The first class that a newcomer to a game will often play is one that is both forgiving yet powerful, simple enough for a newbie to play yet still retaining a moderately high skill cap. In essence, that is the Warrior. The Warrior is the most powerful class in the game (both literally and in terms of playstyle). He requires virtually no tricky movement (Rogue/Spellsword dashing) or camping (Mage/Cultist). Just run in and slash them to death. His gameplay in general is slow and formulaic.
- Not counting characters with projectiles, the warrior boasts the longest weapon range in the game. He can stand safely outside the range of almost every melee attack and just slash away until the enemy is dead. Enemies that are too dangerous to approach even with this range can be dealt with in a couple of seconds with a few throwing axes.
- He hits hard. Disproportionately hard. Even with that safe attack range, the warrior does about as much damage as the Mage (when she doesn't have her fire rate-boosting upgrades, the flame/ice staves). This ensures that you won't have to spend too much time circling and strafing through enemy attacks just to land a stray hit in here and there (Rogue, sometimes Cultist/Adventurer).
- The Warrior has the 2nd highest HP bar in the entire game. Being the designated beginner class also demands that he must be forgiving to the player. He can dish out extreme damage yet also take it without breaking a sweat.
- The shield. Oh boy, this one's rather interesting. Its properties are strange - swiping down at any moment will bring it out, even if you are midway through a sword swing. When upgraded, it can block attacks yet still retain its charge. If you use it intelligently (don't just walk around with it always on when enemies are in the room, it slows you down and makes you more vulnerable to attacks), you can be virtually invincible. I recommend only upgrading the shield if you can have either the 'thorny' one (deals damage to melee attackers, is light) or the 'obsidian' one (increased protection against melee attacks). You should not be getting hit by magic bolts. Dodging any ranged attacks just involves circling the enemy until they're done firing their shot and going in for the kill during their cooldown. The Catacombs have enough melee attackers to overwhelm you very easily, and a shield that directly counters them is always useful.
- Throwing axes. I don't have much to say about these, they seem like an afterthought on the part of the developer. If you can, get the upgrade where they pierce enemies, but otherwise just use them to lure out monsters from outside a room (see the Mage/Cultist guides below for information on luring).
- The power attack. This is a far-reaching move that is good for dealing with large groups of enemies. Try to hold off on using it until either all of the ranged enemies in the room are dead or there is a 'lull' in their attack pattern.
- He doesn't require much thinking or quick reflexes. Even if you don't keep proper spacing (keep enemies at least as far away as the far edge of your blade) when attacking, all you have to do is swipe down and you're instantly invincible. What I usually do is swipe down immediately after every attack, so I'm only vulnerable while I'm swinging my sword. Otherwise, just circle the enemies until you can find an opening that won't lose you too many shield charges (preferably none at all, but there are certain rooms with 8+ enemies that will demand a lot from you).
- His attacks come out very slowly in comparison to the other classes (besides mage, which has the casting lag). It's a fair debuff when you consider his power/range.
The first of the 'camp and lure' classes, the Mage has the lowest HP in the game, and never receives any upgrades to boost her maximum health capacity. For lack of a better term, she is a 'glass cannon' - dishing out massive amounts of damage (especially when you have upgraded to the fire/ice staves), yet is punished very hard for mistakes.
- The mage boasts the longest standard attack range in the entire game. There is never any reason for you to go within the attack range of an enemy. Any situation where this occurs is either 'forced' (i.e. you are in a room with the invisible rushers that stab you, etc), or you have simply made a mistake. Your modus operandi should consist of 'camping out' the enemy whenever the opportunity arises. This is accomplished in a few different ways. Commit these rules to your mind and don't forget them:
- Use your power shot. This baby travels about as far as the entire length of the screen from right to left. Try and snipe off as many enemies as you can with the charged shot. If none of them are within the line of sight of the door, be a little patient. Sometimes they wander where you can hit them.
- If that fails (sometimes monsters just aren't in range), stand just inside the entrance and try to lure some of the monsters within out with your presence. It's easier to fight them one at a time (as I'm sure you know). As soon as they notice you, they will begin to attack (spellcasters)/move towards you (melee attackers). Lure the spellcasters by doing a sort of 'in-out' motion, dodging their shots by moving back yet still returning to their line of sight so they are able to maneuver around walls to reach the doorway. Melee attackers can be lured just by standing within the doorway until they come close.
- NEVER overcommit. What I mean by this is don't stand in the same spot and try to kill an enemy before it reaches you, or hope that you will have killed a spellcaster before it fires its next shot. Shoot conservatively, firing off a couple shots at a time before repositioning yourself within a room so monsters don't cluster around you. You can't afford to make mistakes.
- Spells. The Mage's offensive ability is excellent for pushing back a small group of melee attackers that are rushing you. When you do inevitably come across a room that you cannot camp in the corners and take potshots in, just strafe through/around the attacks until you find an opportunity to launch off a shot or two or use your offensive ability. The defensive 'wind' spell is nice for getting charging zombie knights and those things that fire 1-4 shots at a time off your back for a bit. Toss out a spell if you need half a second to kill some other creatures before you can focus on these high-hp tanks. See the Spellsword guide for how to use other standard spell pickups.
- The Mage's HP bar is abysmal. You cannot play an offensive Mage in the Catacombs, you will die - it's as simple as that. A defensive playstyle is key to succeeding, and if being patient isn't quite your cup of tea, you won't really enjoy playing her.
- 'Overcommitment' often leads to an impromptu full depletion of your mana bar, leaving you vulnerable for half a second (or forcing you to use a spell or two to prevent the enemy from coming within attack range).
- One moderate mistake will often end your run within seconds. With power comes responsibility.
The Rogue is another 'high risk high reward' type of class. While she has the same attack range as the Cultist, she has neither stealth nor AoE stun to set up guaranteed safe kills. Her dash is a difficult tool to master, even more than the Spellsword, as dealing damage with regular attacks requires you to hit the enemy significantly more times than any other character in order to kill them. You must master the backstab in order to be an effective Rogue.
- A monstrous maximum DPS (damage per second). A stealthed Rogue, much like the Cultist, throws out powerful backstabs at an insane rate that outdamages every other class in the game (except Cultist, of course). Even without a stealth potion, if a Rogue gets behind an enemy by using a dash and keeps them in hitstun, every hit will be a backstab.
- The dash. I cannot stress enough that the dash is one of the most useful tools a character in this game can have, as it allows you to play both a 'rushdown', aggressive playstyle yet be able to switch back to a runaway defensive style in the blink of an eye. The Rogue's dash is different from the Spellsword's in that it allows you to pass through enemies as well as dodge magical projectiles. This forces you to play essentially perfectly - wait for an enemy to attack, dash through them during the endlag of their move, and toss out a backstab or two. Attacking them from the front is slow and allows for too much room for error.
- The Rogue's power attack stuns weaker enemies, with a chance to stun strong enemies, allowing you to get a free backstab.
- Like the Cultist, her attack range is abysmal and forces her to play risky in order to complete dungeons. The dash makes up slightly for this, but you will always feel like you are 'too close for comfort'.
- Her power attack is very situational (much like the Spellsword), and you are often better off just investing it into dashes. Use the power attack when dealing with small, clustered groups of monsters (1-3 or so). *Attacks that aren't backstabs are very weak.
The Adventurer's main strengths lie in his capability to easily defeat spellcasters, gain extra health per floor, and his versatile emberforge upgrades.
- He dishes out as much damage as the Spellsword and Warrior, albeit with a shorter sword.
- His lantern is superb for dealing with rooms that contain a large proportion of spellcasters.
- The stun is much like the Mage's defensive 'wind' ability in that it lets you hold off on dealing with a particular enemy for a few seconds. This is quite useful when dealing with the necromancers that revive their fallen brethren and charge at you with small knives when you get close (Thorned and Royal Temerators).
- He has the highest HP in the game, which he certainly needs with the low attack range.
- He gains the most health when advancing to the next floor.
- His lantern and amulet can be upgraded very well.
- His sword can be upgraded to have a chance to instakill enemies.
- While the lantern is useful for dealing with spellcasters, it is very rare to find a difficult room that containsonly spellcasters. A single melee enemy forces you to refrain from using the lantern until they are dealt with (otherwise they will get free hits). While it does do AoE damage, it does it over time and leaves you too vulnerable when casting. It's a very situational item.
- The power attack comes out quickly but is incapable of setting you up for any further moves. It does not stun the enemy nor does it have a long range. You simply charge forward and slash in a small circle, leaving you completely vulnerable if you miss hitting a monster. You are better off saving it for small groups of 1-2 monsters and just refraining from using your mana otherwise. However, you can always deal with small groups of monsters by just waiting for them to attack, dodging, and punishing the miss. The power attack is virtually useless.
- The Adventurer's low attack range forces him to get close enough to be hit by an enemy just to kill them. He doesn't have stealth, a stun, or a dash to escape like the other low-range classes. All he has is an aimed stun, which is already finicky enough to be a nuisance to use in sticky situations.
The Spellsword has power/range that is almost on par with the warrior, yet instead of a shield is able to utilize a dash that can both dodge projectiles and melee attacks (if used correctly).
- Agile. The Spellsword has a moderately fast base movement speed that is supplemented by a dash that can be used to avoid magical projectiles (but not dash through enemies unless you get the fire scroll upgrade at the forge). There is no need to sit back and tank hits when you can just dash away from them. Although dashing rather than blocking requires more focus/precise timing, the fact that mana is infinite - but you have to conserve shield charges - makes up for the increased difficulty. A perfectly played Spellsword should never be touched. Also, his power attack is very situational and should only be used to deal with groups of one or two enemies. That mana is better used as dashes.
- Medium attack range. The Spellsword's shamshir (what I assume his weapon is) has a range above that of the Adventurer's shortsword yet slightly below that of the Warrior's broadsword. He has to get within enemy strike range to attack and is always vulnerable. However, waiting for the enemy to strike, punishing them during the endlag of the move, and then quickly dashing away ensures that he won't take a hit.
- Battle-specific buffs. What I mean by 'battle-specific' is that the buff will usually only last throughout the duration of one room. For example, say you enter a room with ~10 enemies, of which 6 are ranged attackers. You can either sidestep every shot as it comes at you with your dash, looking for the very small openings between the other melee attacks rushing you. Or, you can slap on an Hourglass buff and quickly deal with the melee attackers, completely ignoring the spellcasters for a bit. Haste works in a similar way, but it is more difficult to use yet at the same time allows you more control of your movement/dodging abilities.
- Spells. While battle-specific buffs are more useful for getting you out of the really sticky situations, spells are more spur-of-the-moment and reactionary. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
- Low on health and you've just entered a room with 3+ melee attackers? While you can sidestep projectiles fairly easily, melee attacks always have a small window of error that even I still find myself falling into when facing large groups. You can either elect to use your power attack, which stuns the enemies (but is risky if there is even a single spellcaster in the room), or you can toss out an Earth Spike to stun every enemy in a large radius and deal with them individually. A Ray of Light would work just as well, but you have to do a little circling/strafing to line them up properly. Shadow Bomb/Fireball work the same way.
- The summoning spells are rather straightforward as well. If you want to eliminate a couple of enemies from a larger group to make it easier to deal with (I found this to be most useful in Homunculus chambers for dealing with the little midgets that rush you, as they can dash is sometimes unpredictable ways).
- Frost Shards is the most useless spell. It is mainly used as a defensive option when you are backed into a corner or are about to be hit by a 'wall' of projectiles; it barely does any damage and stuns for only a short period.
- Fairly high HP, the Spellsword can both dish out and take a beating.
- The Spellsword requires a fair amount of focus and precision to play (more than the Warrior, but less than the Rogue). This means you can't just play him while walking to class or doing another activity that involves multitasking.
- He is very much a 'high risk high reward' character. While he is efficient and quick at running dungeons (the fastest goldfarmer in my opinion), making mistakes is all too easy if you haven't mastered proper spacing and using the dash effectively.
- Unlike the rogue, his dash cannot travel through melee attacks.
The second of the 'camp and lure' classes. The Cultist incorporates the powerful backstabs of the Rogue with the ranged charged shot of the Mage, along with a set of pickup abilities that work perfectly in tandem. The Cultist is an anomaly within this lineup in that she can be played both offensively and defensively, switching at a moment's notice.
- A monstrous maximum DPS (damage per second). A stealthed Cultist throws out powerful backstabs at an insane rate that outdamages every other class in the game.
- Spells. The Cultist's pickup abilities are my personal favorites in the game to use because they work fantastically in sync. In a room flooded with monsters? Slap on some stealth, wait for the action to die down a bit, then rush to the center of the mob and activate your AoE blind to render the entire group harmless for a few seconds. I recommend using the abilities in this manner for maximum safety. Also, pickups such as the 10-second stealth potion or the black crystals that spawn 2 clones for an extended period of time are invaluable. While stealthed, every attack is a backstab
- Backstabs. Backstabs do 3.7x the damage of a normal attack, and the Cultist can even upgrade hers to do more. A blinded enemy is susceptible to backstabs from any direction, and using the combo above sets you up perfectly to deal with the monsters swiftly and efficiently.
- A ranged power shot. Every rule that I listed above for the Mage in regards to camping/luring also applies to the Cultist and her thrown dagger. The dagger itself actually has near-infinite range, allowing you to lure/kill monsters from even the farthest depths of a lava chamber (these frequently have long rooms).
- Hitstun. Hitstun refers to the very small period of lagtime that occurs when a monster is struck with an attack and moves back slightly. This period of time is identical for all classes and their standard attacks. However, due to the Cultist's high attack rate she is able to maintain hitstun for a continuous period of time until a monster is dead. This is done by trapping an enemy against a wall and just spamming the attack button until they keel over. No fancy techniques, it's that simple - it just only works if there is only one enemy focused on you (otherwise you will get surrounded and overwhelmed).
- If you're out of spell pickups and stealth potions and come across a difficult room, the best you can do is circle/strafe around the monsters until you can find an opening while tossing out daggers every now and then. Your short attack range makes fighting any melee attackers risky.
- Although the Cultist has a moderately high HP bar, she cannot be played as aggressively as the Warrior or Spellsword. Camping and luring should be your number one priority, only resorting to the spell combo discussed above in sticky situations.