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Shapeshifting 101

Discussion in 'Dragon Age: Origins' started by Scythesong Immortal, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Scythesong Immortal Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine


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    This guide is still a work in progress.
    Warning: The guide is a bit wordy, so please bear with me. The thing about the Shapeshifter is that it's more of a playstyle (like Arcane Warrior mage->warrior) rather than a simple specialization that gives you a few nice skills, so there will be several lengthy explanations ahead. I'm still working on making everything as brief and concise as possible.

    Shapeshifter Basics
    What is the Shapeshifter?

    Right now you’re probably wondering why you’d want to take the Shapeshifter spec. Many people will tell you that it’s the weakest mage specialization (which only means they don’t know how it works) and others will claim that the spec itself is heavily bugged (this is actually the result of a misconception/reading mishap gone horribly wrong).
    Although the other specializations are already well-grounded - Arcane Warrior turns your mage into a melee juggernaut, the Blood Mage allows you use your health as mana, and Spirit Healer gives you invaluable support talents, Shapeshifter covers the one thing that none of the other specs offer - versatility. The Shapeshifter does a little bit of everything, and depending on your playstyle it might just be the perfect spec for your mage.

    The Shapeshifter is a (very powerful) utility specialization. It basically gives your mage more options in the form of different animal shapes you can “shift” into in combat. While generalist mages will find Shapeshifter talents redundant, a focused mage will find these talents invaluable. This brings us to an important maxim - a good Shapeshifter uses his forms to complement his spellcasting, not replace it. A mage has three very important roles in combat - nuking, disabling and support, so you will usually have your mage take wildly different spells from different schools. Since the Shapeshifter already covers all three roles in some way, though, this allows you to focus your mage's spell selection on accomplishing a particular role - nuking (Primal), disabling (Entropy) or support (Creation).
    If you've always dreamed of taking all the Primal spells so you can incinerate all your enemies to dust, or taking all the Entropy spells so you can stack curse after curse on your enemies, or even picking a completely offensive (nukes and disables) spell selection BUT always thought that doing so would be impractical/limit your mage in other ways, then this where the Shapeshifter comes in.

    Consider a pure Primal spells (nuker) mage. A pure nuker mage will lack any reliable means of dealing with aggro, and short of taking Arcane Warrior he will need make room for disable spells. Since he already has to make room for support spells (friendly fire is inevitable for a nuker) then he'll be forced to sacrifice several important nukes in favor of other spells. Less nukes mean less DPS. In the end you still end up with a generalist mage whose spells simply lean more towards nuking. However by taking Shapeshifter a nuker can become a much tougher mage (even in human form) while having three different alternative forms that are quite adept at dealing with aggro. With aggro management covered, the nuker can move on to taking all the Primal spells ASAP and several useful support spells like Regeneration, Dispel Magic and Force Field.
    This was my first Shapeshifter build - a frontlining nuker/support Fire/Lightning/Cold/Earth-throwing war-mage who was also quite adept at keeping allies alive all by himself. I ended up doing a grand total of 600k+ total damage with him after finishing Awakenings, and of my party mates only Nathaniel died (once) in my entire playthrough (in fairness I had a good working knowledge of Origins so I knew what to expect, but Awakenings caught me off guard). This was on nightmare. Interestingly, everyone else in the party was a DPSer.

    Entropy/Creation-focused mages or offensive/defensive mages have their own problems - a disabler lacks reliable nukes, a support mage lacks reliable offensive measures in general, and offensive/defensive mages are too focused to be effective for every situation in DA:O (which is why the current consensus is that generalist mages are best). However by shifting to a bear a support mage can be capable of dishing out tremendous single-target damage, without sacrificing any of his Creation spells. By shifting to a spider a disabler mage can become a nimble warrior with two disables that actually work well on bosses, as well as a good nuke. By shifting to the Flying Swarm either mage can become a persistent, party-friendly AoE capable of doing as much damage as Inferno. Since the Shapeshifter forms also use nonmagical attacks, they are ideal for dealing with (or as a backup against) spell/elemental resistant monsters. This is the strength of the Shapeshifter.
    Summing that all up, the Shapeshifter is a spec that allows a mage to cover most of his/her weaknesses in practical combat, allowing him/her to focus on a particular spellcasting role (nuking, support disable, or ultimately offensive and defensive). Because it significantly affects your character - from item setup to your mage's spell selection - it's basically a unique playstyle altogether. Improving the forms so they can reliably suit all your needs is another matter, though, which will be discussed in the next few sections.

    Shapeshifter Background
    -Practiced by wilders and Chasind barbarian shamans, taught to them by the Witches of the Wilds. It is possible that the magic itself may have its origins from the Fade, the "shapeshifting" realms.
    -Warrior-mage, or Mage with bag-of-tricks.

    Shapeshifter Info
    Spec bonus: +1 armor, +2 con

    Mechanics
    • Shapeshifting replaces your mage's strength, dexterity and constitution attributes with those of your chosen form's. Any attributes that were originally higher are kept/carried over instead. Default form attributes are based on the caster's spellpower. Your form's stats are then treated as your new base stats.
      Shifting also heals a mage by a small amount.
    • The caster's base armor, base damage and base armor penetration are also replaced/carried over depending on your mage's gear/equipment. Spider Form starts with a base armor of 5, for a total of 6 with bonuses. Bear Form starts with a base armor of 3, for a total of 14 with bonuses (Bear gets +10 to armor). Both forms seem to have a base damage of 3, and a starting armor penetration of 1.
    • The forms ignore almost all offensive bonuses from any items (eg consumables, weapons, armor) and sustained spells. Ignored bonuses include +damage(any) and +% paralysis/slow. Known exceptions are +critical rate, +critical damage, and +attack. This is likely intended since Mouse, Dog and Shale benefit from offensive bonuses while the Shapeshifter alone may not.
    • All Defensive bonuses from items are carried over, including +spell/physical/mental/fire/cold/lightning/nature resistance, +%healing effects received, +defense, +armor, +speed, +attributes and +HP/mana/stamina regeneration.
    • Form damage is based on the strength attribute, except for Flying Swarm. This damage seems to be calculated as base weapon damage + strength bonus + strength modifier bonus.
    • The properties of your Shapeshifter's attacks depends on your form's current weapon. Depending on the type of weapon equipped, a code causes some of the weapon's properties to be carried over.
      Using a staff makes all your form's attacks automatic hits. Downside: a staff prevents normal criticals, and your damage is equivalent to using your bare hands (+ 2-3 points). A staff, however, has insane armor penetration - this is carried over.
      With any other weapon your forms take on the weapon's base damage, damage modifier and armor penetration. This results in significantly higher form damage (for Origins) as well as the ability to crit, but you lose the auto-hit property.
      Your forms do not gain ranged attacks for using ranged weapons. Strength is always used for calculating form damage - dexterity doesn't improve dagger damage when used by your forms.
    • It is usually to your mage's detriment to aim for weapons with very high strength requirements. Your forms ignore almost all offensive bonuses, so all you're basically getting by switching to a more powerful weapon is the higher base damage. Upgrading from Iron to Dragonbone for example only gives you around a 6 or 7 point increase in damage at the cost of an additional 20 points of strength - that's 20 points you should be investing in your magic attribute. 20 points is a significant drop in spellpower.
      Wearing armor heavier than tier 7 light to tier 1 heavy is also not recommended. Stick to robes or light armors. Several light armors sets work very well for mages (ie a normal leather set, or Wade's Superior Drakeskin set. Both sets reduce fatigue and the latter can be socketed in Awakenings).
    • The character screen does not display form damage correctly.

    Stats
    A mage's shapeshifting level is determined from a mage's total spellpower divided by 5. Master Shapeshifter gives +2 to your shapeshifting level.

    • Spider, Str: 11 + (shapeshifting level x 0.5), Dex: 15 + (shapeshifting level x 1.25), Con: 12 + (shapeshifting level x 1)
    • Bear, Str: 13 + (shapeshifting level x 1), Dex: 15 + (shapeshifting level x 1), Con: 15 + (shapeshifting level x 1.25)
    • Flying Swarm has the same attributes as the caster

    Summary:
    Spider:
    [**]Gains 0.1 damage per point in Spellpower, Master Shapeshifter adds 1 to total
    [**]Gains 0.25 defense per point in Spellpower, Master Shapeshifter adds 2.5 to total
    [**]Gains 1 HP per point in Spellpower, Master Shapeshifter adds 10 to total
    Bear:
    [**]Gains 0.2 damage per point in Spellpower, Master Shapeshifter adds 2 to total
    [**]Gains 0.2 defense per point in Spellpower, Master Shapeshifter adds 2 to total
    [**]Gains 1.25 HP per point in Spellpower, Master Shapeshifter adds 12.5 to total

    Shapeshifter cons:
    • No potion/consumable use while shifted
      Actually shifting back to human/elven form is instant. You can shift back and use a poultice even while the game is paused, so as long as you picked the correct time to change forms you shouldn't be bothered by this.
      Balms also remain in effect even while your character is shifted.
    • Unable to cast spells or maintain sustained spells while shapeshifted
      You may not be able to cast spells while shifted, but that doesn't mean that you can't alternate shifting and casting. Being unable to cast spells while shifted is irrelevant - you wouldn't be shifting if casting spells had been more feasible.
    • 2 second shifting channeling (casting) time
      Personally I think shifting is worth the 2 second wait, but if the casting time annoys you that much then there are mods that can make shifting instant. Try consulting Caradhas' mod list (also stickied in the Dragon Age here in the boards) for the link.
      For everyone else, just throw a Fireball/Cone of Cold/Earthquake if you foresee a lot of survivors coming your way as you shift.
    • Talking with NPCs ends your forms. Forms have a 60 second form cooldown.
      As long as you shift back to human/elven form after every battle, these can be ignored. Yep, it's that simple.


    Shapeshifting pros:

    • Versatility. Your mage is the paragon of nuking/disabling/support, and yet if something catches you off guard you can shift and chomp its head off. You can tank (briefly), travel faster than anything in the game (even without Haste), and even dispense AoE damage while safely shifted. You basically have far more options at your disposal than any other specialization when it comes to combat, dealing with aggro, and killing things.
    • Very high magic score. This comes naturally, as your forms' attributes are wholly spellpower-dependent (making the magic attribute twice as important for a Shapeshifter).
    • Capable of high burst damage with animal forms. A Shapeshifter is a very dangerous physical combatant when necessary - 300+ additional damage (600+ in Awakenings) on a boss with a single Bear Overwhelm after you have incinerated all its allies is nothing to sneeze at. The equivalent is like using a Morrigan on steroids to clear a room and then using a buffed-up Dog to Overwhelm the boss. Disabler or support mages can brag about similar accomplishments.
      Note that a Shapeshifter can only maintain this briefly though so don't expect a warrior/rogue replacement. A party member is also likely to die if a Shapeshifter neglects his mage-ly duties.
    • Improved survivability. While not as tough as an Arcane Warrior in massive armors (with Shimmering Shield/Rock Armor/Arcane Armor/spamming healing poultices, etc.) a Shapeshifter is still a lot tougher than your average mage... unless of course you decided to take Blood Mage as your other spec.
      Nevertheless there are simply some situations when any mage in human/elven form could end up very dead if, for example, he can't somehow make himself immune to missile attacks (without using warrior gear). Given the same situation a Shapeshifter would have simply shifted to Flying Swarm form and laughed off the archers' "meager" Arrows of Slaying attempts, perhaps throwing a few AoEs before doing so (Inferno/Fireball from the nuker, Paralysis Explosion from the support and Mass Paralysis from the disabler).
    • All the forms have a larger avatars (in-game models) than humanoids, allowing limited means of blocking enemies.

    Interesting Form Quirks:

    General
    • The Spider/Bear forms have very high physical resistances and are immune to knockdown. These forms can be knocked back, but most attacks will simply knock them down instead of actually pushing them away. Swarm is immune to both knockdown and knockback. In general these quirks make your forms more resistant to spell effects and special attacks.
    • All forms can safely traverse AoE's like Earthquake and Grease, although they can be slowed. Note that you can't save against or resist friendly spells.
    • All forms are immune to "special" monster attacks (ie attacks with specific animations like Grab and Overwhelm).
    • The forms retain their base attack speed regardless of the weapon they are using. This allows for some very interesting combat mechanics.

    Spider Form
    • Spider is a finesse-warrior form similar to a dual-wielding character, although not as effective against enemies with high armor. It's high defense is something worth optimizing. It is very powerful early game with +attack skills/spells/items, since it's high attack speed combined with a (preferably two-handed) weapon effectively makes it a dual-wielder that hits as hard as a two-hander.
    • It has two skills: Poison Spit is a nuke that does dexterity-based nature damage over time. It ignores spell resistance, making it handy in nightmare. Web paralyzes a target on a failed check. It also ignores spell resistance, and is very useful for keeping your target in place while you flank it. It can also serve as an emergency disable.
    • Spider works very well with disable spells like Earthquake, allowing it to deal damage uninterrupted.
    • Flanking capitalizes on Spider's quick attacks, improving your DPS. While in Spider Form, always try and flank your target whenever possible.
      Note that using a staff prior to shifting prevents you from enjoying the bonuses you would get for flanking.
    • Master Shapeshifter grants Spider Form the Overwhelm skill. Overwhelm is multi-attack and disable move. All attacks are auto-hit, although each attack does significantly less damage than a normal attack (around 30-40% less damage).
      Overwhelm damage is dependent on your forms' damage and armor penetration and can be mitigated by the target's armor. Spider's Overwhelm does 6 attacks.
    • Dragons, abominations, animals and a few other creatures are immune to Overwhelm. A few larger monsters may be Overwhelmed. Most humanoids can be Overwhelmed, but not all.
    • Spider Form starts with a nature resistance bonus and a fire resistance penalty, The latter can be remedied with +fire resistance items.
    • Avoid trying to Overwhelm Webbed opponents. Your Overwhelm will be used up, but canceled after the first attack.

    The Overwhelm Exploit
    • This is recommended for players who use non game-breaking exploits like skill-weaving for their characters. Every spec actually has its own respective versions of a "powerful exploit", and when you hear someone screaming "x is overpowered" it's usually the exploit and not the class itself at work.
      When an enemy target is immune to Overwhelm, using Overwhelm on it will simply cause the Spider/Bear forms to attack it normally (Overwhelm is not used up). Repeatedy using Overwhelm however will also cause your forms to repeatedly attack your target, even before each of their previous attack finishes. As long as you time each attack right, your forms should be doing damage right before the next attack cancels out the previous one. This is the Overwhelm exploit. It significantly improves form DPS against monsters immune to Overwhelm - to the point that you can outdamage all but pure DPS warriors/rogues with it (yes it's that powerful). It's actually just a unique type of skill-weaving though - you are basically just canceling your attack animation with itself.
      Note that like any type of skill-weaving, you have to manually control a single character to use it. This should also work on Dog.

    The Overwhelm Bug
    • While Overwhelming an opponent, shifting back into human/elven form before the attack finishes will cause the target to become permanently stuck in prone position. This bug will work on anything that can be overwhelmed. This bug is only mentioned here for the sake of completeness - I do not condone the use of this bug as an actual tactic.

    About Your Human Form
    • Since the Shapeshifter gives you +2 con, +1 armor you should learn to capitalize on this. This is basically your cue to focus on improving your survivability - the initiative has been taken so don't waste it. For early game use exclusively +defense gear (Chasind Robes, Thane Helm, Enchanter's Boots, etc) and get Arcane Armor ASAP. Remember that you already have magic covered (you're putting almost all your points in it) and you really wouldn't waste that high magic score by dying. As you earn more gold (sovereigns) you can start aiming for more powerful and expensive items (Reaper's Vestments, First Enchanter's Cowl, Imperial Weavers, Spellward, Lifegiver). A note on dodge gear - you won't want to start using them unless you have at least three of them - stay with +def gear (all the best ones are lootable) until you've saved enough cash.
      Note that a tougher human form translates to tougher shifter forms (all defensive bonuses from items are carried over when you shift). Wearing defensive gear is an important part of shifter gameplay.

    Bear Form
    • Bear is your up-close-and-personal melee form. Unlike Spider its skills are more frontal assault-oriented. Bear Form also has the highest armor of the forms. If your mage's total base armor is greater than 4, your armor replaces Bear Form's and you get a +10 bonus to armor.
    • It starts off with very slow attacks and a low hit rate. It will be heavily dependent on a staff for early/mid game.
    • Bear has two skills: Slam is an attack that does critical damage on hit while knocking back the target. It attracts a lot of threat, and can even aggro a Taunted enemy. Rage is a buff that can raise Bear Form's strength by 10 every other 30 seconds. It only works on Bear Form.
      Note that a target aggro'ed by Slam will continue (trying) to chase your mage even when you shift into another form, like say the Flying Swarm.
    • Bear Form is a great alternative boss-tank. With high spellpower it can reach a very high constitution score, which works well with its armor and immunities. Slam functions as an alternative to Taunt. To succeed you will need the proper gear (e.g. Reaper's Vestments, Spellward, Lifegiver, Imperial Weavers) and perhaps a support mage (with Haste and Regeneration).
      As for why you'd want your mage to tank certain bosses instead, consider that DPS rogues and warriors are a lot better at dispensing single-target damage than any mage.
    • Master Shapeshifter improves Bear Form's attack speed and gives it a separate Overwhelm skill. Bear Form's Overwhelm does 11 attacks. With Rage, Bear has the potential to become the most physically damaging of the forms.
    • Bear Form shines at middle-late game, around the time you get Master Shapeshifter. At this point its strength and dexterity should be high enough that it becomes less dependent on a staff. In Awakenings though you'll want to switch to the Staff of the Lost or Spellfury.

    Early game Form Tips
    • A Shapeshifter can reach 27-30 armor early game with just the set dropped by the bandit lord at Lothering. Wearing the set and shifting to Bear Form should give you 24 armor, which you can improve with decent headgear and accessories. Combine with a party member wearing the Blood Dragon Armor set for a very powerful early game combo. This strat is heavily recommended for Shapeshifter who plan on using Light Armors.
    • Your forms receive a small armor bonus from spellpower if your base armor is less than 4. At higher levels a pure magic Shapeshifter can greatly benefit from this bonus. You will lose this bonus if your base armor exceeds 4.
    • There is one, single two-hand weapon with no strength requirement in the game - Ser Jory's Balanced Greatsword. This item is what allows a pure-magic Shapeshifter's forms to become quite powerful in early game. You can switch to a better weapon once you gain items like Key to the City or after you receive the bonuses from the Mage Circle quest.

    Flying Swarm
    • The Flying Swarm lacks a normal attack. It's basically a living AoE spell that does not harm allies - the form that allows you to continue "nuking" while shifted.
    • Swarm can be very effective should you find yourself knee-deep in enemy mobs, particularly high level enemy groups. Your mage should gain quite a lot of aggro after you unleash hell on your enemies, so shifting to Swarm is an option that allows your mage to continue dispensing AoE damage even after your surviving enemies decide to give him their undivided attention.
      For the truly evil though (ala nuke my own party and let Andraste sort the rest) and people playing in easy mode, Swarm will not be as effective.
    • Swarm has a very high movement speed, useful for traveling previously cleared areas and kiting/splitting up enemies. Swarm does not trigger traps while moving. A note on kiting - you can abuse Swarm's speed by flying in circles around a thin obstacle (eg, a pillar, a section of a ruined wall or a busy party member), damaging nearby enemies while keeping the Swarm's mana intact.
    • Swarm has very high missile deflection and is immune to normal missiles, although it can take damage from auto-hit skills.
    • Its does around 20-40 damage per "tick" as your magic increases from 40 to 80. Damage varies depending on target's proximity. Flying Swarm's damage ignores spell resistance, useful in nightmare. In Awakenings the number of +%nature damage items available makes the Swarm one of (if not the) most damaging AoE's in the game over a long period of time.
    • Mana is drained instead of HP when the Swarm takes damage. The form automatically ends when your mana reaches 0. Force Field doesn't prevent the mana drain.
    • Your mana regeneration ceases to function in Swarm form, except those from skills, spells and equipment.
    • Swarm is very susceptible to elemental attacks. It starts with a fire resistance penalty, although this can be easily remedied with greater balms and items. It can still take high mana damage from Lightning attacks however.
    • Swarm has a passive melee dodge skill (the listed value is 40%, although like the rogue skill Evasion it does not seem to stack with +dodge items). This is still something worth optimizing though.
      It has only one active skill: Divide the Swarm, an emergency disable that drains mana (around 40+). This skill can possibly end Swarm form.
    • Swarm can draw a lot of threat, and can aggro Taunted enemies in time.
    • Master Shapeshifter allows it to regain HP when dealing damage.

    Build Summaries:

    • Pure Magic
      Description:
      -Absolutely no drop in spellpower
      -Perfect for those who are simply against investing any points at all in the strength attribute
      -Dependent on Ser Jory's sword for early game
      -May only use better weapons/armor late in the game

      This build is recommended for Morrigan. Ser Jory's sword is best weapon you can use for early game. Note that you actually have the option to just make do with a tier 1 waraxe, longsword or mace - if you think doing so makes your Shapeshifter seem cooler, don't let me stop you.
      In the expansion this build comes full circle - when the 10+ additional damage granted by two handed weapons finally becomes a nonfactor, you will finally be able to use a staff for both casting and shifting.
    • Semi-pure Magic
      Pros:
      -Only a very minor drop in spellpower - just enough strength to use the best light armors
      -Access to variety of useful light armors and weapons at early-mid game, like the Felon's Coat and Wade's Superior Drakeskin Armors
      -Also within short reach of lower tier heavy armors, like the set dropped by the bandit lord in Lothering
      -Benefits Spider Form by replacing its strength score to a higher value early on

      Another good build. The 6 point sacrifice to strength for Origins is piddling - that's basically just 2 more points of magical damage/healing in exchange for access to the very best light armors as well as a fine weapon selection. In the expansion though this build remains viable because light armors can be socketed with Amplification Runes. Ironically this build (which sacrifices 6-8 spellpower for access to light armors) ends up being the more powerful offensively than the pure magic Shapeshifter, who is more powerful defensively (since robes grant better defensive bonuses like dodge and spell resistance than light armors).

    Misc. Stuff:
    • There is room for improvement yet. Try your hand at optimizing the build you'd prefer.
    • You can attempt to shift back into human form just as you perform the last hit on a boss, for the deathblow animation. Risky, but rewarding.
    • Choose spells that complement your role (nuker/disabler/support/offensive/defensive) best, and leave the rest to your forms. Always take the first Arcane branch - it improves all your spells and your mage's functionality in general. In Awakenings take the second branch if you went Spirit Healer, the third branch if you went Blood Mage.
    • There is a bug that allows the AI to switch weapons even while your mage is shifted.
      The RANGED/PASSIVE behavior switches your weapons in favor of a ranged one.
      The AGGRESSIVE/DEFENSIVE/DEFAULT/CAUTIOUS behavior switches your weapons in favor of a melee one.
      So far I've only found three ways to deal with this bug - switching tactics constantly, disabling tactics completely or switching weapons manually from your inventory.
    • There is currently a bug that allows the AI to drain Swarm's mana if you unselect it. Disable AI if this bothers you.
    • I've uploaded some screenshots to illustrate some of the stuff mentioned in this post. Try looking them over if you think some points are too confusing/abstract. More to be added later.
    • Let your second and third specializations reflect your mage's spellcasting role.
      In Origins Spirit Healer complements a charge-leading nuker/support mage, while Blood Mage favors the more passive disabler mage.
      In Awakenings the Battlemage complements a mage who loves taking aggro, making it a great third spec for the Shapeshifter/Spirit Healer, while Keeper favors the Shapeshifter/Blood Mage, granting improved survivability and massive burst DPS.

    FAQ:
    • Which weapons should my forms be using again?
      Target is wearing heavy/massive armor: staff. Otherwise: two-handed weapon. Do stick to staves when casting. Against Revenants, use spells.
      You're using the right weapon when your normal attacks are doing at least 20 damage at all times, with sole exception being Spider's Overwhelm.
      In Awakenings the Staff of the Lost/Spellfury eliminates the need for weapon switching.
    • Help! My attacks can't hit anything!
      Heroic Offense is only 1 spell point away. Maxing out Combat Training also helps. For extreme cases (ie, enemies that spam hexes) use a staff.
    • How does dual-wielding work with shifting?
      The main-hand weapons works fine, but I don't know if the off-hand weapon does anything. All defensive mods from both weapons are still carried over though.
    • Why only use two-handed and staff weapons? Why not daggers, bows, crossbows and one-handed weapons?
      Two words: damage modifier. Using daggers can actually decrease your damage.
    • How often should I be shifting?
      Around 1/3-1/2 the time (finishing off opponents, utility) at low-mid levels, and then rarely as you near the final battle (except for Swarm). Once you reach Awakenings you'll be back to using your forms 1/3-1/2 the time, simply because many monsters in Awakenings have annoying disables. You'll want to kill these ASAP so you can resume incinerating your enemies without hassle.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010
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  2. Marceror

    Marceror Chaos Shall Be Sown In Their Footsteps Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Interesting stuff Scythe; thanks for sharing this. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a real big fan of the shape shifter, but the data you share gives me a much clearer idea of how they can be built, and how the mage abilities/attributes/etc affect the various shapes.

    I would say that this moved me forward a notch or two in my interest, but my biggest deterrent still has to be the idea of sacrificing so much magical strength in order to increase physical attributes. At least with the Arcane Warrior I can invest in attributes that will improve both my magical and physical performance (and even then, I feel that the AW is bordering on being too unfocused for my taste).

    The shapeshifter, for me, is just way too unfocused. It sounds like a determined or interested player, like yourself, can find many ways to make the abilities of this class work together. This isn't a play style that I'd likely enjoy a whole lot. Even so, I do appreciate you taking the time to describe this class. I look forward to any possible updates. :)
     
  3. Scythesong Immortal Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine


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    Sure thing. This is not a campaign for the class, rather I just decided to put into writing all the stuff I've discovered about it so far. Maybe someone else can make it work if I lose interest or if I get stumped.
     
  4. Marceror

    Marceror Chaos Shall Be Sown In Their Footsteps Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Cool, and like I said, your post did move my interest in the class forward (whether you intended it as a "campaign" or not).

    In both of my runthroughs I have never really used Morrigan's shapeshifting abilities. I prefer to see her frosting the crap out of things. I sent her to the Fade last night to save Connor, and she was unstoppable against the enemies there. She hit one of the fire demons for over 120 damage with her low level cold spell. The cone of cold spells were simply divine. And the crushing prison spells kept the desire demons gentle as babies. That's the way to play Morrigan, for me at least! :)
     
  5. Scythesong Immortal Gems: 19/31
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    Yeah she's capable or insane cold damage heh. Hopefully they do try improve the Shapeshifter in the expansion or something since intended or not, people are having trouble with it. Fortunately you get to the ability to reset your attributes in the expansion so even if you play around with everyone's stats now, you're really not missing out so long as you're having fun.
    I'm actually saving my second specialization point for the expansion specializations. I doubt I'll have time to play as much in the next few weeks since Final Fantasy XIII is coming out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2010
  6. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    Nice post. I understand you like them and the game is not so hard that it would make it impossible to play with such a build but Shapeshifters are not that powerful compared to other mages IMO. They're interesting and probably fun but if you spread their stats they can't really compete as far as spells are concerned and if you don't the shapes are not that good. My conclusion is that they'd better be fun to play! ;)

    Adding a mod that speed up shapeshifting cooldown factor makes them a little bit better (and compared to other mages I'd say they need this badly).
     
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    Post updated. New info added, changed a lot of stuff. Testing with ordered list, I want this stuff to be readable (hurts my eyes the way it was).
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  8. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    That is a very good post indeed Scythesong. Shapeshifters are probably considered to be the less effective Mage specialization (and rightfully so) but you make a strong case for a hybrid mage/meleer.

    I'll give it a try with Morrigan in my next game (spreading points evenly between STR, DEX and MAG) and I'll go for hexes or the walking bomb/necromancy line as well (I love the sheer simplicity of using hexes in combat as opposed to the more direct approach of damaging spells). Using her like this is probably a lot more fun than just going for Cone of Cold, Crushing Prison, Force Field and other more mundane options.
     
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    Wait, don't do that. Try the str/mag build first - just enough strength to use massive armor (36-38 points), in case you want her to tank in Bear Form against bosses and temporarily swap Alistair for Sten/Ohgren, before going the str/dex/mag route in another game. It takes a while to get used to the idea of a defensive Morrigan. :p

    The str/dex/mag build also took a while to be functional for her (around level 14-15) because she lacked the +attributes from the Broken Circle quest, and she already starts off with higher dexterity and willpower.

    It is fun once you get there, yeah. The best parts are once you get your tier 3-4 spells and can spam debuffs and persistent effects all over the place before shapeshifting, when you can finally use a proper two-handed weapon like Yusaris, and when you finally complete a +def mage armors set and get the Champion's or Howe's Shield. Depending on your character, this might happens some time between level 8-10, 11-12 for Morrigan.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  10. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    I will try the STR/MAG build then. Thanks for the tip.

    A simple mod fixes that. ;)
     
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    After playing around with my mage who uses a two-handed weapon (it's an AI bug thing, see last line in OP) I'm beginning to think that it's actually a very feasible alternative to using a staff, unless you really don't want to approach your enemies...

    I must be going nuts.

    Anyway you can't have appreciated Flame/Frost Weapons until your mage has actually swung a weapon himself. Combined with the insane defense of mage gear (and the fact that it only takes around one or two poultices to fully heal a mage) it actually makes your mage a reliable frontline caster/warrior, alternating between staff (casting) and melee (fighting). Makes your mage a demon while shapeshifted too, unless you're fighting annoying templars (their magic also removes shapeshifting).
    I was able to solo a Revenant at level 8 (everyone else died after a faulty Paralysis Explosion) with +defense spells and Regeneration this way. Go figure.

    I'm thinking I'm gonna try a warrior/rogue class soon. This is no longer healthy. :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2010
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    Definitely try a warrior 2handed class and compare it to your mage 2handed and see who is truly more powerful.

    A rogue is a great with Stealth, etc...

    I found stealth to be the best talent in the game, especially after the 3 level in it.
     
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    Shapeshifted, you'd be surprised. I can easily outdamage Sten in Bear Form, on top of all the damage my spells are doing in the background. I think this will change once my Sten reaches 14 though, once he gets specialization talents and I give him proper +damage vs Darkspawn gear. He is pure strength BTW, and he is catching up fast. Vanilla mage with two-handed weapon who actually wants to fight instead of cast is indeed ridiculous though, I will need to take a break from that. It's all because of that stupid AI weapon switch bug.

    Never took Zevran for long periods, so can't say much about stealth. Maybe if I make a female PC rogue/warrior I can try it out after I finish with my mages.
     
  14. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    I'd rather have a fully competent Warrior or Rogue with Flame/Frost Weapons myself. What can I say, I'm probably too traditional. :p
     
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    The rest of your team weapons are still frost/flamed; it is just that the mage has join in the front line battle.
     
  16. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    I understand that it is what Scythesong meant.

    What if the Mage wields a two hander, the Rogue uses a sword and a shield and the warrior goes unarmed? That would be quite fun. :p
     
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    I was just very angry with the AI bug, to be honest.

    Whatever you do, DO NOT put your mage in ranged/passive and you might wanna consider switching to a two-hand weapon manually form your inventory before shifting.
    Or you will experience the bug, and if you find yourself enjoying your mage's attempts to kill things with a two-handed weapon then I do not guarantee the results I posted in the OP. :p

    ---------- Added 11 hours, 49 minutes and 43 seconds later... ----------

    I have updated the OP, along with a new section that says how to use the bear properly at level 8. If you think walking around with 25+ armor is overpowered at low levels (eg, from Blood Dragon Armor set), wait 'til you hear that your Shapeshifter can do the same while only wearing heavy armor. This is currently one of the greatest arguments behind what makes the Arcane Warrior so powerful - its dominance of early game (for solos). No longer, apparently. And you get to keep the Blood Dragon Armor for another party member, too.

    Without DLC's, Shapeshifter is easily the most powerful class early game. Still trying to tie up the last game part, I have the tables but getting them up there is difficult (I just spent over two hours trying to fix the tables for Spider and Bear heh).

    Seeing as how I've completed one of my goals (proving that Shapeshifter can in some ways be just as powerful as Arcane Warrior) I've decided to start turning the OP into a guide, although I'll need to fix the cluttering and start posting up more tables instead of paragraphs.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
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    That's most of it I guess. Thinking of adding a damage progression table since the character screen goes haywire when you shapeshift/use combat magic, although that might be too difficult.
    The only other thing I haven't included is the swarm setup, I kinda forgot about it. Will test later.

    Comments would be greatly appreciated. Do I need to find more overpowered setups? :p

    Edit:

    Currently testing just 1 last build. If this build pulls through, I will reassign the title of "default" Shapeshifter build to this build. Basically this build attempts to combine the current "default" build with the pure magic build. The reason it took me so long to notice it is because of its simplicity - its basically hiding in plain sight.

    If this build pulls through it will be the best alternative for people who are just not comfortable with investing their points in the strength attribute. At the very least, this build will require only 6 points and at most only 10 points to be invested in str/dex - incidentally also making it the perfect build for Morrigan.
    So far I'm in the early levels and its working fine. Crossing my fingers.

    ---------- Added 13 hours, 45 minutes and 28 seconds later... ----------

    Build tested, it's actually quite viable.
    Caradhas, you may view build number 1 as probably the ideal Shapeshifter build for your Morrigan. :p
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010
  19. Caradhras

    Caradhras I may be bad... but I feel gooood! Veteran

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    [​IMG]
    All in Magic then? It's not that different from what I used to do. Thanks for the updates.
     
  20. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    [​IMG] I'll sticky it for now but once I start working on the DA section on SP and you're close to finalizing it, it'd be nice to have it there too.
     
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