plus, I'm sort of used to the annoyance of pets and following from my warlocky background. Remember the old mantra: "Make sure you de-summon your pet before you jump?" Well, that definitely applies in Aion right now.

Love the game so far, but I'm still raiding tonight in WoW (if their servers are up: I guess my choices might end up being long queue servers or crashed patchy servers, which would you pick?). Hope everyone else enjoys the launch day!

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