The Daily Grind: Which style of MMO combat do you enjoy the most?

MMOs are nothing if not deeply invested in combat as a core system, and as such, developers have come up with every fighting style under the sun to keep players engaged. It always fascinates me how many different styles there are in online games and how they appeal to various players.

Me? I generally enjoy ranged combat with faster rather than slower attacks (instant is always preferred). If I have a pet or pets under my command, so much the better, and I don’t mind being given the ability to mess with enemy AI with stuns, confusion, and other crowd control techniques.

Which style of MMO combat do you enjoy the most? Are you a brute force melee fighter? A sneaky thief? A sparkly mage? A dual pistol marksman? A shapeshifting slasher?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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49 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Which style of MMO combat do you enjoy the most?"

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Alex Malone

Vanilla LotRO remains my favourite:

* Tab targetting
* Slowish (1.5s GCD)
* Loads of skills (complex)
* Loads of possibilities (depth)
* Tough Resource management
* Great class interdependance

The most important aspects from vanilla LotRO are the complexity and class interdependence, which combined led to great combat depth. It was the sort of game where it was easy to learn but hard to master. In vanilla lotro, gear made very little difference, the outcome was down to player skill. Only a combat system with depth can achieve this.

WAR was close, but it didn’t have much class interdependence and the depth only came out during group-based pvp. SW:TOR sucked, as whilst it had the complexity, again it had to class interdependence, lacked any meaningful resource management and thus lacked depth. You could master it in about 2 hours.

I’ve tried action combat games, but they’re so easy (mentally) that I just can’t get engaged. I mean, when your choice of next move comes down to attack, dodge, or use one of a few skills, you really don’t need to devote much brainpower to it.

So, whilst you say that developers are deeply invested in their combat systems, I would actually disagree. I find the majority of combat systems used in MMOs to be pretty basic and not very engaging. All they tend to invest in is the animations and special effects. The underlying combat mechanics really haven’t had much investment / innovation. I mean, how many MMOs even use collision detection?!

Our choices these days really seem to boil down to spammy action combat (with your choice of visuals) or executing the same rotation in a tab-target system. Very few have any sort of depth. Even fewer are innovative.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Turn based or action, or at least something that leans heavily to either. I’ve never been a big fan of tab target and its never been something that drew me to the genre, though I guess I’m good at it. I can like one bar of abilities, but I cap out the appeal at two, and probably quit the game if it gets to 3-4.

I’m okay with melee and ranged, but my ranged tends to be damage and my melee tends to be solo (aka mix of damage and heal, if if at least passively tank depending on class/game). Like, my usual classes are something like Mage or Paladin, but I can mess around with weirder stuff like whatever Chaos is in SWL, or Mesmer in GW2. I just tend to not care about outright ‘Warrior’ (tanky melee damage) and ‘Priest’ (expected to heal). Then again, I’m going Blood Magic in SWL alt character for variety.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

Give me action combat with a hybrid style character (e.g. Red Mage) or a character with a high amount of utility (e.g. Druid). My favorite damage type is DoT (Damage over Time). I don’t need to be bursty, I’ll just slowly watch you die from poisons and enfeeblements.

kjempff
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kjempff

Slow paced but where timed (and fast) tactical decisions matters, and where coop mechanics are versatile and dynamic (encounter specific and situational) BUT not necessaryly holy trinity but a more dynamic setup of roles.

Within that, all types of styles/roles are fun for me..in more simplistic or fast paced combat systems I tend to pick ranged magic users.

But kjempff, no mmos have such a system, only small traces of it. I know, but one can always dream and the future is not written yet, so despite trends and whatever it is still possible it could happen one day.

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Terren Bruce

I prefer ranged with a lot of AoE attacks, as flashy and magical looking as possible.

PEW! PEW! FIREBALL TO THE FACE! METEOR STORMS FOR EVERYONE! MWAHAHAHAAHA!

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Carebear

I am a fun of the old school, slow, strategic, resource managing combat with lot of auto-attack (that gives time of think the next move, have a look at surroundings, support a party member with a long cd skill, etc).

Generally, I much prefer to care about positioning, avoiding stuff, follow strategy, mechanics, enjoy the scenery, than execute a “guitar hero” rotation ..

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Sashaa

In small scale combat, I love melee healing à la Age of Conan Bear Shaman more than anything else in this world. When I have to do triage for dozens of players on screen, I prefer being able to cast long ranged heals, and I don’t mind long casting times if it means more powerful spells and less clicking like a madman. I hate rushing and enjoy long and hard fights as we used to have on EverQuest. McDonald’s gameplay is not my style…

Cadaver
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Cadaver

I’m not a connoisseur of combat. I just want trash fights to be over with as quickly as possible, so I gravitate towards fast, long-ranged, high-damage classes. Having said that, there is something particularly gratifying about shotguns. And hammers. Also fire and lighting and attacks from stealth. And I could never resist the opportunity to fling a rock or cowpat in GW2.

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Sajiri

I usually love busy, fast moving classes, especially if they’re a hybrid. This is definitely best when it’s an action combat game, or if I can make it play a bit like it. I used to like pet classes, and I still do, but I’ve gotten more interested in magic classes these days. Of course, magic and fast moving dont usually match up together. I loved my witch in BDO after awakening, it was very mobile. Right now I’m loving dagger/dagger elementalist in GW2. I had a lot of fun with Demon Hunter in WoW with all it’s dashes and backflips.

Traditional tab target, just stand there and press your skills bores me to death.

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Veldan

I love playing melee in oldschool tab target systems. I don’t care much for it in action combat though. Then again, I don’t care much for anything in action combat.

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Thief/Melee. I hate action combat though, and much prefer old-school tab/hotkey mechanics.

Tamanous
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Tamanous

For small scale, combat oriented play I prefer a more action based. BDO is by far the best systems I have encountered for this (not saying the rest of the game suits my fancy). Hated GW2 combat and ESO was sort of meh and ruined by animation cancelling as a design mistake instead of strategy (as in the limited uses of it in BDO).

For group play through very large scale combat I greatly prefer a slower paced combat. This reduces the spam-fest and enters class specialization and strategic thinking into the mix with time to actually react to what is happening based on strengths and weaknesses. This allows a diversity of combat from faster melee through slower spell casting and siege firing.

BDO is great at dueling but there is a reason why siege combat in the game is reduced to the slow, big hitters and tank classes; there isn’t enough diversity of roles for the twitchy classes to fill in large scale warfare when every class in game pushes toward the twitchy end of the spectrum and everyone does crazy damage.

Diversity of class function often means a rock, paper, scissor setup. Most mmos have gone away with this in order that everyone can 1v1 others. Action combat has been the worst offender by it’s very nature but even Wow ruined their initial setup by making all classes do nearly everything. It is not an evolution of mmorpg game play but merely a different sort of game.

Hybrid systems is the future of large scale combat diversity and what is often seen in RvR games. Once mmorpgs step outside of the arena and small scale battlegrounds they need to stop caring whether a mage can 1v1 an assassin and concentrate the game mechanics that give reasons why each class exists.

Today’s popular term is “emergent gameplay”. Most evidence I see from the use of this term has been nothing more than lazy developing. Bringing out your siege wizard and requiring other classes to protect them is emergent gameplay. Having that wizard be able to do everything any other class can do is the opposite.

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Sorenthaz

Whatever feels good. I tend to enjoy melee these days but I still like magic and ranged if it looks/feels good.

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mistressbrazen

I enjoy melee fighting with a sword or hammer. I try to keep one long range weapon as a back up. I prefer old style MMO tab targeting and absolutely loathe “action” combat.

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Paul

I’ve yet to meet an action combat system I like…. (or even can live with – ESO I only managed a week or so, BDO a few hours). I prefer combat models to be about selecting the right skill / spell etc to use at the right time not ‘twitch’ style. I’d rather react to my opponents attacks by playing the right counter rather than dodging back and forth.

As for ranged / melee etc – no strong pref, I’m looking for interesting and intelligent play over type. I usually play healers, but love hybrid healers where you also engage with the mobs to heal (Vanguard’s Disciple was my favourite class of all time, Bloodmage was also great)

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Arktouros

Ranged AOE/skill Shot style game play. GW2’s Elementalist Staff is like perfectly up my ally defensive capabilities and large amounts of ground targeted AOE’s to pelt/blast large groups of foes with.

Over all game wise though, I can’t stand games with 36 hotkey bars that they want to throw 42 skills onto (classic WOW). I’d rather have a handful (literally) of useful abilities than a bunch of nonsensical situational garbage skills.

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Tobasco da Gama

With action combat, I prefer ranged abilities so I don’t lose out on DPS while dodging around.

With tab-target combat, I tend to like melee instead. Maybe because mobs tend to clump up on you and interrupt channels, so ranged combat always turns into melee anyway.

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Castagere Shaikura

Range then switch to melee when and if it gets up close and tab targeting will always be the best for true mmo’s.

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Iridescence

I usually play some kind of caster. I like slow paced tactical combat. I absolutely loathe kiting and having to run around a lot while fighting and will actively avoid any class that incorporates these kind of mechanics.

shadanwolf
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shadanwolf

Faction vs faction conflict is my highly preferred game style. I like playing a ranged fighting character such as an archer.DAOC WAS my 12 year addiction.Now I wander aimlessly,finding gaming satisfaction in none of today’s games.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Casual player here, yet i prefer fast based fighting style, less downtime between fights, i slow down for exploring, reading books and quest text, but when fighting i hate to stop to gain health or mana, i love self healing classes, or pet classes where the pet take the damage and do most of the damage.

Prefer ranged to melee.

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NeoWolf

I like traditional MMO style combat (tab targeting), I also like turn based. I do not like real time action combat. If I want to play a beat em up ill play a beat em up, but when I want to play an MMO I play an MMO.

Needless to say this trend toward action combat of late is not something I am a fan of :)

As to the specific combat styles I prefer I like sword and board fighters (tanks or dps) and I like pet classes/summoning classes. And if those are not available I like either hybrid classes that do a bit of everything or healers as a final choice.

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Veldan

I like traditional tab target combat too, but while I dislike action combat, I really hate turn based. Turn based video games are an instant quit for me. I really don’t have the patience.

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Hirku

Fast and agile aoe melee, dual wielding when possible and with a leap/dash skill to get right in everybody’s face immediately. My character concept always seems to be “Batman meets the Tasmanian Devil.”

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Chad Wells

My favorite class to play ever was the Warrior Priest in Warhammer Online. Up in front doing, damage and sending out heals. Having Offensive and Defensive targeting of course made it worth the while. More games need that (my opinion of course)

Otherwise I’ll play back line healer.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

I’ve always enjoyed the marksman rangery classes the most but tanking has always been what I’m best at.

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Paragon Lost

All of the above.

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Rheem Octuris

I prefer whatever is closest to a Wizard from Everquest, and I like all my spells to have long cooldowns so my rotation is actually a rotation, not just hitting the same spell 10 times in a row and waiting for a combo to pop up or to run out of a resource.

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Thomas

Ranged attacks, with some kind of brainless tanky thing (voidwalker, hunter pet, … Corso?) to take some of the heat off me.

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Bryan Correll

+1 for the Corso

miol
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miol

Are you a brute force melee fighter? A sneaky thief? A sparkly mage? A dual pistol marksman? A shapeshifting slasher?

Oh, you mean preferred class combat?!

I like to have as many tactics as possible at my disposal!
Maybe I have not the most mobile class, not do the most CC or DPS, but I want most types available to me by the stroke of the next key!

Versatile classes are my choice nr.° 1, since I can choose how to play on every single encounter and I not already get bored to death after doing the same rotation over and over again after just one hour! ;P

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Armsbend

Good combat. Whether it is action or tab targeted if it feels smooth and your character powerful then I’ll like it. Clunky is clunky no matter the style.

Back when when Square Enix was a good developer I used to look forward to each new Final Fantasy because it felt like they scrapped the old combat to try something new. And it always felt good to me.

edit: I thought you were talking development style. Melee I guess. I like getting up and personal with my meat.

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Danny Smith

Probably the WoW/FFXIV variant of hotbar combat. Usually hotbar combat can feel lazy. Like the devs just took the ‘weapon wheel’ hotbar for mid 90’s shooters and stuck with it. But in WoW/XIV in particular the classes/jobs all have such variance theres differences. WoW has things like the shadow priest insanity mechanics or monks chi, XIV has things like the RDM black and white magic balancing or astrologians tarot deck rng stuff. It uses the solid foundation of hotbar combat BUT it most importantly uses it as a foundation for more interesting per class ideas and mechanics. The bad ones just use it as a lazy input system that feels like you can press anything and get the job done, which was basically my experience with guild wars 2 at launch as elementalist.

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Schmidt.Capela

The most important part, for me, is that enemies react to my attacks and I have to react to my enemies. As a result, I tend to prefer melee tanks; I get face to face to the opponent, force it to acknowledge me, and use both skills and movement to avoid and counter its attacks.

Ranged is usually pretty boring to me, particularly if I either kill most enemies before they even get to attack me or if the optimal strategy is to simply stay put and dish out damage.

Beyond that, I love combat with lots of area-focused attacks and tells that enable quick-thinking players to avoid most of the damage. I don’t care much for whether the combat is tab-targeting or action, as long as it’s heavy on movement.

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Croquantes

Highlight of my MMO-life was when mages in World of Warcraft had manashield. I had a great time playing an arcane mage, since the arcane spec boosted my mana and manashield had no cooldown. I effectively had a huge healthbar, meaning I could abandon typical mage kiting tactics and just blast my spells within melee range of most classes (except rogues). Greatest thing about my build was that it pissed people off. :D

Aside from Elder Scrolls’ battlemage, I don’t think there’s very many mainstream titles that let you be a melee mage.

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Grim🎃 Darhk

Melee. Specifically Action combat melee. It just feels so lovely. Especially in games like BDO. Tab based, I actually prefer rogue like characters, being able to sneak around is fantastic.

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Ken from Chicago

Ranged.

Hands down. Forget “Death from above”, try out “Death from afar”. In CITY OF HEROES (#RememberCOH) ;-) first thing when my Blaster heroes got Sniper attack was max out the range from 150 feet to a full 300 feet. If I could target something, I could hit. I prided myself on having the longest shot in the room. I loved sitting (or more likely flying) in the BACK of my team and being able to help them defeat villains. Plus, there’s nothing like sniping villains 300 feet away and watch them charge the direction of the attack knowing your sniper attack takes forever to recharge–but not realizing because I’m 300 feet out it sniper attack will recharge in the time it takes to get close AND HIT EM AGAIN!

Close runner-up, Pets.

“Do my bidding, Minions! Attack! Defend! Protect!” Nothing like rolling up to the joint with your own robo squad and siccing them on some hapless group of thugs mugging some innocents not realizing that the tide is about to turn! When CITY OF HEROES let you switch morality of your Mastermind from villain to hero, it was first thing I did!

Completing the triumvirate, Tank.

Only because it’s the most soloable, so you can take as much, if not more, damage than you dish out. Bonus: If there’s a shield mechanic that let’s you block an even greater amount of damage.

— Ken from Chicago

P.S. If you mean Tab Combat vs “Action” RPG Combat? Tab.

As visceral as action combat is, it’s way more tiring. The first time I experienced it was DC UNIVERSE ONLINE. DC Comics superheroes are my favorite superheroes–with The Flash (Barry Allen), being my all-time favorite superhero period. However I found myself physically tired after playing 30-60 minutes that was way different from STAR TREK ONLINE, GUILD WARS, CHAMPIONS ONLINE, and, of course, CITY OF HEROES. I realized it was I *had* to use both mouse and keyboard in combat. Plus with COH, GW and STO, I could set up auto-follow and auto-attacks that I couldn’t in an ARPG.

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Maggie May

As long as you don’ t load me up with jumping puzzles (looking at you GW2), I’m good with most combat sustems. Ditto with classes with the exception of tanks as, you really don’t want to be in a dungeon with me as I get lost and fall off ledges.

In my somewhat dubious career in mmo’s I have been a Burg in LOTRO, a huge Warrior Norn and pet classes archer in GW2, a Bard in FFXlV, a Mage in ESO and SWL. As I am fairly cowardly attacking from a distance or sneaking is preferred, the Burg had many negatives as a class but sneaking past a whole camp of trolls or Orcs = priceless. Nowadays I go for the Mage characters as it’s something of a challenge to create one that isn’t a glass cannon. Depending on the game, class choice can be really important or less so, I just try to go for one that is fun to play.

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Boom

Action/tab/whatever as long as its fluid but for the love of god give me character collision. If I can walk through a mob then it generally gets a thumbs down from me.
As for combat itself it varies but am often fond of the double handed weapon smashing variety but will give all classes a whirl to see what suits me in a particular game.

Tanking is always something Ive wanted to do & did so in Rift which tended to be quite simple compared to the tanking of AoC with its aggro swapping & multiple strats required which just made me nervous every time.

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Simon F

I like disruptive classes in general. These are rare in MMORPGs, but in Path of Exile, I play a tank based on stuns. I do have a taunt, but my primary utility comes from being able to stun enemies. In games where a class like that isn’t available, I usually play whatever. In recent years, I’ve played a lot of healer, although I’ve been both a top dps melee and ranged in guilds I’ve played with in World of Warcraft. It’s more up to how good a class feels rather than what the class does when it comes to damage.

If I’m playing PvP, I like guerilla style classes, but I hate PvP where people can one-shot others. It’s not fun for me no matter if I’m on the giving or receiving end of the one-shot kill. If comparing it to PvE, it’s like as if a boss is constantly peeling off health on your tank and he’s dying a slow death, rather than one skill just demolishing him, and you’re not being able to keep up with healing, making the fight more skill based.
Example, if a skill only does a little bit more damage than the others, that’s still the one you want to mitigate, rather than the other hits. That way you minimize damage taken. So even if it doesn’t look important, it’s crucial that they do it, or the healer will either not be able to keep up, or will run out of mana.

I’m probably a bit odd, but if I see two tanks fighting each other and the health bar only moving a little at a time, I find that more exciting than two rogues having a 2 second fight before one is dead.

As for targeting, I don’t really care. As long as the camera isn’t messed up, I’ll work with whatever. Being able to focus and circle around a target is really useful though. Less busywork with the camera, and hopefully makes you not look at the crotch of a huge boss, but rather have the camera zoom out so you can see the entire boss.

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David

I always liked the City of Heroes style of combat where you could fight large groups of minions and feel powerful. I especially liked the martial arts scrapper powerset particularly when Crane Kicking mobs from rooftops to the street below.

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Eduardo da Fonseca

Yeah CoH with full team of 8, 1 tank, 2 trollers, 2 defenders and what else come. I loved when the tank pulled like 5 or 6 mobs and everyone blasted them. Except rularuu with those psychic devastating attacks.

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Oleg Chebeneev

I dont care if its range, melee, tank, healer, etc. I care about mechanics, complexity, how smooth combat animations are and how well class performs in PvP. I love hunter in WoW, its my all time favourite MMO class. This doesnt mean I would love ranged class in SWToR (imo all classes there are meh since combat is bland and boring). In Wildstar its melee class (stalker) that I prefer.
Combat system affects alot what I choose.

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Simon Kolomar

Tab target.
I prefer ranged combat, mostly insta casts but I am ok also with cast times.
From ranged classes and its insta casts I like archer/bard from Final Fantasy XIV and those with insta casts but also casts I like Bounty Hunter from Star Wars: The Old Republic.

What’s interesting, i couldn’t stand ranged combat in (MMO)RPG’s before, and now I LOVE it.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

in terms of action vs tab, give me tab sans the tab with solid click procs 10 days a week.

in terms of class archetype i typically favour mobile ranged dps even if it means taking a small hit to dps vs other dps for that extra range and mobility. ofc if the other classes hit harder and are even more mobile then it tends to be pretty worthless.

i do sometimes do melee dps for w/e reason but generally it doesn’t work out well.

Zulika Mi-Nam
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Zulika Mi-Nam

ditto

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CthulhuDawg

I like to pull and murder whole zones at one time then feast on the glorious piles of loot. Rinse and repeat.

venatis
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venatis

I love to play the sneaky thief but MMO’s don’t really allow that so I usually go with extremely obvious thief instead

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MesaSage

For me it depends on whether or not the content is new. If the content is new then I want to take my time and stand back with a ranged mage and hurl fire and lightning, cc and debuffing. In other words, enjoy the scenery. If I’ve done it before, then give me a hunter with a quick bow.

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