So far my mage has primarily gone full primal. I have the 4 talents in the "mage" category, fire and lightning maxed out, 1 point in ice and 2 in earth. I'm wondering how viable it is to get every spell in primal and be a true glass cannon. So far I'm loving primal, Stone First, Lightning and the Frost give me 3 quick single target attacks, Fire Blast and Shock give me 2 cone AoE's and Fireball, Firestorm and Chain Lightning give me incredible AoE.
Now, I know since this is a single player RPG it really boils down to go what you feel like since class balance isn't an issue; I'm just mostly wondering about any cool abilities I might be missing in Entropy or Spirit that would flesh out my mage more than going total primal.
should be doable AoE is important for some fights but have to be careful about it.
Tempest+blizzard is supposedly fairly decent combo spell
you may want to do glyphs or paralysis line to keep the monsters inside your AoE though
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I think full primal is extremely viable, though you will have to be very considerate of your party members unless playing on easy (and even then you can have collateral damage).
A lot will depend on your specialization choices. If you go blood mage odds are you'll spend most of the time in the back blasting away and only stoping to drain life, heal, or chug a healing potion. Arcane warriors will want to open with spells then switch to rock armor/sword buffs to mix it up with melees. Shapeshifter is also viable, dish damage upfront, then shapeshift to a form while mana is gone. I don't recommend spirit healer, you want to use your mana for damage.
Using first tier lightning, frost, and mage spells you can pretty much lay continual single target dps via spells as well as some disabling from winter's grasp slow effect.
First tier fire, 2nd tier lightning, and 3rd tier frost are your cone spells and are particularly effective if you've a choke point. Downside to these is thier limited range often leaves you vulnerable or scrambling for an optimal attack spot. However if you lead with frost (cone of cold) the freeze effect will guarntee your victims stand nice and still while you use fire (always use it second cause it's a DOT spell) and lightning.
3rd tier fire (fireball) is probably the best long range AOE spell in the game. It's instant cast, does some upfront and DOT damage (unlike your other ranged AOE spells which have cast times and are AOE DOTs). It also carries a knockdown effect that hits everyone regardless of mode and if you have a particularly fire resistant character can make for a good "escape" move.
2nd tier rock (stone fist) is an odd spell. It'd damage is physical, but on the low end compared to other single target effects. It does carry a knockdown and can shatter frozen or petrified foes (though this ability never works on ranked or boss creatures). You'll need to combine it with cone of cold (3rd frost), blizzard (4th frost) or petrify (4th earth) to get the maximum effect.
1st tier earth, 2nd tier fire, and 2nd tier frost are your primal buff spells. They will seem ratehr useless at first and depending on your specs may remain sidelines. Once you can deal with the fatigue and sustained cost of 2nd tier fire/frost you should utilize one at all times though, as it will definately help your melee fighters out on thier damage. 1st tier earth (rock armor) is a pure desperation spell for the most part. It's a good thing to throw up when you're out of mana to cast other spells as it can boost your armor up to fighter levels... however unless you're a shapeshifter/arcane warrior specialist, you won't want to have this up at all times.
Chain lighting (4th tier lightning) is probably the oddest spell in the book. On paper it sounds fairly powerful and the AI loves the spell to tears because it is a ranged AOE that doesn't have the friendly fire issues the others do. However given that it's a conjured spell (i.e. has a casting time) and the damage is marginal on first hit and degreades quickly... it's overall effect is marginal. If you focus purely on spellpower (magic) it might be possible to turn it into a fairly lethal spell by end game, but don't expect it to be a bread and butter spell early on.
The remaining spells are all pretty much conjured dots with various side effects (tempest has no additional effect but does the most damage). These are particularly potent if you can keep your victims in a single spot using a disabler mage as a partner. You could train in disabling yourself, but the time it takes to conjure these will often let victims escape or require a lot of predictive ability when targeting.
Looking at the spell lists every spell school seems to have its uses. I don't think it would gimp your character at all to focus on any one school so long as you use the spells well in battle.
You don't have cone of cold? That's one of the best spells in the game.
In other news, blizzard + tempest is lol for level 18 morrigan. She can clear out whole rooms without stepping a foot in them with that combo. Billzard stops them from moving and does some damage, and tempest does even more damage as they stay in its area of effect. I don't have inferno, but I suspect even more lols to be head if it works like these two.
On their own these spells are pretty unspectacular, combined with over 50 in magic, both can wipe out whole armies of white enemies even on hard in the endgame. Actually only in the endgame, they won't really do much without a good magic score.
The best part of the two is that you don't need a line of sight for these. It kind of feels like cheating at times, casting blizzard followed by tempest into rooms or around the corner and killing everything inside. It works well on bosses too if you set them up with sleep. And you can cast other spells/use bows
I would also like to echo chain lighting doing rather disappointing damage =(