Using a bow takes a little more concentration because you’ll have a shaky hand at first when aiming for a stronger blow (and also zoom-in on the unfortunate target). Once Steady Hand is unlocked though, you can aim easily for the enemy’s head to get that 30% bonus damage, besides the secondary effects of the arrows (like setting the target on fire). You just have to aim a little higher for longer distances to take the arrows’ trajectory into account.
The magic side is limited to only three attack spells. You can use them all if you have at least one point in the respective discipline, but don’t expect to shatter the ground from day one. If you want to be a mage, it’s best to focus on a higher mana pool and one of the three branches:
- Zeal (Fire) for pure damage
- Dominance (Lightning) for stun and close-up kill + instant kill for the weaker enemies that have less than 33% health
- Serenity (Ice) for slow and stun
The abilities are organized akin to those in Mass Effect. You have the Discipline bar for instance (that governs total health and the strength of a melee hit), with 5 thresholds that grant bonuses for current attacks or new ones. Here you get Flurry, a series of fast blows triggered at the right time (marked with a glowing sword, like in The Witcher) and, later, you get to continuously hit the enemies. With a point in Mettle you also get Lounge Attack, a move that helps you get closer to your enemies, Vigour will let you stun the monsters when blocking and so on.
Unfortunately, life, mana and stamina just develop by themselves at each level up; there are no points to distribute, so you can suffer the consequences or be very happy with your choices. These three are based around your abilities, so be careful: once the points are distributed and you press Save, you’re a goner, there’s no other way besides a Load Game to redistribute those points.
When the fighting begins, the hero reacts promptly to your orders (an essential thing if you want to dodge attacks on higher difficulty levels), so there’s no lag like in many multi-platform games, but Spellbound also took some strange decisions here.
First off, even if there are fast and strong attacks, you can’t stop a strong attack with a fast one, you need that point in Vigour and wait for the hit with an active block (which means you’ll stand still for the duration). Problem is, this only works on one enemy and the move makes you vulnerable, something that equals a suicide on the Gothic difficulty level, especially when you’re outnumbered. So if a Goblin turns green and has companions around, the safest bet is to roll sideways or backwards to avoid it. So you don’t need to try to time your hits, just dodge and then click, click, click away until one of you is dead.
Secondly, even if some monsters close the distance to you pretty fast, there’s about a second until the attack animation actually triggers, so for an archer with plenty of space there’s enough time to walk backwards and shoot point-blank; for melee, the tactic described above works just fine. Of course, on the Gothic difficulty the monsters fight more eagerly, having faster moves too, but even then you can exploit their flaws when they are few and there’s enough space to go around.
As an archer/mage, you can exploit the fact that any arrow/spell that hits also stops the victim’s movement for a second, which is also true for you as well. Usually, an attack like that is enough for you to get hit at least one more time, which is fatal on higher levels of difficulty. Of course, lightning fast clicking on the healing hotkeys can save you, but not everybody is THAT fast. So you need to deal with the ranged enemies first (if they have a clear field to shoot you) and then the other orcs, skeletons or other melee-based monsters.
Thirdly, no matter the difficulty level, the ranged enemies almost never realize when their projectiles don’t stand a chance of actually hitting their target. If you’re on a ramp and go back enough to see only the head of a mage standing at the bottom, you can pump him full of arrows at will, he will continue to shoot at you in a straight line. Moreover, monsters don’t know what friendly fire is, so if you have a goblin in front of you and a shaman further in the back who wants to freeze you, the frost bolts will just harmlessly hit the goblin until you kill him.
Along the same line, a relatively high spot where you can get to only by jumping is an impossible mission for melee monsters; they come near you, you hit them with everything you got, then they go back and so on, until they are all dead. It’s not always feasible, especially in the underground, where there aren’t that many ideal spots, but there are plenty of such places on the surface to cause havoc.
Actually, the hardest fight I had was with a lonely troll (and it wasn’t even for a quest, I went on to kill the poor guy when I could’ve just let him live), for the rest only the golems and the demons gave me a bit of a hard time. You sooner get to hate the ranged enemies that slow or paralyze you and not even the final battle is that hard, because it’s enough to use your environment to go out of it barely touched. Pure hack’n’slash, but without the fun that a Diablo gives you, for example.