Part 29: Summoning Dolls Suck
Forgive me if you've covered this before, but are the dolls ever actually useful in combat? I know you so far you mostly use them to lug stuff around with, but if you actually build yourself around using them, are they eventually decent or just always crappy?
Alright, now's as good a time as any to explain in depth. The short answer is that they are always crappy.
Summoning Dolls Suck
The long answer is that it *is* possible to make them useful, but only by spending the skill points of your main characters, so you can either have two well-built main characters, or one good main character and two so-so summoning dolls.
Summoning dolls take their initial stats from when you first summon them. Unfortunately, for some reason, they don't actually fucking consider the actual level your main characters are. For example, you have Level 22 characters summoning a Level 15 doll to fight Level 19 enemies which do enough damage to be threatening to main characters with twice the HP. They also can't gain experience, and they don't level with the main character.
Summoning dolls also run into problems with equipment: They can't really use a lot of equipment. Only the skeleton can use ranged weapons, and well…
…It hasn't got the stats to use anything but the shittiest ones. The demon doll can't use anything but its claws, and the Raanaar can't use ranged weapons even if it meets the stat requirements, because, you know, then they'd have to make animations for Raanaar using bows and that would take, effort and stuff.
I played around and dumped 41 levels worth of points into one summon, and set it up to be a Shaman-Magic caster. I spent the remaining points on 8 skill slots, so I could give it level 1 Hammer and Level 3 of the Elemental Shaman magics. With these stats, it regenerates 35 mana every 3 seconds, but Shaman magics cost 300+ mana per shot (for less damage than a decent bow hit or melee strike), so you still only get off 5 shots before you need to wait around.
Summoning Doll upgrades
You can put points into:
- Increasing the doll's level (2 levels per skill point)
- Passive resistances (+5 per skill point per resistance)
- Skill points (+1 doll skill point per player skill point)
- Respawn Duration (reduces the time it takes until you can re-summon a doll without penalty. Default is 25 seconds.)
- Radius (1000 units per point)
You can spend 1 skill point to give 2 levels to a pool available to all your summoning dolls. (If you spend 10 skill points, you have 20 levels you can split between your summons.) Levelling up a doll only does ONE thing: It gives you 5 attribute points per level. It doesn't increase the health, and it doesn't give a skill point. You can have up to 4 dolls total at the same time, but you'll never have enough skill points for more than 2, so you may as well just leave the skeleton as the baggage handler. And you might not want to bother upgrading the Anlokam doll either.
Putting points into resistances for dolls is a horrible black hole of skill points which will never, ever be worthwhile. There are 7 resistances with up 10 levels, and maxed out it's only a 50% resistance, and that won't mean anything if the doll dies in three hits anyway because it has low max health.
I thought that putting points into Doll skill points gave a point to each doll, but I was wrong, all summoning dalls share the pool of skill points. It's not really worthwhile because you're spending a point from a main character on something which can die, so you don't want to rely on your dolls for their skills. Each doll starts out with 4 skill points by default, which is helpful, I used those free points to make the Skeleton the Alchemist of the party without needing to spend my own points. However, if you could keep the dolls alive and don't mind a main character who has no skills, then go ahead and use this.
Respawn penalty is for all dolls. If a doll dies, it takes 15 seconds to be functional. You can summon it again, but it will be paralyzed and worthless until then. This isn't a great use of points because if you need the dolls to survive, you're doing something terribly, terribly wrong.
Extra Radius is really vital if you want to use dolls. By default, Summoning dolls have a really tiny radius. When they get to the edge of the limit, they flash red. Farther and they vanish. I summoned the demon where Mort is standing, and it can just barely reach one screen length in radius.
This mechanic is maybe the shittiest fucking thing about the dolls. It's totally fucking pointless. Trying to play with the dolls normally to travel with you involves summoning it, traveling ONE SCREEN LENGTH until it vanishes, then it makes you stop and wait 15 seconds for the respawn penalty to end so you can summon the thing again and travel another ONE SCREEN LENGTH. That alone makes it worthless to try and use Summoning dolls for any length of time, they're too much hassle. Maxing this skill is really important if you want to use them, so that's 10 points you'll want to spend.
So... to make the dolls worthwhile, you need to
- Purchase the Summoning Doll skills (in Act 4)
- (Possibly unassign skill points from main characters)
- Spend 10 skill points on the Extra Radius skill
- Put pretty much every other Skill point into Increased Level
- Maybe a couple of skill points into increasing the pool of skill points shared by all your summons.
- Increase the level of 2 of your summons to a reasonable level, making sure to allocate their attribute points so they don't die to a stiff breeze.
I loaded up a save with a character near the end of the game, and it cost me almost 300,000 gold. I had 1.1 million gold so it wasn't a backbreaker, but it was definitely expensive enough to notice.
Summoning dolls are not worth using unless you've got an extra 30 skill points or so (and my end-game do-everything characters only have 41 skill points each). Thankfully, Larian learned from their mistakes and the summon in Divinity 2 is cusomizeable, useful, levels with you, and doesn't eat up skill points you'd prefer to spend on yourself.