With Halloween behind us, all of us at Simutronics decided it was time to clear out all of the skeletons in our closets. And we figured, hey, today’s a good time to talk about one of our riders in more detail, so let’s look at The Lich.

Like any proper undead monstrosity, the Lich wants nothing more than for everything in his path to die. In fact, he gets stronger as more dragons die around him. How, you might ask? Well, a little bit of necromancy that is otherwise known as Soul Capture, the Lich’s passive ability. Every time a dragon dies near the Lich, he absorbs their soul and empowers his main attack. It’s worth noting that Soul Capture also triggers on nearby allied dragons.

Now, what do you do with a bunch of stolen souls? Throw them back at your enemies, of course! The Lich’s primary attack, Tormented Soul, is just that—the Lich throwing a wailing and tormented soul at an enemy to whittle away at their sanity. And each activation fires off a number of souls equal to the current stacks on Soul Capture, so an unchecked Lich can quickly become a machine-gun of tormented psychic energy. Of course, if you’re the one playing the Lich, that’s basically Plan A.

"Every time a dragon dies near the Lich, he absorbs its soul … "

So if snowballing into a necromantic machine-gun is Plan A, what’s Plan B? Well, when the Lich gets swarmed by enemies trying to stop his power from growing, he can channel all of his evil powers into his secondary ability, Desecrate. This vortex of suffering damages all nearby enemies and drains their endurance as well, with an initial burst of damage and then some damage over time. And of course, if it happens to kill anybody, then that’s more stacks on Soul Capture.

Now when we initially specced out the Lich, he was the first rider to have two abilities that dealt direct damage. Sure, the Pirate has his Powder Keg Bomb, but that’s more of a tool for area denial. And besides, the bomb doesn’t deal guaranteed damage, whereas Desecrate can deal absurd amounts of damage if you’re really getting swarmed. The first few times we playtested with the Lich in the mix, just about everyone wound up playing as him, just because he had such insane burst damage. So what do we do about that?

The easy answer is just "make his abilities do less damage" … but that’s ultimately an unfulfilling solution. Believe me, we tried, and by the time we got to low enough values so that he was "balanced," he wasn’t any fun to play anymore. So we had to look at other aspects of the Lich to really get it right. We lowered his max hit points to reflect that he’s basically a skeleton, making him more of a glass cannon. We lowered the radius of Desecrate and Soul Capture so that he really has to get in there in order to go nuclear. And we spread out the damage of Desecrate a bit more, because the first version was very front-loaded.

What does that give us now? Well, once the Lich has maxed out Soul Capture, he can still be an undead machine-gun. But you have to pick your battles, because he’s pretty squishy unless you’ve paired him with a tanky dragon (so, glass machine-gun?). Sure, Desecrate can rack up some souls, but the cooldown is long enough that you have to really time it right. And at the end of the day, Tortured Soul can only target one enemy with each activation. All of this might sound like really harsh nerfing, but he’s still a ton of fun to play … we still see a lot of the Lich in our regular playtests.

So hopefully this has been an interesting look at both the Lich, and some of our process when it comes to fine-tuning a rider’s balance. If you’ve got any questions, comments, or anything, let us know!