I realize that clearly I am not the player I used to be as evidenced by the fact that I am unable to complete this content though at the end of 1.5 I was in the #1 group on two of the 4 trials. I was going to write my thoughts on this after a compete however, I have abandoned that idea as I am not able to do so with my Templar and do not have the time to come to master any other classes just as I did not have the time to complete maelstrom prior to the round saving mechanic. Having a kid does that, what can I say. I wouldn’t trade it.
So, this is going to sound to many like an I can’t complete this so nerf it whine fest. So be it. I have at least made it to boss execute phase (on 1 of at least 50 boss tries so execute is really not the problem). I also realize that development resources seem to be at an all time low so fixing this in a way that is not just a nerf would be quite difficult and probably it will at some point either be nerfed or just left in the lousy state it is in. Anyhow, here are my thoughts as brief as they can be, round by round really mostly addressing the boss rounds.
1) Vale of the Surreal – This is a warm up round. There is not much to it. If you died you are in real trouble buddy. I wouldn’t bother changing it.
2) Seht’s Balcony – This is basically a heals check and gives you something of an idea of the mostly unavoidability of a substantial amount of damage in VMA. I say mostly unavoidable because there is a mechanic where you can turn off the spinning blades temporarily but there is a substantial time out between available lever uses on this so you will, in all probability, just heal through the thing and pull the levers occasionally. It doesn’t really feel much like a mechanic but rather feels rather cobbled together in the way that many things in VMA do. Anyhow, again, you are unlikely to die here if you have anything like the spec you will need to complete.
3) Dome of Toxic Shock – The funny thing about this is that I actually thought this arena was easier before the stranglers were “fixed.” Then, and now, the arena is mostly about kill order with the stranglers first. This is the first really hard arena in VMA because it is the first where you will be constantly CC’d in addition to the obligatory rather constant incoming damage. All that said, it is the last arena you are likely to complete without a very specific strategy. Had I ever had one here it would probably be easy but strategies come from multiple fails and familiarity and I just didn’t fail enough to have play by play knowledge of the thing.
4) Seht’s Flywheel – Of all the arena’s, this one has the poorest design. I say that because all through the regular rounds you become used to a straightforward kill order where you keep up on the little, harmless looking, dwemer things which will shield up and constantly CC and harass you if ignored and then kill the immediately dangerous things next. Then you get to the boss round and forget all that. It is not that that primary mechanic is not present anymore, it is. It is just that the bosses mechanics dictate that in order to do dps on him and not take massive damage you must stand under him half of the time. All those little guys that you need to kill spawn across a raised center from the boss during that first phase so if you want to get them you will have to ignore the boss during this primary dps time. Tempting or not, if you do so, not only would the fight take well over twice as long, but you are unlikely to keep up with the adds that spawn each phase. Since the other phase is an unavoidable high incoming damage phase, and since one of those soon to be adds is a sorc who will happily streak stun you to certain death, I would suggest you grab the dps sigil, pop a power pot, and give it your full dps burn. Your welcome. If you happen to be a developer reading this, do not pit one mechanic against another. For instance, how about during the boss shields you phase you spawn some kill you adds and during the other phase you spawn those little shield mechanic adds so the player switches from boss to little shield adds with phase and does AOE on boss and dangerous adds during the shield up phase. Just I thought. I’m happy to burn it down. Really, it’s not that hard a dps check given that you can actually focus on dps during most of it instead of healing like most dps checks in VMA.
5) Rink of Frozen Blood – If you have not rage quit yet here is where it will probably happen as it did for me each time prior to being able to save progress. Your 5 rounds in and if your as weak as me you are likely starting to loose sharpness and then you get this round. The primary mechanic is simple enough. You kill the stompy trolls before they break the ice and leave you no where to stand. Depending on which round the order after that has some variance and basically comes down to the archers hit really hard, there are wrecking blow guys who do exactly what they do in PVP, and a few other ads that have CC’s. Enter the boss round and more CC’s. I will warn you, you may get very good at these mechanics and still die, especially if you are a Templar. Each platform must be done in turn because each spawn is dependent on boss health which also determines when platforms get broke (assuming you don’t screw up and let a troll live.) Do not dps the boss to fast, it is about timing the coreagraphy not burn until the last platform where you drop trou and let it all fly. The difficulty in this well choreographed game is that many of the adds are ranged and pulling them close enough to AOE will still leave you facing away from the boss as a Templar unless you run out in the freezing water and risk an likely death if the boss fears. This backwards facing means you have some difficulty with tells from the boss or the wrecking blow guy. Beware, total there are at least 4 hard CC’s with a boss fear, boss face smack, add wrecking blow, and Nereid ice thing. In the end, even with careful timing, coordination, and awareness it is a lot of CC’s to avoid and requires some degree of luck because the fear can lead into any of the others resulting in your no fault untimely demise. In short, it will feel unfair because it is. My advice to the developers is to increase the size of the islands slightly or decrease the ranged adds range slightly so that they can be better positioned. The boss fear should also go as it conspires with the adds CC’s to give players no fault deaths. I should also add that the Templar total dark ability does not seem to work fully on any of the adds. I wonder, does DK flappy? In any case, the Nereid fires ice bolts right though it and although the archer and mage do not damage you through it they also do not appear to take any of their own damage. I find this sort of thing a recurring annoyance as a Templar. You come out and say we don’t need useful in VMA things like a class major expedition or major spell power as we apparently have all the tools we need but many of our useful tools specifically do not work, even on adds. I figured, Archer hits hard, he can bloody well kill himself. That is worth a bar slot usually used for something else. No dice.
6) Spiral Shadow – This is hands down the best arena in the game and the only one I can actually say I enjoyed. Both major mechanics of this round center on getting and using pillars. You kill horvars to uncover them, make sure spiders don’t recover them, hide in their glow from swarms of death, and get 5 uncovered to stun everything. If you can play all these mechanics you will do well as the raw incoming damage is not as massive as most other arenas and the dps checks are not as high. It is the round with the most mechanics and it was a lot of fun I wouldn’t change a thing.
7) Vault of Umbrage – A round many will take Umbrage at, lol, I couldn’t resist. The main mechanic is avoiding being near mushrooms as they will poison you and make you run shielding to the green for cleanse (shield not heal as it is a massive heal debuff in case you thought breath was worth the cost.) Interestingly, unlike many other rounds, you can actually make a mistake and sometimes live. Incoming damage tends to be high and stunning adds are prevalent so bad timing on a mistake means death but really there are many other places where no mistakes period is the rule. Really I have little problem with the Vault until the end and the issue I have there is that, because mushroom spawns are random, they will sometimes spawn in a way to prevent you from having a shield castor to stand under in a safe location. If you have none you will likely die from poison during the shield phase as you can’t leave the shield and will be poisoned. That is not real fair. My change to the Vault is to have the shield dispel poison as well. I should also note that in PTS Templar purify removed the poison. It was apparently OP to have our class ability do what it was intended to do so this was ended. Templars don’t seem to be doing so well now do they? I’m just saying, there is a reason we are all paranoid when many of our important utility abilities are rendered useless and we are told we don’t need the types of things others use all while our complete rate is on the far low side despite being one of the more common classes.
8) Igneous Cistern – This round combines a basic kill order mechanics with a break the stones un-shield and stun the boss mechanic. This is also one of the few fights that, as a Templar, you will still be able to keep your distance from nasty melee death stuff. Really, most of round 8 is more about dealing with high incoming damage and prevalent stuns if you ask me but that is true of much of VMA. Most see this round as a little of a break before the final round.
9) Theater of Despair – Ok, so instead of the final boss being it’s own arena it is thrown into arena 9 which then makes it have an extra round. I’m sure this didn’t matter at first but now it is a royal PITA as you must then go through all those each time you want to attempt the final boss. They are not really that hard but it is a barrier nevertheless to me each time I try the final boss as it’s about another 15min. So, these first rounds have stuns and extremely high incoming deeps from the crematorium guards with the mechanics of killing summoners, avoiding white ghosts and collecting gold ones. Get it down and you will roll. The boss is another story. It is a 3 stage fight and the bottom line is that, though the mechanics are excellent, the dps check and heal check have proved my better. You start dpsing the boss, dodge the big skull, interrupt him immediately after teleport. Kill the healer, dps boss and crematorium gaurd, avoid boss explosion, dodge skull immediately after boss teleport. Finish gaurd if still up. Get boss to 70 at which point he goes upstairs. Kill healer then kill clanfear on lit pad so you can use it to go up. Up top you must dps three crystals while dodging the big skulls, avoiding meteors which will stun you so but oddly not immediately kill you given that you will be hit by another and another while perma-stunned until you die. Periodically the boss will summon a wall you must hide behind to avoid a big insta-death stomp and this wall will move rather fast and appears to get faster each time. The dps check is real as you are handling a lot of mechanics and moderate incoming unavoidable damage during this. Soon you will be unable to stay with the wall. If you survive this phase the final one is actually easier. You dps the boss while avoiding his same mechanics and any adds convenient while picking up gold ghosts. Get 3, boss stunned, and if you did enough dps you execute him on his knees. I have only reached that final stage once and was unwise to not do enough dps on the boss before the stun. If you do not you will likely be overwhelmed after that point. So, my take. It is mostly a good fight with great mechanics. In that regard the only things I would change would be to program the ghosts and boss teleports in such a way that there can never be a white ghost between you and the boss when he teleports for his attack that must be interrupted. If there is it is a no fault wipe. Beyond that I would just reduce Crematorium guard damage by about 15% and slow the wall upstairs so Templars and DK’s can get to it. Using speed potions is easy to say but as this either brings major buffs offline or casts time to cast them it is lowered DPS either way and that check is for real since, as a Templar or DK, you are pretty much obligatorily playing melee to heal while doing DPS.
So that is what I have to say. Yea, I would like a few nerfs to Maelstrom some on content I have completed and some on content I have not. More importantly, I would like some specific changes here and there to unfair mechanics that cause no fault deaths that you probably only face in 1 in 4 runs let me know what you all think.