High Elf Gladiator Analysis (and Why I Hate Damage Traps)
It’s hard for me to really evaluate HEGl because I didn’t get this one very far. As I mentioned in a note at the end of my last post I ended up losing shortly after my narrative cut off when I walked into a bolt trap at low HP, instantly killing me. However, I got far enough to get a feel for the combo, so I’ll go ahead and give a preliminary analysis.
I think it’s fair to say that as pure melee fighters, HEGls are weaker than most standard alternatives. Their aptitudes for their primary offensive and defensive skills, (Long Blades and Dodging respectively), are good, but not overwhelmingly so, so they’ll never be able to operate with the ease of a MfGl or HOFi. They also get less HP than most of the standard fighter, -10% per level, which also translates to less effective gains from training fighting, so they’re just not going to be able to tank the way that some more standard melee combos would. That said, at least through the early game, I didn’t find my own HEGl unplayable at all. Underpowered, sure, and more challenging than average, but with an early Temple and the help of Okawaru’s Heroism I almost never ran into fights I simply couldn’t handle. I expect that with full Oka piety and a few good gifts, along with bringing core skills up to more effective levels, would ameliorate most of the problems I was having if not eliminate them entirely.
Where I expect HEGls really shine is in hybridization, particularly into spellcasting. They have all the aptitudes necessary to be excellent “pure” casters, and that’s actually how I usually play them, but as a melee fighter they’re perfectly suited to be casting powerful Charms and Translocations spells early. Granted, they’re massively ahead of merfolk gladiators, (probably the strongest dodging-based melee combo), in this regard, but it’s enough to make a difference: their apts for Air Magic and Translocations are both +2 whereas a merfolk has -2, which makes a critical difference when it comes to getting truly powerful buffs like Deflect Missiles and Phase Shift online. On the early spells like Repel Missiles and Ozocubu’s Armour, (and perhaps even haste), they’re roughly equal, but when it comes to the higher-level options High Elves are going to excel where merfolk flounder. And with a better, (though still sub-par), armour apt, High Elves even have the option to transition into slightly heavier armour while maintaining some spellcasting ability. Essentially what I see here is great opportunity for versatility at the expense of core capabilities, not just in contrast to other gladiators but to melee combos as a whole.
Overall, I enjoyed this class and I hope to come back and ascend one eventually. It was really disappointing to see my game to come to an abrupt and unceremonious end the way it did, and I’ll talk about that briefly now.
Damage Traps are Bullshit
I got whacked for 21 damage while running from the Orcish Mines to some stores on D:8, bringing me to exactly 0 health and ending my game. This really sucks. My death wasn’t a result of poor tactical play, poor strategic planning, poor character development, or anything of the sort: it was because I decided to move around at low HP without having Traps trained. An argument can be made that those were player errors, but I’m never going to be able to see that as valid. Players should not be punished with instant death for moving at low HP and not training the Traps skill early enough because it’s not interesting or fun: all it does is demand the player heal up after every battle by pressing ‘5’ repeatedly. It doesn’t add anything except tedium and encouraging a playstyle that raises turn count pointlessly – players are actually less likely to get into interesting and tough scenarios if they wait to fully heal after every battle to avoid instant death to traps.
This sort of thing is also more likely than you might expect. In the recent tournament, I lost 2 promising characters to instant trap deaths, (and lost a life on felid to the same), and I heard my teammates and friends complaining about the same. If I’m playing infrequently I can go weeks or months without dealing with this, but in frequent play it’s almost an inevitability, (assuming you, like me, don’t heal up after every battle because you’re at least attemping to lower turn count). I think (though I might be wrong) that the momentum on the dev team is to get rid of damage traps while leaving in the more interesting ones like teleport, alarm, shaft and Zot traps, which would be a great improvement in my opinion. I hope to see it in 0.13, though I suppose I’m not holding my breath there.