Once again we return to that special place in the adventuring party, the back row. The thin line between disaster and success, the party healer is the glue that binds a crew together. This column is a testament to everyone that puts their heart and soul into the supporting role of the online gaming world.
Last week we talked a bit about the Tabula Rasa tier 2 healing class, the Specialist. That class sets out the basics of healing in the game, using tools and the leech gun to assist the more militant members of the AFS in their duties against the Bane. This week we'll move on to the tier 3 class, the Biotechnician. Gaining another class-specific weapon and our first Logos healing power, we're faced with a number of thorny choices as to how to develop just within the powers we have available to us now.
And, as always is the case in new games, there are still a number of best practice choices still to make. The forums are still very much abuzz with the possibilities of the the healing classes. Let's see if we can work out some of the best choices for AFS healers-in-training, and we'll talk about a few issues newly introduced to TR's supporting cast. In the meantime, what do the Biotechs think? Hazmat or Bio Body Armor?
The step up from Specialist nets the support player a mixed back of tricks. A couple of the powers gained at Tier 3 are minor wonders, and well worth investing in; others will make you question why they're in the game. Probably the most obvious 'win' for any budding Biotech is the Injection Gun. A double-threat, it offers specialized weapon damage and (at the higher levels) a sizeable percentage chance to bypass armor completely. It's a very short-range offensive device, but with sufficient development (and a good injector) the Biotech can be a source of reliable high DPS.
Bio-Augmentation is a clear win as well. This ability allows you to buff your comrades in a specific stat. You start out just being able to boost Health, but the myriad range of Tabula Rasa stats open up as you invest more points. Each buff, regardless of the stat, lasts four minutes. For front-line fighters, the choice is obvious: body and health are the way to go. Support players would be better served to have their buffs aimed at mind and spirit; that's a good idea to keep in mind as you're building your healing character. While Body is a great stat for Soldiers, Specialists and Biotechs just a bit more cerebral.
The Logos ability Lifeforce Funnel isn't bad either. It's essentially a radial heal (much like that offered by the healing tool), and offers up increasingly powerful heals as you invest points into the ability. Recent changes have increased the delay between using weapon-type items; healing with the Funnel neatly sidesteps that restriction. The tooltip for the power states that the Funnel is supposed to be a Heal over Time (HoT) ability, but at the moment that isn't the case. Rumours are rampant that Destination will eventually correct this, but at the moment the power is only of benefit insofar as it frees up a slot on your item bar.
The rest of the Biotech's bag is decidedly weaker. Unlike the Hazmat armor that Specialists get, Bio Body Armor isn't everything it could be. The idea is that Bio Armor provides a regeneration bonus to the wearer and everyone in an area of effect around him. Unfortunately ... the regen effect is pitiful. At the ability's maxed-out level. the wearer and allies only see a 5% regen bonus per armor piece. Most players I've talked to, and almost every forum-goer, seems to think that the Hazmat armor is the better deal. [Update: Commenter Mocaris clarified that it's 5% regen per armor piece, and notes that Bio actually does fairly well in groups.] The Frighten ability mostly works as advertised but (unlike in most other MMOGs) there's almost no reason to use a Fear power in Tabula Rasa PvE. A soloing Biotech will be dead before Frighten becomes a good idea, and a party will probably power through Bane fast enough to make this power a waste of points.
A lot of the comments I've read through have had some viable complaints about this step in the class tree. It's a longer stretch than the Specialist or Recruit, and as a result there's more time for the flaws to show. Destination and the Tabula Rasa development team have promised some serious tweaks to the way healing works in the game, but they haven't been especially forthcoming with the details. As we get more details and as healing evolves in the game, we'll be sure to keep you posted.