Next on my list of highly anticipated games that doesn't feature a lightsaber is Guild Wars 2. Like TERA, GW2 is another rich looking game that somehow manages to look lightyears better than Old Republic without the 300 million dollars of bloat. In fact, it's subscription and cash shop free if you can wrap your head around it, making it all but impossible not to at least display a modicum of interest in the upcoming MMO.
There have been a few changes since the last iteration of Guild Wars; most of them being good. There is the enhanced focus on a persistent MMO world instead of fully instanced gameplay, for example. There have also been a couple of controversial changes that prevent me from dropping the pre-order dollars outright, and those are mainly the decision to de-emphasies the healer and tank roles.
This is how we Role. Or not.
The rationale is simple, according to Arenanet. De-emphasising these two traditionally critical roles does two primary things for Guild Wars gameplay: First, it eliminates the Looking For Group bottleneck centered around these two classes. I personally can't count haow many times I've waited hours for a PUG healer to come along just to play through a critical instance, let alone a competent tank who knows what a shield is.
"I can tanka with mah 2h!"
Dumbass. The second thing Arenanet is hoping to accomplish is teamwork through damage prevention. Instead of a central tank being healed up by a specialist as damage is taken, the focus is on mob control and damage supression. Effectively there are only two professions in Guild Wars 2 according to this setup: DPS and Control, regardless of the flavor. Like every company with a gimmick Arenanet is insisting theirs is "the game changer", but is it really?
It's easy to conceed that eliminating the two classes in question would undoubtably remove the quinticential instancing bottleneck that most MMOs invariably face with dedicated healers and tanks. The question then revolves around the entire concept of damage prevention and whether it's as feasible as Guild Wars would like you to believe. When it comes down to it, removing those two classes puts everybody on an equal footing in terms of need. If anything, it's probably the biggest flaw in most every other MMO out there: Twenty flavors of DPS and barely a handful of mission critical roles, meaning that if you're, say, a rogue in WoW, you have a snowflakes chance in hell of getting an instance slot unless you're part of a guild.
With the GW2 setup, there's no reason to exclude anybody based on the need for a critical slot and this is perhaps the greatest argument in favor of the de-emphasis of healers and tanks. On the other hand, you're not special and I think that fact gets largely ignored in the push for party equality.
You are not a unique snowflake.
On the surface it seems like a solid move that streamlines gameplay and enhances the gaming experience, but I'm of the opinion that it neglects the base desire to be needed. Implicit in the role playing game is the desire to play a role, not just a variation on a theme. In the new Guild Wars, everybody is either doing control to prevent party damage or dps to eliminate the threat. Sure, you can do it close up or from a-far and call them different names, but you just eliminated a lot of player identity in the process. RPG players like to feel special. They like to fill a niche. Guild Wars 2 seems to inadvertantly takes the position that feeling special is not only unnessisary, but that its for your own good.
My second concern is that it creates an 'every man for himself' environment. With a tank and healer, you have two classes with vested interest in keeping the party alive while the other classes are doing the same for them because the only thing that seperates them from wipe and death is a tank and a healer. It creates a unity of its own and clearly defines who is doing what. In GW2, once you strip away the control aspect, everybody is responisble for his or her own survival. When things turn to crap, you're left with your own abilities and own heals and own pots. For GW2 to work, there will probably need a clearly defined hiarchy of who does what, as opposed to it being implicit based on a diverse class structure ala every other mmo out there.
Personally, I can't help but to think there are other, better solutions to the tank/priest bottleneck that GW2 was seeking to relieve. Certainly the focus on preventing damage is a laudable goal, but eliminating player choice to do so I have to question. If I were to roll with my logic, I would increase the choices availible to a gamer, perhaps allowing every class access to the healing, tanking and control attributes instead of stripping them away or renaming them to statisfy a gimmick.
Then again, this is pure speculation as readily admit I haven't played the game yet. When I get a chance I assure you this will be the first isse I tackle. Just as mouselook combat will make or break TERA, I sense this will be the defining challenge GW2 will face. If it can surmount it and their play mechanics work, Arenanet will almost assuredly have a killer ap on their hands.