Massively Overthinking: Our favorite MMORPG classes
Nostalgia has me this week: I've been thinking a lot about some of my all-time favorite MMORPG characters, some of whom I can't physically play anymore because they no longer exist, and some of whom have been dramatically altered inside their games so as to make them almost unrecognizable to me now. Ergo, it's time to inflict that on all of you too!
What is your one single most favorite MMORPG character class of all time? Which game was it, how did it work, and why was it the very best class? I posed all these questions to the Massively OP writers for this week's indulgent Massively Overthinking.
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I have fonder memories of self selected skill sets, but if I have to choose a class (and one that wasn't fun because it was utterly broken), I'm going to give a tie to Asheron's Call 2's Tactician and Bounty Hunter. The game was always quite unique and inventive, but these two classes were really interesting. The Tactician set up powerful, non-mobile pet "turrets" with different ammo types and had a repair skill. It also could create walls that lasted a little while. As the game had collision detection, the use of walls really helped give players new strategies even when the tactician couldn't use their main pet.
The Bounty Hunter, on the other hand, was random as heck. It was a melee class with a ranged attack or two back before this was a thing in MMOs. It had the highest straight damage attack in the game, but you'd pull aggro off of any decent tank with it instantly. You had an awesome damage combo having you attack the left side of the enemy, the right side, the back, and the front. You had a "vigor" drain (think stamina + mana) that could just turn people into worthless goo in PvP. You had a death prevention buff that started at 100% and each time you would normally die, you'd lose 50% chance of it working (or something like that). Best, though, was that you had a buff that increased your chance at getting prime loot, as all the loot in the game was randomly stat generated items. The class was squishy and heck and unreliable, but that also was probably one of the things that made it so fun.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I can't even hold myself to one! And I asked the question! My favorite character to roleplay isn't even one of my top 10 classes, so it's neat how these shake out. My Earth/Storm City of Heroes Controller takes the top spot, I think. Damn, those particle effects, and the raw power of that combo. I had a hundred alts, and she was years off from being my first character in CoH, but she was epic. Beyond that, I'd say my classic EverQuest Bard, Guild Wars Ritualist, and World of Warcraft Shaman circa WOTLK. I really felt like those classes were a joy to play mechanically; they just felt satisfying and right, the kind of class you think about when you're playing your alts (or my main, in the case of my EQ Bard, since she was my alt!).
And I know I didn't make room in the question for skill-based games, but my "disco archer" in Ultima Online has been a treasured favorite of mine for over a decade. She's got archery, bushido, and discordance (a bard skill) and their associated passives all jammed in, and while she isn't the most powerful character in the modern meta, she cleans up pretty much everything I ever care to do in UO. I'd bet most of the UO screenshots we've ever used on this site and Old Massively included her!
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): You know, there are so many classes that I've loved, and there are lots of obvious ones... but I have to give a nod to an old favorite that couldn't really work in any other game in the form of Final Fantasy XI's Blue Mage. Blue Mages are fascinating because they have a whole minigame associated with them wherein you have to get hit by an enemy skill to learn it, but you also have to balance the cost of a skill and the slots you have available before equipping it. Skills also had associated stat boosts, and the right combinations of skills would result in passive traits. It was complex as heck, but the result was a class that could become intensely versatile, with a wide variety of options for taking on any given situation.
For more modern class design that's focused more upon balancing classes together for group content, it doesn't work so well. But it was a fun design, and I'd love to see more developers play around with the idea. It's a long-time favorite, and the fact that it showed up in my favorite FFXI expansion doesn't hurt.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Hm, I've had many favorite classes over the years and most all of them were pet-related. My Illusion Controller from City of Heroes gets a strong nostalgic vote, and I definitely had great times with Lord of the Rings Online's Lore-master. However boring it might seem, I'm going to cite World of Warcraft's Hunter as one of my top faves too. I loved the concept of taming your own companion and then siccing a gorilla or bear on a foe while shooting it in the face with a rifle.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Single favorite? I don't have a single favorite! How could you possibly ask me to choose... I knew you were actually evil. Well, since I probably can't include classic Star Wars Galaxies -- my Master Dancer/Master Creature Handler/Master Entertainer/Medic/Musician would win hands down -- I will have to split the vote between the Fury in EverQuest II and the Disciple in Vanguard. Both are healers but with unique twists.
The Fury has every power I have ever wanted rolled into one package: lightning, fire, heals, invisibility, and shapeshifting. It even has a quick-travel portal ability, which I didn't know I wanted! There are also speed, underwater breathing, and other helpful buffs. Seriously, this class only lacks a pet. Whenever I think of my dream class, I picture a Fury.
Vanguard combined a monk with a healer to make a Disciple. I have always loved martial arts, and the moves are just beautiful to watch, so giving me the chance to make those moves without giving up my love of healing was awesome. I also really appreciated how Disciples had to be engaged in the action in order to heal, so it wasn't just a game of watching health bars.
Honorable mentions go to Vanguard's Shaman healer (Phoenix transformation and pet ftw) and the Dread Knight, a shadow magic/necromancer tank (even though I never played it). Face it, Vanguard just had some of the all-time best classes period!
Patron Archebius: This is a tough one! I have a pretty strong attachment to Guild Wars 1, so I'm tempted to say my Warrior or my Assassin - I had a ton of fun trying out different builds as the Warrior, whether damage or tanking for Fissure or just trying to run to Drok's, and the assassin was just cool. The animations, the armor, the moves... I really liked that class.
But ultimately, I think my favorite class of all time has to go to TERA's Slayer. Maybe it was just that it fit my standard character template - girl with a greatsword tends to be my default, for whatever reason. Maybe it was the skimpy armor; I'm not made of stone.
Mostly, though, I think it was the fact that it had the potential, if played well, to do things that no one at that level should have been able to do. I saw a guy solo a BAM with it once, and I came close to being able to do the same thing. It was such a radical departure from what I'd played before, pounding out the same set button sequences, that the idea of an MMO class being able to transcend level and gear through good reflexes and smart tactics made me love it.