I recently finished leveling up my Druid. She is now level 22. I chose Half-orc as a race, and went STR based.
Past Lives: Fvs (x2), Wiz, Monk
18 STR (all level ups went here)
Had a complete set of +2 Tomes
Toughness, Augment Summoning, Shield Mastery, Natural Fighting, Improved Shield Mastery, Natural Fighting, Improved Critical
Relevant Gear while leveling:
Lit 2 Scimitar
Triple Pos Scimitar w/30% Healing Amp on last tier (So holy + good burst)
Concord Opposition SP GS Goggles
Ooze Guard HP GS Belt
Boots of the Innocent (+5 resistance)
Archmagi Hat switched out for Minos Legens after buffing.
Bloodstone (until I found a Seeker +10 shield)
Since I had no collection of shields or leather armors I just used the best random loot gen I could find. Once I acquired a Rakshasa Hide from Lords of Dust that was my main Armor until epic levels when I acquired a Terrorweb Chitin Breastplate. I mostly used a Seeker +10 shield.
I exclusively melee-d in Wolf form using a shield and a scimitar.
Low level content was a breeze, which was to be expected. I frequently led the kill count or came close. Reaver's Roar is very powerful in content level 12 and under. Levels 1-10 isn't really a challenge to any player who is familiar with the quests and follows even the roughest of leveling plans. The buff to the Wolf companion was not in effect while I was in low level content, that occurred around level 10 or 11.
The real trouble began at level 12 when my melee power stayed static while the DPS of full melee classes greatly increased. From level 12 on I only led the kill count if I was soloing. If I was in a group I was always out performed DPS-wise by either a Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Monk or Wizard, Sorcerer, FVS. Around this time the Druid Preview weekend occurred and coincided with a buff to the Druid's Wolf Companion's DPS. He began hitting for around 70 damage a strike. From the release notes I've seen that this buff is going to be toned down, but from my perspective that isn't really necessary. Even as my own melee DPS stayed static, I would still out perform my Wolf in kills and melee power. The only time my Wolf could out perform me is if I was standing still and didn't attack anything, he moves that slowly.
At level 12 I switched from the Melee-oriented PRE to the Spellcasting PRE. My logic was that I wasn't getting the full benefit of sneak attack damage anyway, and since I was going to be facing a lot of Undead in the desert and the orchard, which are immune to sneak attacks, it would be a better AP investment to go Season's Herald and take the Crown of Summer - which I did.
Crown of Summer & Spring's Resurgence are GREAT enhancements for the Druid. They actually benefit a STR based character more than a WIS based, casting character. It would be nice if these abilities weren't locked into a certain PrE, they are one of the greatest benefits to the class.
Also - the Nature's Warrior enhancement line is supposed to add an extra 1d8 vs. enemies below 50% health. This rarely occurs, and most of the time when it does come up it shows the mob as being "immune" to the extra damage.
At end game, 20+, in eveningstar, I have so far mostly soloed the new quests on Epic Normal. This is mostly due to my play schedule and not having the time to wait for a full group, and I also wanted to explore the quests at my own pace first since they were new to me. While I am able to mow down epic mobs, it takes an awful long time, and feels more like chewing them down rather than mowing them down...
Even with relevant gear and buffs, I consistently only hit for 20-30 damage per swing + magical effects. My critical hits were anywhere from 100-300 damage. This was from level 12 onward...till today...at level 22...where I STILL only hit for 20-30 damage on a regular hit, sometimes if I'm really lucky it goes up to 40-60 per swing, which may be a sneak attack. Best critical hit I got was 1,000~ damage against a Red Named Drow Scorpion in CR 21 Colossal Crystals under the effects of Adrenaline.
At level 22 with Fury of the Wild Epic Destiny + Buffs + Heroic AP enhancements I have a sustainable 50 STR. And I only hit for 20-30 most of the time in wolf form. Is this WAI? If I am in human form my base damage goes up to 70 per swing. The way it is now if a player wants a STR based Druid they are better off going Elemental Form, Season's Herald PRE, and skipping wolf form entirely. This is highly counter-intuitive and doesn't seem to be the intended outcome of the class.
My Suggestion would be to give Druids increase die step for Animal Forms. 1d10 at level 22 with 50 STR is pitiful. It should either be part of a Druid-focused Epic Destiny which will hopefully be released soon, or just make it part of the capstone.
Example: Upon taking the Druid Capstone your base die step in Wolf or Bear form is increased from 1d10 to 2d10.
Tie to the PREs and you get .5(1d10) @ lvl 6, 2(1d10) @ lvl 12, and 2.5(1d10) w/the Capstone.
As has been stated many times, but is worth repeating, the Form-specific Wolf and Bear spells should really be SLA's and not actual spells.
There is also room for a level 9 spell that increases the BAB of the character to that of a Fighter of the same level. Like a nature-themed version of Divine Power.
The Druid would benefit from a Life Magic enhancement line. Clerics, FVS, Bards, Paladins, and even RANGERS all have a Life Magic enhancement line: 20 Devotion Spell Power for 1 AP, with a Max of 80 Spellpower for 4 AP at the fourth tier.
The biggest strength to me is the Druid's ability to heal other players. I was able to solo heal 6-man heroic hard & normal quests no problem. At-level heroic elites were ok until around level 16-17, at which point the damage coming in exceeds the healing going out. I could still pull off being the only healer in the group, but it was much more difficult (specifically in the Harbringer of Madness chain, and DD/IQ elites). The healing over time effects of Greater Vigor & Regenerate have a hard time against high burst damage. Spot healing w/the Heal spell is great but any and every healer knows that Masses are the way to go to keep your party up. Unfortunately the only Masses the Druid gets don't quite cut it when they are needed most.
The situations where the Druid's healing ability really shines is when the Druid is providing back-up heals to a primary healer Cleric or FVS. I haven't yet tried a Druid-Bard healing combo, which may also be successful and quite powerful with the right players.
Spring's Resurgence was literally a lifesaver in the mid levels, though the duration seems a bit short. In a perfect world it would have a Permanent Duration. It takes a long time to cast it on 11 other players before a raid Boss Fight and then spam it again 5 minutes later. If a permanent duration seems overpowered it could even have a 5 minute Duration at level 12 and then gain an additional 1 minute per 2 caster levels afterwards.
Solo-healing a raid as a Druid is going to be nearly impossible without any Mass cure/heal. Mass regenerate will not provide enough damage mitigation to allow a Druid to solo or primary heal a difficult Raid. I don't even foresee 2 Druids being able to heal raids either. It's in the realm of possibility, but falls closer to "more trouble than what its worth" rather than "totally doable."
I really enjoy playing a Character who can provide heals and do not want to be a Blade Barrier machine. The Druid could be a competent healer with a few minor tweaks.
SOLUTION: Mass Cure Moderate Wounds & Life Magic enhancements.
The scroll for this spell is available in House K, and lists as it requirements for use a Level 15 Druid, yet the spell is not on the Druid Spell List. Please consider adding this to the Druid Spell List. It would make the class much more useful in groups and more pleasant to play.
Life Magic Enhancements. Worth repeating.
From the get-go I wanted to play a Melee-focused Druid and wasn't very interested in Casting offensive spells. There are a few things of note:
The AP cost for Spell Power enhancements on Druids is too high and out of balance. I can appreciate the developers wanting to ensure the class wasn't over powered but this feels more like an intentional handicap gone awry. Spell power enhancements cost twice as much but deliver half the effect of the other classes. Tieing 2 elements together is a bit clumsy when trying to build your character.
Please give us Life Magic enhancements.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, form-specific spells should be SLA's rather than spells. They should also all be given the same spell school so players who want to focus on one form over another can so successfully.
For Example: The Wolf form
Your main wolf spells are: Takedown (Innate Attack), Baiting Bite (Innate Attack), Jaws of Winter (Evocation), Howl of Terror (Enchantment), Snowslide (evocation).
Jaws of Winter, which does 6[W] + a chance to freeze the target, has an Evocation Save. If the Target makes the save, he not only isn't frozen solid but takes NO damage from the attack. Many a time I've cast this (and by many a time I mean always when I'm fighting) and I have seen "Save + # + # + #" with the #'s being damage from lightning, good, etc.
So we have 3 different schools across 5 spells. Worse things have happened, but its still annoying.
The Wolf Companion
The Wolf pet was one of the biggest selling points to me. I was always a little jealous of Artificers and their Iron Dogs but have no attraction to the mechanical aesthetic.
The Wolf, in reality, is not a great boon to the class.
I consistently had my Wolf summoned in almost every quest as I leveled up as I wanted to test his abilities.
He attacks very slowly. Very slowly. He is also quite fond of intimidating everything around him, thus drawing lots of aggro, and dieing quickly. He does this even without Wolf intimidate trained and going Full sneak-attack + evasion line. WAI?
Even with Augment Summoning, my wolf shows as having 0% Fortification in the character sheet, which may or may not be a display bug. If I equip him with Moderate Fortification, it goes up to 100%, and if I equip him with Heavy Fortification, he stays at 100%.
The wolf is only useful in low level content. Once I got into Gianthold he died so frequently it was like having a -10% SP pot active. I had to either ignore him and let him die or waste SP keeping him alive. I stubbornly kept him summoned in almost every quest (with the exclusion of raids) because I was steadfast in my desire to see how he performed at all levels of content.
The Wolf also has a Howl enhancement which is supposed to do STR damage to the targets in hearing distance as well as provide a movement speed debuff. I've seen my wolf Howl a lot, but haven't yet seen a mob under the effects of his howl debuff. I'm not sure if this is a display bug or just a bug-bug. Examined mobs show no Howl debuff upon examination.
In Epic content I would have both my Wolf and my Onyx Panther companion active at the same time. The Onyx Panther, even though he has less HP than my wolf, is far more survivable and powerful. This is probably by design on the part of the Onyx Panther's strength, but the Wolf is weak at mid game and very weak at end game.
His greatest asset is hitting levers, switches, or runes.
In Conclusion or TL/DR
While leveling up the class I was frequently frustrated by design mechanics (listed above in their relevant sections) that seemed to be in place as intentional handicaps to prevent the class from being over powered. The Druid may have been designed to be a jack of all trades, master of none, but Bard did that first and does it better. As of this writing the Druid is a pay to play class, and the most expensive of all pay to play classes at 1495TP. It does not warrant such a high price tag.