So, I'm 23 hours into the DDA beta as of making this topic; I've found quite a few Legendary items, grabbed one of each pet from Insane Survival, and completed Insane Survival on Ancient Mines. I think I have a pretty good feel for everything in the beta, so it's time to share my thoughts. I'm going to cover everything I can think of, so this post is going to be long.
First of all, I should mention that my game's been pretty stable; I've only had one crash, never had any kind of connection problems (though I've only played on private matches), and I've never seen any AI problems like enemies ignoring my defenses, or skeletons spawning next to my crystal. A skeleton did break my crystal one time, but a wall had just collapsed a few seconds before, so I don't know for sure if a mage had spawned it recently.
------------------------------------ Apprentice: Apprentice is probably the best DPS hero right now. His damage seems on par with everyone else, but the fact that he can get up to 6 projectiles means he does far more damage in practice. As far as I can tell, every Hero has the same health scaling, and he can knock enemies away whenever he wants, so he has great survivability. His only real weakness is his lack of damaging abilities; Mana Bomb is alright, but you can almost always do more damage just by using his regular charged blast, and while I've barely used Overcharge, it seems it's the only boost ability that doesn't improve your own damage.
Magic Missiles and the Blockades are mostly outclassed unfortunately, but Flamebursts are one of the better offensive towers right now, with high damage, great crowd control and a reasonable DU cost. Deadly Strikers can one-shot almost any normal enemy until the later Survival waves, but seem too expensive to use often. Lightning Towers are mixed; their actual damage seems good, but they can't change their targets right now, so when everything it targeted dies it's just wasting time attacking nothing until it can waste more time recharging.
------------------------------------ Squire: His damage output is underwhelming right now. The Apprentice and the Monk's ranged attacks have great DPS because of the many projectiles, and the Huntress compensates by getting to attack much faster (my DPS Huntress has a minigun that fires 8 times per second). And of course, all of those are ranged attacks, meaning you don't have to risk running into a crowd and taking damage. Melee attacks get none of these advantages, and so Squire is the weakest attacker right now. That's not to say he's bad; his damage is still good (just not as good as the other Heroes), and he can stun lock weaker enemies well. His block seems effective, and his spin attack seems to be the only skill ability that does worthwhile damage.
I've been focusing on Squire's walls, so I can't say too much about the Harpoons or Bowling Balls, but they do feel weaker than Flamebursts. I guess they're not elemental, so they work on all enemies, but elemental damage is irrelevant if you're using Strength Drain Auras. I also feel like most of his defenses just cost too much DU right now to be worth using over the basic Spike Blockades. The lack of bottomless pits makes Bouncer Blockades pretty pointless (there's some in the new maps, but they all have handrails); the removed(?) Magus Quarters map in particular seemed tailor-made for Bouncers.
------------------------------------ Huntress: A few days ago, I probably would have said Huntress is the worst DPS hero. Her stats are confusing (why is a larger reload time faster?), her damage is weak due to lacking multiple projectiles (and I didn't know Adrenaline Rush boosted attack speed at the time), and having to perform lengthy reloads every 15 shots only makes it worse. I've also had a hard time finding good weapons for some reason; most weapons either do less damage than lower quality items or have horrible clip sizes/reload times that make them too annoying to use.
Now? Well, all that is still true, I think. But now that I finally have a quality weapon, I think Huntress is loads of fun! Adrenaline Rush helps remove a lot of the problems Huntress has by buffing your attack speed and reload speed; being able to jump around the map at light speed is a lot of fun as well. Still, fast-firing weapons are definitely the way to go; everything has about the same max damage from what I've seen, and the speed bonus from Adrenaline Rush doesn't seem to be smaller on faster weapons, so there's no reason to pick a slower weapon. Hopefully upgrading can change that when we get it.
I've mainly been using Explosive Traps, and they're great; they seem to have about as good DPS as the Flamebursts despite being cheaper, and work great with Enrage Auras. Gas Traps seem useful, but I haven't noticed anything getting stunned by them, so it's hard to say. Inferno Traps seem like a poor choice considering the other options for crowd-control (mainly Electric Auras), and I have no idea as to how I should be using Darkness Traps, so I've never used those two.
My main problem with her 'single-use' traps (Explosive and Lightning Striker) is their Health; I think it's probably meant to be their biggest weakness, but they feel like Mana black holes at times because they need to be repaired so often. Her other traps have a timed effect that occurs before they start resetting, meaning they lose charges much slower, but single-use traps start resetting right away. Traps also reset faster (and burn though Health faster) as your Attack Rate stat increases, meaning this could possibly get worse late game. I think the Explosive Traps and Lightning Striker traps could really use a Health buff to compensate.
------------------------------------ Monk: His abilities seem about the same as in DD1, so I've used my DPS Monk the least out of everyone so far. I've heard mixed opinions on the changes to Tower Boost, but I think I like it better this way, since you can place it down at one area, then run away and defend another area yourself. On the other hand, it does seem redundant considering Overcharge does the same thing now. Like with the Squire, his ranged attacks are better than his melee attacks, even up close, thanks to getting multiple projectiles. Still, I hope we don't have to pick and choose which attack to upgrade this time; that seemed like it defeated the whole point of having two attacks.
Strength Drain Auras and Electric Auras are pretty much essential to keeping everything running smoothly, though perhaps they're a bit too good. Electric Auras probably shouldn't be making things flinch, and the element-removing effect on Strength Drains makes it too easy to just ignore elemental effects. Ensnare Auras don't seem to be doing much at all, at least from my experience, but I haven't used them recently. Enrage Auras seem to stall the enemies better while making them damage each other as well, and their huge health means they barely need to be repaired or upgraded at all.
Healing Auras seem pointless since you can heal for next to no ability Mana whenever you want (even in midair). It might be better to just turn them into a Repair Aura that heals towers (and ONLY towers, not traps or other auras) instead, to reduce the pressure of repairing on larger maps. Also, I noticed that Auras seem to lose Health at different rates; if there's no enemies in them, Electric Auras lose 1 health per second, but Strength Drains lose 5 per second, and Enrage Auras seem to lose about 25 (their Health is so high that it's honestly hard to tell).
------------------------------------ Pets: Steam Robots are too weak to be much use; I've found 3 so far from multiple difficulties, but every one I've seen has terrible damage and/or terrible attack speed, and their knockback is almost nonexistent. Hopefully being able to see their stats and upgrade them in the final game will solve these issues, but right now it seems Propeller Cats are much better for their large damage boost.
As for stat pets, Pet Rocks are definitely the better option due to how easy it is to get around their downside; switch to a faster Hero, use a boost ability to improve your speed, just unequip them until you're done building, and so on. Giraffes seem fine, but again, there's not really much reason to use them over a rock right now. At least with the current difficulty, you don't really need to use Rocks over Giraffes unless you're trying to AFK (which I personally don't enjoy).
------------------------------------ Enemies: Most of the enemies seem identical to their DD1 versions, but Dark Elf Warriors look noticeably different now; they have a new weapon and different attacking animations, and I think they even have voices when they attack (though it's hard to tell with all the other noises). I really like the changes, but it seems a little weird that they're the only significantly changed enemies so far.
Ogres, however... sure, when you get three at once with a million health each, they're dangerous, but otherwise, Ogres have almost never posed a serious threat beyond distracting my defenses from more dangerous enemies like Kobolds. Their swipe attack seems to miss completely if you're on any slope, and even when it hits, they attack so slowly you can easily heal up before they even start their next swing. I'm not sure if they're meant to be a game-ending threat, or if they're just meant to distract your towers and soak up damage, but they seem far weaker than they used to be. Maybe it's all just because I'm more experienced than I was 7 years ago, but I do think at the least, they should probably attack about twice as fast as they do now.
As a side note, playing DD2 has left me really confused every time an Ogre hits me with it's projectile and I don't get slowed. (Please don't bring that back, though!)
------------------------------------ Other Thoughts: These are just some random thoughts I've had while playing, with no focus and in no particular order.
- So we're back to Generic Fantasy Gold again, huh? I guess it's probably better this way due to the ridiculous Mana inflation in the first game, but I really liked the concept of magical power being solidified and used as currency. If the Tavernkeep has voiced lines again, I hope he has one explaining/joking about why he's not accepting Mana as payment anymore.
- The new maps both look nice and are fun to play on, but Lava Mines has some small annoyances for me. The top half of the minimap is pointless since nothing even spawns over there, and you can't see Wyverns because they spawn off the map. The magma jets have weird momentum and are annoyingly placed; I'll admit getting launched into the stratosphere and dying was funny the first time, but the seventh? Not as much. The jet next to the bottom path has probably killed me more than anything else in this beta.
- I know the map order isn't finalized yet, but it's strange that the Tornado maps are right in the middle of the campaign, and seem to be the only maps that don't take place anywhere near a castle. Is the campaign even supposed to be set in a single castle, like the campaign in DD1 was? I can't wait to find out why you randomly end up in a desert halfway through, then go back to the castle maps like nothing happened. Also, a fun fact; with the currently revealed map list, I believe the only map to be in every DD game to date is The Ramparts (though it was known as Crumbled Bulwark in DD2).
- Quick overview on the maps in Survival: Deeper Well is my favourite because it gives plenty of Mana and waves don't take 10 minutes to finish; Ancient Mines seems to have a good balance between too much Mana and too little; Lava Mines is probably the hardest due to having to deal with Wyverns; and Alchemical Laboratory is the most annoying due to having a minimum of 4 chokepoints rather than 2. I feel like beating Survival is a bit too easy considering how low the stats are in the beta, but we have no way of knowing what end-game stats and levels look like, so maybe it won't be a problem.
- One nice thing about levelling in DD1 was how it increased your max mana capacity; besides the obvious benefits of making building easier, it also meant you could use boost abilities for longer, since they used mana exponentially and holding more mana could get you a few more seconds. But now you can hold infinite Mana, and while I certainly don't want to lose that feature, I think you could still bring this growth to ability Mana. Maybe have it start at 100 at level 1, then go up by a few points for each level? That would let you use abilities for much longer in the later game and make levels feel more rewarding.
- I was confused at first when enemies started dropping blue mana crystals. It seemed weird that enemies were dropping ability mana, especially because you would grab it whether you needed ability mana or not. It took me a few hours to realize it was actually just building Mana! It might be a good idea to change the color of those crystals a bit, so I and other players don't get confused; maybe to more of a cyan colour?
- I like how the big threats have been changing over time. At first it was the Archers; my tower ranges were small enough that they could safely sit out of range and snipe everything. Now it's the Kobolds; even with Strength Drain Auras, the sheer amount of them in Survival makes it hard to keep walls healthy. Now that I'm hitting the end of Survival, the Dark Elf Warriors have gotten tough enough to make it past my walls and seriously hassle me.