Continuing my review of the Player’s Handbook 2. I’ll record my early impression of the classes, without going into precise comparisons.
First of all, I have to say that I really enjoyed the feel and the fun design of many of the classes. I had envisioned that Avenger would be an aggressive paladin and an Invoker would be an aggressive cleric. I like that they instead have distinct and interesting personalities. The avenger isn't a holy protector of the faith, he’s a homicidal religious fanatic! And I like how the Invoker is just gifted with raw divine power (sort of like a cult leader convinced he is personally chosen by God, as opposed to the cleric being the normal priest of an organized church). And the personality of the primal classes are pretty cool, the Druid, the Shaman, and the Barbarian are certainly pretty distinctive. The Warden is my least favorite, the one the most seems like "we needed to put in a primal defender class." However, even the Warden is not bad, taking on aspects of nature is a pretty cool superhero power.
Also, I really like the inventiveness with the use of game mechanics that make these new classes seem like they will play differently from the old classes. Here are my initial thoughts on the game mechanics and power level of each class:
Avenger: I think it is cool that they have all these funky tactical powers and restrictions – the idea that they ruthlessly hunt down and isolate their opponent, while trying to avoid other enemies, is creative and different from the classes in the PHB1.
When I first saw the powers, I thought, wow, these are incredible! They have the hit points and defenses of a defender (once they get an armor proficiency feat), and an amazing striker power that works really well with big attacks. And they have other cool side powers too (unlike, say, the rather featureless ranger and rogue classes). But there is a weakness. A perusal of the actual low-level powers of the class reveals that they are rather mediocre. There is no major striker-type at-will power akin to Twin Strike or Piercing Strike. And the encounter / daily powers don’t generally have big “on hit” effects that would combo powerfully with the Oath of Emnity.
Barbarian: I already analyzed this class in an earlier post. I like that the barbarian and the sorcerer are finally striker classes that don't have weird restrictions on the extra damage that they do. The rage power is cool. The only problem is that it is one of those daily powers you want to use at the start of the fight, so you always have to make difficult decisions about whether to use it or not.
Bard: Seems like a cool class. The panoply of Class Features strikes me as being better than the small number of class features of the PHB characters. The at-will powers seem pretty average. Strange but useful that they slide allies around instead of shifting them – the warlords are jealous.
Druid: This is the one class from the PHB2 that didn't seem all that great. They actually seem to have less impressive class features than a wizard – practically none at all. They do have normal hit points and armor, so that’s not so bad. But they need awesome powers to make up for having nothing else. The powers just don’t look that awesome to me. Especially the beast form at-will powers, which don’t look any better than the single-target powers of other classes that have far better class features. This makes the beast form seem rather unexciting. The idea of the beast form is cool, but I’m not so sure about the execution. I do notice that they have Wall of Thorns, which seems to be just like the super-strong auto-hit wizard walls. I had hoped they would stop making those auto-hit powers. At least this sort of thing seems toned down a lot in PHB2.
Invoker: Much more like a wizard than the Druid. Seems impressive – very slightly better at-wills than a wizard, more cool class features, and better armor class. The utility and encounter powers seem strong, but on the other hand I don’t see all of those ultra-mighty wizard conjurations.
Shaman: I like the idea of the spirit companion, it seems like fun to move around. But something seems very wrong with the balance of spirit companion vs. the new summoning spells like “Summon Angel of Fire”. The major feature of both seems to be the ability to occupy space and threaten foes with opportunity attacks unless they waste effort killing the construct. But the spirit companion is an at-will minor action, while the angel is a daily standard action. Either the companion is too strong, or the summon spells are too weak. I suspect both. The shaman, without the combat ability of the spirit companion, doesn’t seem all that much weaker than the cleric, so the spirit companion doesn’t have to be very powerful to make that shaman seem pretty good. But without playing, I have no idea how effective the companion actually is.
Sorceror: As mentioned above, I like the straightforward striker bonus. And the idea that the chaos sorceror is filled with dice randomness is fun.
The sorceror’s damage bonus seems rather better than Warlock’s Curse, but the other little class features may not be as good as those of the warlock. But I think the sorceror looks more fun, the warlock has such limited choices. My concern is that the sorceror seems to have a lot of area effects, for which his striker damage bonus works extremely well. Is he a controller in disguise?
Warden: Wow, they gave 7 hit points per level! The Font of Life is pretty formidable. Wierd, though, that it makes “save ends” powers actually less effective than powers that work for one round. I like the new defender ability, seems amusingly different. The effectiveness of the ability is not easy to judge, but it doesn’t have the annoying “lockdown” effect of the fighter, so I guess it isn’t as good. But you can mark more targets, so I guess it is pretty good. Hard to judge the Warden overall.