Dominators in a nutshell
The abstract for Dominators is really hard to write up, because at the core of the class, Dominators do exactly the same thing that Controllers do. They hold enemies and shut them down, applying debuffs to make those enemies more squishy and vulnerable. The difference is largely in the secondaries rather than the primaries, and that's also where the class comes into its own.
See, Controllers are pure party support, even moreso than Defenders. A Defender gets some damage abilities in the secondary sets, but Controllers are a firm hybrid of various supporting abilities. As a result, the pets that come at the end of Controller power trees are downright vital to a character's ability to ever kill something on his own, because a solo Controller is hoping that the slight damage tacked on to holds and knockbacks eventually drops the target. (This is also why players who played a Controller for the pets got a little bit annoyed about Masterminds.)
Dominators, however, are a bunch of sadists. The secondary set for a dominator is a hybrid of ranged damage and melee damage, usually with a nice debuff to chase the effect. And that's a good thing, because it's only after inflicting enough damage that a Dominator can unleash the archetype's inherent power of Domination, making holds last twice as long and work twice as strong while also conveniently filling up your health and endurance and granting you hold immunity. There are rumors that it will also order you a cake if you use it near a payphone, but I wouldn't place much stock in that. While Controllers sit back and work for the party, Dominators hold things and then start dishing out pain left and right.
The obvious strengths of a Dominator are the power of Domination coupled with greater offensive abilities. On the other hand, you're still fragile, you have no real heals or party support beyond your holds, and Domination has a pretty long recharge tied to it, so you can't always count on it being there when it's needed unless you've tweaked your build to the extreme. (That having been said, you should still be firing off Domination almost every time it comes off cooldown. It's been pointed out by those far better at the class than I that if you aren't using Domination on a regular basis, it's essentially going to waste.)
A Dominator gets the same pick of primaries as a Controller, with a lone exception -- Illusion Control isn't available to Doms, which is kind of a shame since there's some precedent for villainous-types wielding illusions to great effect (Mastermind of X-Men notoriety springs to mind, as does regular Spider-Man villain Mysterio and Empowered's Anglerfish). At least it makes my life a little easier, as everything I said from the Controller column applies here, with the possible exception that the nature of Domination makes Fire Control better than for straight Controllers.
And here's the point of complete divergence -- not only are the Dominator secondary sets designed wholly around dealing damage, but they're also entirely unique to the archetype, with a mix of melee and ranged damage to help spread debuffs, damage, and general agony all around.
Earth Assault: A fair mix of knockbacks, an added Disorient as the final power for the tree, and a toggled Immobilize are all good soup. Unfortunately, the limitation to ground targets is a bit obnoxious, so bear that in mind if you want some stone love.
Electricity Assault: What's the difference between a Held enemy and an enemy with no endurance and slowed recovery? Answer -- nothing pertinent. I'm a big fan of the drain effects packed in with these abilities.
Energy Assault: The Disorient effect is nice, but unfortunately it's packed with all of the melee powers, not the ranged ones. That's a little worse, since you want to avoid getting into the paint whenever possible. Not bad, but kind of lackluster.
Fiery Assault: As always, it's raw damage potential -- but considering the nature of the beast, once again, it kind of works here. The range on a few powers is a bit low for my taste, but the option to rip endurance from enemies and take it for your own is certainly nice.
Icy Assault: There's some painfully frontloaded melee powers in here, but the slow effect is of course a nice debuff to keep your enemies from acting. It's a bit behind Electricity Assault, but making your non-held targets slower isn't a bad thing by any means.
Psionic Assault: Nasty. The slow effects are nice; the fact that your damage is Psionic will do nice things for your damage against most targets. Best of all it's all ranged except for a single point-blank AoE which is worth the risk. A fine choice for any Dominator.
Thorny Assault: Kind of meh, mostly by contrast -- the Defense debuff doesn't stack up with other options, and like several other sets it's a bit heavy in melee for my taste. Impale does make for a decent almost-hold, though.
As for me...
Having put in some extra play time for the column, I have to say I'm a bit more fond of Dominators than Controllers, not so much because they're better, but because they have a little extra punch in addition to holding targets. Plus, Domination certainly feels suitably awesome when you pull it off, and even a single-target hold can be spread to several victims in close succession.
Ultimately, it has to come down to personal preference. If you like playing in a group, a Controller can provide great all-around group support, but Dominators will have an easier time while solo and will generally be great for offensively tilted party setups. Either one will provide the same overall role in parties, albeit one that's always a bit sparse in terms of potential fills.
As always, comments can be left below or sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, rather than just gush about the Steampunk Pack -- and I want to, believe me -- I'm going to talk about some overarching issues the pack brings to mind.
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