With the Viking Conquest developers' generous release of their source code, we can engage in a full strategic analysis of the traits system (trait effects are contained in module_mission_templates.py and multi_scripts.py, acquisition of traits is in module_simple_triggers.py and module_game_menus.py).
- Inspiring, enables warcry, +5% damage bonus to entire player army and any allies (it does not affect morale, contrary to past online speculation)
- Tough, enables shield taunt, +10% movement speed to entire player army and any allies
- Strong, enables shield taunt, -5% damage penalty to entire enemy army (it affects the enemy troops, that is how it simulates better armor)
- Berserker, effect is player only, for a limited time he gets +25% damage, +10% movement speed bonus, -50% accuracy, -50% reload penalties. Shortly afterwards he becomes exhausted, and gets -40% damage and -30% movement speed penalties until recovery.
Yes, Berserker is terrible in Vanilla Viking Conquest. VC Balance Mod makes it a lot better, because this guy deserves to be feared:
All abilities take effect the moment you press T. The code cycles through units and sets them to the appropriate modifier.
You have to press T to activate them, but they should work even if the player is solo. They do apply to help the player, as well as his whole army (except for berserker). It does not matter if no unit actually does the animation--the animation is irrelevant, pressing T applies the bonus.
And as far as I can tell, you only have to do it once, it lasts the whole battle (except for berserker, and unless something else overwrites the relevant modifier, the only thing I can think of outside AI lords is if one of your berserkers or ulfhedin activates berserk, then tires, you could snap them out of one aspect of the exhausted state by activating inspiring or tough again, but that would be impossible to usefully time really). But if reinforcements arrive, you have to activate it again if you want it to apply to them.
AI Lord Versions
AI Lords have a weaker version of two of the above traits:
- AI warcry: +3% damage bonus to AI army
- AI shield taunt: +6% movement speed bonus to AI army
Important Note: The player Strong shield taunt and the AI warcry overwrite each other. Meaning if the player does his Strong shield taunt after the AI lord, it should completely erase the AI damage bonus, and set all his units to only doing 95% damage. Conversely, if the player activates Strong before the AI warcry, that will overwrite the effect of the player's trait and the AI units will have the same 103% damage modifier. So the player is best served by activating his ability after the AI lord, or activating it a second time at that point, even if it is taking advantage of what appears to be an accidental programing oversight, because the only alternative is to let the player ability be overwritten.
Ranking and obtaining the traits
Ranking of traits, from most to least powerful: Strong is the most powerful, Inspiring is a close 2nd, Tough is a very distant third, and Berserker is a clear last.
If the day is 21 or later, and the player is level 13 or higher, then the player is eligible to receive a trait, and it will be granted within a couple of days based on player skills.
Important Note: Oddly, the below checks seem to all use the player's modified skill after equipment penalties, not the base ability. This is very important given how both powerstrike, and especially athletics, are reduced by heavy armor.
For example, here is a character's skills when wearing heavy armor, helmet, and shield, take a look at all the red skills:
And here is the same character without the penalties, with much higher numbers in the same skills that determine which trait you get:
Let's analyze in detail:
Strongest Trait: Strong's Shield Taunt
This is the clear winner for pure usefulness. First, it cancels half of AI Lords' special battle abilities, and the only ability they have that is actually very useful. Second, even small damage changes are very powerful, as a 5% base damage decrease can easily represent a 10-20% decrease in actual damage after armor soaking occurs. Third, the player army is likely to have better average armor than opponents given the proportion of higher level units most players use, so a damage penalty to opponents is better than a damage bonus to player army, because the extent of armor soaking will generally be more dramatic, and so it results in a higher effective damage difference than inspiring' bonus to player army damage.
How to obtain: If ironflesh is greater than (NOT including equal to) all of powerstrike, athletics, and leadership.
2nd Place: Inspiring's Warcry
This is the second most powerful trait available. As explained earlier, a 5% boost to base damage will create a much greater boost to effective damage after armor soaking. Moreover, if a player uses a non-typical army (say, a pict or irish force heavy on skirmishers), Inspiring may even challenge Strong as the best trait, because of the importance of increasing offensive power during missile barrages.
How to obtain: If player powerstrike is less than leadership, and leadership is greater than or equal to athletics and ironflesh.
Note: While generally only second best, it is almost as good as Strong, and is my personal favorite. The warcry cheering animation is great fun to see as you ride back and forth in front of your troops! Also, since Strong's ability to cancel the trait of AI lords is likely a programming oversight, one might prefer to pick a trait that doesn't take advantage of it.
Besides, don't your huscarls deserve a damage boost?
A distant 3rd place: Tough's Shield Taunt
This is the second to worst trait. If it increased weapon swing speed, it would be amazing, but it does not increase swing speed (neither does Agility by the way, despite that being a popular myth among Warband players). Movement speed is of limited use to your army, as the AI has difficulty taking advantage of it. It is still pretty good considered in isolation--but it simply can't compete with the power of a base damage increase or decrease, because of how armor soaking magnifies that effect.
How to obtain: If player powerstrike and leadership are less than athletics, and athletics is greater than or equal to ironflesh.
Note: This is by far the least likely for the player to accidentally obtain. Athletics skill is heavily reduced by heavy armor, if the player has the option enabled for equipment modifiers, and most players will be wearing heavy armor.
Weakest Trait: Berserker
This is clearly the worst trait available, and its usefulness is confined to special niche conditions, like chasing down the last enemy, when the player has usually already won. Since the berserk is so short in time, and the penalty during exhaustion is about twice as large as the bonus, it becomes very dangerous to use. Most importantly, a trait that only affects the player alone would need to be very powerful to compete with the whole-army effects of other traits, and using berserker generally hurts the player more than it helps.
Even a player who relies heavily on personal combat would be better off choosing Strong or Inspiring for the much safer whole-battle damage effect.
How to obtain: If player powerstrike is greater than or equal to all of leadership, athletics, and ironflesh.
VC Balance Mod 8.0, available for download here at ModDB, has a much more powerful berserker trait (player only, lasts whole-battle, +10% damage, +30% movement speed). Even with those changes it is still generally worse than Strong and Inspiring, given how powerful whole-army effects are, but it makes it fun to roleplay a berserker.