Friday, June 20, 2008

Ironbreaker Review

Things I will not do: Compare Ironbreaker (IB) to other tank classes that I have not tested; compare IB to anti-magic tanks; compare IB to WoW warriors, complain about mechanics they are still working on. Let’s get it on.

Generally speaking, I hate tanks. To me, they are dull and are forced to push one or two buttons just to either maintain agro in PvE situations or to pump up their puny dps in PvP situations. I have found that in WAR, this is not the case. While they are tanks and they are meant to fill the role of protecting the group through melee oriented buffs, they are hardly boring. Through various mechanics such as buff-sharing (which I will go into detail about later) that always needs to be switched in a dynamic battle and debuffing an enemy to bolster overall damage output, they become not only an important facet of the group, but play a dynamic role in combat.

I’m going to break down my review (at this point) into four parts: group/solo PvP and group/solo PvE.

In my experience with MMO’s I’ve always found the first few levels to be very boring since you have a limited number of abilities to use in any situation. EAMythic has tackled this problem in a few ways: they have made the starting zones very fun; they allow you to interact with your environment at an early stage; pushing you towards group play in PQs; lastly, setting you up to become very involved in your environment very quickly. I’m not saying I had an e-boner from playing the first chapter of the game, it was surprisingly enjoyable. I played my IB in the Order’s starting zone.

While the IB is able to take on multiple mobs, I personally don’t try to take on more than 3 at a time due to the downtime (although short… none is better than some). While with other classes the battles are quick, the IB’s mechanic works differently. It’s not only a matter of out-damaging the mob (same goes in PvP), but it’s more about insulating yourself from that person’s attacks so your (originally weaker) attacks become higher than his due to your bolstered defenses. There are also mechanics for you to bolster your attacks either through direct damage increase (e.g. Taunt) or through attacks that decrease the ability for the mob (or human enemy) to parry, block or dodge (e.g. [insert ability name later]).

In the past there have been complaints about melee, but in my experience with IB, which is obviously limited as only the first two tiers are available at this time, I have mostly good things to report back. In a group effort in PvE, which at lower levels is almost exclusively PQs, IB is a hugely valued asset. Using your Oathfriend ([check on ability name]) ability, you are able to chose one group member (I usually chose either the healer or the MDPS that likes to try and pull agro from me) to share some of your buffs with. You also receive grudge points every time this person is hit. This tactic is great because if used effectively, you can switch off agro between you and another tank to help out the healer.

For example, I was in a warband that was slightly under leveled for this particular PQ. We had a bunch of MPDS, caster DPS, two healers , one tank archetype with a 2hander, and two tanks. As we got closer to the end, we started to notice that not only were the healers having trouble keeping up with the heals, but I was running out of action points trying to maintain agro and contribute to DPS. The tanks had the idea that when they noticed that I ran out of action points that they would start spamming +hate abilities (they were Swordmasters so, I don’t know the skill name) and gain agro to give the healers a moment to regain some AP and to ensure that a squishy wouldn’t get wtfpwnd by a Hero or Champion mob (boss mobs). We targeted each other as our respective Oathfriend to share buffs, and at that point, we barely needed a healer after one or two switch offs.

On an added note, as far as I’ve seen, many of your debuffs can be taken advantage of by your groupmates. I don’t know about non-groupmates and I’m not exactly sure how to look into that… but I’ll give it a try.

Note: I only tested a pure tank, no dps spec. I might try that out later but I wanted a full report on a tank, as that’s what seems to be of everyone’s interest

Honestly, this game isn’t built around 1v1 so it’s almost pointless to talk about this. All of your strong points are useless without a group. You can’t share your buffs, you can’t coordinate debuffs or FF, and it’s not that hard to pick out a solo tank… and once that happens they just ignore you because they can, for the most part, bypass you and kill your squishies. Sure it takes a long time for you to die, even when you are FF’d, but who cares when you aren’t really contributing to anything? If you are an IB and don’t have a group I suggest going into the damage spec, as it seems (from my observations) that they can hold their own and deal out decent damage.

While realm balance has been, on average, Destruction having double the numbers of Order, there are still opportunities for Order to control the realm (which has happened often in my playtime as both RP and IB). Destruction dominates PuG scenarios, but organized group PvP/RvR (scenarios and open world) balance out to a very slight advantage to the Destruction due to numbers. This is not to say that one side is innately more powerful than another, but when you are outnumbered you tend to get organized to try and last as long as possible.

This is where IB shines. Between Oathfriend shared buffs, your survivability, and modifiable damage output (through buffs, self-buffs and outgoing debuffs) you become an integral part of your group dynamic. While I haven’t yet gotten Juggernaut (bitch!), your ability to increase damage output of the group and decrease incoming damage makes you a huge target. While the lines are not literally drawn like this, it’s like the movie 300 (shut up, it was amazing) where you are only as strong as your weakest man and you rely on the strength of the guy next to you. If you, as an IB get taken out, they lose their buffs and the damage they take gets increased and pretty much everyone becomes an easy target unless another tank steps in to fill your role. Even when that happens, people will die in the time it takes for the group to adjust.

Does this mechanic still need work? Absolutely. Are there ways to get around this mechanic? Yea… but that’s called strategy. If you are smart enough to use the terrain to flank a group and take out a healer with a friend or two before the group can react then g-freakin-g. That doesn’t mean the mechanic is broken, that just means that your enemy was smarter than you. The beta forum is overflowing with feedback from testers and unlike many other games, the developers are listening and have people brainstorming and working out ways to fix problems. Are the current problems game-breaking? I don’t think so at all, but hopefully we’ll be able to do another lvl 40 focus test and I can see how things are at the end of the game.

Could they use a dmg buff? I guess, but if you are looking to play a dps role, roll dps. You do respectable dmg if you spec for it, but don't expect to be a MDPS in heavy armor.

With this new implementation of taunt, people are adjusting their play styles to deal with the hundred pound gorilla with a shield before going after the 50 pound healing gorilla.

Please feel free to ask questions and I will answer them to my best ability. If I do not have the answer for you, I will do some research in and out of game, and if that doesn’t work… then… I’ll just admit that I have no idea.

I'm ok with you calling me a fanboi. I've grown to really like this game, and I'll defend its good aspects if that's what I feel like I need to do. I have no problem pointing out its flaws, but I'm not about to nitpick over something that is 1) still being worked on 2) Isn't game breaking 3) obviously going to get changed (based on past changes and progress)... that's for beta forums.

One last thing: The design and gameplay doesn't revolve around one ability (i.e. the hotly debated taunt). I purposefully tried to not mention it except in conjunction with other debuffs to show that you don't have to keybind one ability to every button and then roll your face across the keyboard.

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