FULL REVIEW (SPOILERS)
So I finished the play-through on Cataclysm and I liked it much better because 2x fireball won't come close to solving your problems with +200% enemy HP (difficulty setting).
It was great to see a couple of horde battles, where your team really is fighting for its life (on Cataclysm). Multiple times, on the first play-through, before I knew the extent, location, details, etc. of each battle, I found myself fighting for my life. I did standard stat roll (very good stats can be achieved this way) and min/maxed the crap out of my party, focusing on survival, defense, and cc. Also, entered at level 6 (level range was 5-7), and never leveled in the module. Some highlights were:
1) For the orc goblin/battle, I had the entire party falling back on my cleric, who literally "dodged" the entire time while keeping Spirit Guardian active, while my shield-wall of melee-focused companions, ground down the enemies and performed spot healing. It was truly an adrenalin-fueled session, and I estimated there were 2,000+ HP to overcome in the orc/goblin battle.
2) The badlands-wraiths battle was a nightmare the first time I ran it, because my lightning-cleric decided to Misty Step to a chest (unaware, until later, you could walk around to the same location) and triggered the wraith-fight separated from my party (haste makes waste... not the spell, just stupidity). Ranged combat support was greatly reduced in effectiveness with all the resistances of the wraiths (fire, non-magic attacks, necro, etc.) and it was a costly battle that drained the team of spells, scrolls, resources, etc. I finished the battle and it would have been more impactful if we weren't able to rest again (more on that later). Still, great fun.
3) The priest/temple battle was a bloody good affair, because no amount of raw-AOE-damage was going to kill the bosses (110-198 HP each). However, crowd control (cc), was the key to victory. I'm not talking just AOE cc, I'm talking everything we had (blindness, hold person, charm, etc.) to keep the mobs tied up for as long as possible. With the mobs gaining +3 on Saves and on To-hit (cataclysm), this was a cluster, but not insurmountable.
I surprised the mobs and threw Hypnotic Pattern... Maybe I hit 40% of the mobs (with saves). Rinse and repeat the second round on Hypnotic Pattern. Kept my wizard blurred, while chucking charm, hold, etc., while my cleric dodged (and bonus action healed the party!). What was amazing, was I didn't have enough raw-damage output to finish many of the mobs before Hypnotic Pattern dropped (never happened before)! Also, on cataclysm, enemy damage is +150%, so when they hit, especially on crits (20), it is devastating, requiring massive healing, lay-on-hands, second-wind... heck, I was using triple-targeted Aid on a single character to keep them alive... I didn't even know that was possible (thought it was only a multi-person buff), but desperation created creativity. To be fair, if I knew what I was up against, I could have prepped some potions/spells better, but it was more exciting facing the unknown face-first. In the end, I managed no one to drop, without reloading, but I had nothing left in the tank (maybe 2-3 spells left from everyone, no lay-on-hands remaining, second wind spent, no special abilities left, etc.).
Overall, the highest challenge I've had in Solasta and the most exciting (measured by rise in blood pressure and tactical thinking). I believe that battle to be impossible without cc. I tried again with Spirit Guardian tactic, combined with damage spells, and we were soundly defeated. Great battles and mood (for no voice acting or cut scenes), just wish we had a true boss battle, but maybe when the game is completed and the full library of mobs is available. Good job overall, thank you!
1) More weapons and armor (not even magical) at the start (in the chest). If you focus on weapons and armor in feats/backgrounds (lvl 5+), I found myself making some tough decisions.
2) Too much resting available. I definitely needed a rest between the Orc and Priest battles, but wraiths and spider battles (once I figured out the map) would have been more interesting with just the starting resources (to be fair, the player can enforce a one-rest restriction).
3) Once the module starts, more magic weapons should be discovered, of different varieties (some starting magic weapons, and armor, were useless for a martial-focused party).
3) Would have loved a final-final battle, where the dark-god's champions are summoned in the next room (after a long rest...), composed of Paladin, Priest, Priest, and Wiz, throwing some hideous spells (and countering spells). Not sure if this option is even available from the editor, but one day would like to see a group of three level-8 casters and a paladin (fully buffed and kitted-out with items) on deadly AI. Depending upon surprise, counters, and saving throws, the battle could end in a defeat, with only two turns. The masochist in me :)
Thanks again, it was great fun for a rainy afternoon!