Update 24, part 2 – Champions

DDO is not the first game with champions, in a sense – orange named bosses should be the champions DDO are looking for. It is a tougher opponent, or at least should be. And the idea of champions is not a bad one – to make a tougher enemy. The problem is that champions are not meant to just be, they’re meant to add a challenge, which the mechanics fails in abysmally.

I have no played with Champions since 24 was first released – when it was originally higher spawn rate and afterwards. And I can tell you that for most part Champions are entirely trivial. Constituting not so much a challenge as a blip – to be run over in normal fashion. So to say that it’s ruining my day would be complete hyperbole. No the main problems can be broken into 3 arguments against.

1. It’s far too arbitrary. The ones that should be champions frequently aren’t and the ones who shouldn’t sometimes turn out into large groups. Like Orange named mini bosses. These are ideal for making champions. Mostly because it’s a planned encounter. And beefing them up makes sense. We know the problem is coming; we plan to deal with it and we might be surprised to as what permutation of buffs it might have. That’s the case now, where the worst type of champions are regular creatures and especially the ones with broken mechanics – like say Shadar Kai.

Here’s a real experience highlighting 2 essential problems. I was running Heroic Elite Trackers Trap on my then level 18-19 PDK Pally/fighter. Vanguard with heavy investment in the Pally side. For most part the romp to the end was without major hickups. Then came the end fight with 3 re-spawns. The first 2 are Orcs and the last Shadar Kai Assassins and Guardians. That’s when insanity broke out. Out of the 5-6 assassins 3 were champions and one apparently had the ‘no fort’ debuff – autocritting with his flailing chain.

In addition – since it was on Elite the assassins had like a 5 second cool down before they could use the chain again.

Here’s the problem – it’s notoriously difficult to use tactical feats on Elite. More so on EE (almost impossible) but because there’s a bug right now in how tactical feat DC is counted most of it will land. Only due to this bug could I stun, trip or whatnot them, constantly running away since they kept swirling as soon as I stopped. Without this bug I’d be toast, forever running as they’d whip me to pieces in 5 seconds flat.

Not only was the broken mechanic an issue, but half of them being champions just made that worse. And that’s the real issue here. It’s not that some are champions and for most part are railroaded. It’s that the spawn rate and especially on broken creatures are high; making it a real possibility that you can spend a lot of time in a game, then suddenly die because of these freak spawns just to either have to waste resources or give it up. Now failure should always be a possibility and especially on the highest difficulty. But that should exclude a possibility to plan and use skills to defeat a problem. Champions are therefore terrible at adding a measured challenge that can be defeated tactically. The problem will never be because of lack of skills but despite of it.

2. Denying the very strength of classes through lazy OP buffs is a bad way of creating challenges. Like reducing the fort to zero and true vision to negate blur and displacement. The whole point with classes is that there are strengths and weaknesses and adding random buffs to regular cohorts that deny the build choices you make is just frustrating. Especially since a lot of these builds comes with trade offs – where you trade DPS for defense and now suddenly it’s entirely negated for no other reason than random buffing. In the end the frequency of these freak mobs will once more lead to more players going for ranged type classes, just as the landscape were before the armor up update.

3. Immersion. When barrels or crates, animated by the ward, starts spawning as champions you know that something is terribly wrong. We’ve seen the odd NPC, or statue becoming champions. But I think the worst part is how mundane monsters become champions and sometimes even more dangerous that the orange named mini bosses. Like shadowrats, puddings, cubes, spiders etc. Champions to me should be like the image attached – something imposing. Something that tells the player that they’re about to take on a challenge. And that it’ll cost them a bit.

Black pudding champions tells me that there’s something funky in the water when mindless animated globs of snot can suddenly gain experience. Or the animated crate. I wonder how many skulls that crate have bashed in.

When you trivialize encounters you lose effect. There’s a reason why most other games make their champions imposing and impressive. That you know that you’re about to square off with something better, and not just some little rate that you can step on to ‘defeat’. I wish there was a separate ‘champion’ class altogether. Like 10 unique champions with their own special pattern of attack. Where it takes coordination and cunning to defeat, instead of just bashing until it breaks.

So finally; the problem with champions is not that they’re too hard or that there is no challenge at times. It is that they’re immersion killing arbitrary lumps of door stops, unable to really challenge you unless you get a bunch of them in freak critters. Then they might add that glut of challenge and especially for melee. But often enough you’ll find that orange named are not champions and the regular creature standing next to it is; overshadowing what should be a trying confrontation when it’st still only a small blip on the zerg for win.

Now I don’t want them removed; I just want Turbine to refine them and add more orange named bosses or good challenges and less random critters since it makes everything so banal.


4 thoughts on “Update 24, part 2 – Champions

  1. erdrique

    I don’t mind them overall but I do agree that some of the mobs shouldn’t be champions. Your example of the black pudding as a champion was also one I wrote about when I did Threnal not too long ago. When I think of a champion, I just don’t think of a pudding. Since they have done the change to them I have seem more of the orange named being champions but, in some cases, I still see the random mobs being “championed” as opposed to the orange named.


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