The last few days I’ve done a fair number of runs on the Storm the Castle skirmish, as part of this weekend’s Call to Arms. I’ve actually lost track of the number of times I ran it, probably twenty or so – not exactly a high number to an old-school raider perhaps, but it was a lot of repetition nonetheless.
Although I’m not normally a fan of grinding, it was an interesting experiment for two reasons. Firstly it was a chance to test my level 42/43 character and his frost-focused build more intensively in group play. Secondly it also allowed me to observe the particularities of the auto-scaling system.
In building my character I focused on survivability and control because he’s mainly used for solo exploration of the game’s storylines. There are certainly more damage focused (so-called ‘glasscannon’) builds available. My at-will powers focus on stacking the chill effect to slow and freeze single enemies before they can reach me, so I mainly use Ray of Frost and Chill Cloud. Encounter power-wise I use Chill Strike for group damage, especially slaying lots of weak ‘minion’ type monsters with one spell. Entangling Force provides some solid crowd control to lock down a more dangerous opponent while I deal with others. More recently I’ve been using Icy Terrain as my third encounter power; I can keep it up around me almost constantly to punish anything that gets too close – it stacks the chill effect as well.
In playing a lot of skirmishes I feel that I’m improving my use of the above abilities in a group context. It’s not always easy transferring what you learn about a game from the solo leveling experience common in most MMOs to the group activities. I’ve seen many examples of the varied nature of player skill over these few days – from tanks that could keep massive over-pulls under control to wizards who seem to cast their daily powers as soon as they light up regardless if there’s anything left alive to target…
Generally this style of gameplay leaves me lower down the damage done list (the meters that you call up by pressing ‘x’) but also means I’ve taken a *lot* less damage than most in the group. I’d rather save on potions and the healer’s stress levels than top any list. The one run where I consistently led the damage chart was also one where I was constantly grabbing aggro and having to play defensively to avoid dying. I’m not sure what the level 60 guardian tank was doing wrong but for me (a level 43 wizard specced for control) to be top of monsters threat list something wasn’t right.
Sadly I didn’t get the green-quality swashbuckler companion, one of the rare rewards, but I did get a load of experience, astral diamonds and some random gear upgrades. The special brutal enchantments (see this dev blog page for details) do seem pretty good overall.
I did also run the thing once on my cleric (in a leveling-duo with a wizard). Queuing as a pair was just as seamless a process. We discussed the experience over the two runs we completed together – as a cleric there’s the added pressure of trying to heal characters that are running round corners and in different directions.
My number 1 rule is to stick with the tank, if impatient players run off ahead they can suffer the consequences. Despite the inevitable deaths from running ahead, or pulling multiple groups there was surprisingly little complaints or accusations. People just released and ran back into the fight without a word. Overall I’d rather silence than the common pug-culture of insults and blaming others for your mistakes.