Hero Building: The Big Bad Beast
Savage beasts and noble savages
Champions Online offers a wonderful Archetype called "The Savage", which embodies the mystical essence of the wild. Think of such concepts as the Manimal (A Human-animal crossbreed as found on the Monster Island), the result of regression through biological experiments or a force of nature embodied in a Human form.
But while the Archetype is quite alright - in fact I love playing my little Gorgonne - a lot can be said for the customization options of a FreeForm. To help you in getting a Big Bad Beast of your own, below are the building blocks, tips and things to be aware of when using a FreeForm build to express a Savage hero.
Step 1: Superstats and Travel Powers
Every character in Champions Online has a Superstat and two Secondary Superstats, which determine the relative power of all of your abilities. Because of this, it is the first and most important choice to make when designing a character build.
Since a Savage-like character will be a melee-oriented character, Strength and Constitution will be important. Recovery will make sure that you keep a full energy bar, and will also help in how fast you regain health.
Intelligence makes your powers cheaper and reduces the cooldown on your abilities, so it's also a worthwhile investment. Likewise, Dexterity may be good for the additional Crit and Dodge. However, both benefits are also available separately on gear and in Specializations.
We don't need to bother with Ego (which boosts ranged damage) or Presence (which is suited mostly for healers and pet-using builds). Endurance might be ok, but its value is debatable.
In short, this leads us to the following options:
* Strength (Super), Constitution (2nd), Recovery (3rd) - which is identical to the Savage Archetype
* Strength (Super), Constitution (2nd), Intelligence (3rd) - if you choose the heavy cooldown variant
* Strength (Super), Constitution (2nd), Dexterity (3rd) - if you choose the crit-heavy variant
In almost all cases, though it seems counterintuitive, Recovery actually is the best bang for the buck as your third stat, since it allows you to use your powers continuously, on demand, without having to stop and use your (less powerful) energy builder attack. And continuous damage will generally give more damage overall.
For most Savage types I'd recommend getting the Acrobatics or Athletics powers, which make you fast and agile, jump higher and works fine in combat. Acrobatics gives you the typical "ninja run" with arms to the side, while Athletics gives you a more standard "fast runner" stance. At level 35 you get another slot for a Travel Power - I'd recommend Teleport for this, or any other travel power you feel fits your theme.
* Strength, Constitution, Recovery
* Strength, Constitution, Intelligence
* Strength, Constitution, Dexterity
Step 2: Powers by level
Below is a list of powers (by level) which will provide you with a good, solid build. These powers are chosen from the perspective of creating a level 40 character, so it is possible that if you are leveling that you find you need a little bit more damage or survivability than what you currently have. If so, don't be afraid to switch some powers around - everyone plays differently and you should choose your build accordingly.
Level 1: Bestial Fury (energy builder)
Level 1: Shred (bleed)
Level 6: Frenzy (AoE bleed and Enrage)
Level 6: Acrobatics
Level 8: Retaliation (Block replacer)
Level 11: Defiance (Slotted defensive passive)
Level 14: Pounce (Charge)
Level 17: Bite (Bleed and Enrage)
Level 20: Supernatural Power (Energy Unlock)
Level 23: Enrage (Build up charges of Enrage)
Level 26: Howl (Fear and Enrage)
Level 29: Massacre (Knockdown)
Level 32: Command Animals (Summon animal pets)
Level 35: Rebirth (recover from defeat)
Level 35: Tunneling (or any other travel power you'd like)
Level 38: Unbreakable (active defense)
This forms a solid base, with plenty of defensive and offensive options. Next we'll explore a few variants which are more offensive or using different passive abilities and cooldowns.
Step 3: Talents and Advantages
Throughout your career you can choose 6 Talents, each of which gives you a bonus to one or more stats. For our Big Bad Beast it's a simple affair: choose whatever talents give +8 to your superstats and +5 to two of each - that should exactly round out to 6 Talents.
Instead of giving an exhaustive list of every advantage available, I will give a few advantages that are "mandatory" (meaning they are really good) and a few which are "recommended" (meaning that they are usually a good choice). This will leave you with a few points left over, which you can spend on ranking up the powers you use most often.
Rip and Tear on Bestial Fury: gives you a chance to make your target bleed.
Penetrating Strikes on Shred: gives Shred a chance to reduce your enemy's defenses.
Fear Sense on Frenzy: Additional damage if the target is Feared.
Furor Venenum on Bite: Biting a Bleeding target gives you Enraged and refreshes Enraged.
Endorphin Rush on Enrage: You will heal whenever you stack Enrage.
Bloody Mess on Massacre: Additional damage on Bleeding targets
Better you than Me on Unbreakable: You gain Enrage while hit and this ability is up.
Giant Growth on Enrage: Being big and bad is just that much fun!
Make them Tremble on Howl: Those who are Feared by the Howl are also trembling.
Earthen Embrace on Tunneling and/or Versatility on Acrobatics: Damage Resistance and Dodge on being hit.
If you are planning on going in groups with other players, I recommend not ever taking Punitive Pummeling on Retaliation. While it's fun to block and see some enemies being knocked away, it's really annoying for other players - especially melee ones. If you are planning to just play alone, feel free to take it since it will reduce the damage you take by a lot
Step 4: Specializations
The Specializations window gives you another set of enhancements for your build, simply select these to match your playstyle. Since you will take Strength as your primary superstat, the first block of specializations will come from the Strength tree. This has a lot of melee-based advantages, and having Strength (which increases melee damage) be your primary superstat (which increases all your damage) makes this just all the more appetizing.
If you have Dexterity as your third superstat, you are probably well off to take some of the melee power cost reduction talents to offset the more expensive power use (since you have neither Recovery to boost Energy or Intelligence to reduce the powers cost). If you slot Intelligence as your third power you will want to focus on specializations that add flat damage, and not bother with Crit Severity (how much damage you deal on a crit) unless you have 25% Crit or more.
There are a few variants which you can make to alter the playstyle of this build. The current build is very survivable, perhaps more so that is strictly required. There are a few tweaks you can make to make the build play just the way you want it:
Regeneration instead of Defiance
Replace Defiance with Regeneration, and replace Unbreakable with Resurgence. Instead of having a lot of damage resistance and a small HoT (Heal over Time) you will now heal a lot through regeneration, and you can increase this on-demand using Resurgence. This is a more fluid playstyle on the whole, but without the energy gains from Defiance you probably will want to focus on Strength/Consitution/Recovery as superstats.
Replace Defiance with Aspect of the Bestial and replace Retaliation with Parry. You will have a primary offensive form with considerably less defensive capabilities. However, with your focus on Bleeds, you will have plenty of damage bonus and energy when you need it (below 10%).
Bruiser of Beastdom
Replace Massacre, Command Animals and Rebirth with Roomsweeper (powerful cone-shaped Knockback), One-hundred Hands (Cone-shaped Crush) and Thunderclap (AoE with Stun). While this gives a little less offensive power, it gives you Roomsweeper, which is just so much fun! I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to see a pack of guys being knocked a hundred feet into the air and meeting the ground with a dull thud.
Playstyle: How to be a big, bad beast
Charge the most powerful enemy in a group (bosses or villains) with Pounce, use Howl to cause Fear and immediately follow up with three Frenzies. This finishes off most small enemies nearby while giving you Enraged; because the enemies are Feared, they will take more damage from Frenzy.
Use Shred to cause a Bleed on your opponent, and alternate Bite and Massacre to keep Enrage stacking while dealing a lot of damage on your primary target.
If you are getting low on health, use a defensive ability like Unbreakable or Resurgence. Remember to only block big and dangerous attacks using Shift - smaller attacks are healed up as quick as they damage you, and the only real problem you will face are charged-up attacks that cause you to be held, paralyzed or put asleep.
If you wish to tank content, all that you really have to do is buy Crippling Challenge and Challenging Strikes on your abilities, which will cause enemies to be Taunted (focusing to attack you), likely having them stick to you like glue because of the additional threat. I know for a fact that my own Savage routinely tanks in Alerts without being specced for it or being in the Tank role - so if you make these adjustments you won't have much difficulty tanking for groups.