Playing a tank class in PvP or RvR can really be a frustrating experience. A member of the traditional holy trinity, tanks have been designed for years as the meat shield class with the sole responsibility of making sure the rest of the team does not take damage. Aside from how boring that sounds already, taken out of its element and placed in to a PvP environment exponentially increases the undiversified and really underdeveloped nature of this character class.
The flaws of a Tank in PvP can be summed up quickly in two points.
- Narrow minded skill design
- Unsupportive game mechanics
The skills of a Tank class are designed to fulfill a very specific role in PvE. It’s possible that many developers may look at adapting the class as too daunting. It would take innovation and straying off the beaten path to adapt or change skills; something that most developers ignore because using the cookie cutter molds of those who have come before you is much easier. Mythic is taking the first real steps towards adapting the tank class in Warhammer Online. By adapting the taunting skills, tanks will be able to use the skills they already have to fulfill a much needed and much desired support role. I believe taunts will be capable of snaring the enemy, protecting your team mates (in more ways than one), and otherwise hindering the enemy.
I want to talk about the Warrior class in World of Warcraft very quickly because undoubtedly many of you will already be pounding away on the keyboard to point out that someone else has already provided an alternate approach for tanks in PvP. (I garuntee someone will skip this paragraph all together) Blizzard, instead of being innovative and adapting the class, chose to provide Warriors the opportunity to shift their focus away from tanking all together and be a damage dealing class. This is not the answer. Changing a class entirely from a support role to a dps role turns a blind eye to one problem and creates several more. WoW’s approach created a monster and ruined the feel of the “tank” class entirely. Wearing the best armor, dealing the most damage (anyone remember mortal strike?), driving most people to use druids as tanks, fighting over dps gear (dramaaaa)…. not a solution. It’s the most overplayed and grossly unbalanced class in the game.
Going back to the two points I now want to talk about game mechanics. In PvP no one is going to stand around attacking a tank, they’re going to go for the squishy casters standing in the back. Tanks are snared, mezzed, stunned, and otherwise immobilized turning what should be a force to be reckoned with in to a submissive mistake. Change that. Going back to the RvR kings, Mythic is adding collision detection in WAR – a huge step in the right direction. This mechanic diversifies gameplay for everyone. Finally there will be thought given to positioning again! Protecting the healers in a tight circle, blocking the 4 guys chasing the elf in a dress, or simply creating a front line are actually going to be viable. The mechanics need more work than CD though.
Immunities and resistances. Two incredibly overlooked and underutilized factors that should make all the difference in the world. Crank up the magic resistance and physical defenses on a tank. Allow them to run in to the thick of things and use their taunts. There needs to be a big enough change to the resistances that no one will think “root/mez the tank”. They should be saying “OmG move! Here comes the tank!”.
In DAOC tanks with 2-handers and polearms were pretty good. Armsmen could be a nasty surprise when they come up and wail on you. I can’t remember where I read or heard about tanks using 2-handers in WAR so I can’t cite the reference, but I know something is being done to make them more than an annoyance. Tanks will be able to fill the supportive role they truly are and still be able to overcome the extreme bias that PvP always has for damage dealers.
I won’t even assume for a second that Warhammer will figure it all out and solve all of the tank’s problems. They are however taking innovative steps towards developing this class’ mold. I think we’ll see extraordinary results from the taunt changes and collision detection. With a little luck we’ll see resistances playing their part. A tank class could actually be a lot of fun.