Healers are pretty powerful in WildStar. Without one you can die easily, with one you can feel like a god. There isn’t a game in the genre that hasn’t felt like this (with the exception of Guild Wars 2, though the Guardian fulfills that difference) and WildStar is definitely no exception. Fortunately for us, Carbine have provided some basic methods of healing for tanks and allowed the “healers” to prosper as damage dealers, despite their pigeon hole.
What's been on my mind recently when it comes to healers, in a PvP environment, is just how powerful they are and how difficult they are to kill. Although much tougher in lower level PvP brackets (6-29), the question I’ve been asking myself is:
1. Should players be able to kill healers in 1 on 1 situations?
2. If not, how many players should it take to kill a healer?
It isn’t easy to answer either of these questions as balancing out the need for a healer across PvP and PvE is a slippery slope. Reduce the potency of heals too much and players will overcompensate the amount of healers they bring to a raid or party. Make healing too powerful and healers become a crutch for all players and content. Admittedly healers and tanks should be mandatory for some content (notably raids in WildStar) and they should, to some degree, tip the scale in favour of a team in the likes of Battlegrounds or Warplots. What I dislike however is when healers tip the balance so heavily that to not have one places teams at a too greater disadvantage.
The randomness of Battlegrounds, unless you’re a pre-made group, has often seen teams composed of several setups: no healers, too many or something just right. Inevitably that is the random nature of queuing for hot-join matches, but what I've always found is that when in matches that take place with no healers, the probability of winning slips away rapidly. Unsurprisingly, to mask carry in Walatiki Temple with no dedicated healer is near impossible and to mask carry with them results in an inability (as the defending team) to retrieve the mask, especially when more than one healer is carrying the mask.
The fundamental problem is the fact that a healer heavy team or a balanced team has an enormous advantage over everyone else. During the last Beta weekend friends and I (a 10 man pre-made) dominated every single Battleground, irrespective of map. Admittedly our primary advantage was in communication and team work, but what really makes a huge difference is the fact that it’s impossible to lose a mask or a control point when healing bombardments commence. Although this discussion isn’t linked solely to Walatiki Temple (though it does serve as a great way to example the power of healing) and as mentioned above is worse in lower PvP brackets, I feel there needs to be a solution to limit, in some way, healing potential.
In a 1 on 1 scenario, it’s physically impossible to kill a skilled healer. I’d consider myself a competent player across a couple of classes and having tested heavily last weekend, there was no way I could kill an Esper, Medic or Spellslinger healing themselves, even if they stood still. Regardless of the opposing class and regardless of how low the healers focus got, they’d survive. Frustratingly, if the healer equipped a single damage skill it’d be more than enough to kill any opponent through nothing more than attrition. I think the biggest drawback to this is the fact that not only does it place healers at an advantage over everyone else (there really is no fear of roaming or being “jumped” as a healer) but also forces other classes who are DPS focused to equip a heal in the event they encounter these attrition based builds. As to whether or not a healer should be killable in a 1 on 1 scenario, I’m really not sure. On one hand if they can’t harm you and you can’t kill them, there's no issue. On the other hand, if they are attrition based and have just 1 damage orientated skill equipped, you might as well run. To answer the second question of: "If not, how many players should it take to kill a healer?"; again I'm not sure. I’d like to say 2 if highly skilled DPS players, 3 if moderately skilled, otherwise we’ll find ourselves in Guild Wars 2's Guardian territory where bunker builds dominate.
There are skills in WildStar which neuter healing potential to the point where healing received is at least halved. Unfortunately these skills are few and their cooldowns moderate (around 10 seconds). Sadly these skills are only accessible by the Engineer, Warrior and Stalker which further restricts team potential to cripple healing. Damage orientated Espers, Spellslingers and Medics don’t have the luxury of such attacks. Deep Wound and Mortal Strike in Guild Wars and World of Warcraft, respectively, were mandatory within a PvE and PvP environment. Cutting a player's maximum health or healing pressured dedicated healers and made their life difficult. A skilled healer could survive the onslaught, but they’d likely lack the mana to keep fighting if they weren’t careful.
I think what WildStar needs is to reduce the reliance on healers (marginally), to extend Wound based skills to the Esper, Spellslinger and Medic, but to also increase the Focus cost of healing. I’ve played a healing Medic and Spellslinger for a good while when my friends were in need and I could probably count on two fingers the amount of times I’ve run out of Focus and even then it didn’t stop me from still healing exceptionally well. I feel there needs to be a real emphasis on tactically using heals as opposed to spamming them (as it seems the majority of players do at the moment) but also to ensure that more players pickup Focus recovery skills because they seem so rarely used outside of a raid environment.
To return back to the Battleground environment, in matches such as Walatiki Temple or Halls of the Bloodsworn I think the mask carrier or individual on a control point (or near one) should receive a debuff that slowly erodes their healing received. PvP needs to level out the chances of success for teams not fortunate enough to have a healer or two and teams overly reliant on their healing prowess need to be placed under more pressure. I’m not suggesting that we beat healers into the ground, but when they’re near invincible in 1 on 1’s (even when Wounded) and are capable of tipping the scales of PvP so heavily, I can’t help but think they need to be reigned in a little. As for a raid environment, adjusting Focus costs wouldn’t be too damaging though it would inevitably make encounters much more difficult: is that a bad thing?