Another big feedback post, this time on champions. I actually have less to say about a lot of the individual champions (especially the starting ones) but a bit more to say about progression and such overall.
Staff-using champions have some weird progression going on. Splintered staffs can be really hard to find in the game as-is, which really delays a starting Naphaz or Keplin in terms of getting their first weapon upgrade. In fact, sometimes this delay can be so pronounced that by the time I get my first splintered staff, I'll already have the recipes and levels to use significantly better staves, either Hailstone or Leht.
The end-game staves are kind of whacky in their own right. The Hellfire Staff is significantly worse, yet more expensive, than the other level five staffs. The Leht Staff is also clearly the best of the three. Bows also kind of have weird progression thanks to the Guiding Longbow, but I think staffs really have the worst. Perhaps splintered staves should be available from Harvest Forest?
Not strictly a champion issue, but I'll put it here anyway. Armor progression is a little bit weird due to the rarity of wolf pelts. Leather armor is very difficult to make, much more so than chain mail due to how frequently flawless iron drops. What usually happens in my game is that I end up with basically no armor, and then I get the chain recipes and I'm suddenly decked out in the stuff, resulting in a huge power jump. Perhaps bandits should also be dropping wolf pelts?
-Rival Champion Starting Level-
Rivals start off at level 3. I feel like this is in part to help them be useful when you first get them, since you usually get them later than your default and skill tree champions. The problem is that this ends up slowing down their leveling speed rather noticeably. What this actually translates to is that rival champions end up being two skill slots behind other champions. This is especially painful for champions like Raza and Korthox, who desperately need levels to get certain skill builds to work.
I really feel like either rival champions should start off at level 1 like everyone else (since catching them up is trivial anyway with exp potions or just a couple of fights) or they should start with two skill picks they can use right off the bat. Having less skill picks is less fun, and if I worked hard to get these rival champions, I ought to have something fun and powerful to show for it.
This is again only tangently related to champions, but I'm putting it here because rival diplomacy is so important to getting the rival champs. The current favor system is a bit odd, particularly due to how you can cheese it to get allied with all the rivals on the map, even rivals that hate each other. Holding onto quests and manipulating favor via the mana gifts can lead to some situations that I feel probably weren't intended. If I ally with the Ice Lords and the Frozen Realm declare war on me any time I try to talk to them, I feel like it should then be impossible to ally with them (without future content that specifically allows this.) It's incredibly "gamey". (If you're not aware, you can simply hold onto quests until you have enough to ally with both sides if you did them, -then- do them to ally with both. The trigger for a rival to declare war on you for allying with their enemy only happens if you try to talk to them.)
-Giott the Marksman-
Giott has over half of his skills as being a copy-paste from Peregan, which really makes him feel underwhelming when you get him (even more because of the previously mentioned "two skill handicap" that he suffers from.) His skill tree could really use an overhaul, especially since a number of his skills don't work well if you also have a Peregan (you don't need two Quickfires, for example.)
-Korthox the Ice Lord-
Korthox suffers from his top tree being essentially useless. Arctic terrain isn't common enough where having a ton of skills only usable on it is worthwhile. Spending fifty mana to work around this so he can throw a snowball is also really expensive when I could just go down his other trees. If Like At Home was just a passive that he could just pick up, then it might be worth taking.
What's funny about Korthox otherwise is that his stats are pretty terrible (one of the most notable being that his hit points are really low for a large, furry monster), but when you can get him to work, he works well. Unstoppable is huge, since it lets him get the dreaded Maul + Backswing combo. The problem is that his initiative is garbage without Skating on Ice, his ability to naturally AoE on his attacks can be just as harmful as it is helpful, and Unstoppable consumes the slow-moving yeti's turn. By the time things are set up so that Korthox can maul people to death, the fight is already mostly over, or my other units are stuck in melee and Korthox is just as likely to maul them to death as he is the enemy. Also, the fact that he can damage allies even when he counter-attacks is a little frustrating.
I think he'd be much more usable if his AoE stopped affecting allies, he got an initiative boost, or Unstoppable didn't consume his turn.
-Ifris the Engulfed-
I think Ifris is one of the best-designed rival champions, so I don't have any real complaints about him. I'm not sure how the lack of a weapon thing could ever be fixed for him. It seems appropriate that he doesn't use one.
-Raza the Necromancer-
I'm confused as to what Raza is supposed to be. Is she designed to go up in melee all the time? Because most of her death charge spenders, outside of a heal, are melee range. Yet this seems awkward and inappropriate considering the rest of her skills, unlike a character like Xii who is clearly designed to mix it up up-close.
The death charge mechanic is interesting, but I feel like she doesn't get much of an opportunity to use it. The fact that she has no spenders by default is a big part of this. That she suffers from the typical rival champion problem of being at a skill pick disadvantage is also really bad, since she really wants to go down all three trees to really feel at all complete.
-Silindros the Avenger-
I like him overall, though that constant knock-back can be both a blessing and a curse (and makes shield bash superfluous.) Army of One is also probably misplaced. By the time you get him, you're probably not as interested in running around with solo-hero armies anymore, not to mention he has to be level 7 right now before he can even have it anyway. Without that or Wrath of the Shards, he just doesn't have the damage to do much on his own.
Also, spear weapons please.
-Slough the Boglord-
I really like how Slough is actually more of a support champion than he is a straight-up brawler, like you might expect from the giants. Only complaint I have regarding him is that he really could have been a second axe-using champion. He even is holding one on his model!
-Xii the Archon-
Xii is really strong. Like, really, really strong. Probably the strongest of the rival champions right now. Enough that his damage probably needs to be toned down, since he does as much damage without a weapon as Keplin and Naphaz do with Leht Staffs.
Also, I'm not sure Angel of War actually does anything.