Lord of the Rings Online: A Look at the Guardian
MMORPG.com Lord of the Rings Online Correspondent Malcom Calivar writes this overview of the Guardian class in Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online.
Although Lord of the Rings Online currently does not have a large number of classes, they seem to be set up a lot better than in most other games. The truth is, there's no real point in having 25 classes in a game if 10 of those classes have identical skills with different names. Even though classes in Lord of the Rings Online have certain archetypical restrictions, they're all very versatile in both PvE and MPvP. We will take a look at the only class (currently) under the 'tank' archetype today, discussing group play, solo play, and other aspects of the Guardian class. If you're a fan of sword and board classes, then this class is definitely one you should be looking into.
First, for those who may not know or may be new to the game, let's define the Guardian class. The guardian class is the standard sword and shield class in Lord of the Rings Online. They sacrifice damage output for heavy armor usage and a large morale pool. Their best use in a group is having them charging into a fight, gathering up a few monsters in an area, and holding their attention while the damage dealing classes work away at their health. The guardian class is not one that is hard to learn. It leaves a lot of room for error to begin with. Even if you're not receiving a lot of healing, you can withstand a large amount of damage taken, and even if your damage dealing buddies are unleashing their power before you've even had a chance to glance at your next target, you'll normally be able to stabilize things and regain control. Control is what being a tank in any game is all about; the more control you have over a given battlefield, the more everyone else in the group will benefit. A good tank can control a situation using his basic abilities and never lose aggro, but an outstanding tank can turn a bad pull into a glorious victory for the group.
Now that you have a basic idea of what the Guardian class is supposed to do, you will surely want to make one. Your next question will most certainly be: "What race should I pick?" The truth is, every race has its advantages and downfalls, and while the dwarf may seem incredibly appealing because of its starting stats, eventually they will all even out at higher levels with traits. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each class carefully. For example, when you need to become Legendary at level 41, the elf teleport to Rivendell might prove useful. There are too many cons and pros for each race specifically to cover here, but a little bit of research will go a long way in helping you make your ultimate decision.
In order to be successful at any class in the game, you will need to spend a considerable amount of time obtaining traits. Traits are one of my favorite things about Lord of the Rings Online, since there are so many, you can make hundreds of trait combination to serve different purposes. While there are some 'obvious' virtues for the Guardian class (like valour), there's still a lot of room for experimentation. Class traits are probably one of the things I changed around the most when I was levelling up my guardian. Depending on the situation, sometimes I wanted to improve a certain skill over another one. Having this sort of flexibility insured that I was ready for any situation...or that I learned what not to bring to a fight. Even though there are a lot of websites and resources that might list very specific traits for levelling, grouping, etc, the choice is ultimately up to you. Traits can help make up for a lack of stats, so if you're short on Might, go ahead and help yourself to some traits with a Might bonus. Don't equip a trait with a run speed bonus just because you read it was 'the best.'
I've been talking a lot about versatility, but I don't want to mislead you. The Guardian is a tank class; you will not be able to deal more damage than a champion, or CC/debuff, etc. Make no mistake, however, the guardian class is very self-sufficient. Most tanking classes in other games can solo rather well because of their incredibly high damage mitigation, and that remains true for the Guardian. However, the guardian also has abilities and traits to help restore his own morale and power, as well as some reactive abilities that deal area damage. This allows the Guardian to be very effective on his own, even if his damage output is so low that he must spend a long time working the monsters over. While playing solo, you can also switch to your damage stance (Overpower), and equip a two-handed weapon. While I personally enjoyed using a shield and a sword myself, some people enjoy using a larger weapon when they're playing by themselves, doing quests or grinding. Overpower can be very helpful against mobs that will prove no real challenge to you; it'll speed things up a little bit more.
During group play, you will normally have a different trait arrangement than you do when you're playing on your own. You will also use the defensive stances, focused on keeping you alive and not on increasing your damage. As I mentioned earlier, the class leaves a lot of room for error at the beginning. It lets you get comfortable with it first, before it starts making your job a little bit harder in the higher level instances. The Great Barrows is a great place to make all your mistakes. Most classes, if they're the right level for the instance, can take a decent amount of punishment from any one mob in there, so there's not a lot of pressure if you happen to have one mob peel off you and hit a caster once or twice. I will, however, provide you with one handy tip for making your early instancing, and even levelling a little bit easier: try to obtain the class trait "Harasser" as quickly as possible. This turns your vexing blow ability into a small area attack. It will hit and add threat on up to three mobs, where normally it would only damage one. Vexing blow will become a great ability that you should be hitting whenever it's up, in between your other abilities.
The last thing to cover is a Guardian's viability in PvP. Whether you're duelling other players or engaging in full-scale keep battles in MPvP, your only real advantage over other classes is that you can survive a really, really long time. As a guardian, the only way for you to beat someone one-on-one is to outlast them. This can create difficulties with classes that may be able to kite you easily, or classes that can heal themselves. Furthermore, most classes tend to carry around potions, so even if someone doesn't have the innate capability to heal themselves, you should be prepared for a really long fight. In larger battles, unfortunately, you're not much of a threat to people and they will normally ignore you. Monster players will tend to try to go for your healers, lower level people, or anything else that can go down quickly. They know that any time spent hitting you, the Guardian, is time wasted.
In short, if MPvPing or winning duels is really important to you, you might want to consider playing a class more PvP oriented. The Guardian class is not about large bursts of damage, or even stacking insane amounts of damage mitigation. The Guardian class offers high morale, heavy armor, self-restoration abilities and a ton of skills designed to do what a tank should really do in any game: control the battlefield. Once you understand the basics of your class, you can begin exploring more advanced methods of manipulating a battle, eventually becoming an outstanding tank. Remember, control is easy to maintain in a balanced environment, but when things are getting shaky, the outstanding tanks will be separated from the good tanks.