Massively Overthinking: The MMO characters we want to love but don’t


A few weeks ago, MOP reader Neurotic pinged the MOP Podcast with a question about characters we want to love but just don’t. He had found that in spite of absolutely loving World of Warcraft’s Druid class and having a cool name and a cool look and a long history, he just can’t stand playing that character. Justin and I had no trouble summoning some from examples of our own the abyss and probably could’ve gone on another half an hour just on this topic, which means we just have to turn it over to the whole team for Massively Overthinking.

So let’s do that: “Do you have any characters anywhere that you love so much — because of how they look, their skills and talents, their name, or some kind of emotional or sentimental connection, or whatever reason, really — but that you have a terrible time playing and they constantly frustrate and annoy you?” What are the “failed character concepts” you’ve tried in MMORPGs?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): The closest I can think of is gimmick characters. I love playing with friends and making combos that shouldn’t work. For example, my very first MMO character was a swordsman in Asheron’s Call 1, made to fight magic users. The “problem” was most players had magic and I didn’t, but that meant they were all playing hybrids. When my pure mage friend would group with me and buff me, people who only saw me play solo would actually become angry at how much more powerful I was. In that game, the person who got the kill had their name on the target, so it was hard to argue my character wasn’t killing basically everything for our group.

I had other similar characters: a glass canon non-stealth melee that ignored healing but teamed with a healer and CC nuker, a high-damage DoT melee that hid behind knock backs from a stationary pet class, and a CC tank that dealt nearly no damage in PvP but ran with a group of rogues… all fun.

And all basically ended when I noticed my crew disappeared. Left to struggle without the pieces that made my character whole, I often either let them collect dust as an alt, or more often, I changed to a more mainstream build so I could be accepted in groups with more traditional players and strategies. RIP creativity.

Andy McAdams: I have to echo the WoW Druid. Everything about it says that I should love it: I love shapeshifting, nature magic, the whole shebang, but wow do I not like playing it. I’ve tried kitty, moonkin, tree, and tree is about the only one that I can handle. The WoW Rogue is definitely another – or rogue in general. I like to play dex-based characters and support-y characters, and rogue used to be both. But over time, it’s just devolved into “DPS ALL THE THINGS ALL THE EFFING TIME AND EFF EVERYTHING ELSE” with hearty dash of “if there’s someone chain-ganking you in-game, there’s a 7/10 chance it’s a Rogue.” I used to love stealthing around and sapping things to help control pulls, lockpicking chests in the world, using TotT, using Distract, and having to slow down my DPS so I didn’t pull aggro from the tank (when threat meters were required). When I think of what it was like playing a rogue in BC vs. now, there’s almost no comparison, and for me, something core is lost. I still love my characters, the rogues, but not the class anymore, if that makes sense.

Another one would probably be a Bard from FFXIV. I played it a whole bunch during one of my sojourns to Eorzea because I love the idea of a bard… but I like the D&D Bard. I played through all of Baldur’s Gate 2 as a Bard back in the day. The FFXIV Bard was like the La Croix flavoring of the D&D Bard for me, and I could never quite enjoy it because I kept wanting it to be more like the D&D Bard.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I have a wood elf Warden in Elder Scrolls Online who would be a great character in an ESO feature film: sassy, diminutive survivalist with an enormous bear companion. But I’ve never been able to stick with her for more than a few weeks. Maybe it’s the class skills or the compulsion to put the bear away whenever I go through town, I’m not really sure.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): On the podcast, I mentioned that City of Heroes allows you to craft a fantasy character before the rubber ever meets the road and you find out you hate the playstyle of the amazing superhero you just spent three hours designing, and that’s why so many of my characters there are conceptually cool but functional failures. I didn’t rattle off any specific ones from that game, but I’ll pick one here: my beloved Sonic/Sonic Defender Glissando.

I built her back in live and played her up with a group, and then I rebuilt her on Homecoming, and guess what? She still requires a ton of effort to play for a very mediocre payout, and I’d be better off playing nearly anything else, and it doesn’t matter that she has an epic retro rocker outfit, fabulous hair, the best name ever, and cool orange zappy bubbles. I struggle with a bunch of powersets that I want to love (Traps, Kinetics, Stone Armor), but Sonic Resonance is the one that truly makes me saddest because it’s an amazing concept but just malingers in every version in the game and has never, ever been brought up to parity with other sets. What a waste!

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Pretty much every ranged character I have ever made in City of Heroes: Homecoming.

Seriously, I don’t know if it’s just me, bad power selections, the general “late blooming” nature of those archetypes in general, or the stewards of that rogue servers just having some deep-seated personal hatred of Blasters, but every time I make a ranged character on there, it always ends up getting binned because it’s not fun playing a glass cannon by myself (which I am mostly forced to do).

Let me go pew-pew, Homecoming people.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I really want to love my LOTRO Warden. I like the look of my character (a Hobbit, of course), his name, and I’ve always had an affinity for spear-type weapons, but I just can’t wrap my head around the combo-based combat of that class. Maybe some day.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I loved the EverQuest Shadow Knight, but I have found the dark knights in every other game, including EverQuest II, extremely disappointing. They generally lack the versatility and the special sauce EverQuest had that gave the class a particular spark and flavor.

That doesn’t stop me from trying to like that class in every game that has one. Those characters just sit around on my roster for me to try and dislike periodically.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): All. The. Lolis. There are many cases where I want to love/play a class or race but I just can’t do it because a game forced a sexualized child as the character. It ends up that I can’t even tell if I would like the class because being on that loli just bothers me too much! This happens particularly with games that bundle a specific character to a class.

My first experience with this was the Dwarven race in Lineage II; although L2 had the freedom to choose race and class independently, it was extremely horrifying as the Dwarven males were all wrinkly old men while the females were about six years old! I just had to try to believe that Dwarves were magically spawned from rocks.

Then I tried to play and enjoy Blade & Soul, but the only class I wanted — Summoner — was another tiny little loli. I loved having an attack cat, but I couldn’t ever enjoy the game with that character. Black Desert then went and made the Shai a tiny little girl race. Even the Tamer is a young girl (though not as loli as the Shai). Thankfully, at least these have some decent clothing options, but I still can’t enjoy playing them.

I know this is my cultural perspective and values coloring my opinion, but it just fundamentally bothers me; my previous work involved caring for and helping many (especially children) who suffered from abuse. At this point, when a game just mentions it has a loli character, my stomach churns and I don’t want to play it anymore.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’ll scratch the surface, and then I’m going to dig a bit deeper. The Revenant from Guild Wars 2 is kind of funny to play. I really liked the concept, and even some of the builds can be fun, but overall it just doesn’t click for me. I tried to play it when it first came out and even a few times with the added elite specs, but nothing was working.

Now going a bit further back in my memory is actually from my time playing Warhammer Online. The Swordmaster running a Path of Khaine build was brutal. It’s pretty funny too because that was my main throughout my time playing WAR. I really wanted it to be fun and powerful, but it was such trash compared to basically any evenly geared opponent. It was very frustrating experience. I would read the patch notes so closely back then, only to be disappointed every time. But the class I really wanted to play just didn’t exist there. I guess that’s why the GW2 Guardian ended up working for me so well.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I started out thinking that I didn’t have many examples, but the more I thought about it, the more came to mind.

The first thing I thought of was Death Knights in World of Warcraft. I always said that I love everything about DKs other than actually playing them. Their lore is amazing, their aesthetics are impeccable, they’re that perfect mix of dark magic and physical attacks I usually love. But in practice, I always found they felt clunky and awkward to play. Things got a lot better when they finally simplified the rune system, and as with every other class, I finished its storyline in Legion, but even then I definitely wouldn’t have counted it as a favourite class in terms of gameplay.

Also in WoW, I always wanted my Shaman to be focused on enhancement spec. He’s an Orc, so fighting physically just feels right for him, and again, I love melee and magic. But the gameplay for enhancement never really clicked for me. I’m always frustrated by builds where everything has a cooldown. I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole. Luckily, I enjoyed restoration just fine, and when I finally tried elemental, I ended up loving it, so falling out of love with enhancement didn’t permanently kill the character for me.

Priests and Hunters are other WoW classes that I loved in theory but not in practice — my first character was a Priest, actually, but it wound up being probably my all-time least favourite class. Meanwhile Hunter’s pet reliance was off-putting, and it just felt a bit uninspired in general. I find that’s a problem with archer classes in most games. I don’t know why developers are so averse to being creative with them. Melee weapon classes always get like half a dozen options with wildly different flavours and abilities, but there’s usually just one ranged weapon class, and it rarely offers anything but “you are Arrow McShooty-Dude.”

There are a few Guild Wars 2 classes that come to mind as well, but I feel like that’s more of a systemic issue with how classes are designed in that game than problems with the specific classes. Again, I hate when everything has a cooldown. It just stings more when it’s the classes that I think are really cool.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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