If I asked you what a Mage is in an MMORPG, what would you say? Some cloth-wearing gal who lugs around a long staff and flings fireballs (or other elemental chunks) at bad guys. What about Rogues? Stealthy sneaks with twin daggers and lightning-fast attacks. Warriors? Big lugs with shields and swords larger than most compact cars. Fantasy class tropes are so ingrained that even developers seem powerless to go against them.
But there always seems to be this weird exception when it comes to Druids. A Druid in one MMO isn’t quite the same as one in a different game. Sure, there are usually some common threads — most notably an attunement to and use of nature — but each team has more freedom to interpret and design the Druid concept how it likes.
I thought it would be fun today to riffle through some of the current and past MMOs that have boasted a Druidic class (if not always in name) and see where the similarities and end and the wild notions begin.
By virtue of the game’s popularity, World of Warcraft’s Druids are almost (but not quite) the standard-bearer of the class. This Druid is a true hybrid, sporting four (!) distinct roles, shapeshifting, and also a fixation with the sun and moon. While at launch they weren’t very good in most of the roles, now a Druid can tank, heal, or DPS on par with other classes if properly specced and geared.
This highly-requested class was added into the game not too long ago and could very well be the best of all druidic worlds. The DDO Druid gets to enjoy a beast pet, can shapeshift into various forms (including, later on, elementals), has wilderness affinity, and can wield both arcane and divine spells, meaning that she can both heal and harm. One of the few drawbacks to the class is that the Druid cannot wear metal armor or use metal shields, because metal isn’t part of nature (except it kind of is, but we won’t debate semantics).
We can argue over whether or not the Beorning is a Druid in a different skin, but personally I think it fits the bill just fine. After all, the race and class practically lives with one foot in the natural world at all times, and its unique ability to skin-change into a ferocious bear puts it in good company with other MMO’s Druids. It can spec to tank, DPS, or provide healing and crowd support.
The Vanguard Druid was more of a hybrid in its skill set, boasting an array of nature spells that could damage, heal, and throw down some wicked crowd control. The class leaned more toward the side of damage than healing, and it gradually built up enough power during a fight to unleash either a helpful wonder or a painful calamity to turn the tide of battle.
In a nutshell: Spirit of the Wolf.
This incredibly desirable speed buff wasn’t the only trick up the EverQuest Druid’s sleeve, but it was one of the most requested and a great reason to roll this class if you liked feeling needed. This game’s Druid skewed much more toward being a healer, buffer, and a transportation facilitator.
7. EverQuest II
EverQuest II opened the door to a more specialized Druid, allowing that class to graduate into either being a Fury or Warden. The Fury wasn’t just about doing smackdowns with the assistance of Mother Nature, but could regenerate health, buff a team, and even spot heal if needed. The Warden leaned more toward a priestly role, providing a lot of healing while enjoying the luxury of being able to transform into a wolf.
The DAoC Druid was best kept out of direct harm’s way, as its strength lay in tripping up the enemy forces with roots, assailing them with poison, and helping to heal a team from the back lines. The class also gets a spirit companion for both protection and travel.
9. Guild Wars 2
The Druid elite specialization, which came in the game’s first expansion, allowed a Ranger to graduate into a staff-using tree-hugger. Oh, there’s more to it than that, including being able to transform into a “celestial avatar” with all of the rights, privileges, and glyphs associated with the mode. The whole package basically allows the Druid to perform the role of a healer while retaining a pet and some offensive abilities.
While this class could pick up a sword or staff and start swinging away at foes, the primary calling of the Shadowbane Druid was to be a powerful spellcaster imbued with the power of nature. It had a Swiss army knife array of spells, too, including heals, charms, buffs, debuffs, poisons, and even lightning bolts.
We could extend the list even further here, particularly if we took into account upcoming games that have announced Druid classes (such as both Crowfall and Camelot Unchained). Wakfu’s Sadida are notable for loving on flowers a little too much and using voodoo dolls to help and harm. Tree of Savior has a Druid as one of its billion classes, this one existing at the top of the Cleric tree. And even Ultima Online, while technically classless, has a Spellweaving line that allowed a player to fashion a Druid from scratch.
Have you played a Druid?
What’s your take on the best Druid out there and what would you like to see in a Druid build? Let us know in the comments!