Thursday, December 28, 2017

Game Diary - okay, I get the Shieldbreaker now.

Then the snake bites her pinned hand, so she cuts off her hand before the venom spreads!
And that's why she only has the one hand. 

I've played Overwatch every night this week, and have not spent every night this week working on clip shows.  I had planned to have a new vid done by Christmas Eve, then Christmas Day, then Boxing Day, 'cause it's gonna' be a Christmas-themed video with Tracer running around in the Jingle skin getting in trouble, but with ample time to play, I've been... playing.

I checked out Cat Quest on my Switch.  It's cute, but far, far, far too simple.  Combat is literally mashing your sword, rolling away from telegraphed damage zones and activating AoE spells that deal your serious damage.  It's cute, but.  But...

I installed Steamworld Dig 2 on my Switch - played until I opened up the first mine.  It'll be nice to run around in there on the Switch's bigger screen - but where I landed was... back on my Vita, with Darkest Dungeon and its newest (paid DLC) hero, the Shieldbreaker.

When she first came out - perhaps I just wasn't in the right headspace to really explore her - I recall giving the boys on the podcast a resounding "meh" on the Shieldbreaker.  She's not meh - I just didn't give her enough time.  She's a dancer - one of the more rewarding types of heroes in Darkest Dungeon, in my opinion - and there's very few of them.

The Jester, the Highwayman and the Shieldbreaker - dancers, all.

The Shieldbreaker's story is that she was literally a dancing girl who took up arms and killed her way to freedom, but "dancer" has also always been my internal term for heroes whose abilities move them backwards and forwards in your formation.  All heroes in Darkest Dungeon have abilities that can only be launched from certain positions in the lineup - like a Hellion can only use Iron Swan or If It Bleeds from the first position, while your Vestal can only launch her big single-target heal from the back two spots - but the Grave Robber, the Jester and the Highwayman have a lot of moves that move them forward or back in the formation while attacking or setting up buffs or debuffs or stunning or dealing damage.  Like your Highwayman uses Lunge to get ahead of your Man-At-Arms - now he has Riposte active, but your main tank has been pushed back to position 2.  On the next turn, the Highwayman can use Point Blank Shot to deal massive damage to the enemy in position 1 and throw himself back behind the tank, into position 2 again, moving the Man-At-Arms back to position 1.

The Shieldbreaker is one of these, but also not.  If your Highwayman or Jester or Grave Robber don't want to move themselves forwards or backwards in the lineup, that's fine - they have bread-and-butter skills that don't move them, which is important when your tank absolutely has to stay in the first two positions, and so on.  The Shieldbreaker only has one skill that doesn't change her position, and it's not that great.

Captivate lands a decent Blight DoT off a melee strike with a 20% damage reduction.
It can only be launched from positions 2 and 3, can only hit positions 2 and 3 of the enemy line, deals extra damaged to Marked targets, and is the only ability in the Shieldbreaker's repertoire that doesn't move her. 

The Shieldbreaker has a few incredibly powerful skills, but the best of them can only be used in position 1, and using them moves her out of position 1.  With Impale, she throws her spear through the entire enemy line.  Area-of-effect attacks like this aren't unheard of in the game, but they usually come with a 100% or 90% damage reduction - the Houndmaster can do it, but each enemy takes like 2 points of damage and gets a little bleed.

The Shieldbreaker's Impale only has 60% damage reduction, meaning that single throw can obliterate a third of the health pool of the whole enemy team.  Which, say, throws her behind her Highwayman or Grave Robber who then uses Point Blank Shot or Shadow Fade to retreat behind the Shieldbreaker again, moving her back to position 1 and setting up the next Impale.  She can wreck low-health teams without breaking a sweat.

Adder's Kiss
Lands a good DoT and hits hard, but can only be launched from position 1 and moves her backward in the line. 

The rest of her kit are a bunch of solutions to very specific problems.  Puncture can be launched from anywhere and hit anywhere (moves you forward), but has a 50% damage reduction and removes the Guard buff from that squishy caster you're desperate to take out from under the protection of their tank.  With the addition of the Shieldbreaker to your game, certain enemies will start the fight in stealth - they can only be hit with AoE attacks - but the Shieldbreaker's Expose (another ability that moves her backwards) will immediately remove the stealth buff, lower the target's speed stat and... increases the target's chance to be critically struck by 9%.  No other ability in the game can do this.  Unlike Impale or Adder's Kiss, Expose can be used from the first three positions - so she can use it two or three times, fading back into your lineup, building up this terrifying +crit chance debuff on a single large-HP target before launching herself forward with Pierce.

Pierce has a 20% damage reduction, it moves her one space forward and can only hit the first two positions of the enemy line, but it also... ignores enemy armor.   It is her bread-and-butter.  Maybe 10% of the enemies you fight even have a Protection stat, but Pierce absolutely trivializes them - turns them from a multi-turn slog of your whole team ineffectually pounding on a thing into one or two massive hits from the Shieldbreaker.


Without the Shieldbreaker in your lineup, the best way to overcome a Guarding opponent was simply to stun the tank doing the guarding.  This removes the Guard buff from your true target - usually a stress-inducing caster in the backline - allowing you to take them out of the fight before whittling down that high-prot tank who's gonna' take a few minutes.  There's no point in attacking the tank, because when Guard is activated, the tank's Protection (armor) stat goes through the roof.  It's like having a kitten paw at a piece of plate mail - admittedly adorable, but largely ineffective.

The Shieldbreaker makes this a different proposition.  You can use Puncture on the Guarded target to remove the Guard buff (and pull them forward in their line), but on the other hand, she can just Expose the tank once or twice (+9%, +18% chance to be critically struck) and then leap back in with Pierce, shattering them with a blow that ignores the buffed-up PROT stat from its Guard and is gonna' crit and problem solved.

Expose.  Removes the stealth buff, slows target, moves the Shieldbreaker backwards, and increases the target's chance to be critically struck by 9%.   This is huge. 

When a problem pops up that requires clever tactics from a normal squad, the Shieldbreaker can reach out with that spear and just solve it.  The only downside of this is that so many of her skills are so situationally-powerful, you really want them all.  I've actually taken to not using her highest-damage attack, Adder's Kiss, in the name of the bread-and-butter but lower-damage Pierce, the team-rocking potential of Impale, the boss-killing potential of Expose and the utility of Puncture.

To make the most of this, the Shieldbreaker requires a team of dancers around her - a Grave Robber, a Highwayman, a Jester who can all get tossed around in the lineup and still perform as she bobs and weaves.  Constantly fucking with your lineup will limit the effectiveness of position-dependent tanks like the Leper or Hellion, and there's another... monkey in the wrench...

She gets nightmares.  Like, really vivid nightmares, recalling the night she lost her hand to the serpents of the desert.  Any time you camp, there's a chance your night will be interrupted as seen above - with a team of stealthed, Blight-spitting guarding snakes.  Oh, and the Shieldbreaker herself instantly becomes inflicted with a Horror debuff that no laudanum will cure, and gains like +23 stress every round until the encounter ends.  It absolutely drives her stark raving mad.

Camping is not meant to be such a scary proposition.  Quite the contrary, you make camp when some of your heroes are so hurt or stressed out that you don't want to risk the next fight - you want to heal them up, cure their stress and give them some sick combat buffs.  It's a moment to breathe, a pleasant respite from the horrors of the dungeon, and the Shieldbreaker's night terrors take that delicate peace and just kick it right in the balls.

You can't die in the dream - when the Shieldbreaker receives a killing blow, the dream ends, but the stress and low HP remains - which is why I have almost-exclusively begun running a Jester with my Shieldbreaker, to sing her down from the edge when the nightmare takes hold.  (Worth noting: you can go two or three whole dungeon runs without the dream coming.)  If you win the encounter, you get one or three things called Aegis Scales - a single-use consumable that totally absorbs the next attack on the hero who uses it.  So when you're fighting, like, Vvulf and he drops a bomb on a hero and it'll detonate next turn and definitely wipe out all their HP?  Aegis Scale.  Problem solved.  Gibbering Prophet?  Problem solved.

So the Shieldbreaker is definitely not meh.  She's fun and exciting and very, very rewarding when all the gears are humming and she's weaving through the party, debuffing foes and wrecking entire enemy lines and swooping in with bone-cracking stabs of that spear.

She's awesome.

Also, last night, in Overwatch, I'm sneaking up on this enemy Widow and she uses her ult - but I've already flanked her, so she's not looking my way - but when I get into the room she was in, I see her venom mine waiting for me - she's already out the door, trying to line up a shot on me.  So I wave at her and dodge her shot, then I start dancing while she can see me through the wall, so she takes another two shots that I dodge with blinks, and then I actually start fighting her and it's this vicious little brawl inside this tiny little room but I got her and it was awesome.


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