One of the blogs I follow is For The Record (FTR), which is run by a gamer named SilentStalker (SS) who covers World of Tanks (WoT) news.
SS recently posted his take on Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). There were a few things that he wrote that stood out to me.
EDIT (2014/05/13): for full disclosure, I haven’t played ESO yet. What I find fascinating and confusing is that in the comments and tweets about this article, some players agree with SS, others claim he’s wrong.
Multiclasses (“Hybrids”) Aren’t Viable
First, multiclasses don’t work. If you want to be a two-handed-sword-wielding holy knight in plate armor who also heals, you will suck at both roles.
It sounds like you have to specialize heavily.
The word “hybrid” carries a negative connotation for some MMORPG players, but I believe hybrids should be viable for some contexts, e.g. solo or small group PVE and PVP. Hybrids add depth to the variety of builds available to the players of a class and flavor to a game. Obviously for hardcore PVE raiding, specialization tends to be the way to go.
SS said holy knights who heal are not viable, and that’s a shame as I’ve played some incredibly fun holy knight builds in other games, e.g.:
Prot Pally in WoW PVP: Back at the start of WoW Cataclysm, the vast majority of the Paladin community claimed that Prot (Protection) PVP was dead. My projection on the mechanics was that Prot would still be viable, if not as strong as it was in WotLK. My Prot PVP spec was 75% DPS (with some solid burst) and 50% Healing relative to specialist classes. It was neither a pure DPS nor a pure healer, but it could heal meaningfully when needed to bridge my team mates to the next incoming heal and other emergency cooldowns. I played with other relatively inexperienced (but skilled) partners and we got to 2k in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets playing hybrids
M*A*S*H Cleric in RIFT PVP: this was a steady DPS build (no meaningful burst whatsoever) that was tanky, output solid sustained AOE healing, had good mobility, and possessed some CC. What was funny about the M*A*S*H build was that the Cleric community was convinced that melee healing wasn’t viable, but I found they hadn’t explored the mechanics enough
If SS is right, there is no opportunity to come up with non-specialized builds. Which brings us to the next point…
Melee Mages and Berserker Warriors Aren’t Viable Either
Oh, almost forgot. You have to pick also “reasonable” configurations. For example, warrior in clothes (light armor, leathers are medium armor) and a 2 hander won’t work. Light armor as a whole adds bonuses to magic regeneration, more mana etc., so you can theoretically have a plate armor mage, but he will run out of mana very, very fast.
I recall hearing last year that plate mages would be viable. However if the armor types have built-in biases for specific classes or builds, what the developer is effectively delivering is a choice that is not really a choice. You can choose to gimp yourself, or you can choose a build that synergizes with the gear options.
There are many ways that a game can balance plate armor for mages, e.g. off the top of my head:
Plate armor limits the range of magic abilities
Plate armor limits the usage of magic movement abilities, such as blink
Same goes for a warrior wearing in light armor, e.g. a Braavosi swordmaster from Game of Thrones. The warrior could sacrifice damage mitigation / avoidance, but gain faster attacks and gap-closing abilities. Water Dance FTW.
I have not played ESO, and based on your collective feedback to me I do not intend to. So maybe SS got the points above wrong – but if he was right, yikes.
My hope for future games, e.g. Camelot Unchained (CU), is that the developers get it right. I think choice of armor for each class would allow for much more diversity and customization by the player – the tradeoffs just need to be thought through. Some upcoming titles, such as ArcheAge, do support such choice:
With the mixing and matching of classes, you can also mix and match equipment. There’s nothing stopping a mage from wearing plate armor, or a warrior tank from wearing cloth! There are different stats for cloth, leather, and plate armor – and each armor type has different set bonuses – so pick the armor that best suits your play style.