One of the goals of Muscommunication is to evolve into actual gameplay guides more than general game analysis. This week I want to look at a specific class and advanced class that I am greatly intrigued by. The Jedi Consular’s Shadow AC has to potential to be the most dangerous PvP class we have ever seen. Let’s take a look at some of its skills to see why I think it is so powerful and how BioWare can keep it in line. Read on!
Why It’s So Powerful
The potential power of the Shadow advanced class lies within its amazing diversity. As soon as we knew that the Shadow would be a stealth based melee class, many players, including myself, immediately thought of a Rogue from World of Warcraft and their damaging stun-lock potential(notice in the video how his equal level opponent never even hits him once). The ability for a Rogue to keep a player completely unable to act until they are dead has been a complaint of many players for a very long time and it is my belief that the Shadow will have this potential and so much more. For those who aren’t avid MMO gamers or PvP players, let me give you a few definitions and then we will move on and I will show you all of the tools available to the Shadow.
Crowd Control (CC) – Any skill that changes the way an enemy player character functions. These include:
- Snares – Affects the movement rate of a player, such as slowing their run speed or removing their ability to move at all.
- Stun – Completely removes your ability to act at all; you typically cannot move or activate any skills. Stuns typically do not break on damage.
- Daze – A daze is similar to a stun, the difference is that most daze effects do break upon the character taking damage.
- Knockdown – Forces a character to fall onto the ground, immobilizing them during the course of the knockdown animation.
- Punt – Throws a character into the air, moving them away from you and potentially into environmental hazards. This is the only form of crowd control we have not seen in the Shadow.
Melee Skill – Any skill that requires a player to be within “melee” range to use, typically melee range is 5m or less and will mean one character must be within physical reach of another.
Ranged Skill – Any skill that has a range that is greater than melee range.
Survivability – Anything that adds to a players ability to extend their life. Examples include self heals, damage reduction, attack evasion, etc.
Now that you have the relevant definitions, let’s take this class apart and look at why it is so dangerous. For reference, I obtained the following information on skills from here.
- Stealth – One of the key components to a stealth class’s success in PvP is that they get to choose when and where the fight begins since you, their opponent, cannot see them while they are stealthed.
- Burst Potential – Doing a lot of damage in a very short time is something that these types of classes tend to specialize in. You will commonly see abilities listed as doing “100% weapon damage in a single strike“. Skills like this allow the Shadow to do an immense amount of damage in a very short time. (e.g., Run Through, Shadow Strike)
- Control – As previously mentioned, “stun-lock” Rogues were infamous for their ability to kill you before you could take a single action. As strange as it may sound, the Shadow preventing you from doing any damage is effectively increasing their personal damage output by comparison. Combined with their ability to ambush enemies, stun-locking is deadly.
- Ranged Damage – This, in my opinion, is what really makes this class scary compared to other stealth classes. We have all fought Rogues and Assassins in other games that are incredibly dangerous when they get the jump on you, but you typically have the option to increase your distance from them to “reset” the battle. That is not possible in Star Wars: The Old Republic, not against a Shadow. Not only can they do substantial damage to you up close, if you manage to get away from them they will still be able to hurt you. They may only have two ranged DPS skills, Project and Mind Crush, but those are two more than they will need to kill you in most encounters anyway.
You can obviously tell by now that crowd control is a large part of why this class will be terrifying to face and just in case you thought I was making a big deal out of it, let me show you everything the Shadow will be throwing at you:
- Ranged Stuns – Project
- Ranged Snares – Telekinetic Throw, Force Slow
- Ranged Daze – Stasis Field
- Melee Stun – Force Wave (AoE), Hidden Strike
- Melee Snare – Low Slash
- Melee Daze – Mind Maze
As if everything I have shown you already wont make you fear a Shadow enough, there is still one more consideration, survivability. That one single trait is often the defining general feature to all classes in defining their success in PvP. It is the reason that any serious PvP’er will concentrate on stacking Stamina/Endurance to achieve as much health as possible. The longer you can stay alive, the more success you will have in PvP. One might expect that the stun-locking abilities of any stealth class would count as their survivability—if you aren’t hitting them then they aren’t dying—but the Shadow also has a few tools to ensure that they wont be dying anytime soon against un-stunned characters either:
- Healing – That’s right, they can also heal themselves. Luckily their healing arsenal is fairly small. They have a short cast-time heal, Benevolence, and a channeled heal with a long cooldown, Replenish. I am not going to count their out of combat channeled heal since all classes have one.
- Defensive Buffs – They have a buff which will greatly increase their survivability for 15 seconds called Deflection.
- Run Away! – Yep, even the ability to run away and fight another day can count towards survivability, especially since if they can get out of combat, they can restealth. This makes what is clearly intended to be a defensive power a potential attack maneuver. They have two movement increasing abilities, Sprint andForce Speed.
Add all of that together and you can begin to see the shape of destruction that will be coming at you in PvP: they can burst you down from stealth, they can control you till you die, they can heal themselves mid combat. Their options are so vast that it is hard to see how any other class (except possibly their Sith Inquisitor cross-faction counterpart) could stand a chance. However, there are always disadvantages as well.
Where The Shadow Falls
Diversity is the key to powerful classes in PvP, as I have illustrated above, but very diverse classes come with their own set of problems. First and foremost, player skill becomes crucial. If you have been counting, I just listed 15+ skills with varying uses and there are other skills available to the Shadow that I haven’t bothered to list. There is so much many options that you must use properly in order to make this class work that it honestly is beyond the scope of most players’ skill level. Only the most elite PvPers will be able to balance using stealth, melee dps, ranged dps, buffs, healing and stuns effectivley to become the outright killing machine that the Shadows potential allows. It’s not enough to have these skills, you have to use them.
In a similar vein, gearing this class will be something that I assume many players will do incorrectly. The problem is that although, for example, the Shadow has the ability to use a ranged attack like Project, that skill’s damage is modified by different stats than their melee skills will be. It will be a very delicate dance for a player to gear themselves properly in order to have maximum efficiency. As “one of those annoying math guys” I look forward to playing with the numbers and seeing how to make this class work but even I am intimidated by the broad scope that this class requires. It’s not enough to use these skills, you have to plan ahead.
What BioWare’s Can Do
With all that being said, it is ultimately BioWare’s job to ensure that this class is balanced against everything else, not ours. So what is BioWare doing right now to balance them? This is a very difficult question to answer since the answer itself is most likely tied into the talents and specializations within your advanced class. BioWare can arrange these talents to force a player into being heavily specialized (such as very melee/burst oriented) which will lessen the scope of their skill diversity by reducing the usefulness of their heals and ranged DPS. On the other hand they can also allow for a full hybrid specialization, the “good at everything, great at nothing” specialization. This would mean that while they’d still have their diversity, their potency would be that diversity and none of their skills would be very strong in themselves. So a player would need to use all of their tools to be successful and no single skill, specialization or strategy would be very powerful.
What makes me most concerned is the Shadow’s ability to heal and access to ranged DPS skills. Anyone who has played World of Warcraft has seen the potential of a class like a Druid, they too can do everything I have listed but in my mind their is one very important difference: global cooldowns. You see, when a druid is in cat form, they act just like a Rogue would. They need to come out of that form, use a skill (such as a heal) and then return to cat form to become a Rogue again. This process triggers multiple global cooldowns, causing that skill usage to take longer than it normally would. Every time they switch between modes, they are slowing the speed of their attack. The Shadow, as we know now, simply has to press different buttons to use these diverse skills with no built in game mechanic to restrict their usage together.
I know that someone will say that I am nitpicking this system based on advantages that grant the Shadow the advantage of only a few seconds of less cooldown. Anyone who is typing that right now does not understand how PvP works. Something as simple as a misuse of a cooldown, missing a skill use, triggering an extra global cooldown, can be the difference between victory and death. When you consider that every time the Shadow uses a heal or a ranged skill, they are gaining one or more global cooldowns over their mirrors from other games, the difference can add up quickly. If a druid blows a transformation, they’ve let you escape if not granted you victory. If a Shadow misuses a skill, they still have all their other skills at their disposal.
I have now spent an entire article telling you why I think the Shadow is a dangerous class and it is my firm belief that BioWare will need to take more caution in balancing this class—this advanced class—than any other. However, the truth is that neither you nor I can make a full assessment until we know how character specialization works. This includes both DS/LS points and talents. I still leave BioWare with a word of caution, be careful with this class. It has the potential to be the single most dangerous PvP class I have ever seen in any MMO before it.
I know many of you will have arguments and comments on this article. Comment below or head to the discussion thread here. Additionally, if you wish to contact me about this article or have anything you would like to see in a future Muscommunication, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!