This is a further updated version of the original guide I posted on the CoH boards previously. I have tweaked it several times based on comments from others. Thanks to all those who sent me the extra information to add. Of special note, thanks to Ego-Slayer and BubbleGamma for their hard work in providing info on Force Fields to the CoH community. As always please keep sending your comments so I can continue to improve it.

The same caveats exist as before. While I have incorporated advice from others, this guide is based mostly on my experience of taking a FF Defender all the way to level 50, and is therefore based on my play style. I have tried to give a fair description of the powers as best as I can, but bear in mind that my recommendations might not be suitable for all players. Starting with this version, I have included some base buffing numbers for some of the powers. These were taken mostly from the excellent Guide to Defense Buff Numbers compiled by BubbleGamma (and a lot those numbers were based on research by Ego Slayer). I strongly recommend everyone read BG’s guide as it provides a lot of in-depth data on all defensive buffs, including Force Fields. Also starting with this version I have included a suggested tactics section (thanks Rachegeist for suggesting this) to give people an idea how to use each power, both for soloing and team play. And to our Controller friends out there…although this guide it written from the point of view of a Defender it should also be suitable for you.

If you see any mistakes please let me know so I can update the guide.


Personal Force Field

Available at: level 1
Type: toggled self defensive shield
Duration: toggled
Base Buff Values: +95% Defense vs. All, +50% (unconfirmed) Damage Resistance vs. All

Effect: A small personal bubble which greatly increases defense against all types of attacks (even the dreaded Psionic attacks). It can be penetrated by attacks from higher level mobs versus your level, but with reduced damage. While active you can any powers that affect yourself with the exception of Rest, and can use inspirations. You cannot use any powers on external targets, both friendly and enemy, including any AoE toggled buffs/debuffs (such as Dispersion Bubble), although they will still be effective on yourself. Strangely enough, you can buffed and healed by other heroes while PFF is active.

Recommendation: I recommend taking PFF at some point, but exactly when depends on how you view your role as a Defender. If you are more team oriented take other powers such as Deflection Shield and Insulation Shield first and work in PFF later on. If you feel you will solo mostly you may want to consider getting PFF right away. Taking PFF at lowers levels will mean sacrificing a power slot that would probably used for an attack power, but it should make up for that in terms of survival. If you feel the need to slot it for personal protection I wouldn’t waste more than one extra slot on it, as it provides excellent self defense out of the box (especially when stacked with Dispersion Bubble). I personally didn’t take PFF until around level 30, and other FF Defenders have also commented on doing fine without it, but it can be a life saver at certain times.

Tactics: During a battle activating PFF can be a great way to avoid death. For soloing this is a great power to activate when you are close to death or exhaustion. You can’t use Rest while PFF is active, but you can use inspirations or just naturally recharge/heal. For team oriented Defenders PFF can also be used effectively in the early levels before Dispersion Bubble (and other team buffs such as Leadership powers). If you don’t mind sacrificing attacking you can keep PFF raised to protect yourself and drop it every four minutes to cast Deflection/Insulation Shields on your team. At higher levels PFF may not get as much use, but it will always be useful for traveling through hazardous areas or simply escaping a fight.

Deflection Shield

Available at: level 1
Type: activated targeted defensive shield
Duration: 4 minutes
Base Buff Values: estimated at +20% vs. Smash/Lethal

Effect: A small bubble that can be cast on any friendly target providing increased defense against lethal and smash damage (often seen in melee attacks). While it cannot be self-stacked from the same FF Defender, Deflection Shields from multiple bubblers do stack. Deflection Shield does stack with other FF Defender powers.

Recommendation: If you are strictly a solo player, this power is not necessary at any time since it can’t be used on yourself. For the rest of us, take this power ASAP. Make sure you slot this power the full six times over the course of your career, either with all +DEF or possibly adding one -END COST (as endurance management can be an issue later on).

Tactics: The first of the so-called “Big Three” FF Defender powers, Deflection Shield is an absolute must for any team oriented FF Defender. It protects teammates against damage types encountered early in the game and is especially effective against melee attacks right up to level 50. There is only one tactic for this power…cast it every 3-4 minutes on every teammate to ensure they are always shielded. This power has zero soloing benefit.

Force Bolt

Available at: level 2
Type: activated targeted ranged attack
Duration: instantaneous

Effect: Launches a small fast moving bubble that can deal minor (emphasis on minor) smash damage and knocks back most foes. To my knowledge this power is not effective on arch-villains and monsters and the knockback can be resisted (probably a question of the magnitude of Force Bolt vs. these tougher opponents).

Recommendation: The usefulness of Force Bolt is a point of contention among the bubbler community. Many find this power a waste of a slot, while others swear by it. I am in included with the latter. I took this power early on and have used it continuously all the way to level 50. While inflicting negligible damage its knockback ability is, in my mind, invaluable. It can be used to knock an enemy off yourself or a teammate, and is useful for keep many bosses off their feet. If you want to slot it, I would recommend adding only one extra slot and slotting both with +ACC enhancements to ensure that this power rarely misses (this power starts off with an accuracy bonus).

Tactics: For soloing I found this power very useful since I could effectively keep one or two enemies out of the battle while I concentrated on another. This does, however, requires quick switching between targets to use Force Bolt on one while attacking another. For single targets (especially bosses) this is a great way to prevent them from attacking you while you attack them. This is all possible due to the very fast recharge time of Force Bolt (especially with Hasten) and the relatively long time it takes for a target to regain their stance. Basically the strategy is knock them down and get in one or two attacks (usually even a sniper attack) while they are standing back up, and then knock them down again. Note that large bosses (such as the 5th Column Wolfpack robots) are resistant to a second knockback/knockdown for a second or two after they stand back up. For team play this power is useful for clearing an annoying enemy off of yourself until the damage dealers can get to it. This power is also very useful for protecting teammates (especially other Defenders and Controllers). Make sure you DO NOT use this power on the targets of Tanks and Scrappers (except perhaps to save them from death), as this will generally result in harsh censure from them. Do not rely on this power as a damage attack.

Insulation Shield

Available at: level 6
Type: activated targeted defensive shield
Duration: 4 minutes
Base Buff Values: estimated at +20% vs. Fire/Cold/Energy/Negative Energy

Effect: A small bubble that can be cast on any friendly target providing increased defense against cold, fire, energy, and negative energy attacks (often seen in ranged attacks). While it cannot be self-stacked from the same FF Defender, Insulation Shields from multiple bubblers do stack. Insulation Shield does stack with other FF Defender bubbles.

Recommendation: If you are strictly a solo player, this power is not necessary at any time since it can’t be used on yourself. For the rest of us, take this power ASAP. Make sure you slot this power the full six times over the course of your career, either with all +DEF or possibly adding one -END COST (as endurance management can be an issue later on).

Tactics: The second of the so-called “Big Three” FF Defender powers, Insulation Shield is an absolute must for any team oriented FF Defender. It protects teammates against many of the energy attacks (which are often ranged) encountered throughout the game. Like Deflection Shield, there is only one tactic for this power…cast it every 3-4 minutes on every teammate to ensure they are always shielded. This power has zero soloing benefit.

Detention Field

Available at: level 8
Type: activated targeted immobilization field
Duration: variable (depends on target level versus self)

Effect: Essentially casts PFF around an enemy target. Unlike PFF, Detention Field cannot be penetrated, rendering the enemy target immune to any attacks or debuffs. However, the target cannot move and cannot attack or use any powers that do not affect itself. The target can heal and buff itself. This power is very effective against bosses and archvillians.

Recommendation: I would recommend taking Detention Field at some point. If you solo a lot this power will be useful as soon as it is available, but if you mostly team then you can wait until you have a power slot to spare. If you want to add enhancements to this power consider adding one extra slot with +ACC to ensure hitting the target (although this power starts off with a bonus to accuracy). You may also consider slotting in +RECHARGE to ensure that you can recapture a target immediately (not really necessary if you have Hasten) or if you want to quickly capture several targets.

Tactics: Detention Field can be an effective tool to separate a target from other enemy mobs and to reduce the number of enemies that can attack at any given time, which can be a real advantage if you often solo. However, it must hit the target to be effective and on higher level targets (vs. caster) it wears off relatively quickly. Against lower level targets the duration can seem extremely long, meaning that you (or your team) may stand around waiting for the Detention Field to expire to kill the last mob. Since Update #2 I have begun to use this power a lot more due to the fact that it can now captures bosses and archvillians. It can be a useful tool for clearing mobs from around these types of mobs before concentrating on them (i.e. capturing the boss/AV first then defeating all surrounding enemies), and for giving the team a breather during the fight. If you use this power during team battles make sure that your team understands that they cannot harm the captured foe to avoid them wasting a lot of endurance in trying to kill it. Similar to Force Bolt, DO NOT use this power on enemies that are currently engaged by damage dealers (unless they are on the brink of death or specifically ask for it) as this will frustrate them considerably.

Dispersion Bubble

Available at: level 12
Type: toggled AoE defensive shield
Duration: toggled
Base Buff Values: estimated at +12.5% vs. All except Psionic, +?% Resistance vs. Hold/Disorient/Immobilize

Effect: Creates a large mobile bubble centered on the FF Defender that provides increased defense and resistance (not immunity) to holds, disorient, and immobilize to all those inside the bubble, including the caster. It does not provide resistance to sleep, and as such is especially susceptible to deactivation by sleep attacks. Also like most Force Field powers it is ineffective against Psionic attacks. As a note of interest, while the actual visual size of the Dispersion Bubble changes relative to the size of the caster, the actual effective radius is always the same for all FF Defenders.

Recommendation: Dispersion should be taken immediately at level 12 with no debate and slotted the full six times ASAP, mostly with +DEF, as this power will help keep you alive. Note that as a toggle it can be draining on endurance so it might be necessary to slot some -END COST enhancements into it until you pick up Stamina (and you WILL pick up Stamina), and even then you may need to slot it with -END COST if you plan to expend a lot of endurance on attacking.

Tactics: The last of the so-called “Big Three” FF Defender powers Dispersion Bubble is, in my mind, the life blood of any FF Defender as it is one of the best defensive team buffs available that also provides defense for the caster, as well as providing resistance to several annoying status effects. Basically it should be active almost continuously throughout your career as a bubbler, for soloing and for team play. For team play there is some debate as to whom should be kept inside the bubble at all times. Obviously the optimal solution is to keep the team tight enough so that it is possible to keep all members inside the bubble. Failing this, most people agree that the caster should always try to keep the support and ranged teammates inside the bubble and let the melee teammates do as they will. I generally agree with this approach as Scrappers and Tankers can usually take quite a beating and often have a good deal of defensive buffs already (plus will have both Deflection and Insulation Shields cast on them). Still, any good bubbler must continually evaluate the battle and reposition accordingly to shield the maximum number of people with the Dispersion Bubble.

Repulsion Field

Available at: level 18
Type: toggled AoE knockback field
Duration: toggled

Effect: Creates a small pulsating force field around the FF Defender that can knockback any foe within melee range. Note that this power drains endurance for every enemy knocked back. Experience with this power by FF Defenders indicates that this power never misses, but can be resisted by more powerful mobs. Depending on the level of the mob hit vs. the level of the FF Defender, this power may only knock down rather than knock back.

Recommendation: There is some debate as to whether Repulsion Field or Force Bubble is the better power for protection against melee attacks, and to be honest I am torn on this matter. I can’t recommend taking this power unless you have an extra power slot to spare. Life as a FF Defender will carry on fine without this power, but some people do swear by it. Note that the endurance drain of this power is enormous against a group of mobs and can quickly drain you. If you want this power then I recommend slotting it with at least 3-4 -END COST enhancements, and make sure you monitor your endurance carefully while active.

Tactics: This power is great to generate laughs, and that is the only consistent use I have found for it. Well…perhaps not quite true. In my experience it seems to have more success in knocking down some higher level bosses than does Force Bolt, and I have successfully knocked down Monsters with it (a feat I have not been able to emulate with Force Bolt). I have also found it a great way to keep the Fake Nemesis off their feet to prevent them from erecting their PFF. Like Force Bolt is can be a great way of clearing enemies off of your friends, but be careful using it around melee based teammates…most of them will not appreciate seeing their targets flying sadly away through the air. For soloing this can be a good way of keeping melee attackers away from you while you attack, but just be very careful to watch the endurance drain.

Repulsion Bomb

Available at: level 26
Type: activated targeted-ally knockback field
Duration: instantaneous

Effect: Launches a small force field at a friendly target that knocks back any enemies with melee range of the target. Starting in Update #2 this power can disorient the knocked back foes. Foes are knocked back at an angle away from your current position. Unlike Repulsion Field each foe knocked back does not drain extra endurance.

Recommendation: I have never taken this power and I personally see very little use for it. If you do take it I would probably treat it like Detention Field and Force Bolt in that adding one extra slot to it with some +ACC would be sufficient.

Tactics: This is the one power in the FF power set that I have never taken and so have no experience with (I admit that this is the weak part of this guide), although I have seen it used. Basically its main use is to rescue a teammate from melee attacks. However with the addition of the disorient feature one can imagine some more creative uses for it. Send in an invisible comrade into a tight group and launch the bomb, thereby inflicting disorient on a large group of foes…well, perhaps I am just dreaming (especially since I have read reports on the forums about the disorient ability being somewhat ineffective). As I said I have never taken this power and I doubt I will during respec. Since this power requires a friendly target to work, it has zero use for soloing.

Force Bubble

Available at: level 32
Type: toggled AoE repulsion field
Duration: toggled

Effect: Creates a large mobile bubble centered on the FF Defender that most foes are unable to enter thus providing almost complete protection from melee attacks. The radius of the bubble is about twice that of Dispersion Bubble. Note that certain enemies can ignore this bubble, and others can move fast enough to push inside. It does not provide any defensive bonuses (it was originally slated to provide defense against ranged attacks, but that ability was never implemented).

Recommendation: Many like this power as opposed to Repulsion Field as it has large radius and is a “cleaner” power (does not have the confusion of mobs flying through the air). I have a hard time strongly recommending Force Bubble, but if you think you have use for it you will need to slot it with at least 4 -END COST enhancements to allow you to run it with other toggles, and even then endurance management may be a problem. I ditched this power during respec, and have yet to miss it.

Tactics: Ahhhh, the uber power of the FF power set, and definitely a love it or hate it power. Supposedly a Blaster-friendly power, the Force Bubble has some limitations that restrict its use. First of all any Scrappers and Tankers, plus any Blaster wanting to use a short range or cone attack, must venture outside or close to the edge of the Force Bubble to attack. This alone would not be a problem if not for the fact that the radius of the Dispersion Bubble is half that of the Force Bubble. As a result, allies using such attacks lose all benefit from the Dispersion Bubble (so make sure you keep their Deflection and Insulation Shields active). The endurance drain of Force Bubble is enormous, and it is difficult to keep active with multiple other toggled powers. It also draws agro from enemies, so using it can draw a lot of ranged attacks to you. It can be a handy power to slow enemies down while your team escapes if things go badly. All in all I used Force Bubble for only for pinning mobs in a corner for Blasters to attack or protecting teammates from melee attacks while they healed, but I personally found it to be of limited use. Once again, care must be taken with this power to avoid frustrating any melee based teammates. This power is so draining that it is difficult to use for soloing. Even when six slotted with -END COST, the drain of attacking with this power active (especially if you have other toggles running) would be difficult to manage.

Overall Thoughts

My FF Defender was my very first hero and I have truly enjoyed this power set. It was at times, however, a slow and boring journey to level 50 since many times I was reduced to a buffing machine and didn’t have the attack capability for soloing (I didn’t concentrate on offensive powers much until later in my career). If I had to sum up my recommendations, I would do so this way. The “Big Three” powers, Deflection Shield, Insulation Shield, and Dispersion Bubble are all mandatory. If you plan to solo then Deflection Shield an Insulation Shield will be unnecessary, but bear in mind that should you ever want to join a team you will be more or less useless without them. The Big Three are what make us so beneficial to any team (I have actually read posts on the forums about FF Defenders being “god-makers” due to these three powers). Beyond that, you could survive without any other FF power. Depending on how you play, that can be a sad truth or a wonderful truth. It is sad in that many of our other powers are somewhat ancillary and often have limited use (I know there are several FF Defenders reading this that are now foaming at the mouth, but that is simply my opinion). At the same time it can be a wonderful truth in that we plenty of power slots left to play around with offensive powers and pool powers. Beyond the Big Three, I would say Force Bolt and Detention Field are the next more useful, especially if you like to solo. The remaining three have their uses but are situational at best and I personally think that they are not terribly important (again…foaming…). Of course, I started this guide with the caveat that these recommendations are based on my play style. It is reasonable to assume that different people will form different strategies and find other creative ways to use the powers, so take what I say with a grain of salt. And remember that since respec is available you can play around with powers and find which ones fit and drop the ones that don’t. In light of this it should be easy for any FF Defender to find a combination that works perfectly for them.

Other Recommendations

Leadership powers:
I highly recommend the use of Leadership powers for any Defender as we provide the most bonuses from them. The use of Maneuvers especially is a great way to add defense buffs to yourself and your team, and I highly recommend taking it and slotting it up. Tactics is another great power for the team. I found that the benefit of Assault to be disappointing and I recommend avoiding it.

Fitness powers:
Just make sure you get Stamina. I don’t care how you do it, just do it…you will thank me.

Speed powers:
I bring this up to answer the “should I get Hasten?” question. I personally say while Hasten is useful, it is not absolutely necessary for FF Defenders as it doesn’t really increase the buffing time. Why not? Because when casting Deflection and Insulation Shields, by the time you cast one on a target, the other has recharged even without Hasten, due to the activation time of each. I suppose you could cast Deflection Shield on all teammates first, and then follow with Insulation Shield, but you will lose time in clicking each target twice as you cast as opposed to clicking each target once and casting both shields. Having said that, Hasten is useful if you often use Detention Shield and Force Bolt, and of course if you like to attack the faster recharge times will be beneficial. Hasten provides a small amount (5%) of self defense which is always an asset. Hasten is also nice to have in the event your toggles are somehow turned off (due to certain psionic attacks, for example) as it will recharge your Dispersion Bubble quickly and lessen the downtime. I went all the way to level 50 without Hasten and had no problem, but if you can work it in to your build I would recommend doing do (especially if you plan to solo).

Self Defense:
I recommend taking some power pools that can provide some form of self defense buffs as two of the Big Three, Deflection and Insulation Shields can not be cast on ourselves, meaning the FF Defender always has less defense than the rest of the team. The Leaping, Stealth, and Fighting power pool sets can all provide ways of increasing your own defense. Just be aware that most of the defensive powers are toggles and so once again endurance management (see below) may be an issue.

Medicine:
Several FF Defenders swear by the medicine pool as a way to heal yourself (or a teammate) in a pinch. If you plan to solo then I would agree. Personally I have never seen the need for the medicine powers given the amount of healers running around, but certainly can’t hurt to have them if you can fit them into your build.

Endurance Management:
This of course is a problem for many characters, and FF Defenders are no exception. For the most part we might only have two or three toggles going at any one time (Dispersion Bubble and Leadership powers most commonly), which are not much of a drain. However, remember that you need to recast the Deflection and Insulation Shields every 4 minutes, and during that time endurance can drop rapidly. It is vitally important that you never let your endurance drop to zero as this will drop Dispersion Bubble and any other toggles, leaving your team (and especially you) vulnerable. I recommend slotting in at least one -END COST enhancement into every FF power and Leadership skills (and other toggles) to fight endurance drain. This of course lowers your overall defense buffing potential, but from experience it is better to forego that in favor of always having enough endurance to continually buff your team, and leave a little left over for attacks (to defend yourself). Endurance hog powers such as Repulsion Field and Force Bubble need to be slotted exclusively with -END COST enhancements for them to be used for any length of time. Of course, a good FF Defender must always read the battlefield and adjust the currently activated powers accordingly to manage endurance and help keep you team alive, but that is all part of the fun of being a Defender.

Thanks to CoH Warcry for hosting this guide. Please keep sending your feedback to me at [email protected] so that I can continue to update the guide.

Bionexus

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