In every game, I have a healer named Zubon. Empathy is the classic healing set in City of Heroes, so Zubon is an empath. I went with electricity because it comes with endurance drain: an enemy who cannot activate his attacks cannot hurt anyone.
The life of a Defender is interesting. As with most healers, everyone wants to have them on the team, but no one wants to be them. As an actual healer, an empath is in great demand amongst people trained on other MMOs. Solo ability is low, but he brings a lot to a team.
I rarely bothered to solo with Zubon, and I doubt that I have soloed ten missions in the past two years. If I want to solo, I have other characters who do that.
Empathy displays the best and the worst of City of Heroes Defenders. In some ways, it stands as a monument to cowardice, the old tank/healer/damage trinity that we see in most games. The developers left that in City of Villains, and you can see the tentatives steps away in other forms of Defenders, but in Empathy you see its purest form. Invulnerability/Super Strength Tanker, Empathy/Psionic Blast Defender, Energy Blast/Energy Manipulation Blaster: the trinity in iconic comic book form.
I originally made a great mistake with Zubon, one that is still common: the pure healer. I was not as bad as some, as I still took several secondary attacks, but I was all about the healing. Characters like that bring less to a group than a more balanced Defender, because there are stretches of time when there is nothing to heal, and dead enemies deal no damage.
The best part of Empathy is that its powers are in the order you want them to be. In the early game, teams really do need healing. There is no substitute for it on a large team fighting multiple bosses in the early levels: you cannot mitigate that much damage. In the mid-levels, however, there is a transition, and all characters become more self-sufficient. You get your defensive powers, so healing is less necessary. At that point, buffing and debuffing classes take over, led by Kinetics and Radiation Emission. That is when Empathy starts giving you buffs.
You have another healing option in Absorb Pain. It is a really big heal, but you take damage and cannot be healed for a while. Against enemies with area effect attacks, it is a death sentence. If the Tanker is keeping you safe, go ahead and take/use it. I used to like this power, before Enhancement Diversification when I could pull a Tanker from the red to full hit points in one big shot. I have dropped it.
Clear Mind is a great power, the best status protection in the game. It also adds perception for PvP. The only problems are its activation time and two-minute duration.
Exiting the classic healer, you get Resurrection. What would you give in your non-CoX game for a mid-combat heal that brings someone back with full hit points, half a mana bar, and protection against death penalties for long enough to get all your powers running again?
For my supergroup, Fortitude is the power that defines the set. We love Fortitude. This is a combination accuracy, defense, and damage buff. Unlike most defenses, it works against everything. If you have a lower-level character on the team, this brings him up to parity. It will make an even-level character a small god. Okay, that is an exaggeration. It is a nice buff, which makes you a small god if I use Power Build Up before hand to make it that much more effective.
Before Enhancement Diversification, you could fully slot Fortitude with Hami-Os and keep it on every team member constantly, with maximum accuracy and defense. You could not do much else, since you would cast it every 8 seconds, but that would take care of most of your problems. Post-ED, it is still very nice.
Two more buffs. Your first RA is everyone’s favorite, Recovery Aura. You get this great area-effect endurance-recovery buff just when people are getting enough powers to devour their endurance. They will get Stamina soon, but even then RA is great, letting you attack at will while running all your toggles. Your second RA used to be really lousy, but Regeneration Aura got a boost. Slot it with some heals and see how little healing you need to do while it is active.
The final buff is the big one, and Adrenaline Boost has only gotten better. Massive endurance recovery, massive health regeneration, and a bit of recharge. This turns anyone into a Regeneration Scrapper, so you can imagine what happens when you put it on a Regeneration Scrapper. It used to disorient the Empath when s/he used it, but that was eliminated before I got the power.
That godhood I mentioned? Put Adrenaline Boost, both RAs, power boosted Fortitude, and Clear Mind on a damage dealer. What healing?
Meh. It is okay, and it is nicer now that Defenders get a bonus to endurance drain. It is not devastating, particularly with a Defender’s damage table.
That is the main problem with being a Defender: you deal damage like a Defender. You have the same attacks as a Blaster, but each of them does less damage. Corruptors have a similar problem. That is the same reason why most people prefer Controllers to Defenders: why take support with 3/4 damage when you could have full control with 3/4 support? You rarely need all of that heal anyway, and can you tell the difference between a 5% defense buff and a 3.75% defense buff?
You get the normal pair of single-target attacks, without the third big one. One is required, the other does more damage. Pretty vanilla stuff there, like the first two Empathy powers. No surprises, workmanlike. You also get Ball Lightning, the zappy fireball. Great, area effect damage is king in City of Heroes.
Short Circuit is the defining power, PBAE endurance drain. Even after ED, this (with a Ball Lightning) will empty out most foes. It also keeps them from recovering endurance, which is important. There is no point in taking away their endurance if they get it right back.
Snipe. Hold. Aim. These are standard. I like having the hold, I skip Aim.
Voltaic Sentinel is interesting. It is ten Charged Bolts in a box. Cast it once, and it takes care of the attacking. Good news: it keeps attacking while you heal. Bad news: it picks its own targets, and you get the aggro. I like it.
Electricity Blast does come with the best nuke in the game: Thunderous Blast. First, it is a ranged nuke, rather than the usual point blank blasts. Second, its secondary effect is endurance drain, so surviving enemies cannot counterattack. Very nice. The downside is that you still have a Defender’s damage table, so there will be survivors. I like to hit Power Build Up, Fortitude on a friend, then Thunderous Blast the next enemies.
Electricity comes with the binary secondary effect. It is either completely debilitating or completely useless. If your target has endurance left, he can attack; if not, not. The -recovery in Short Circuit is great for keeping the enemy from refilling, but you need to empty him in the first place. It does nothing to archvillains.
As a side benefit, you may get some endurance back. I do not notice it, but I assume that it is happening. You also have Recovery Aura, and no one else on your team needs blue inspirations because of it, so those are available to you. If you are taking Power Build Up, you can also have Conserve Power, so that covers your endurance costs in the RA gap. Finally, Defenders get an endurance discount when team members are hurt. Between all of these, Zubon is one of my few characters without Stamina.
The catch is that it is not 100%. In a tough fight, you will be healing instead of attacking, so you will not be getting endurance back that way. As a healer, you should not have teammates who are dead or hurt, so that is out. Rely on your own endurance boosting powers.
Again I have the usual Hasten and Super Speed. Perma-Hasten and nigh-perma RA was nice. Now, my stealth IO makes Super Speed into full invisibility. When I am not attacking, I can stand invisibly and heal. Add in Recall Friend for another invisible taxi and for getting the body back to rez. Add in Teleport as a vertical movement power, since Super Speed does not always cut it.
Because I do not have Stamina, I did not take any toggles. No Leadership, even though it is very nice on Defenders.
I already mentioned Power Build Up and Conserve Power, my dear friends. That same ancillary pool has Total Focus, which is a great attack. I use it whenever I can.
For most of his career, Zubon was primarily a healer. Some of this was because I took few early attacks, but no there really was a lot of healing to do. We fight large groups of things, and people get hit in the face. For bonus fun, people split up and aggro multiple groups at once, so I got to rush between sides healing. Tip: let one side die.
This is also when I learned an important lesson that I have never taken to heart: let them die. That sounds a lot like the last one, doesn’t it? In this case, it means that you cannot save other people. If he is seriously putting himself at risk, he will probably put you at even more risk, then run after you die. You get used to seeing this as a healer: a skirmisher (low armor, high damage meleer) will go after something that you know will get him killed. In your best healer mindset, you leap to keeping him alive, in the hopes that the three people who said they were going AFK come back in time to save him. Then you get caught in an AE attack, stunned, and two-shot while he is merrily dancing with some enemies. If he dies before he runs, that is just a bonus.
Another lesson is that, as the support player, you are alone. No one else on the team has a rez: that is why you are there. If you die, have an Awaken. If you take damage, no one else will heal you. You are alone, utterly alone, and surrounded by a pick-up group full of drunk psychopaths with ADHD. Never try to target them by clicking them: they will run around corners, leap into groups of a dozen enemies, and jump for no reason in case you were trying to click. Instead, click on the name in the team box, so at least your eye is always near your own health bar there. If there is another support class on your team, it will be the */Force Field Controller who did not take Deflection or Insulation Shield. You are alone, unarmored, and unappreciated. Take a fast movement power to get back from the hospital.
(I say all this, but I have never learned. I still give it my all. I mostly have learned not to be as disappointed when other people are not as well-built as my guildmates. We have some hardcore players and Adam is just a wonder with his builds.)
Now that I have torn into several years’ worth of teammates, it is not a bad way to play. People like seeing big green numbers, almost as much as they like seeing their own orange numbers popping over enemies’ heads. Despite the occasional mouthy wretch, most people really appreciate seeing their hit points come back. They really love Recovery Aura. They notice when Clear Mind and Resurrection put them back in action.
Buffs, while more effective, are not sexy. I value them greatly while playing with my friends. We know what Power Build Up-Fortitude does, and we come to expect that invulnerability. We rag on each other for being too lazy to buff, not for missed heals. I do not expect a proper reception from people I do not know, especially with relatively subtle powers like Fortitude. Who notices that they are not getting hit or stunned, or not missing? You expect that. You do not think about the fact that your hit point bar is not moving, or notice when your improved regeneration rate heals minor wounds without a big green number.
This psychological quirk means that pick-up groups like Empaths, especially at low levels. You can tell the more experienced players because they are less picky about what kind of Defender they have, although teams fighting archvillains demand some form of healer. If you get a tell asking if you heal, you can ignore it because the other fellow is probably an idiot. This is a rule of thumb, not an absolute, but my optimism has burned me far more than my cynicism.
How about my damage? Poor. Defenders have poor base damage, and I cannot buff my own damage on an Empath, so I do not hit for much. I can finish enemies off or set them up for someone else, but I am not a destroyer. The attacks are useful conveniences, not the focus.
The exception is my nuke, which is a poor nuke but still a nuke. I need to remember to use Power Build Up and some inspirations before hitting it, but I can eliminate most of a group with that. I prefer to lead with Ball Lightning for a little more damage. Total Focus is also one of my favorite attacks: lousy animation time, but great damage and a big stun.
Endurance drain? It must help, but I cannot tell. Buffs are not sexy, nor is keeping an enemy from attacking at all. Holds have a visual effect like making the enemy float or encasing him in stone; endurance drain looks like the enemy is waiting for its attack to recharge. Against even-con enemies, I really can keep them from doing much damage, and Short Circuit really is that good with Power Build Up. But I usually cannot tell, and I do not rely on it.
With the endurance drain, an occasional hold, Fortitude for extra protection, and, Regeneration Aura for faster regeneration, I do not always need to do that much healing. Someone will need a heal after absorbing an alpha strike, but I mostly buff then play with attacks these days.
Other Build Notes
Super Speed plus Celerity gives me invisibility. I am told that I still get contact buzz aggro when my teammates are attacking, but it is nice to feel a little safer when I need to focus on healing.
I do not use Teleport much anymore. It is really inconvenient to place precisely.
There are relatively few occasions that call for an Empath. I have done almost everything I want to do with this character, and Empathy is not the most-desired late game power set. He mostly sits on the shelf. There are a few things for which an Empathy Defender is the best, especially as an invisible teleporter, so he visits for those. Empaths are great for Hamidon raids, but I do not see many of those anymore.
There are a few more badges I need to finish some goals, but Zubon does about everything I could ask of an Empathy Defender. He heals, and he makes it so that he does not need to heal.
If I PvPed, I might use him more. It is hard to get a timely heal, but the big green numbers work where regeneration fails, Fortitude is still awesome, and Clear Mind is the best anti-stealth and -stun power around.
If this is your first Defender after playing a lot of MMOs, Empathy is a great gateway drug. It gives you that healing you want early on, then it eases you into the real thing. You will always be in demand from teams, albeit some of them full of fools. You can also skip the Fitness pool, which is a nice change.
If you know what you are doing, do not make an Empath. As nice as the buffs are, the other classes have better buffs. Empathy is very passive, and you will be the one sitting back while the others are playing rock ’em-sock ’em robots. In the late game, there are very few occasions where an Empathy is the best choice, and none in which it is necessary. If you want to also heal, go with Kinetics or Radiation Emission.
Electricity Blast has its merits as a Defender, but I cannot recommend it strongly. Defenders get an endurance drain bonus, so this is encouraged, but the effect can be small. Your key end drain power, Short Circuit, is a melee-range AE with a long casting time. People can die while you are messing around, and if the enemy still has 5% endurance left, it can attack. Nuking at range is nice, as are the hold and the Voltaic Sentinel that keeps attacking while you do other things.
You will note that I have not said a word about soloing. This character does not solo. He should be able to, perhaps a bit slowly, but why bother when I have far more active and self-sufficient characters for that?
I do not regret having played this character, but I would not do it again. There are too many better options.
Character Contemplations 1: Frosta
Character Contemplations 2: Zubon
Character Contemplations 3: Assimilation
Character Contemplations 4: De-Frosta
Character Contemplations 5: Fluffy Bunnies
Character Contemplations 6: Furious Badger
Character Contemplations 7: Sightblinder
Character Contemplations 8: Zapato Conqueso