Part 6: Earth and AirUpdate 004.5: Earth and Air
Earth and Air are more interesting than Water and Fire, having more utility spells than just straight up damage, including the excellent Missile Shield among others. Though this brings me to a game issue with the out-of-combat buffs like Missile Shield, X-Ray, Enchanted Blade and Armorplate... they don't involve making any choices. An in-combat buff involves judging whether you need offense or defense more, do I need Saxx to bring up Soul Shield or do I need him to wail on the Piercing Pipes to do some conical damage to enemies? The out-of-combat buffs don't cost enough magic points to require considering a resource trade-off(and even at this early stage I can pump them up enough to cast them, rest up my MP, and still have them last for a decent while) and they don't require considering an action trade-off either.
It's only just occurred to me this game that it's an issue.
(Level 1, Alchemy, Cone AoE)
It, uh, exists. I never bother applying Irritation outside of the very early game when it may on occasion be the only Earth spell some party members can cast. It would help if I knew how big a malus it applies, but I think it's very low since I've never really been inconvenienced by it, and unlike others(like Nausea and Fear), it never causes lost turns.
(Level 2, Alchemy, Single Ally Buff)
Anyone hitting the target in melee gets a mild amount of damage returned. It can be strong on enemies since you may often only have a single target to pick from, but enemies will almost always have multiple of your guys they can target, making it somewhat underwhelming in actual play.
(Level 2, Wizardry, Divinity, Cone AoE)
One of the KINGS of early-game spells. Your first multiple-enemy-lockdown spell that isn't Sleep in most cases. It seems to generally have some trouble sticking compared to, say, Paralyze, so later on you'll be less likely to use it except if faced with, say, enemies that resist Water but not Earth, but when you first get it, it'll be constantly getting spammed in combat. The only problem is that the cone AoE means that for many battles it's only useful in the first steps before all the enemy melee goons surge forward and get out of range.
(Level 3, Divinity, All Ally Buff)
One of those party-wide buff spells mentioned earlier. At best it adds a +4(when cast at max level) to your armor class, but considering that even now, no one in the party has an AC above 10, even just a boost of 1 or 2 is percentage-wise really huge. Always cast it, plus with it being an out-of-combat cast, it also presents a way to grind up your spell skills.
(Level 3, Alchemy, Psionics, All Ally Buff)
Makes you vaguely harder for enemies to detect. I confess I've never felt it to have a HUGE effect, but it's a cheap out-of-combat spell so you may as well cast it. Any little advantage in juking around nasty formations and sneaking up on vulnerable ones is to be taken.
(Level 3, Wizardry, Alchemy, Misc. Spell)
It attempts to paralyze a number of tumblers on the targeted chest up to the spell level, which means a most of 7, so for the nastier locks your thief almost always still has some work to do. Still in my experience it's absolutely vital for not going completely insane trying to pick some of the game's tougher locks. You can also pick up one-use "Knock Picks" but they only cast the spell at an effect level of 3, so they eventually stop being useful unless you really spend time grinding up your rogues(their skill increase is on raising a tumbler, not picking a lock, so technically any one lock can, with sufficient patience, cap out their skill).
(Level 3, Wizardry, Alchemy, Cone AoE)
The first damaging Earth spell you get access to. I've had mediocre success with it, but I always dread seeing enemies cast it since the ones with access to it are modestly early-game enemies and can often full-party-wipe you with a couple of casts.
(Level 4, Wizardry, Psionics, Cone AoE)
Lowers enemy armor class. For some enemies, this one is more or less vital if you want to have any hope of your melee fighters doing any damage to it. I also don't ever think I've seen it be resisted, so it's more or less always a "safe" cast to throw out.
(Level 4, Wizardry, Alchemy, Single Target)
Insane single-target damage, though it feels more common you'll want to use group damage spells. Absolutely great spell animation, though, I'll show it off if we get access to this one.
(Level 4, Wizardry, Alchemy, All Ally Buff)
In-combat buff only, but like Soul Shield after a certain point it'll be on your list of first actions in every fight, as it raises the four elemental resistances. Occasionally you might ignore it if you know the enemy is all physical attackers, but the farther you get into the game, the more mixed groups of physical/mage enemies(or sometimes pure mage squads) become the norm.
Body of Stone
(Level 5, Alchemist, Single Ally Buff)
Very effective but suffers from the same issue as Razor Cloak which is that it's very rare the enemy only has a single target to pick from and you're casting it at one of your guys at a time. If you were using all the "exterior" quadrants, it might be more useful, since many melee enemies would only have between 2 and 3 targets at once, rather than 6, but even so I could almost always think of other spells I'd rather cast.
(Level 6, Alchemist, Radial AoE)
Attempts to instakill all targets in range. I only ever bust out the instakill spells in absolutely HUGE battles since they feel like they have very low odds of sticking, so without sufficient targets they'll usually bounce with no real effect.
(Level 7, Alchemist, All Enemies)
Just does damage to all enemies, as in literally ALL enemies. Considering that you can rarely jam high-level spells up to the same effect ratings as low-level spells, however, and that they cost more magic points per effect, you'd need a really big battlefield for this to be superior to just casting out a radial-AoE Fireball or Iceball instead.
(Level 7, Divinity, All Enemies)
Slightly less damage than Earthquake, but also slightly cheaper. Otherwise a literal spell reskin with the same commentary.
(Level 1, Wizardry, Divinity, Psionic, Group AoE)
Another early-game mainstay. Being able to lock down and disrupt entire groups and give yourself the occasional 2x damage hit can matter a lot in the early game, specially against big fellas like Gregor(if you can get it to stick on them). One of those low-level spells you might actually well be busting out in the mid-game and occasionally nearing the endgame as well.
(Level 2, Wizardry, All Ally Buff)
While the percentage of ignored missiles is vague, I'd estimate it to be around 66% or 75%. Definitely big enough to be noticed. Once you learn this, it should be up at all times and justifies having a Wizardry caster all by itself.
(Level 2, Wizardry, Psionics, Cone AoE)
Does low damage to a cone of enemies. I almost never cast it outside of the early game, where cramped corridors funnelling enemies and low enemy HP makes it a viable spell.
(Level 2, Wizardry, Alchemy, Radial AoE)
Does no damage but has a chance of causing Fear or KO effects. It may just be my own bias, but I never felt like this spell had very good chances of sticking its effects. I should honestly probably be using it more since radial AoE beats group AoE and KO beats Sleep(since KO'd enemies don't wake up when wailed on with swords and axes).
(Level 3, Divinity, Alchemy, Single Ally)
It... cures poison. It can be useful, I suppose, for high-level poison on fragile allies, but generally Wizardry 8 poison does relatively low amounts of damage, so if someone's in danger from poison, you're probably better off just healing up whatever HP they're missing and then dealing with the poison after the battle.
(Level 3, Wizardry, Alchemy, Radial AoE)
It does mild damage and inflicts Nausea, which is another one of those "maybe good sometimes rarely randomly"-status ailments like Afraid. It debuffs enemies in a vague way and very occasionally causes them to lose turns. I wouldn't waste a mage's turns casting this, but Gadgeteers get a gadget which can replicate it, which is a decent way to use their turns more effectively.
(Level 3, Wizardry, Alchemy, All Ally Buff)
Pretty niche, it makes all party members wake up if you're attacked while asleep, but generally it's not difficult to find a door to sleep behind, or a nook or cranny to pry the party into before resting, since monsters don't just spawn ex nihilo but have to actually exist in the world for a while and then bump into the party while on a patrol route. No harm to casting it before resting, but I can count the number of interrupted rests in a full run on one hand.
(Level 3, Divinity, Psionic, Group AoE)
Silenced targets can't cast spells, so if you stick this on a group of enemy spellcasters, you're golden. On the other hand, you could also just stick them with Web or Paralysis, which also prevents them from casting spells AND prevents them from moving AND prevents them from attacking AND makes them take double damage from melee attacks. What I'm saying is that I've literally never cast this spell. I suppose it might be your spell of choice if they're spellcasters resistant to both Water and Earth magic, but not Air.
(Level 4, Divinity, Cone AoE)
A basic damage-dealing spell, but I always feel like I catch more targets with the radial blast spells than the cone blast spells.
(Level 5, Divinity, Alchemy, All Allies)
Removes "cloud" effects from the party. Clouds are thing-over-time effects, including nasty clouds that drain magic points, subject everyone to instant death saves, do damage, nauseate, etc. generally getting rid of these effects is a high priority, so knowing Purify Air can be a literal lifesaver. Clouds don't occur often, but the couple of battles I remember where you're guaranteed some cloud spells, you likely won't survive without Purify Air.
Return to Portal/Set Portal
(Level 5, Divinity, Alchemy, Psionics, Wizardry, All Allies)
It's like Lloyd's Beacon from Might & Magic. Set a waypoint, warp to waypoint. It's glooooooooooooooooooooorious, especially once we get buddy-buddy with the T'rang for reasons we'll get around to in several updates. It also helps you get idiots into areas that should terrify them because they don't know where the beacon goes before you recall to it. Suckers. If you learn one when levelling up, you get the other for free, but when they spawn as books you can get them separately, so never learn the one until you have both books together.
(Level 5, Alchemy, Radial AoE)
Inflicts a "cloud" effect on an area. All enemies in it are dealt minor damage every turn, but ALSO risk getting nauseated, poisoned or getting straight up KO'd. Getting a check at all these conditions every turn, for all enemies affected, for multiple turns, is mucho bueno. Definitely a pro cast as spells go.
(Level 6, Psionics, All Enemies)
Attempts to inflict Fear and Insanity on all enemies. Pandemonium is one of my favourite later-game spells since turning a chunk of a big enemy crowd Insane and getting them to lay into their own buddies instead of me, or otherwise getting them to waste turns, is great, absolutely great.
(Level 7, Wizardry, All Enemies)
Attempts to straight up kill all visible enemies. I can think of one or two late-game battles where I might try to cast this, but generally I'd pass it up in favour of duller, but more guaranteed effects.
(Level 7, Alchemy, Radial AoE)
Like Toxic Cloud, but with a save-or-die check every turn instead of just poison. The extra density of checks increases the odds of someone flubbing their save and getting chunked out of the battle, so this is the one instant-death spell I might actually use casually.