Behind the Mask: Big weapons, big news

It's an exciting time for Champions Online. Although there was a lot of speculation about the level of success of the Free-for-All expansion, we know just by the increase in content being output that the F2P launch has been a very big success. In the recent State of the Game, Rob Overmeyer announced all sorts of new content, including the Resistance Adventure Pack currently on PTS, the new weekly Comic Series, and the most asked-for feature: player housing!

I could write a whole column speculating on the SotG, and while it'd be kind of a fun read, we all know I like writing informative stuff, and we have a lot of things to cover. Heavy Weapons has been live for a week now. Some of you guys have been waiting with bated breath for me to answer one question: Is Devastator worth buying?

Unfortunately for you guys, I'm not going to focus as heavily on the Devastator archetype. I will do a quick overview. It is a good class starting from level 1 and is well-suited to players who like melee AoE. In fact, I think he's pretty much completely superior to the Blade and Behemoth archetypes in every way -- the Behemoth thing is something I'll argue later, since I realize you guys are going to spam the comments with things like "Behemoth is a tank," which is patently untrue.

While I don't feel that the Devastator is a bad archetype, I do feel that Heavy Weapons benefits a lot more from powers the Devastator doesn't have access to. The Disorient mechanic has some very exciting cross-set synergies, and Heavy Weapons characters benefit a lot from the Aggressor toggle. There's even some cross-set synergy with Fire. So while I do think Devastator is a fine archetype, most of the fun stuff in Heavy Weapons is for freeform characters. If you are interested in the heavy weapon aesthetics or you want to play a strong Brawler archetype, Devastator is a decent choice. His AoE damage is a lot better than the Blade's, but his ST DPS is a little worse.

Isn't disorient a mez?

Every time I mention "disorient" in private discussions with friends, one of them assumes I'm talking about stuns. They're not the same thing! Don't be confused!

Disorient is an old debuff that was present on only a small number of attacks. It is basically an amped-up Fear; it gives a 10% damage debuff and a 50% movement snare. Heavy Weapons has a large number of attacks that inflict Disorient, including its key AoE attack, Arc of Ruin.

The increase in the number of attacks that inflict Disorient has a great impact on tanking. Maintaining Disorient on a tough boss cuts his damage by 10%, which might not seem like a whole lot. However, the number of common damage debuffs now includes Fear, Disorient, Challenging Strikes, and Crippling Challenge, all of which are 10%. A tank is forced to run the latter two (as they are taunts), while Fear is the most common non-taunt debuff in the game. Adding Disorient to the list of common debuffs has the potential to dramatically reduce boss damage output. In addition, these debuffs can be stacked with Miniaturization Drive or Sigils of Ebon Weakness to send boss damage to the floor.

You don't need to be a tank to apply Disorient, either. In fact, you can be a real team player by cycling Fear (from Howl) along with Mini Drive and Disorient while still outputting monstrous amounts of DPS. In fact, because Howl and Mini Drive (with Reciprocating Gizmo) boost your damage, they're actually ideal for a freeform Heavy Weapons brawler.

The synergy with Disorient doesn't stop there, though. Unstoppable brawlers (like the Devastator) should have no trouble getting energy back from firing off knockback attacks, but not all Heavy Weapons characters will focus on Unstoppable. Disorient also has a key synergy with Telepathic Reverberation! A disoriented enemy struck by one of your Telepathy attacks will return energy back -- and with Arc of Ruin you can quickly Disorient quite a number of foes. Using Ego Sprites, you can apply telepathic DoT to many foes at once and get massive energy returns.

This combo seems a bit unwieldy, but it is excellent for tanks, especially Invulnerability or Regen tanks that don't have an energy return mechanic. Ego Sprites and Ego Storm make excellent hands-free attack powers for tanks, and combining them with Telepathic Reverb and Disorient makes them infinite energy factories as well.

Enrage, my worst nightmare

I hate Enrage. It's one of my least favorite mechanics. It's sort of like a bad version of Fury in City of Villains. Instead of being rewarded for constantly attacking, players activate a power like Roomsweeper or Unbreakable, get max Enrage in no time flat, and maintain it with perma-Howl or perma-Enrage, occasionally using an Enrage-maintaining attack. Game balance issues aside, it's boring. It'd be much nicer if players had to work to maintain Enrage.

That being said, the Devastator is pretty good at maintaining Enrage, which is a vital component for Heavy Weapons brawlers. While Heavy Weapons doesn't top the DPS charts, it does output pretty sick damage, far in excess of all but the most abusive ranged builds. Enrage is a key element of that. Its basic Tier 0 attack, Cleave, is surprisingly good; it builds Enrage rapidly against Disoriented foes and builds it somewhat evenly without Disorient. Skewer can also build and maintain Enrage if fully charged.

Which power should I take?

As mentioned above, Cleave and Skewer are decent for maintaining Enrage. However, there are many powers in Might that do a better job, so you may want to look there first.

The best ST damage in Heavy Weapons is Annihilate, but its long activation makes it troublesome. As far as melee damage attacks go, though, it is surpassed only by Haymaker in raw damage. Unfortunately, it is beaten by Dragon's Wrath and Ego Blade Breach in raw DPS (at least with appropriate builds), but not by much, and Annihilate is a little easier to build for.

Arc of Ruin is the Heavy Weapons all-star power, dealing megatons of damage to a 120-degree cone in front of your hero. It is a charge power, rather than a rapid attack, which has its upsides and downsides. Charging it inflicts Disorient on any survivors, which is handy for bosses, but Arc of Ruin tends to kill minions with only a single blow.

Brimstone is also a reasonable AoE that has a wide sphere rather than a cone, but it doesn't deal the huge damage that Arc of Ruin does. On the plus side, Brimstone has a chance to inflict Disorient on tap. This, along with its sphere AoE, makes it more useful for teams than Arc of Ruin. Unfortunately, because it deals fire damage, Brimstone has negative synergy with the Unstoppable passive and Aggressor toggle. This is made up for by its advantage, which creates a fire patch on the ground that can grant Clinging Flames. If you team with allies that use fire damage resistance debuffs, you can make up for this somewhat. You can also benefit from it yourself by adding on Thermal Reverberation.

Speaking of powers that work well with Thermal Reverberation, I should note that Eruption also has an advantage that deals fire damage in a 10-foot radius sphere, with a chance to proc Clinging Flames as well.

The other powers in Heavy Weapons are fun (especially Earth Splitter), but they are not as universally useful. Earth Splitter is an interesting knockup attack and is good for ranged crowd control. Vicious Descent is a new kind of AoE lunge with surprisingly good damage. Decimate is a lunge with a disorient. Skullcrusher is... kind of neat, although not really as impressive as some of the other attacks in HW.

Overall, the set is pretty sick. It's nice to see a change from all the Dual Blades brawlers, and it seems like a lot of fun. I don't think it will become a long-standing staple of top tier players, but it does give another viable DPS option that is easier to build for than DB or TK.

When he's not touring the streets of Millennium City or rolling mooks in Vibora Bay, Patrick Mackey goes Behind the Mask to bring you the nitty-gritty of the superhero world every Thursday. Whether it's expert analysis of Champions Online's game mechanics or his chronicled hatred of roleplaying vampires, Patrick holds nothing back.

This article was originally published on Massively.