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Wild About Class Roles

Posted Tue, Oct 22, 2013 by Lewis B

WildStar in recent weeks has well and truly caught my attention. Having played it at Eurogamer I thoroughly enjoyed it, but didn't love it.

I detailed my reasons as to why I didn't (notably the quest structure and lack of combat feedback). Despite this, I find all my free-time is spent over on the active and surprisingly civilized WildStar Reddit.

WildStar screenshot

I think my interest in WildStar has peaked recently after completing all that Guild Wars 2 has to offer. For anyone who has yet to play Guild Wars 2, it's end-game content (unlike games such as World of Warcraft) doesn't involve raids, but the following:

1. Dungeons
2. Fractals of the Mists
3. Grind for a Legendary Weapon
4. Level alternative characters
5. Champion Farming
6. World versus World
7. Structured PvP
8. Achievement Unlocks

WildStar screenshot

You might consider that list, for an MMOG, is quite lengthy. However, the vast majority of it is skill-less, incredibly easy, devoid of tactics or completed in little time (first time) many levels before you reach “cap”. Perhaps I'm from a generation that wants to be challenged, but there is nothing in Guild Wars 2 that offers that. I suspect much of the issue though doesn't necessarily stem from the content itself (it is all a lot of fun) but from its complete lack of class definition and class structure.

With WildStar we now find ourselves going backwards (in a good way) to classes that have specific roles, despite the flavour of the month in the genre being very much about dismantling such roles. Although these classes are still a little looser than the genre staple (most classes can heal themselves in one way or another) it's quite telling that Carbine are willing to buck the current industry trend and revert to what the majority are used to.

The primary reason why I feel that a holy trinity is needed is after many hours spent missing it. As noted above and as an originally staunch advocate of the abolition of the holy trinity, it's more than evident than ever that strategy and coordination go out the window as a result of this lost trio. In its place, the only successful approach to content, in games such as Guild Wars 2, is to throw bodies at an encounter in order to overcome it. There isn't a single boss or encounter in the game where this doesn't work.

WildStar screenshot

The result of this class “evolution” is a distinct limitation on boss and encounter designs (no taunts, everyone can heal, everyone can revive) as it leaves no room, from a developer perspective, to play with class mechanics in order to make end-game content more difficult. In any high end raid it is wonderful to see the need for classes and roles, to truly work together, in order to overcome a particularly difficult boss. There is no better way to encourage friendship and close relationships with those you play alongside than through a raid.

Carbine are brave to approach an MMOG in this way (at this point in time) but they've also been smart. The traditional holy trinity was fraught with issues, the primary one being the complete reliance on healers and tanks. By allowing players to heal fixes one core problem (soloing) but they haven't dismantled core roles and role tools (taunts and big heals) to achieve it. Add to this the ability to dodge, sprint and double jump, supported by clearly defined telegraphs and there is an unquestionable recipe for exciting boss and raid encounters.

Based on this I don't believe the holy trinity ever needed changing, I just believe movement mechanics did. Thank goodness Carbine realised and dared to be different by building on the past instead of dismantling it entirely.


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