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The Druid Identity Crisis

By on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:00 am, in Article, Editorial, RIFT  |  Comments: 3 comments

The Druid class seems to be a little lost and confused, these days. Originally designed as a melee pet class, Druid melee DPS falls consistently behind Shaman DPS, and while the Druid’s Satyr can pump out some decent AoE damage, the faerie pet, even the greater faerie, doesn’t put out enough healing to warrant it a spot as anything except a vanity pet in a weird-looking costume.

Adding to the crisis, Druids have a mixed bag of attacks and abilities that may have originally sounded good on paper, but in reality, aren’t that useful. Balm of the Woods is extremely lackluster for a self-heal with a cooldown. Shield of Oak, like Glacial Shield, is essentially useless except while leveling. Bombard deals decent ranged damage, but deals earth damage, which means it doesn’t have synergy with many other Druid abilities, Shaman abilities, Inquisitor abilities, or Justicar abilities. And most RIFT builds revolve around synergy.

Natural Dedication would be a nice bonus to having a Druid in a raid, but an Archon in the raid brings the same exact buff. And how often does a progression raid go without an Archon? Many of the Druid’s unique abilities such as Stone Burst, Slumber, Grim Silence, Slothful Spirit, and Spiteful Spirit are interesting for small group and PvP purposes, but the total lack of self healing and survivability leaves the class quite weak in PvP. Random utility abilities don’t stand a chance in most PvP situations in comparison to the popular hybrid -icar builds.

And that’s probably the main issue with the class in general. There just isn’t enough of a reason to sink 51 points into the Druid tree. Thanks to the addition of the 51-point incentive to most classes, the once-popular 31 Druid/ 24 Shaman/ 11 Inquisitor build has been tossed into extinction, which is both good and bad. Good because now Cleric DPSers are able to utilize full Shaman, Cabalist, and Inquisitor builds, but bad because… well, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a level 50 Druid running around.

The lack of synergy with other classes is a big issue for Druid. A 51-point Druidicar build is currently possible, but clunky in comparison to the Inquisitor and Shaman versions. A 51-point Shamicar will have a larger percentage of critical hits and heals going off, plus the ability to charge into melee range and no need to micromanage a pet. A 51-point Inquisicar blows the Druid variant out of the water, especially since it’s ranged, offers the Clinging Spirits debuff, and has more ways to build convictions.

When it comes to pure DPS, the Druid’s odd combination of earth, life, and physical damage simply doesn’t hold up against the life synergy of Inquisitor, death synergy of Cabalist, and water/air synergy of Shaman. The Druid’s DPS rotation itself isn’t terrible, but the amount of damage each ability does seems especially lackluster in comparison to other 51-point DPS builds.

Trion seems to be somewhat aware of the class’ identity crisis. In a recently-released developer post regarding the 1.7 planned changes for Clerics, a few changes are directed toward Druids:

Druid

  • Trickster Spirit, Slothful Spirit, Spiteful Spirit: These have all been changed to spells that deal Earth damage and work from 30 meters.
  • Eruption of Life: Now triggers off of any damage.
  • Faerie Healing: Increased the healing amount.
  • Faerie’s Favor: Now instacast. Increased the healing amount. Now affects up to 4 additional party or raid members within a 20 meter radius if cast by the Greater Faerie.
  • Mead Rush: New ability usable by the Satyr. Charges at the enemy and deals damage. Has a 10 second cooldown.
  • Fury of the Fae: The Satyr will now also autocast this when out of combat.

Some of it’s a good starting point. More ranged utility abilities is good. More ranged abilities in general is probably good, considering the fact that Druids lack a gap closer of any kind. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing the class made into more of a ranged DPS class with utility options and multiple pets. The Eruption of Life change is solid, and more abilities of this nature would be welcome.

The Faerie healing changes seem decent on paper, but in actual tests on the PTS, they have come up underwhelming. It’s extremely difficult to create and balance AI healing in order to be comparable to an actual player’s heals. The only real useful role I can see for the Druid, even after these changes, is a Druidicar type role, with the Faerie providing additional support. Many Cleric players have come to the same conclusion, and are beginning to wonder if the Druid is heading more toward a support role and losing its DPS role.

After these changes were posted, Zinbik reentered the thread with an update. Here’s the part that hits on the future of the Druid:

I do want to specify right now though that the Druid will not become a full support soul. There are currently no plans to add a full support soul to the Cleric in the foreseeable future.

It’s great to finally see a glimpse of some of the things Trion is planning for the Cleric class. The community hasn’t received many Cleric updates at all, which is disheartening considering the scaling issues many of the Cleric classes have seen since Hammerknell has been released. It seems that they are still intending for the Druid to be a full DPS class. This is the route I prefer to see. I’d like to see Clerics have four complete, viable DPS trees to choose from.

The class has a long ways to go beyond these few updates, however. What else could Trion do with the Druid class? I’d like to see some of the fluff abilities disappear from the talent tree and replaced by actual useful abilities. A unique buff or debuff that grants the class a real raid spot would be awesome. More abilities that deal life damage would be nice, in order to create more synergy for -icar hybrids.

More ranged abilities or a gap closer of some kind would be almost necessary. I’d like to see a little more utility on the Satyr pet. An interrupt or stun dealt upon charging would give Druids a bit more PvP viability. More survivability options when investing 51 points into the tree would also be welcome.

I love the idea of a DPS Cleric with the ability to control a pet that assists their group in any given situation. But the class needs more creativity, a solid way to get into range, and the ability to do decent damage while in range. The class needs a direction. Let’s see if Trion can give Druids a place to go within the next few patches.

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  • Kait

    I pretty much agree with all you say here.  Earth damage simply doesn’t jive with ANY other cleric soul, there is nothing to work with it.  While the pet can put up some nice numbers at lvl 50, there will be scaling issues until either Druid damage is not 90% based on their pet, or their pet inherits 100% of the druid’s stats.

    while I liked the improvements, they are far too little to bring this soul on par with Riftblades, Pyros, or bloodstalker rogues which is where they need to aim for all dps specs.

  • http://twitter.com/Oz_MMO Matt Panneton

    Life and Death Concord (Changed)
    Your Bolt of Judgment, Sanction Heretic, and Nysyr’s Rebuke have a 30% chance and your pet’s melee critical hits have a 60% chance to cause your next Bolt of Depravity to become instant cast. This effect also gives Bolt of Depravity a 10 second cooldown.”

    Balm of the Woods (Reworked)
    Places Balm of the Woods on up to 5 party or raid members causing affected targets to be healed for 20% of the damage dealt by the Cleric’s Satyr or to receive an additional 30% healing from the Cleric’s Faerie.

    Strength of the Fae (Reworked)
    Passive – Bolster’s the Cleric’s might with ancient fae magic, increasing their melee and life damage by 20% and granting them the ability to wield an additional one-handed weapon in their off-hand.

    Thorns of Asphodel (Reworked)
    Passive – Whenever the Cleric critically hits with a melee attack there is a 20% chance to follow up with an additional strike using both main-hand and off-hand weapons, dealing weapon plus 53-59 life damage with each weapon.

    Just a few thoughts.  I’ve personally been dying to see the Cleric get to dual-wield maces for a long time and think a Druid rework may just be an opportune time to introduce it subtly or as a new focus for the soul as a whole.Also the intention of my suggested (albeit lightly thought out) change to Balm of the Woods is in response to a unique buff not presented by another class and to strengthen both the pet and the usefulness/focus on that pet.  Numbers or percentages would require balancing and the suggested numbers are there merely as place-holders to get the concept out there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Laura-Hardgrave/100000713622505 Laura Hardgrave

      Cool ideas. I’d love the option to dual wield. Something like that might just be the ticket to giving the class a totally unique style.

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