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[LoD v1.09x] Seven Lances v1.06 by Foxbat
Title [LoD v1.09x] Seven Lances v1.06 by Foxbat
Description Reviewed by Brother Laz freelance for the Phrozen Keep.
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OVERVIEW
Seven Lances 1.06 is the latest version of FoxBat's balance mod. Earlier versions were good, but the annoying spell timers all over the place ruined it a bit. The new version promised the removal of all timers to make the mod fun to play for non-druid characters for a change. Did it deliver? Well...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
This is a quality mod, nothing like certain other mods out there that only seem to consist of a) getting this or that overpowered unique item, and b) fighting endless hordes of Duriel Clones with it in one or two maximum experience areas. A lot of work has been put into this mod, from the new affixes to the massive amount of unique and set items. It is not flashy, but it works... quite well.

MONSTERS
Everything is harder now, and unlike in many other mods, the mod creators upped the attack speed of the monsters instead of the damage. In higher Acts the modified monsters are very capable of stunlocking careless characters, and especially for melee characters happy feet tactics are required to avoid getting swamped and stunlocked by the entire mob at once. There also seem to be fewer one-hit kills, which is always a good thing. The global physical resistance in Hell is gone.

Act5 is genuinely harder than Act4. Hell minotaurs are a terror for any melee character: between their double attack and added cold damage, it becomes very hard to fight back unless you fight them one by one. Succubi spit out an avalanche of powerful blood stars, more than capable of taking down characters with low resistances before they even get within range to strike back. Even the lowly imps now use a powerful lightning javelin attack that pierces your minions to strike you in the face. The mod creators have done a great job on the monster department. Three thumbs up!

CHARACTERS
Being a balance mod, the characters should be reasonably balanced, right? Well, it wasn't so in 1.05, and now after all the changes it is still broken. On the surface the characters look balanced. In practice, there are certain loopholes that allow specific builds to completely ignore the increased difficulty.

On the up side, there are very few useless skills in the mod, so no matter what you do, even something crazy such as Decrepify + Skeletal Mage, or Conversion + Might, you will build something capable of Hell difficulty. When was the last time you did Hell difficulty with Raven or Charged Strike?

But there are the loopholes. Minions are STILL too good. Most of them can do actual damage: it is certainly an amazing sight to see a fire golem kill a monster in Hell difficulty without the help of Iron Maiden, and lowly skeletons have a higher attack rating in Hell than just about every enemy monster. But the problem is their high hit points. Many minions can get thousands of hit points in Hell difficulty, making them almost immune to most attack forms. Who cares if they no longer scale up with the number of players. If they did, they would only upgrade from 'brick wall' to 'concrete wall'. Combined with a damage or thorns spell these granite blocks become way too good, and reduce the mod to a boring game of 'standing around waiting for the monsters to die'. In 1.05 this type of build utterly dominated. Druids in particular owned everything with Spirit of Barbs, and evil tongues spoke of the connection between the spirit's name and the name of a certain character in classic LoD that requires about as much skill to play as the (ab)users of said spirit.

Now at least they aren't the fastest builds anymore. They are still invincible, but on killing speed it's now the amazons and assassins who dominate. And guess what: much of that is thanks to 'that big golden thing' of theirs, or that 'big golden thing by any other name'.

Lightning Strike does a shocking 900 damage now, which is about twice as much as everything else in the mod; the bolts do about 400, and bounce 18 times. 'That big golden thing' has 8000 hit points. These skills are ridiculous. They don't even cost all that much mana, unlike Lightning Fury. Lightning Strike mows down everything not immune in two or three attacks - less than two seconds - target hits the floor, all others severely wounded or dead. 'Click Click Boom! I'm comin' down on da minotaurs, with level 20 lightning bolts! Click Click Boom!' -Saliva. :-) And with the passives working for you, the ridiculous +AR% bonus of penetrate and some help from Your Personal Mythical Demigoddess taking all the hits there is no reason you should ever struggle or die against anything short of an extra strong fanatic chillotaur boss pack. If you run out of mana, level 20 jab with mana leech - or just ignore dex altogether, use junk javelins, keep a junk bow with freezing arrow on weapon switch, and put all those points in energy for a 400 mana pool or 16 lightning strikes - and you rarely need more than 4 in any given fight. Then when you run into lightning immunes, hit them with 6 freezing arrows that do 500 damage apiece and freeze for about 1.5 billion years. Absolutely nothing is both cold and lightning immune in Hell, except the VERY rare boss here and there. Get 75% mana regen on rings/amulets and there you go. 'Click Click Boom!'

The trapassin uberskills seem to be Wake of Fire and CB Sentry: not because they do the most damage, but because you can actually afford the mana cost and don't need to melee with an useless Cobra Strike, with a build not suited to melee. 'Luckily', in this case uberskill does mean uberskill. Level 20 WoF does about 1000 damage per volley of 6 shots... the medieval equivalent of a nuclear flame wave; she has a multi thousand life SM to tank; and if anyone gets past her pet she can send them to la-la land for 4 seconds with Mind Blast, which is a death sentence seeing as no normal monster can survive 4 seconds of WoF/CBS fire. Nice.

The removal of most or all timers was very promising. No more stupid spell timers!
...Hmmm....
So why aren't we having fun yet?

All sorceress spells - and all spells in general, except the necromancer ones - cost about three times as much mana as FO in classic D2 until LoD. And there's no dirt cheap SF either to help cut down mana costs, and no SoJ or Frosties to boost one's mana pool. The result is thet you can cast exactly four or five spells before the mana orb is empty.

Yes, this is as bad as it sounds. Sorcs have a ridiculously high bonus from warmth and regen everything back in 20 seconds but are still screwed if they cannot kill a mob on one mana orb and have to run around like an idiot and hope the monsters don't regen everything back before they can cast again; all other classes are just screwed.

That is right. If you cannot kill a mob with your current mana (and it's not as if there is all that much +mana gear in the mod in the first place, or any at all), that's it. Retire your character, because you're going to get bashed with no way to fight back aside from normal attack.

'High mana cost' is a recurring theme throughout the entire mod. First it was timers, now it is this. Hint for the mod creators: one can also nerf skills by reducing their damage instead of imposing stupid timers or insane mana costs on the players. Increasing mana cost is a good thing if it makes players get more +mana gear and actually invest in warmth for a change, but not if it drains one's mana orb in 5 casts of Meteor or Lightning Sentry. The only solution: cope with it, just cope with it, and pray that your chosen class either (a) has some low level skills that do enough damage in Hell, or more damage than the higher level ones at that, (b) has that ridiculous boost from Warmth, (c) can put most of their points into energy, or (d) has some super cheese combo like SoB+SW that doesn't cost much mana, or an overpowered skill like Volcano, Lightning Strike or WoF/CBS.

And what's mortifying is the fact that with enough mana (500 or more), the high level skills or at least the high level sorc skills are actually fun at skill level 1. Not powerful in Hell Act 5, but fun. Amazingly, all the memories of CD2 hydra tactics came back... and for the first time in about a year and a half it were tactical errors that killed me instead of some random cheap MSLECoB (Murders Single-players Lacking 3l33t Cheap Overpowered Blackhorn's), and good tactics got me past Baal instead of the 'look at me, I can hold down a mouse button until I'm dry!' 'tactics' of level 22 Hydra in this mod. Click Click Boom.

And don't you dare to import a spellcaster character from an earlier version, or you will get nerfed, made totally useless in the new version.

But at least they made level 1 hydra fun!

ITEMS
The new affix pool is a great feature, and adds a lot to this mod - so much that I now hesitate to play any other mod with the standard LoD affix tables. The only thing is that magic weapons do about 50% more total damage than rares, and you can forget about getting any decent skill bonuses on rares. Other than that, it is great. You have to re-learn everything, discover new stuff, actually get excited over finds instead of KNOWING what you're going to find way in advance. I love it.

But what these items lack is... personality. The entire item setup seems to be generated by a computer. In this mod, uniques and sets are really just rares with a different name. Their bonuses scale up nicely with item level, and are exactly as good as the rares you have at the moment you find it. This does unfortunately mean that uniques and set items of a base item type that is even slightly lower quality than what you have at the moment are always useless for you. Add to this the fact that most of the unique and set items are rather uninspired and mundane - some might even say 'boring'. Do not waste time picking up every unique that drops, looking for the next Thinking Cap, Iceblink or Razortail, because you won't find one. Buy a random rare item at the gambling merchant, add a name that sounds like 'Expert's Touch' or 'Defender of the Forge' and you know exactly what your next unique will be.

The charms with +to a specific skill and some dumb negative penalty seem a bit amateuristic and out of place in this mod. I don't understand why they got nerfed like that: aren't charms and items in general supposed to improve one's character when used? Losing 30 dexterity for 6 spell levels in Lightning Strike is painful, losing 30 dexterity for 6 levels in Exploding Arrow is too much. I'm sure there is another way to balance them.

Also, the mod creators 'fixed various item-related bugs' for about the 6th time in as many patches. But just ten seconds ago I was looking at a matriarchal spear with +3 to bow skill tree on it. Hmmm. I'm sure you can shoot it from a crossbow - a really big crossbow. :-) Some item bugs are not so innocent though. Seven Lances has a long history of item-related crashes, and while much better than early on, there is still the occasional buggy item here and there.

HIRELINGS
Hirelings are supposed to help in combat, right? Not stand still like an idiot (and get bloodstarred to death), and not whirlwind once and then run away and cower behind a wall? According to the readme, you need to lead the monsters into them... nice, but maggots, succubi and archers tend not to move and imps usually don't come close enough. Hosed every time! Qual-Kehk getting filthy rich! And then you take them to an area without too many ranged attackers, and they die in one poison hit from a venom lord. At least the teleport issue has been fixed... now they don't need teleport anymore to be cowards. It may be a good simulation of public B.net :-) but I regularly died about half a second after my mercenary decided that the 10% life he lost over the course of 8 seconds was so much, he had to run three screens away and heal. Training the mob into me in the process. Sorc kebab.

It is like that with most if not all minions. Druid wolves in particular are so damned SLOW and cowardly. And when they do get there, they walk around in circles and then decide to leave the fight anyway. The druid now has to explicitly recast them on top of the enemies. In this window of opportunity, he's vulnerable. At least he now stands a chance of dying, but the reason is because of the MORONIC AI of the wolves. Wow.

RANDOM REMARKS
-Vendor inventories are a chaos. Prepare to run all over town to find who sells the items you want in meaningful quantities. How about making each vendor sell a lot of a few different item types instead of everyone selling one or two of them?
-Blood Mana is very annoying for sorcs, who suddenly cannot cast anything at all or risk losing half their hit points, and you cannot do anything about it.
-Minotaurs are a terror in Hell, but that only makes you feel more proud after you defeat them. :-)

SUMMARY
As you might have noticed, I'm no longer giving this mod such a semi-positive review as the first time around. The mod creators have had their chance, the readme listed just about everything anyone ever complained about, and they blew it.

For melee classes this is still a great mod. Extra challenge, more of everything, new items, scary monsters, and more. Download it, and WORSHIP it.

For the caster classes, it just ain't so. 'No timers' seemed promising at first, but in practice there still are timers. They engage after you have cast 5 spells, and last for about two minutes. And the promised 'balance' is nowhere to be found - most skills are 'useable' in Hell, but certain specific builds utterly dominate. Sad... It seems unfair to give this mod such a roasting, seeing as I DO have fun with my sorc in Hell, but I did have to look for it by specifically keeping my skills at base level to avoid the mana cost issues. Sigh.


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