The Bard Soul

In Rift, the Bard is a very frustrating class to play, although it has some amazing (and very close to amazingly OP) skills. It has very many abilities none of which can be put in a macro, it requires OCD micromanagement without personal feedback on the effectiveness of your actions, low dps, and it’s been pigeonholed into an unsatisfying support role despite great healing capacity. In PVP someone noticed playing a Bard is focused and has no options for survival unlike a Cleric who can take focus fire and bounce around going lol.

Mouse

No cheese for YOU, bard mouse!

The problem:

Motifs do not provide the Bard with any immediately or long term effects. Everyone else feels their feedback by increased healing or damage that they can actually measure in parses. The Bard can cast the Motifs in any combination they want with zero consequence. They can delay their casting by any duration. They can do them at any time during combat. Essentially, as long as those five abilities are cast every 30 seconds no one will ever notice a difference. The Bard becomes an automaton and is forced to waste five global cooldowns every thirty seconds.

TL:DR

Please redefine Bards as healing plus support, not just support by itself. Make Cadence into an Armor-type spell that allows Motifs to do mediocre amounts of both damage and healing on each cast (give each Motif the same healing and damage as one hit from former Cadence). Shorten duration of Motifs and weave them together to automatically create finishers which do damage OR healing but not both at once like the Motifs do with Cadence on. Low in the Bard tree, have effective single-target healing (but lower dps for Bard splashed souls rather than Bard main souls), then after deep specialization into aoe targeting (Amplification) and healing effectiveness (Music of the Planes), give them secondary raid healer status, with a combat raise at 51 points (Dancing Bones) and a big mass heal on a cooldown (Verse of Perfection).

I think this would keep the spirit of the gameplay that was originally intended for Bards while being fun and effective, eliminating hotbar clutter, as well as giving some synergy for Rogue souls in PVE and PVP at various levels of Bard points. Obviously the numbers would need to be balanced, and the personal dps of the Bard needs to remain low.

Back to the problem:

In addition to the boring gameplay of being a 30-second-buff-robot, these skills are not able to be chained into a macro. Do you enjoy playing a game mechanic that repetitive? No, that’s why we write macros for other classes. And in other classes, even if we’re hitting at the most 6 buttons for regular skills, we’re doing different, EFFECTIVE actions for those button presses. Not so with Bard.

Playing a Bard is like being a mouse hitting 5 keys every 30 seconds so that everyone else in your party can get tastier cheese while you get nothing. Where’s the fun in that?

(Every time I play a bard in a game I’m disappointed. Why? Because I’m a failed musician. I failed to grow my career because I have chronic fatigue and can’t sing or teach anymore. So I look to playing bards to give me at least something of the same pleasure I used to get from being part of a choir, or teaching, or being in a band. Silly, I know. I mean, it’s just a game, right, and it’s ok that bards are supposed to be only support and not actually do anything in and of themselves. Say I’m just QQ, whatever. It’s still not fun, and developers of various different games keep using musical abilities as a gimmick instead of as a true game mechanic.)

What Bards in Rift actually do:

Take 5 seconds to play Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif. Tank started the encounter already so then you frantically hit power chord and pop off the healing Coda on 2 combo points because the tank’s health is going down fast and the healer’s picking their nose. Then you do Cadence. Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif, for 5 seconds. Then oops you have aggro from your aoe heal Motif because the tank didn’t grab everything. Your hp is going down fast. Healer is still picking their nose so you frantically hit power chord and Coda then cadence then Coda then power chord then Coda ooops you didn’t refresh Motifs you’re a bad Bard! But if you take 5 seconds to do that you might die. Hmm. Power chord, Motif regen, Motif healing amplification, healing Coda, Motif Motif Motif, power chord, Coda, cadence Coda cadence Coda. Tank finally controls the situation. Healer comes back from afk and casts an aoe heal. Ooops you forgot to refresh your Motifs. Bored bored bored bored bored. Oh, I mean, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif…

That’s for a boss fight. For a regular fight it’s more like this:

Take 5 seconds to play Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif. Tank started the encounter already so then you frantically hit power chord and pop off the healing Coda on 2 combo points because the tank’s health is going down and the healer’s picking their nose. Cadence for 3 points pop Coda ooops mob’s dead already so your heal or damage didn’t happen. (total ~270 damage in the entire fight). Look for another mob. Oh that’s dead too. Oh, another, maybe I can get a power chord in. OOPS FORGOT MOTIFS AGAIN… Bored bored bored bored bored. Oh, I mean, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif…

Were you bored reading that? GOOD. Now you know what it feels like to play a Bard.

The Power of a Bard:

This review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t list the AWESOME parts of the Bard soul. I love the damage + healing of Cadence even though it’s mediocre dps. I hate that it’s channeled, I feel a Bard should be able to prance around like a mad rockstar with all their attacks.

Verse of Joy is incredible and adds a LOT to the raid, balanced very well by having a 2-min cooldown.

The idea of combining Motifs to give full buffs is great, it just falls a little short in implementation, and many of the Bard’s Motifs give buffs that are covered by other classes. (But at least that reduces the number of Motifs you have to spam in a botlike manner.)

How to fix the Bard Soul:

There are two main suggestions but they both fail because none of the suggestions approach making Bards feel useful in combat. One suggestion was to combine Motifs into giving the party even more buffs, and make Codas give even more buffs. I’d like to see the vision of Bards as robotic buffbots GO AWAY FOREVER. However I did like the idea of interweaving Motifs to get new results.

Motif of Regeneration is the only one that gives me personal feedback that I even cast it. I like feedback. I like feeling I DID something in a fight. Let’s keep that feeling going by making Motifs do something. A little damage, a little healing, a little debuffing and playing them in different sequences gives different Codas along with the buffs they give now. This way Bards can support their party while being part of the fight. This way we don’t need buttons for Codas on our hotbars anymore, because playing Motifs in a specific order will give specific Codas automatically.

Cadence should give you the ability to chain Motifs into a stream that attacks the enemy, doing damage to them and healing your party once you train those points in the tree, Cadence itself being a passive ability like Armors are for other souls. (Warlock Armor heals the Mage plus does some damage to the enemy on each hit.) Put Cadence on and your Motifs will do damage and healing in the stream to the enemy instead of just being passive buffs. Power Chord gives two combo points, does more damage than Motifs do, and does no healing.

If you have an enemy selected, let the Motifs you play do as much damage as one hit from Cadence now does, or even more, and heal for as much as Cadence. Also, let’s have the buffs of Motifs last a maximum of 10 seconds, and therefore need to be constantly refreshed. This encourages Bards to use Bard abilities, and if other Rogue souls splash into Bard to get healing they don’t do as much dps.

5 Motifs and a single Coda on the active hotbar, where the Coda automatically shows a different type of finisher depending on the last Motif you played. Want Coda of Fury? Play Motif of Bravery at the end of your Motifs before pressing the Coda button. Want Coda of Restoration? Play Motif of Regeneration last. Tenacity gives Cowardice, Focus gives Distress, Grandeur is always the first thing you play and not the last thing before a Coda. Also, Coda of Wrath needs to be removed and replaced with Coda of Fury, with points higher up in the tree to make all Codas hit multiple targets at increasing effectiveness (Amplification). Place Bard healing further DOWN in the tree, but improve the effectiveness with points much much higher up, and multiple targets for Codas at a minimum of 21 with increased healing effectiveness at 38, 44, 51. So to heal yourself a little as a Rogue you can take 11 points in Bard for single target heals on a soloist build, but to be really effective as a healer and damage dealer in Bard soul you must make Bard your main soul.

Now on to Bard damage and healing.

Damage is much lower than other Rogue souls. I understand that as a support soul we’re not supposed to do great damage. Ok, there’s that dirty word “support” again. No cheese by pressing the trigger, sad mouse.

I’d love for Trion to rethink placing Bard as “support” and place it as “healing” instead. Allow it to be the perfect second healer in a raid, while adding a few buffs. Like a Chloro/Archon can be both heals and support at the same time. At low level, the Bard should be able to be more of a support role and only effective at single target healing. Like how Sentinel has effective single target heals plus a few damage spells, Bards should have single target heals plus a few buffs and some damage. Make it very generalist at a low level but the higher you go in Bard the more you specialize and train in healing and the effective use of motifs and verses to damage, heal, and control the fight.

In PVE, Bard healing is amazing while leveling. I would like to see Bard aoe healing effectiveness placed higher on the tree to balance how powerful it can be. (Notice, effectiveness, not capability!) After spending way more money on repairs and pots for my rogue than for my warrior I would love to see increased single target effectiveness at lower levels to make a Bard “splash” an attractive thing for the soloist Rogue dps or tank build.

However, in PVP the Bard is only amazing the first time. After that, the Bard is focused down, without the defenses/instant selfheals of a Cleric or the damage output of a Chloromancer. I think increased single target healing capability up through to 32 points would go a long way to making Bards viable in PVP on a personal level while leveling up, without being overpowered. It’s the aoe that makes it overpowering, and having that start at 21 points but increase slowly in capability to 44 with a major increase from 45-51 would help a lot.

What I would LOVE to see Bards be able to do:

A Bard should be able to take one of two healer slots in a raid depending on the focus of their build. 51 Bard, yes. 44 Bard, only in dungeons while leveling up. 21 Bard, only in dungeons while leveling up. 11 Bard, certainly not! To be an effective raid healer they need a combat raise (call it Dancing Bones). Stormcaller Mage gets a raise, and it has no healing in the tree at all, so let Bards have two raises, one in-combat one out. They also need effective aoe healing, and an ohshit button mass heal (Verse of Perfection) on a cooldown. Combat raise and big heal should both happen at 51 points to prepare for t1 raiding.

A Bard should be able to do excellent buffs, mediocre-but-constant damage and healing, plus spike heals OR spike damage OR debuffs to multiple targets. The Bard’s second and third souls should give it increased survivability OR increased physical dps. But, NOT INCREASED HEALING! Increasing Bard healing should only come from more points spent in the Bard tree which buff both Cadence’s healing portion and Coda of Restoration directly.

A Bard that focuses deep into healing should have the capability to take a healing slot in a raid. That means effective aoe group healing, not really tank focused healing, and an in-combat res as well as an out-of-combat res. Mezz can be at 21 points like Slip Away, as the Bard’s oshit! button.

So the playstyle at high level becomes:

Prebuff with Cadence, Fanfare of choice, Anthem of choice

Fast Big Finale: Power Chord, Motif, Motif, Motif, Coda (automatically selected)
Fast Damage Finale: Power Chord, Motif of Bravery, Coda (automatically selected as Coda of Fury)
Moar Hjeals Finale: Motif of Grandeur, Motif, Motif, Motif, Motif of Regeneration, Coda (automatically selected as Coda of Restoration)

Group Healing Rotation: Motif, …, Motif, Motif of Regeneration, Coda (automatically selected as Coda of Restoration), Power Chord, Motif of Regeneration, Coda (automatically selected as Coda of Restoration)

Still Motif Motif Motif, yes. But whenever you’re playing that Motif, you’re weaving in which one is to be last before the Coda, and refreshing the buffs on the party, doing damage and healing at the same time. And every time you play a Motif you get personal feedback on your effectiveness, by adding a buff to the party, doing damage and healing, plus setting up for the finisher.

At low level, when you only have Cadence, Motif of Bravery, and Coda of Fury, it’s still the same gameplay as later on, you just learn to do more complicated things with your musical talents. 😉

Objections?

Chloromancers heal through doing damage, it’s the defining mechanism of a gameplay style that’s effective and fun. Let Bards heal through doing damage and giving buffs, and not being tank healers in raids but only in 5-mans. Clerics do need better mana regen for PVE I agree, but please don’t tear down other souls just because you’re not happy with how Trion’s treating your class. I’ll do a Cleric review in a bit so please keep the Cleric jealousy to a minimum if you’re going to comment. Thanks.

References:

http://www.riftjunkies.com/2011/04/20/bard-mechanics-why-theyre-lame-and-how-to-fix-them/ and the comments.
http://forums.riftgame.com/showthread.php?173612-Bard-Prototype-for-a-Support-DPS-Bard-%28With-No-Motif-Spam!%29
http://forums.riftgame.com/showthread.php?156430-Bard-Ideas-for-making-Motifs-more-fun!
http://forums.riftgame.com/showthread.php?168812-Bard-The-SUPPORT-idea-need-to-die!

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