For the last two weeks, I’ve been on a roll with my Esper getting her through the first 7 steps of the raid attunement which includes silvering all veteran adventures. Having also healed through my first veteran dungeon last night, I’m finally back to the point where my old healer muscles and reflexes run on auto-pilot; healing is a routine and if you’ve stared at other people’s healthbars for years in WoW or elsewhere, you own the mindset that comes with playing support classes.
The main reason why healing is appealing to me is the complexity of choices, not just for yourself but everyone in the group. It’s the splitsecond decisions on what action to prioritize next and if need be, whom to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good (or a much needed lesson in self-management). While most roles are centered around the interplay between ‘self and the other’, healers focus on three units in combat and depending on the MMO, they’ll be asked to do this while being more or less mobile. Healers are also the guardians of time, as far as their role within trinity-based MMO combat goes.
And Wildstar asks for a lot from healers. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult than in some other games but in terms of complexity, there’s an adjustment phase that can feel bewildering to someone coming straight from WoW, Rift or LOTRO. I’ve tried to put my finger on what initially felt so different about healing and decided that similar to Wildstar’s doubly-active combat system, it’s a new combination (and accumulation) of several aspects:
- Positioning telegraphs
- Focus and combo management
- Limited actionbar
None of these mechanics are new. MMO healers are used to managing mana and optimizing their healing, for instance via proc timing. Games like Age of Conan have featured non-targeted and instead more area- and conebased healing. Many newer titles come with some form of action combat and minimal UI. For some of them like GW2, that makes sense too.
Speaking from an Esper perspective (which more or less applies to all classes), the biggest difference about Wildstar’s healing is that it combines all of the above added difficulties or restrictions at once. The most noticeable change for me personally, was mana management in combination with a resource / combo system, similar to a rogue’s combo points in WoW or a warrior’s rage. Not only will you manage your focus (manapool) but Espers can stack up to 5 combo points (and only with certain builders) which are required to heal efficiently and dish out the big single-target or area heals. That’s two numbers to monitor for your healing at all time while making smart builder- and finisher choices.
Of course this being Wildstar, even as an Esper many of your heals and cleanses aren’t targeted but come as a cone or AoE. So, in addition to moving out of red telegraphs constantly and staying in range of the tank, you’ll have to try position yourself in a way that affects as many party members as possible. They should do their utmost to stay in range / in front of you of course but in the heat of battle, well…we know how the theory usually works out.
The limited actionbar (8 skills) in Wildstar is my only real gripe, because it makes no sense. There are games like GW2 where the minimalistic UI covers all player needs and is perfectly tuned to combat. Wildstar on the other hand, with its fussy skills menu and plethora of situational abilities in the offensive/support/utility department, forces you to manually swap skills for every other fight with only two specs per default (although you can buy more later for Elder Gems). Every time you swap something manually, you have to go back and fill in the points to boost said skill, too. It’s awkward and feels out of touch with the game’s overall approach to combat.
Healing in Wildstar
Wildstar certainly adds its very own flavor to group healing but once you’ve had the opportunity to heal a couple of dungeons in a decent group, you’ll adjust to its resource management, telegraph positioning and mobility requirements. Maybe more than for other MMOs, Wildstar relies on players knowing a dungeon and specific boss abilities (esp. also due to the limited action bar), so it’s advised to always do a practice run or two on normal mode before attempting to crack veterans.
Healers learning the veteran drill should also insist that party members bring their own utility (healing gadgets) and medipacks to fights for as long as everyone’s performance is in those early stages of chaos. There is only so much you can heal / reach and what goes for every other MMO out there, also applies to Wildstar: The tank always comes first. Many whelps? Handle it!
I think my favorite thing about WildStar’s particular formulation is how it places so much emphasis on other group members being in the right spots as well. Since everything is ground targeted, it’s so important that your group moves as a unit and configures itself in a pattern that helps the Healer maximize cones.
It just feels really good to have the rest of group be aware, instead of just having them ignore what the Healer is doing until something goes wrong.
I really miss playing a proper healer. After the refusal to release a proper expansion or add housing I’d put the lack of a convincing healing role at the top of my complaints about GW2. I could really do with some good, solid Trinity gameplay, especially with me in the healing role.
That said, WildStar’s version doesn’t sound very appealing. What I enjoyed most in my years as a main healer was the minimalism of it all. Ina really well-set up group I’d only have to cast a couple of heals per fight. I’d click the mouse two or three times and the rest of the time I’d just sit back and watch. That was perfect.
Yes, it was all about complexity of choices but the attraction, for me, was to try and pare those choices down to the bare minimum. Then, of course, the excitement came when something went wrong and suddenly a whole lot of choices had to be made and fast.
If the healer has to dart about, getting into position and casting non-stop then the gameplay begins to sound a lot like DPS, only dealing green numbers instead of red. I wonder if any upcoming MMOs will actually slow combat and healing down rather than speeding it up? That would be a kickstarter worth looking at.
Bhag, you need to play FF14. Get a White Mage to ~40. That’s the exact playstyle of healing in that game, with a 2.5 GCD. It is very slow and methodical.
It’s getting a tad too jumpy for me personally, even if I don’t mind mobility. But Wildstar puts a lot of emphasis on dodging, easily 20 or more times per dungeon boss.
Where I agree with Murf is the load being shared a lot more. DPS are carried a lot less in WS and interrupts are a gift from above; finally, DPS have a similar, unforgiving responsibility as tanks or healers.
Agreed Murf, it requires a lot more coordination that other MMOs and a lot sooner in the leveling curve to boot. There’s a lot of “carrying” in other MMOs, this one, not so much.
Hey this Esper healing sounds a lot like Paladin healing in WoW! 🙂 Paladins have 2 resource bars (mana and Holy Power).
I guess. 🙂 Only without all the running, dodging and telegraphing, hehe..