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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!


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 29th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
I thought the concept they had for melee healers were awesome, and I've seen a lot of DoKs go to work and it's pretty impressive. I'm used to healers with the same problems as the run-of-the-mill glass cannon mages, not someone who can stand in a fight and tear ya' up.

Another thing that pleases me about WAR is that while there are direct correlations between a few of the classes some of the classes just get odd and do their own thing. The White Lion and Squig Herder kind of operate in their own little worlds, especially when Squiggy gets Sguig Armor (where the gobbo jumps inside a giant squig a la Luke Skywalker and rides it around in melee combat). While some folks may gripe about realm balancing, I like the asymettrical balance if you can pull it off.
Sep. 29th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
>I'm used to healers with the same problems as the run-of-the-mill glass cannon mages,

The thing about that is that it doesn't work well in PvP games. Invariably, a vulnerable healer gets flattened the second that PvP begins, making them useless. With the PvP that WAR apparently has going on, its necessary to make the healers hold their own - and dealing damage jus makes them capable of soloing, unlike the pure support classes in some games that are tied to teams.
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
I think another thing inherent (and beautiful) about WAR is the slower pace of death when it comes to 1 on 1 encounters except against the squishiest of classes. In WoW if you had a Shaman proc a lucky Windfury on you, you were pretty much toast. In this it takes a series of fortunate events or ganging up on someone to take them down quickly. Even that is abated by a lot of the team abilities present in the game. Guard is pretty fantastic for that. I've seen tanks that actually end up tanking entire opposing offenses (because they're stupid enough to hit them when they have a supporting healer or two).
Sep. 29th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
Seems to me they are all hybrids. Meaning, they are 'forcing' everyone to do what is usually a bad idea in other MMOs, simply because non-hybrids will do any one job much better. I can see the appeal.
Sep. 29th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
Less like hybrids, and more like specialists with additional utility thrown on top.

For example, my Ironbreaker. Basic tank duties, check. Tanks as well as my WoW warrior did, or my WoW druid. But in addition to just holding the big PvE monster's attention, I get utility work to do. My attacks mostly buff me (boost to strength, toughness, willpower, etc) but they also buff my Oathfriend. I pick one person, make them my Oathfriend, and if they get attacked, I build up Grudges (which boost my DPS and debuffing) at twice the speed I get it if I'm attacked. Or Guard, I get 35% of the hate they generate and take half their damage, just as if I were being attacked. My attacks that don't buff me, most of those generate debuffs on my target. Or Crowd Control work - like knocking the target off its feet so it can't attack, or sending it flying away from the fight temporarily or snaring.

I never feel like I'm just bashing away, like I did on my WoW warrior. Tanking as a feral druid was boring, really, compared to this. If I'm the 'off-tank' then I can effectively help my main tank directly, by making them my Oathfriend, while Guarding the healer. Or in PvP, when paired with my other half's Rune Priest, I just Oathfriend/Guard her and we are a really really annoying target. Imagine, actually tanking in PvP.

The other classes (I've sampled most) have that same vibe. Specialists with additional utility, rather than the hybrid vibe (I get to do things 2 or more specialists do but I suck at all of them in comparison.) Admittedly some of them feel more utility and less specialist (Engineers).
Sep. 29th, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
The sad reality is that some of those classes are almost certainly destined for the nerf bat. Sometimes that will be fine, but often it will be done so as to take away the very point in playing the class.

Still, with a semi-unconventional class setup like this, steering clear of offical forums may be a good thing - it means that the masses can't bitch and whine about how the classes aren't exactly the same as every other game, how this confuses and sickens them and how Mythic should just make a more gothic WoW and be happy, rather than doing things differently.
Sep. 29th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
Having never played any game in this class, I have nothing to really contribute; but I want to say that I find it interesting to read about how an expert in one game (with general design opinions) is reacting to trying a new game, even though these games aren't particular an area of interest for me.
Sep. 30th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
I've been wanting a high-survivability, good DPS healer class ever since the MMO genre was invented.

WoW Paladins? WoW Shamen?

For that matter you could probably do something pretty effective in CoH with an Ill/Rad or an Ill/Therm and 6-slot both the AoE heal and Aid Other. Or for real survivability Bots or Thugs/Dark, 6-slot both Howling Twilight and Aid Other and wander around in Bodyguard mode to split any damage on you several ways. Fire/Kins also aren't known to be complete glass cannons (well, they are if the enemy can bring their force to bear - the point of Fire is that they can't). In any of these cases you're looking at a 22% area heal and a 44% single target heal every four seconds after 6-slotting. Not bad healing at all.

Or for absurdist healing while being able to solo, Ill/Emp. You need four powers to solo an illusionist - Blind, Spectral Wounds, one Invis, and the Phantom Army. You don't get hit much and carry your own tank in a pocket with you. And Empathy is the best healing set in the game.
Sep. 30th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
My only level 50 hero is an Illusion Control/Kinetics controller for just this reason. But you could never PvP it, since controllers have almost no hit points, and no mez protection.
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
D+D classes on to something?
The standard book on military tracking tells you to use a fire team of 1)tracker in front, 2) and 3)a couple riflemen covering him, 4) radio guy or EMT.

Theif, two fighters, magic-user or cleric. Pedantic D+D ripoff.

Or- Chainmail was a long time ago, but- they were trying to do small unit Strategy & Tactics. Job Done!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:05 am (UTC)
I wouldn't agree about the Runepriest/Zealot. I've got some stuff I can do sure, the zealot has a little more with his harbinger, but bottom line is I heal and then I heal some more. Which is not a bad thing, but I'm not a debuffer. Rotation looks like this.

Instant HoT > 1 second HoT > Bouncing HoT > Instant HoT > Shield > 1 second HoT > Bouncing HoT > Instant HoT > AP Debuff > 1 second HoT > Bouncing HoT > Instant HoT > Big Heal > Big Heal > 1 second HoT > Bouncing HoT > Instant HoT > 1 second HoT > Bouncing HoT > Instant HoT > 1 second HoT > Bouncing HoT > Ap Debuff > Shield
Oct. 2nd, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
Hmm. I thought there was a debuffing rune that was equivalent to the Harbinger, but I just double-checked WarDB, and I'm wrong.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
The engineer gets something just like it at 30 called Signal Flare. It's a mark that he can put over their head that DOTs the target and reduces their chance to dodge or block attacks by 5%.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 09:37 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for this writeup. I also love what Mythic did with the traditional classes and how amazingly well they work in PvP and PvE. I feel that finally people are starting to realize the huge potential of their chars just by thinking a little out of the box. Playing a BO myself and coming from a WoW DefTank Background I can't stress enough how well thought through the class is. Guard is especially a very usefull skill, effectively doubling the health pool of your designated healer or a melee DPS in trouble.
Pair that with how well taunts work in PvP and you have a whole new level to playing as a meatshield. I just love it when some DPSer thinks it's a good idea to attack the melee next to me. Quick Guard on my friend doubling his health, taunt the bad guy, which reduced his damage output and increases my already impressive DPS and, since up until now nobody seems to care for taunts in PvP, he is down in no time.
I can't wait to find out all the neat little tools all the other classes offer.

also: WAAAGH!
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
I love my Dwarf engineer, Huffledoom Thunderpants.
Apr. 9th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
I like this game.
thomas maximus

I still think Warhammer is way better then WoW but the numbers do not seem to show it. I wonder if it is because Warhammer does not seem to be advertised as much as Warcraft.

Warhammer Gold (http://mymmoshop.com/buy/warhammer-online-us/gold/index.php)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )