In every game that I’ve played, I’ve had a main character than was self-sufficient. My gaming hours are strange, so grouping up was hard. EQ grouping was an exercise in teeth pulling and it today it seems every other group has someone who can’t count to 10 without taking off their shoes. EQ I was a necro (fear kiting!), WoW I was originally a Rogue (stun locks!), then swapped to a Shaman and finally a Monk. Neverwinter, I play a Cleric. I always had healing alts for some reason but this time it’s a main.
In nearly every game I can think of, healing is both targeted and direct. This means you aim for someone, press a button and their health bar goes up. A Neverwinter Cleric is not like that. Since the game controls are mouse-look enabled, you have to point to your target to heal them. Not going to happen in group combat. Instead the game uses a “smart heal” system that automatically targets users based on lost health (both as a % and as a total). Often times this will mean the tank but sometimes the heal hits the wrong person. Fine. That’s why the game uses a passive/over-time/ae heal structure.
Clerics have a debuff for their enemies called Astral Seal, which caused all attacks on the target to heal the attacker. There is a targeted AE heal – Bastion of Health – which is pretty solid but hard to target when people move. Forgemaster’s Flame gives a damage effect to an enemy and heals the party that’s nearby. Sunburst provides knockback + AE healing close to you. Healing Word is targeted but it’s a heal over time. The Divinity heal is targeted but also over time. And… that’s pretty much it for healing. You have 1 direct heal. Everything else is more or less what I call “healing obfuscation”. You press buttons but people seem to be healed more or less by accident than on purpose. Due to the way the game manages skills, you can’t just stand there and spam heals.
This system means that players have a huge responsibility for their own well-being. Many a time I’ve had group members take a massive hit because they “stood in the fire” and died a few seconds later because of enemy focus fire. As an action-rpg-mmo, everyone and their mom need to be moving around. Dodge, dip, dive, duck and dodge. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a single group could complete anything without a healer past level 30. It’s when to compare to other MMOs, healing is not going to instantly save lives.
This has two main benefits that I rather enjoy. The first is player responsibility and role management. Other than a Rogue standing on the boss, everyone else needs to run around and control the map. It is extremely active. Stand and spam will get you killed and you will get frustrated. This will eventually weed out a lot of players in terms of group content. Second is that bosses don’t have any abilities that need to be soaked as every big hit can be avoided. BioShock Infinite (and games w/ regeneration shields) have a problem in that if you pump your shields, in order for an enemy to feel threatening, he needs to be able to drop your shields in a hit. These are damage spikes and they are often unavoidable. Horribad gameplay. If you reward players for managing incoming damage, does it ever make the game more enjoyable. But it is different and a type of different that not everyone will enjoy.
I can run an LFR in WoW while watching a movie – which I consider the summit of casual play. I can’t do anything combat related in Neverwinter without actively moving and attacking, or I’m going to die in 10 seconds. I expect Wildstar to be similar, based on the data provided so far. DCUO sort of had this. It’s a pile of fun.