And suddenly … combat!

I have noticed in MMOs these days, it is quite common in cut scenes or instances for devs to think it would be cool to have the character/s ambushed, or have an NPC you are talking to suddenly attack. For sure, it is cool and dramatic to be attacked out of nowhere, but depending on class you can be at a disadvantage if you can’t use your opening move. I noticed this a lot in SWTOR, for example.

In other words, there are two types of MMO character classes.

  1. Those who prefer to set up their combat in advance.
  2. Those who can just whale in.

For example, any class that relies on stealth or crowd control (where the stealth or crowd control has to be applied before you get into combat), or has a move like charge (nb. you can now charge in combat, they changed it because it was annoying) where you get some extra damage and resources if you use it to enter combat would be type 1. Any class who starts on full resources (like a full mana bar), can use CC in combat/or and doesn’t have a special move with which to enter combat would be type 2.

Open world solo PvE is typically much friendlier to type 1 classes, where you are  in control of when the combat begins so you can take your time to set things up.  (SWTOR does this a lot too, so I can’t really fault Bioware for not being even handed.) For sure, people complain about lack of immersion when mobs are standing around in small groups waiting to be pulled and killed, but it’s great if you are trying to sneak up on them and CC one before backstabbing one of the others.

I also remember liking the old solo crafting instances in LOTRO (they are in Moria) with my burglar because I had all the time in the world to sneak through, pay attention to patrols, and carefully set up every fight. It was fun and quite engaging, given that the instances themselves weren’t too exciting. You see this playing style also when people are soloing high level instances in WoW, where you need to plan out every pull.

Truth is, I kind of like the excitement of having mobs jump out at me. Even if I’m on a class that would prefer to control the start of the fight, it’s a fun challenge to figure things out on the fly and see how good your survival instincts really are. (Obv if I was a PvP player this would be more de rigeur).

What I don’t like so much are mobs like the challengers at the temple of the red crane (WoW) where you first talk to them, then there is a 5s wait, and then they suddenly enter combat and attack you. I wish they either went red instantly or else allowed enough time for you to back off and get out of range before they go aggro, so that you can then use your combat setups.

10 thoughts on “And suddenly … combat!

  1. The Red Crane dailies are my least favorite August Celestial dailies, for the clunky combat with the Challengers, e.g.

    I prefer planning my attacks carefully. The only point where I found surprise attacks somewhat exciting were…probably the surprise worms jumping from mounds on the way to Hodir in Ulduar. They made that trash passage somewhat brutal at times, but also hilarious when with guildies.

  2. I think it fits in with the story, and the acknowledgment that a potential opponent will want to get as much advantage as possible. If you’ve not done the Smuggler story, there’s a whole planet’s worth of this in Belsavis. It gets so annoying to your character that at one point during a cutscene he/she says “Why can’t things go easy, just once!”

    On the flip side of it, that makes some fights harder than others based on your class. Bouris Ulgo isn’t much of a problem on my Smuggler, but on my Commando he was. But I’m fine with that, because it means that the different classes actually matter.

    In WoW, it used to be the case that a mini end boss was tough as hell (Drakon in The Ghostlands, for example), but the revamped Old World eliminated much of that. Now, I could show up and take on any mini-end boss with any class and more or less just roll over them, taken-by-surprise or not.

  3. Personally, I really like it. I have a ranged class with few instant abilities and sudden combat requires making use of some of your other skills like slows, self-heals, and run-away! It may slow down your standard farming routine, but I find it refreshingly engaging every now and then, like the red crane dailies.

    I also really like the non-lethal combat.

    Sometimes I think players find solo combat too hard or tedious if they can’t kill 4 mobs at once and end with 94% health. Getting beat up a bit makes you concentrate harder, and use your consumables.

    That said, I hate the WoW Shield Wall dailies in the mine. A bit too much going on in there for me.

  4. Definitely noticed it a lot in SWTOR and a lot of Bioware’s other games as well. I remember hating playing a Wizard in BG2 for that reason and it was worse in NWN2 where, after a cinematic, your dress-wearing ass was left hanging at the front and you had to scramble to get back behind the meatshields.

    SWTOR Rant: I actually found SWTOR a little frustrating in that my Inquisitor seemed an imbecile that always did wrong (having an ancestor ghost looming about saying as much didn’t help).

  5. I hated the “suddenly combat” moments in SWTOR. Having a play style mastered for open PVE combat, and then suddenly being a complete disadvantage didn’t make it interesting to me, it just made it frustrating.

  6. Guild Wars 2 adds an extra touch to make sure those suddenly-hostile mobs will get the jump on you; They’ll get a second or two of immortality before they start attacking, so any traps you might have set will fizzle. It’s not a big deal, because my necromancer can set the traps while on the move. Having to resummon all of my pets after zone changes is annoying, though.

  7. Worst TOR moment for me was on my Bounty Hunter on Voss. A part of your story quest has you deal with the sudden arrival of several strong mobs as well as some annoying trash. I need to plan my attack and take things out in order. I don’t think on the first try I managed to kill anything before my companion and I bought the farm.

  8. The thing I hate is when shadowmeld/displacer beast/vanish does not clear the aggro. If it does problem is solved as you can re-setup the fight as you please.

  9. Playing a Sith Assassin this would irritate the crap out of me. Outside of the stealth mechanic that class just feels underpowered and severely squishy.

    Thank christ for Force Vanish*.

    *I can’t remember the actual name of ability, but it’s like Vanish but with THE FORCE.

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