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No Tanks, No Healers, No Problem?

Posted by Ozzallos Monday March 12 2012 at 10:31PM
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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.
Role out.
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.
Azmaria writes:

Interesting take on the GW2 mechanics.  I'd just like to point out that you missed a crucial role that may change (or not) your opinions: the support role. 

While GW2 has no dedicated healer (well, the ones who play whack-a-mole with the green bars on the side) it does allow for people to build their class into a supporter instead of damage or defense.  These roles do have some AoE / ally assisting heals, but they mostly focus on buffs, debuffs (to an extent) and positional denial or CC.  

You might also be interested to know that there is no dedicated tank role, either.  I'm not sure how much you've looked into the skills for the classes, but there are no taunts or other aggro management tools.  Also, with the removal of the dedicated healer, it doesn't look like any class could fulfil a traditional tanky position anyway because of the amount of damage that they'd be taking if they had aggro from every mob.  Why did I bring this up?  Well, it actually forces the party to work even more closely together than in a traditional trinity.  

Think about it: since there is no tank and aggro is a bit more fluid than in, say, WoW, that makes everyone potentially have to tank the boss.  Of course, through traits and weapon / utility choices, some people will be more defense-oriented than others...but in an encounter, it is likely that (out of a 5 person group) three to five people will need to be the 'tank' for some duration while the others heal themselves and switch to a more dps / support role.  This forces people to be paying attention and taking their turn at being the one taking damage.  Of course, some groups won't have team-minded players and wipes will probably be frequent.  But the cohesive and attentive groups should be able to use this mechanic to good effect.  


Hope you find some of that informative!

Mon Mar 19 2012 1:46AM Report
Master10K writes:

Azamaria is right, that "Support" is another fundamental role, along with "Control" & "Damage".

I wouldn't really call what GW2 is trying to achieve as a gimmick or simply renaming the trinity. It is the fundamental way the professions and encounters have been designed and you can see that with how can build your character. Let's make an example:

Here is a Thief Build

At first glance it looks like a simple range DPS spec, you would associate with a Holy Trinity game. However GW2 is much deeper than that and this supposed Range DPS Thief is quite proefficient in the 3 roles, but in very specific ways.



This ones pretty simple. The Pistols have 3 skills that deal damage. I can switch to a Shortbow that deals good AOE damage. I have a signet that increases the damage I deal.


Now it starts to get complicated, because control can be handled in a variety of ways. In this case the Shortbow has a Cripple that reduces the target's movement speed. The Pistol 4th skill creates a smake cloud that blinds enemies, causing their next few attacks to miss. The Ice Drake Venom Utility skill slows the target's movement & skill recharge. I can Daze the target with Pistol skill 5 & Steal (Traited), which interrupts their cast and prevents them from using a skill for X number of secs.


Now it gets really complicated because from the skill set it looks like this Thief cannot support its allies, but then look at the Traits I've chosen and then it all begins to make sense. I have a Trait that buffs my allies whenever I Steal and another that grants my allies my Venom skill, whenever I apply it on myself.


So in the end GW2 will provide players with the tools, for some truly co-operative play. It is only up to the players to use those tools.

Mon Mar 19 2012 2:01PM Report writes:
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