MMO Combat – Fighting The Good Fight…

I remember way back when I started playing LOTRO I found the combat system totally alien. I come from an almost pure FPS background stretching back to Doom and death-matching in Quake. I’ve been trained to keep moving, heal often and use cover. You chase your enemy down but you keep out of their reach. You hit them with everything you have but never let them hit you. It was fast, flexible, dirty & dynamic and I bloody loved it!

And then I came into LOTRO and it was nothing like that. Combat no longer relied on positioning (apart from being in or out of range to execute an attack skill, that is) and cover didn’t matter a jot. Hell, if I tried to dodge out of a bow or javelin attack the damn thing kicked the laws of physics out of the window and followed me like a bloody heat-seeking missile! I soon realised that combat in an MMO was less combat and more… statistics. Don’t get me wrong, it could be as exciting as a fight in Max Payne, but more occasionally than I ever found interesting. It seemed all I needed to do was learn which keys to press in which order and hope the enemy’s health bar went down before mine.

I guess the enjoyment I was feeling at learning a new system coupled with the love I had of Tolkien’s world and the pure joy I was experiencing from walking about in it all combined to blind me to the weaknesses of the central mechanic of the game I was becoming addicted to. In short, combat sucked.

I’m sure there is some skill to it. No, I *know* there is it’s just not the kind of blood-pumping skill that hooks me. I want Left 4 Dead immediacy and LOTRO (and from what I can tell, many other MMOs) offered me a spreadsheet and dice roll. As long as I didn’t pick a fight with some hug, tough bastard and I managed to remember all my skill rotations, well then all I had to do was hit my number keys in more or less the right order & at the right time and I would be OK. Some fights just became watching two health bars with no movement on the screen and only the tap tap tap of the 1, 2 & 3 keys to remind you that something is happening. If this description puts you in mind of my complaint about healing then you’d be right. Automatic pilot gaming is just not my thing. I find it uninteresting and plain dull.

And again I find Guild Wars 2 coming to my rescue. Possibly. You see it is still a skill clicky combat system with number magic crunching going on behind the scenes, but there is a major difference – you have to dodge. That’s right, dodge. When someone shoots a gun at you or fires an arrow or cracks off a lighting bolt it travels in a straight line meaning you can, if you are fast enough, get out of its way. When someone swings a ruddy great sword at you or charges at you like an enraged bull, you can get the hell out of the way. Wow! Suddenly, with the simple addition of this mechanic combat once more becomes a fight. No matter how good my enemy is at button mashing and how lucky their stat rolls are, a well timed roll or a sudden duck behind cover means I can escape being hit. True it’s not a full on FPS system, but after my failure to launch with CoD last year I’m not that fussed about hardcore combat – a mix between MMO & FPS sounds like it will be fun and after grinding myself into a coma in LOTRO, fun is exactly what I’m after 🙂

Roll on (hur hur) next weekend’s beta!

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