Tanking In PvP
Although I’ve dabbled with PvP in many MMORPGS, the only game that I truly gripped me with it was Everquest 2. I played for several years on first Darathar and then Nagafen and I stand by my opinion that SOE managed to create one of the best PvP experiences available. Aside from creating a fair yet competitive environment that offered me the sort of mildly sanitised and strategic PvP I was looking for, SOE did something exceptionally clever – they made proper tanking part of PvP gameplay.
Being a tank is about being the meat shield of the group and soaking up damage like a dirty sponge so your comrades can do their jobs. It’s a role I adore and one that’s always frustrated me in many PvP games as it often just doesn’t exist. In PvP in most MMORPGs you don’t play a tank, you play DPS. You may have more hit points, more armor, and more defensive abilities but at the end of the day you’re just another damage dealer because actual tanking doesn’t do anything. And why would it? If you run up and engage your opponent, they will just run around you and target the feeble finger-wigglers in your party instead (poor fellows). SOE had the perfect solution.
They made taunt work in PvP.
In PvP in EQ2, taunt will force your opponent(s) to attack you for a good 3 seconds. That’s 3 seconds they can’t attack your healer, your scout, your mage or your pet Chiwawa. Start being clever with your taunts and suddenly you’ve got the thing that’s the most important aspect of any PvP fight: control.
The ability to taunt in PvP in EQ2 made combat a whole lot more interesting. Fights lasted longer and required more strategy and thought. It wasn’t about who did the most DPS or who was the highest level, it was about working as a team and having faith in your friends. Trust me, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as taunting an entire force of enemy players onto your backside and hoping that your group shows their mettle, keeps their cool and does their job.
Since playing Everquest 2, I’ve been quite surprised at how little affect the taunt ability, and often tanking as a whole, has in PvP in other MMORPGs. Games seem determined to offer a very singular focused form of PvP and relies on damage and independence rather than grouping and strategy. It also seems very odd to me to suddenly re-write the rules of the game. We all know that PvE groups require a tank, a healer and good DPS so why should PvP be any different? Why should my tank have to play a DPS role just to be competitive in PvP?
Tanking in PvP is an interesting thing to ponder and I think it’s lack of purpose has a lot to do with the haphazard development of PvP as a gameplay form. It’s certainly something I’d like to see explored more and given more attention by the developers. PvP shouldn’t just be about rushing and overwhelming your opponent with damage, it should offer the same strategy and group dynamics that PvE does. Kudos to SOE for doing it well.