Doing Empathy Right
Empathy is a highly-sought-after power set, not only for Controllers and Defenders, but for the teams who benefit greatly from the characters who have it. Almost every large Task Force is looking for a "healer" or two; so are the large teams taking on AE missions or particularly difficult traditional CoH missions. Truly, it is one of the most marketable skills in the CoH world--you'll never have trouble finding a team if you're playing an Empath!
However, it's not easy to play an Empath, especially playing in a large team. While playing my angelic Empath Lyssadia, I often find myself playing guardian angel to 7 other players, watching over everyone's Health and Endurance bars; sometimes I get into "click-a-name" mode, using the team member list to target, heal, and buff as fast as possible. Having Empathy as one of your power sets means that people come to depend on you for support, which can be stressful if you're still learning how to play your Empath--you can feel like you're flying by the seat of your pants while your team members are dropping around you. However, once you get the hang of how to play your Empath, supporting teams becomes easier, and a lot of fun, especially if you like to be needed!
These two situations are the reason I have written this guide to playing Empathy. This will help you figure out which powers to take off the Empathy tree for your ideal build, and will give you tips on how to keep yourself and your team alive and pwning.
The Empathy Tree
Healing Aura (heals you and allies close by you)
Heal Other (heals a single ally by a larger amount than the Aura)
Absorb Pain (heals a single ally by an EPIC amount, damages you a bit, leaves you unable to heal yourself for 30 seconds)
Resurrect (brings back a defeated ally with full Health/Endurance; protects them from XP Debt for 30 seconds)
Clear Mind (clears negative status effects from an ally, like being held, stunned, immobilized, blinded, or being put to sleep; protects that ally from such status effects for 30 seconds)
Fortitude (improves all damage resistances on one ally for a full minute)
Recovery Aura (improves the Recovery rate of you and allies around you for a few minutes)
Regeneration Aura (improves the Regen rate of you and allies around you for a few minutes)
Adrenalin Boost (improves the Recovery and Regeneration of a single ally for a few minutes)
There are basically two builds of Empathy: "Backup Healer" and "Mother Hen."
The "Backup Healer" build generally ignores the buffs and single-target heals, focusing instead on Healing Aura, Recovery Aura, Regeneration Aura, and Resurrect. This build is great for Empaths who generally play more solo missions or in small teams, and who don't necessarily need the buffs or single-target heals. It's also ideal for Empaths who play very close to their teams--the Auras only affect you and heroes in close proximity to you. Lastly, this build works well for players who have chosen Empathy as more of a backup power set, like Defenders who are focusing more on their offensive power set, or for Controllers who want to take more powers from their enemy-neutralizing power set.
The "Mother Hen" build, by contrast, generally takes almost every power off the Empathy tree, perhaps excepting Absorb Pain. (Lyssadia is a "Mother Hen" build that includes Absorb Pain, because I find it is too effective a heal to pass up.) This build is ideal for Empaths who play in larger teams, and who enjoy passing out buffs to teammates and other heroes as often as possible. Mother Hen builds also work well for Empaths who play a little farther behind (or in Lyssadia's case, hovering above) the team, because the single-target heals, buffs, and Adrenalin Boost work from a farther range than the Auras do. A final reason to choose the Mother Hen build is if you are building a dedicated healer, which won't have as many attacks.
When to Use Certain Powers
- Healing Aura: When you yourself are getting hurt badly, or the whole team is grouped up around you and all of you have taken damage. Also useful if your other healing powers are on slow recharges due to enemy Slow attacks.
- Heal Other: When you're too far away to heal another teammate with Healing Aura, or they need a bit more healing power than the Aura can give.
- Absorb Pain: When a teammate is just about to die--and you can get yourself sufficiently far enough away from the battle so that you won't get killed after using Absorb Pain, since it damages you a bit and leaves you unable to heal for a little while.
- Resurrect: When you need to bring back a teammate as fast as possible and the battlefield is not clear enough for the person to pop an Awaken.
- Clear Mind: When someone key to the survival of your team has been held, slept, or immobilized, or you want to protect them against such tactics. I usually buff Controllers and Defenders with Clear Mind more often, since they need to be able to continually act in support of the team. However, if your damage-dealers keep getting hit with holds and the like, a liberal application of Clear Mind to the whole team is quite doable, as it recharges fast naturally.
- Fortitude: When you need to protect someone against every kind of damage. I usually buff Scrappers and Blasters with Fortitude, since they need a bit more damage resistance. I also give Fortitude to our team's Tank, just for extra insurance. However, if our support crew is getting blasted away, I will often give them Fort after rezzing them to help them stay on their feet.
- Recovery Aura: When one or more of your teammates are running out of Endurance on a consistent basis (including yourself).
- Regeneration Aura: When one or more of your teammates is losing Health at a faster rate than they can get it back (including yourself).
- Adrenalin Boost: When a player is having a difficult time staying healed up and having enough endurance, and he/she is key to your team's survival. I generally boost our Tank, Scrapper, or Blaster with this, though if it recharges fast enough, I like to buff my fellow Controller or Defender with it as well.
More Empathy Do's and Don'ts
- Announce to your team when you want to use Regeneration Aura and Recovery Aura. Give them a little bit of time (perhaps 5-10 seconds) to huddle up around you, and then activate the Auras, so that everyone can get the bonus Health and Endurance. People can get mighty resentful if you don't give them an opportunity to get within range before you pop Auras!
- Keep your Team Member window open (the one with all the team members' names in green bars, which shows Health and Endurance bars of each member on it). You can select a team member and target them for a heal or buff, even if they are standing behind or below you and you can't see them on your screen. This works GREAT for me, since I'm often flying Lyssadia high above the battlefield and can't actually see some of my teammates--but I'm still in range of them!
- On the Team Member window, remember to expand out the list of Buffs each player has going by clicking the little arrow off to the right side of the Team Member list. This is great for keeping up with who needs a reapplication of Fortitude, Clear Mind, and/or Adrenalin Boost, as well as for keeping tabs on when Regen Aura and Rec Aura wear off. A quick way to see if your buffs have worn off is to look for little vivid green icons in the buff list--that color usually means something from the Empathy power set. You can also hover your mouse over each of the little icons to see which buff each symbol represents.
- Play close enough to your team to help heal and buff, but far enough away that you don't get yourself shot or punched. This is important--you have to walk a fine line between being too far away to help and too close to the enemy group to do anything except draw their fire. Stay mobile and flexible!
- Enhance your powers wisely. If you want your heals and buffs to recharge faster and cost less of your Endurance, fill them with a few Recharge Reduction enhancements and some Endurance Reduction enhancements. If you want to boost the healing effects, or you want to boost range, use Healing enhancements or Range enhancements. You can also do a little bit of all if you feel it would work better for your playstyle.
- Don't be a selfish Empath. Those Auras do affect you as well as your teammates, but don't just pop them off for your own boost and then wonder why your teammates are dying or running out of Endurance. You would be surprised how much we damage-dealers rely on those happy little boosts from our team's Empath!
- Don't go off by yourself thinking you can pwn a few bad guys. Separating yourself from the team is the LAST thing you need to do as an Empath, even if you have some good offensive powers. Ideally, you are not the main damage-dealer of your team, and your teammates will need your heals and buffs to get through tough rooms full of spawns. Team splits lead to the unique tragedy called a "team wipe."
- Don't wait to buff your teammates between battles. Sometimes Fortitude just runs out right when your team sights that purple boss--or the purple boss sights you. Don't be afraid to give your teammates an extra bit of insurance against damage and negative status effects; just be ready to give them a heal right afterwards!