Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Esper's Hot Stream

Before we get started, let's get this out of the way immediately: I always approve of bodily function jokes. If they ever cease to be funny to me, then I will know I've officially grown too full of myself.

So the Esper had its day in the sun today as we were taken on a guided tour through the various abilities and functions that the psychic phenom possessed. Mr. Stephan Frost (producer), Hugh Shelton (lead class designer), Jade Martin (lead Esper designer), and Chris Lynch (lead combat designer) showed off how the Esper solo's, how they heal in dungeons, and even a bit of how they perform in PvP. It was a great watch, and despite a few technical difficulties (mostly on the part of my shabby internet), I really had fun and it got me itching to give the game a go.

One of my major fears after watching the Warrior stream was the feeling that combat progressed a little slower than I thought an action-combat based game should go. I realize that the Warrior was spec'd as a tank, but things still felt a little sketchy. The Esper stream did a TON to assuage this fear for me. The fact that they demonstrated the "burst" of the Esper class helped to put my mind at ease. I believe it was Shelton who stated that if the Esper timed their build-up abilities and one of their stronger attacks correctly, it would generate a big strike of damage; this was something I didn't see the Warrior do. Granted, we only had a limited snippet, and perhaps the Warrior provides more sustained damage over time, but it's good to see that there is a distinct "feel" to each of the classes and how they play.

Something else that sort of surprised me was the Esper's reliability in PvP. Matched up against a Warrior, the Esper seemed very capable of holding its own despite the armor disadvantage. I am used to PvP in WoW when melee used to be able to pop down a caster in practically no time. Now, I should point out here that I am by no means a PvP guru and that a lot of what I say may be perceived as ignorance from more practiced hands, but I like the way combat looked a bit more measured and took a bit more time. It's the exact opposite of PvE for me: PvP should be deliberate, difficult, and take some time, and that's what I saw. The Warrior had his chances, but Jade Martin played well and timed his cooldowns well. I'll be curious to see how Espers fare as more players get their hands on the class.

There was one minor point of concern for me in regards to the performance of the Esper. Watching the short bit of Stormtalon's Lair, a dungeon shown in the stream, things seemed difficult. Don't get me wrong: I like difficult. It adds to that feeling of accomplishment. That said, I struggled a bit to recognize what exactly the Esper was doing with the heals at his disposal. Granted, the pulls weren't totally on-point and things were a bit messy, but there were times when it looked like the Esper struggled to bring his tank back from the brink, even when he had a reasonable amount of time to do so. I didn't notice any good "Oh sh*t!" buttons that helped to turn the tide of a fight. I'm making a lot of assumptions here, since I don't have a list of the abilities and what they do on hand, but hopefully we have enough juice as healers to help turn the tide of a fight that's going south.

Overall, the stream was great, but I wish I was a bit more familiar with the class as a whole on a mechanical level. That's obviously wishful thinking, given that these are meant to be little introductions to the class and you aren't going to understand all of what's going on. The game is still in beta and there's a lot of data to be crunched and systems to be tested. It was still fun, and I'm looking forward to more information trickling out as we move closer towards December's beta.

Be sure to check out the Esper Live Stream linked here and at the top, and share your thoughts with me in the comments! Also, tune in next time as I discuss Paths from an Esper's perspective, and why I think Settlers are awesome!

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