Friday, August 8, 2008

Early Level Zealot Preview

"My experience with possibly the best class ever made"

Please note that I haven't had the full experience by any stretch of the imagination. I only got to play through the first five levels before being kicked off by my friend, so take everything here with a grain of salt

Let me break down why the Zealot is just so incredibly amazing.

1. Snipe Healing
My first time into a scenario I died constantly and helped no one. This was incredibly frustrating as you can imagine and I had to wonder what I was doing wrong. Finally, as a sheer accident, I hit one of my heal spells while I figured that I was LONG out of range of my allies. Much to my surprise, the heal went off. Then the truth dawned on me... I had been playing the entire time with the same heal range limit in mind as WoW has. This isn't the case in WAR; from my estimates you can heal about 1.5x WoW's normal casting distance! I have affectionately given this mechanic the name "snipe healing" because that is what it feels like... I go find a place to hide and then heal long distance. This makes positioning the most vital part of playing Zealot because (at least in the first five levels) the class doesn't get any abilities to kite opponents once they are on top of them.

2. The Endurance Healer
I think that the label of healer/buffer, while accurate, does not fully describe the greatest advantage that a zealot has. Unlike the Disciple of Khaine who must generate his healing pool while in melee combat and the Shaman who must increase his healing ability by casting damage spells, the Zealot has no limiting mechanic for his healing and therefore can always heal effectively without having to stop. That's not to say that damage isn't important (we'll get to that), but this flexibility really allows people who just want to "heal-bot" to shine. For those of you who were curious, the casting currency for all Zealot spells is AP, so yes, you're going to be sharing the same currency for your buff, healing, and damage spells. Some might be tempted to just think of it as the "mana mechanic" from other games, but don't go that far. AP lasts a good while and generates EXTREMELY QUICKLY. Playing a Zealot isn't like playing a priest in WoW where you heal and then type "out of mana" and die. Of course it is possible to run out of AP, but all you have to do to recover it is run around and it should be back up in a few seconds. Hence, the Zealot in my opinion is the true "Endurance Healer."

3. Dots, Hots, and Mobility
Another thing that the Zealot has quite a few of are Dots and Hots. This makes playing the Zealot a lot of fun because most (if not all, I haven't checked) instant cast spells seem to be able to be cast while moving. HoTs allow you to stay alive when people are targeting you and you can't stand around to cast while DoTs are effective for whittling down your opponent if you only have a second or two to cast a damage spell between healing.

4. Instant Nukes
Most interesting of all though are the instant cast nukes in the Zealot's arsenal. At level five, I had two such nukes at my disposal. Basically, these nukes allowed me to do a brief period of "burst damage" to the enemy. I wouldn't call the Zealot's damage extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination and comparing it with a class like the Sorceress is somewhat painful, but Zealots can still contribute to the battle by making good use of these spells. Basically, my spell rotation pattern would work something like this: heal, heal, heal, heal, BURST a weakling, heal, heal, heal, heal. I still got quite a few personal kills using this method (and please note that my opponents were a good 6-7 levels above me).

A helpful analogy can be found in the ever-important subject of eating a steak. Think of DPS classes as the kind of guys who know how to eat well and will quickly cut the steak up and swallow it piece by piece. Zealots, on the other hand, would rather put a piece of steak in their mouths and let it soften up (DoTs) and then proceed to bite and tear off a huge chunk (Burst). You'll never be as fast as a DPS class, but as soon as you can get this odd little analogy set in your head you'll realize that you can still contribute a lot by participating in a focus-fire spike or nailing a weak opponent in-between heals.

I'll be curious to see if this playstyle remains consistent throughout the later levels, but I can at least vouch that for now it is a lot of fun.

5. Blue Flame
While most high school-to-college age students will immediately understand the value of "Blue flaming" (if you don't it's probably better), don't underestimate simply how cool it is to have blue spell effects for your heals and damage. I mean, seriously, it's not green, it's not red, and it certainly isn't yellow. It's BLUE. Of all the healers I've ever played in MMORPGs, I can safely say that the spell effects for the Zealot are my favorite. I'm still hoping that they'll get cranked up to even greater heights before release!

So, with all this uberness, is the Zealot overpowered?
No, not all! From my experience, I would not be surprised if the Zealot ends up as one of the worst 1v1 classes in the game. The Zealot's damage isn't really high enough to "dot and forget" like Warlocks can in WoW, and while Zealot HP can regenerate quickly thanks to all of those healing spells, if one guy attacks you your lower armor dictates that in order to survive you'll be doing *nothing but* self-healing. As you probably have already realized, if you're spending all of your time self-healing, you're not doing damage and will eventually be killed.

Is this a problem? No, I think that it's pretty fair. Getting a group in Warhammer is easy and you learn very quickly that just because you're a healer doesn't mean you have the most important role in the game. More than ever, your fragility makes you treasure the DPS classes who can burn down guys if you're forced to self-heal and tanks who can protect you.

Keep in mind, this is only a taste of the Zealot's true abilities
I haven't reached a high enough level to really comment on two of the Zealot's other important mechanics, land warping (providing a designated area with a buff similar to a totem in WoW) and providing marks. Marks are really good buffs similar to a Paladin's seals and they can be activated by the user for additional effects.

One last comment on the marks: I was originally scared that as a buffing class I would do nothing but re-buff people constantly. Currently, this is not the case because you can only throw marks on party members, meaning you'll only have to manage around 5-6 at a given time. Even then, only one mark can be active on a player at a time.

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