Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing - Hunter Skills - Sword

This post has general tips and tricks for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing played on the PC at Heroic Difficulty. For a list of all our Van Helsing posts, click here.

Hunter Skills - Sword Skills
We aimed to play the game without using potions, and we did not also farm for gold to maximize Essences on every inventory item in the early game. Obviously it would make things even easier with increased HP Regeneration and fat Dodge bonuses.

Mana costs go up quickly, and sustained use of skills -- especially tier 3 skills -- becomes tricky without Mana Potions. Since we aimed to play without potions, we generally avoided the pricier tier 3 skills.
For our Heroic-difficulty Hunter playthrough, we kept our attack skill levels to a minimum and instead focussed on the few power-ups we regularly used, and on passive skills and auras that would be useful throughout the game and whether in close-combat or shooting at range. This helped to keep Mana consumption low.
We also focussed on combat rather than spell use, so developing SpellPower was given no priority and Spells were used for their power-ups rather than for raw damage.

Investing points in either the Mystic Warrior or Occult Hunter skill trees will accumulate levels. Every 10 levels gives you a Mastery Bonus. However, only actual skill levels count toward this total: Skill points spent on acquiring power-up options do not. And the number of skill points per level does not matter -- 1 level in a third-tier skill costs 3 skill points, but only counts as 1 level in Mystic Warrior or Occult Hunter.

We tried to pick only power-ups that we used often. The total number of active power-ups on any one skill is 3 points: This can be all 3 points on one power-up, or spread over the power-ups you have. Therefore, if you choose more than one power-up, you will never see the full benefit of all your skill points spent on power-ups. Instead, we recommend saving your points and choose your power-ups based on how you use the skill.

Even if you like kiting, many enemies have the "Extra Fast" trait, which means they can close to melee distances very quickly. Although there are area-effect Gun skills, one additional benefit of switching to a sword is that it activates the Deflection defense, which is apparently another layer of chance-to-avoid-all-damage defense on top of Defense and Dodging.

In an early playthrough we focussed on this skill tree initially as there were a lot of melee enemies, and melee affords crowd control without having to keep kiting, which slows down the game. In Borgova, however, enemy use of high-damage mines and bombs often made straight melee a sudden-death proposition, and kiting was invariably required. And with an increasing number of shooters, investment in the passive skill to improve in-melee-only Deflection became a waste of skill points.
We re-started our Hunter and focussing on Guns proved easier, without significantly more kiting. It had the additional benefit of not having to chase down shooters.

If you insist on a melee build, you may want to consider the following:
  • A strong melee build can be done with Cleave, with the Soul Cleave upgrade. Being caught in melee and needing crowd control happens a lot, so this is a great skill to know how to use.
    • Soul Cleave gets you 5%-15% per enemy hit by your arc, so this can easily translate to 45% healing, on top of maybe 10%+ from the Hidden Reserves Aura -- one well-aimed Cleave can restore Van Helsing to full health.
  • 1 level of Embracing Flames with the Shielding Flames upgrade can be helpful if you find yourself taking risks with soaking damage.
    • Damage is irrelevant here so don't worry about raising your Spellpower. You are getting these to activate healing from Rage use through the Hidden Reserves aura, as well as a period of 10%-30% damage resistance from all attacks -- it works almost like the Arcane Healing trick.
  • 1 level of Ice Blast with the Liquid Frost upgrade.
    • Again, damage is irrelevant. You are just buying yourself time if you get swarmed suddenly.
Mastery Bonuses
10 levels: Health +50 HP
20 levels: Resistance +10% to all resistances
30 levels: Hardiness +5 Body, +5 Willpower
40 levels: Regeneration +5 HP regeneration
50 levels: Defense +10% defense
  • The way Defense and Resistance (and Dodge and Deflect) work is non-linear and dependent on the enemy level. The higher the enemy level, the less the final percentage. A 10% bonus to the stat might translate to only one or two percentage points. Hover your mouse over the attribute to see the current percentage, or use the Detailed Info button to call up stats.
  • Given this, none of the bonuses are really worthwhile except for the 30- and 40- level Mastery Bonuses, but even then they can be duplicated with Essences, and will come at a significant investment of Skill Points for relatively low utility.
Strike Melee weapon damage 100% - 176%.
  • If you have at least one Power Up, you can use Hidden Reserves to heal with Rage even when you have no Mana left, because this skill costs no Mana. (Remember that you also do not need a target to activate a Power Up).
  • Precise Strike Attack ignores 33% of enemy Physical Resistance and does +20% melee Damage.
    • The enemy's Physical Resistance would have to be enormous for this to be useful. If you hover your mouse over Van Helsing's physical resistance statistic, a tooltip appears and you can see how much damage reduction you get compared to how much Physical Resistance you have. It's not much, so even +50 Physical Resistance from the unique Dragon Scale trophy translates to a few percentage points -- it isn't that great unless you have also focussed on accumulating Resistance from other gear.
  • Stunning Strike Stuns the enemy for 1 second.
    • Stun expires when the enemy is hit, so this is good for running away AND if Katarina is not going to attack the enemy you just stunned.
  • Heavy Strike +50% melee Damage.
  • Furious Strikes Each kill with Strike yields 1 extra Rage point.
  • Lifesteal Each hit with Strike heals you for 10 HP.
    • Depending on your level and HP total, this can be around 2% of your health restored per hit. Plus, since Strike requires no Mana, so you could switch over to Strike while letting your Mana replenish. The main problem with Lifesteal is it will cost 10 Skill Points to attain, which you may find are more usefully spent elsewhere -- unless you regularly rely on Strike, which is unlikely since large mobs are very common in the game and you will probably use crowd control area-effect skills instead. Without mass-damage skills, even 10 HP per hit can't keep up with the incoming damage to make it a better investment.
Lightning Strike Hits a single energy for 50% melee weapon damage, and generates lightning bolts that damage the target and 3 additional enemies nearby for 8% - 30% Spellpower in lightning damage. Mana 15 - 40.
  • The range of the lightning generated is quite long and the targets struck seem random, so against a large mob, you can't get concentrated damage against the same targets to kill them quickly with repeated Lightning Strikes. Smaller mobs are fine as the 3 lightning strokes will typically hit the same targets since there aren't many candidates to choose from. Damage is very weak in any case without a strong focus on Spellpower, so with Lightning Strike, you are really looking at the special effects from power-ups.
  • Voltaic Web 2 more targets are struck by the lightning bolts.
  • Shocking Strike The targets are paralyzed for 2 seconds.
    • At level 3, this power-up paralyzes for 6 seconds, which can make it quite useful against a small number of targets if you then switch to a stronger attack while they are paralyzed.
    • You can also use this to Rage-Heal with Hidden Reserves as well as give yourself a bit of breathing room in massed melee combat, although mobs will start to get very big quickly in the game.
    • You could mix this with Voltaic Web to hit more targets, although for a lesser duration. Focusing on Lethal Jolt may be the better option.
  • Lethal Jolt The targets have a 10% chance of dying outright. (Doesn't work on Nemeses).
    • At level 3, this power-up has a 30% chance of killing targets outright -- this translates to a 75.99% chance that at least 1 creature will die per swing (assuming a total of 4 targets hit by lightning), so long as you have the Rage to keep it up. Only a ~1% chance that all 4 targets die.
    • Auto-Powerup can be useful here to try to keep killing and automatically using the Rage from kills to fire off more Lethal Jolts, but manually using Rage is still better because you really want to use the power-up only when you can afford it at level 3.
    • Since this is a flat chance of a kill, it is good into the late game. If you are confident about it, you can ignore a lot of weapon enchantments such as Attack Speed, Critical Hit Chance, and all damage bonuses.
    • It is unclear whether Champions and Minions are affected (or at a reduced chance) since they are not recorded on Van Helsing's statistics under Nemeses killed.
  • Wider Arc One additional target hit by lightning bolt.
  • Thunder Strike Base melee is increased from 50% damage to 100% damage.
Bash Melee weapon damage 125% - 220%, and target gains 10% vulnerability for 1 second.
  • Deep Wounds Struck enemy bleeds 20% of Bash Damage every 2s, for 10 seconds.
    • Basically 100% damage, but spread out over 10 seconds. Probably does not stack. You might as well just hit them twice.
  • Crushing Blow Bonus damage equal to 10% of target's current hit ponts.
    • At level 3, this power-up will shave off 30% of the target's current health. Works really nicely on bosses and mini-bosses, but generally not as important as you might think. Only a boss with annoyingly enormous health and strong resistances (such as the Drill Worm in the Hauling Station) will make this skill invaluable for alleviating the boredom of winning by attrition.
  • Life Steal Drains health equal to 10% of your max Hit Points.
    • Fast healing, but not faster than Soul Cleave.
    • The problem with this power-up is that with Bash, the most useful power-up is Crushing Blow. The power-up configuration does not allow you to choose different combinations for a single power, so if you were relying on level 3 Crushing Blow and in the thick of combat wanted to switch to level 3 Life Steal, you would be taking hits while fooling around with the interface (or you could use the Sphere of Timelessness trick, which is an expensive alternative just to switch power-up configurations).
    • If you have a weapon that heals a percentage of damage you inflict, then Crushing Blow can get you hundreds of Health back in a single blow against a strong opponent.
  • Cold Rage Bash power-ups cost 3 less Rage.
Cleave A wide, 120 degree swing, causing 70% - 102% melee weapon damage to every enemy in front of you up to 3 meters away. While using Cleave, you incur a 50% Defense penalty. Mana 12 - 28.
  • If you will be using Cleave a lot, focus on defenses other than Defense, such as Dodge and Deflect.
  • Soul Cleave Each enemy hit by the attack heals you by 5% of your maximum HP.
    • Highly recommended for all Hunter builds to have this, for no other reason than to score quick, massive, healing. At level 3, this power-up will heal 15% per enemy hit. Typically you can hit maybe 3 targets. A single stroke can therefore restore 15%-45% health plus additional healing from the Hidden Reserves aura. This can keep you in the fight or quickly get you out of trouble instead of chancing a retreat.
  • Mighty Swing Enemies struck have a 30% chance of being stunned for 1 second.
  • Crushing Sweep +50% Damage.
  • Long Reach +1 meter range.
Flowing Combo Makes 3 consecutive attacks in quick succession against enemies in front of you, for 60% - 94% melee weapon damage. If there is only one opponent, all 3 strikes land on him.
  • This is three attacks in one stroke. Against multiple targets, this is inferior to Cleave. Against a single target, you might as well use Bash.
  • Dazing Strikes Targets are stunned for 1 second.
  • Deep Cuts Targets bleed for 10 seconds, losing 20% of the received damage every 2 seconds.
    • Does not stack.
    • Basically 100% damage over 10 seconds, ticking every 2 seconds.
  • Devastating Blows +50% Damage.
  • Extended Combo Adds a fourth attack.

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