Do you ever get tired of tossing the same boring fireball over and over again in massively multiplayer online games? Funcom is trying something a little different in Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, an MMOG set in Robert E. Howard's sword-and-sorcery fantasy realm that's getting ready to release at the end of May. The system is called spellweaving, and it gives the game's spellcasting classes a way to significantly alter the way they deal damage while simultaneously risking their virtual lives.
Though there are six classes in the game that can be considered "magical," only four actually fling magic at opponents as a primary method of attack. Spellweaving is available for the Priest-type Tempest of Set and Priest of Mitra and the Mage-type Demonologist and Necromancer. Basically, it works like a stance. Soldier-type classes, those who're most effective at fighting on the front lines of battle, have the ability to shift between defensive and offensive stances at will, affecting their damage output and capacity for resistance as the situation necessitates. It's the same for casters, able to switch in and out of spellweaving stance whenever it might be appropriate to combat what's onscreen.
Spellweaving's major benefit is that it drastically powers up your spell damage and adds various kinds of special effects, all of which increases in power the longer you're in spellweaving mode. The downside is spellweaving can be lethal to the caster. When the spellweaving state is first entered, your stamina bar (used for things like running and melee combos) begins to drain. Once that bar is depleted, the spellweaving state will then begin to drain health, so you'll need to carefully monitor what's going on or your character might keel over and be forced to respawn. Should you need to, it's easy to stop spellweaving with a simple press of a key.
The longer you manage to keep spellweaving active, though, the more powerful you become. After the state is enabled, spellweaving progresses through six stages, with transition between stages occurring around every ten seconds and occasionally when an offensive spell is cast. Each stage increases a passive spell damage buff, which will max out at around 25 percent, says Funcom's senior systems designer Andrew Griffin. Once stage six is reached, the progression cycles back to stage one and repeats all over again, retaining the passive damage bonus. Additionally, each stage transition is accompanied by a chance to gain helpful or harmful effects. While the positive effects will be short duration, the negative side-effects will last until even after you've stopped spellweaving, leaving you vulnerable to attack. How vulnerable you are depends on how much time you invested in spellweaving.
Instead of writing more about spellweaving's generalities, here are some specific examples of what happens through each stage for a Necromancer.
The following was provided by Funcom.
Necromancer - Positive Effects
Parasite Host: – An eight second buff that causes you to gain a parasitic soul pet whenever you cast one of your nukes, although it costs you some health when this happens.
Arcane Surge: – This is a short buff that causes you to inflict maximum damage with your spells.
Necromancer – Negative Effects
Infested: You become infested with grave-worms that inflict unholy damage over time. This can stack up to five times.
Arcane Drought: Your spells will inflict minimum damage
Frailty: You take more damage from physical attacks. This can stack up to five times.
While that's not all that's possible with the Necromancer, Griffin gave us a few more details on how another spell is affected.
"For example, the Flesh to Worms spell is the Necromancer's primary DoT (damage-over-time spell). This is a single-target DoT spell. The first "step" of spellweaving doesn't affect this spell, but it gets modified from step 2 and up. First, the critical chance and critical damage is increased, but it is step 3 of spellweaving that an interesting change happens. At this rank, the Flesh to Worms spell gains splash damage, which means that every time that DoT ticks, it will inflict an amount of its damage to nearby enemies (the percentage of damage inflicted and the number of enemies taking the splash damage increases as the spellweaving step progresses)."
Griffin then went on to detail a few of the changes in play style for the other three casters in Age of Conan.
Fires of Gehenna, their primary fire spell, will gain increased critical hit chance and critical damage, as well as become a column-affecting spell. Additionally, the secondary burning effect, Incinerate, that Fires of Gehenna places on the target will start to inflict splash damage. This gets interesting when the player has also trained the Field of Fires feat, which causes the Incinerate effect to inflict pulsing area-of-effect damage, so while at the higher ends of spellweaving, a character with that feat trained will be inflicting double doses of AOE damage from the Incinerate effect – one source from the feat, and the other from the spellweaving-enhanced splash damage.
Tempest of Set
The Tempest's main nuke is the Lightning Strike spell, which is an area-of-effect spell. While under the effect of spellweaving, the area this spell affects will increase. Additionally, lightning will start to arc between the enemies hit, so that each enemy hit inflicts splash damage, causing a cascade of arcing damage when groups of monsters are clustered closely together. The same sort of thing will happen with the Storm Field spell, which projects pulsing electricity around the Tempest. When enemies are struck by the Storm Field, they will suffer a higher chance of sustaining critical damage, and also inflict splash damage around them.
Priest of Mitra
One of the feat-trained spells for the Priest of Mitra is the Lance of Mitra. This normally inflicts column-based damage from the Priest, with each target hit inflicting a smaller amount of damage to one nearby enemy. If the player trained the Divine Lance feat as well, the Lance of Mitra causes area of effect healing around all of the enemies that it hits. When under the power of spellweaving, both the damaging and healing aspects of the lance are increased. The Lance of Mitra gains a higher chance of inflicting critical damage on the enemies that it smites, while the energy from Divine Lance heals more damage.
Clearly this system adds quite a bit to how spellcasting works, and there's actually another layer to it. During spellweaving the caster can activate a special power that turns the 1, 2, 3, Q, and E keys into ability keys that control the ebb and flow of the phase, pushing it into overdrive for increased damage or slowing it down to prolong the process. While we haven't gotten to check it out yet, it sounds interesting. And as a bonus, every class gets specific graphical animations for spellweaving.