J. Brad Hicks (bradhicks) wrote,
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WAR: Fascinating Character Classes

In the interest of time, yesterday I left out the other thing that I did turn out to be wrong about with respect to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I predicted a week or so ago that I would find the character classes entirely boring, because by Mythic's own description, they're only thinly reskinned versions of the same four generic character classes that have been in every computerized D&D ripoff since Nethack. Here's the way they describe them on their own website:

Order:Tank Melee DPS Ranged DPS Support
Empire *** Witch Hunter Bright Wizard Warrior Priest
High Elves Swordmaster White Lion Shadow Warrior Archmage
Dwarves Ironbreaker *** Engineer Runepriest
Destruction: Tank Melee DPS Ranged DPS Support
Chaos Chosen Marauder Magus Zealot
Dark Elves *** Witch Elf Sorcerer Disciple of Khaine
Greenskins Black Orc *** Squig Herder Shaman

(For non-gamers: "Tank" means very high armor, very high hit points, no damage output, designed to be the first one through the door, the one to absorb the punishment. Nickname: "meatshield." DPS is the acronym for "damage per second," the characters that actually kill things. "Melee DPS" means medium armor, good damage, has to chase things to kill them. "Ranged DPS" means high damage, long range, no armor, few hitpoints, because otherwise it's not fair to the people who have to chase their targets. Nickname: "glass cannon." "Support" can mean someone who buffs friendly targets, debuff enemy targets, slows or stops or mesmerizes enemy targets, but what it usually means to most players, if not game designers, is "healer." The roles marked with three asterisks aren't done yet in WAR, waiting for some indefinite future expansion.)

Now the part that the pre-release materials, and even the game's own documentation, fails to get across is this: all of the above is total squig excrement. Those are rotten descriptions of Warhammer character classes. They can kind of fill in those roles if you're unimaginative, but really, those are at best horribly incomplete explanations of what they do. The website goes into more detail, but uses a ton of undefined terms and vague hand-waving on the assumption that "you'd rather have the fun of figuring it out for yourself," but that doesn't do a very good job of explaining to you why you'd want to play Warhammer Online, why the character classes are the most interesting I've seen yet in an MMO. Let me expand on the work of an excellent Warhammer Online blog, The Greenskin, and give my breakdown of what the actual character classes are:

  • Tanker/AoE Support: These characters are meat shields, yes, but they also have one or more "auras" they can run at the same time that debuff enemies and buff friends: Chosen, and the missing Empire tank class.
  • Tanker/Partner: These characters are meat shields, but specifically they give their highest bonuses to, and receive bonuses from, any one other player that they're teamed with: Ironbreaker, and the missing Dark Elf tank class.
  • Tanker/DPS: Heavy armor, reasonable ability to attract incoming fire, but they do better than average damage for a tanker in exchange for some intentional complexity: they have to fire their attacks in a specific order. One from column A, then one from column B, then one from column C, or they can't attack for a longish delay: Swordmaster, Black Orc.
  • Melee Summoner: Good melee damage, light armor, but has a melee-using pet to "tank" for them: White Lion.
  • Melee DPS w/Ranged Finishing Move: Just like a traditional melee character, but every 6th attack they can fire a ranged attack with ridiculously good damage: Witch Hunter.
  • Melee Glass Canon: Insanely high melee damage, medium hit points, almost no armor, combination of run speed buffs (for themselves) and snares (for enemies) so they can hit and run, hit and run. Insanely lethal in short fights, insanely dangerous in long ones: Marauder, Witch Elf.
  • Ranged DPS/Modal: An excellent, lightly armored ranged attacker with a special "trick" that lets them "change modes" into a run-and-gun skirmisher with slightly better armor or even a mediocre melee DPS character: Shadow Hunter, Squig Herder.
  • Ranged DPS/Suicidal: A traditional glass cannon, only more so; if they try to "max out" their damage per second, they run an increasingly high chance of blowing themselves up. Pair one with a healer that's dedicated just to them, and as long as the healer lasts, they're 100% insane artillery: Bright Wizard, Sorcerer.
  • Ranged DPS/Turret: Slightly better armor than an average ranged character, mediocre melee attack, but they do about 25% less damage unless they have time to set up a "turret" and make targets fight them in it's range and line of sight: Engineer, Magus.
  • Healer/Nuker: After every 5 heals, they get an insane damage nuke. Or after every 5 mediocre ranged attacks in a row, they get one insanely good heal. Yes, including self heal: Archmage, Shaman.
  • Buffer/Debuffer: Has some heals, but specializes in custom-buffing every member of their team, and debuffing the holy heck out of one enemy at a time, and eventually anybody near that enemy: Runepriest, Zealot.
  • Melee Healer: Instead of using traditional endurance to power their heals (and one of their best melee attacks), they build up a secondary endurance pool just from dealing melee damage. They also get pretty good armor, and way better than average damage per second. That's right, if they target their heals at themselves, it's a healer who can tank: Warrior Priest, Disciple of Khaine.
See? Not the same old four generic character classes, but twelve of them, and none of them based more than loosely on traditional (boring) MMO character classes. And what's more, each and every one of them has not one, but two distinct combat roles to play, that they ideally need to shift between on the fly as the tide of the game swings one way, then the other, or as various characters on their teams get knocked down and the rest of the team has to try to adjust.

And I have to tell you, after trying almost everything, I am deeply in love with my melee healers. I love having a character whose job it is to keep other players alive, but I like being able to solo myself, including the ability to take a bunch of hits when things go south. I've been wanting a high-survivability, good DPS healer class ever since the MMO genre was invented. So add this to the list of reasons I'm probably staying in Warhammer Online. WAAAGH!
Tags: mmorpg, warhammer online
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