The Joy of Empathy

coh[City of Heroes] Empathy is perhaps the most loved and hated power set in City of Heroes.

Most games have a healer class of some sort, usually paired with buffing and/or some small amount of damage. City of Heroes has Defenders, which has the most diverse primary power set of any archetype. Depending on your power set, you might be healer, buffer, debuffer, or combination. Empathy will be the most familiar.

Quick inventory of Empathy:

  • Healing Aura: PBAE heal
  • Heal Other: single target heal (much bigger, cannot be used on self)
  • Absorb Pain: single target heal (really big, cannot be used on self, and you take damage when you use it)
  • Resurrect: rez (duh)
  • Clear Mind: the best status protection in the game, breaking all forms of crowd control and helping you see the invisible
  • Fortitude: single-target defense/accuracy/damage buff (you can keep it on most of the team, with slotting)
  • Recovery Aura: AE endurance recovery buff (pure gold)
  • Regeneration Aura: AE health recovery buff (not worth much)
  • Adrenalin Boost: single-target endurance, health, and recharge boost (90 seconds of being a Regen Scrapper)

This is the “pure healer.” The rest of the Defender sets have one heal at most, maybe AE, and maybe a rez. If you just came from a game worshipping the holy trinity (tank, priest, mage), you gravitate towards having an Empathy Defender on your team. Standard problem: everyone wants an Empath around to save them, but who wants to play one?

New problem: the other Defenders hate this. “r u healr?” The other Defender sets have a variety of ways to prevent or mitigate damage, plus some very strong AE heals, but habit and the desire for a security blanket means that many undervalue other types of Defenders. Controllers with an Empathy secondary need to explain that they are Controllers, not healers. Why would you want to heal the damage when you can just prevent it with force fields, or by debuffing the enemy, or by increasing our damage so much that they all die, or…

So many non-Empathy Defenders carry around a grudge against people who want Empaths and the Empathy Defenders who enable their dependency. They really hate the “pure Empath,” one who ignores attacks in favor of just being a heal-bot. Many get over it: if a team does not understand that Kinetics is unbelievably wonderful, it probably is a lousy team that will get you lots of debt.

Many of us have noted the transition in the life of an Empath. At the low levels, healing is pretty much necessary if you want to survive a hard fight. No one has sufficient defenses, with too few powers and too few slots. Buffs can help, but when you hit a boss, you want heals. By the time you are in the 30s, everyone who can have defense has it. The Scrappers and Tanks can bounce bullets off their chests and laugh; the squishies have learned how to keep themselves alive. Healing is less useful. At this point, Empathy buffs become the valuable thing, especially Fortitude and Rejuvenation Aura. Pre-ED, a fully slotted Fortitude was better than a force field, and RA could be kept up almost permanently, giving everyone effectively unlimited endurance. In the late levels, Archvillains become more common, and there you want healing again; they are less common after a recent patch that lets you go for an Elite Boss instead on small teams.

Consider the life of an Empath. They are in a worse state than the healers in other games: only the weakest heal can be used on yourself. Of the nine powers, only three can affect the caster, and one of those is the deplorable Regeneration Aura. You are heavily team dependent. This being the case, it is natural to slack on the secondary (blaster) powers, since you will not be a great soloer. Now you are a really lousy soloer. Vicious circle, but you heal really well.

Personally, I love Defenders for buffs, and that is how I have come to see Empaths. Only three of their powers are heals. Oddly enough, Clear Mind is one of the strongest PvP powers, since half the PvPers are Stalkers and everyone else is invisible when they can be. Status protection that lets you see through stealth is great. Fortitude is a great buff. I always play my Ice Blaster as if I have Adrenalin Boost, just in case someone on the team can give me more endurance (also, she’s insane). I have every defender type except Trick Arrows (poor guys), and Empathy is one of my level 50s. It is not as fun as others, but life is just so much easier with a dedicated healer.

In the City of Villains, we do not have Empathy. We have Thermal Radiation, which is treated the same way because it has two heals, status protection, rez, and a strong single-target buff. It also has resistance buffs, so Thermal Radiation Corruptors are sought about as much as Empathy Defenders. Since I decided to make the opposite of my Ice Blaster, yes, I have a big healer on the villains side as well. I gotta be me. Also, I like that the shields reduce the amount of healing I need to do.

There is much less healing on the villains side, much more damage. One effect of this is that there is no one there to save me on teams. If I pull aggro off another squishy to help keep him alive between heals, he will run away and leave me to die with that enemy. No one else will heal me. Dominators are rare and Brutes rarely take Taunt, so I have learned that I am on my own there. My love of using AE attacks has gotten me a fair amount of debt.

For the Valentine’s Day event, we can form hero-villain teams in the Pocket D. I got my first chance to team with an Empath on one of my villains. I had forgotten how much I missed those buffs until my endurance-hungry Mastermind had Rejuvenation Aura and Adrenaline Boost on her at once. Hey, I can fire off all my powers at once and not worry about it! Oh yeah, we also have very few endurance-boosting powers on the villain side, mostly just the occasional Kinetics Corruptor (who gets Speed Boost at level 20 at the earliest, when an Empathy Defender already would have had Rejuvenation Aura).

So after a few months over in the Rogue Isles, I have a new appreciation for my old brethren back in Paragon City. And we still hate “ru healr,” even when yes, I am indeed a healer.

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “The Joy of Empathy”

  1. Game after game, I played non-healers. In CoH, I declared that no longer would my rogues and druids be overlooked for groups! When ‘r u a healer?’ was asked, I would proudly say, ‘Yes, yes I am!’.

    And it turned out that Empathy was kinda weak, in the final analysis, compared to Rad or Kinetics. Feh and double feh.

    Burned, I proceed to make a rogue in WoW instead of a priest….

  2. Thanks for the summary of how Empathy works. I’m very surprised there’s a endurance-recovering power in the game at all.

  3. I remember playing a Taxibot aand offering my services as a Healer. That was some of the greatest time I spent in CoH. :D

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