Monks, Souls, Hybrids And Life Support For The Holy Trinity
Let’s face it, the holy trinity mechanic for MMOs isn’t going anywhere. No matter how restrictive it is, no matter how much it impedes gameplay, no matter how much it puts the whole silly concept of raiding at odds with the leveling game (I just despise the idea of a single ‘main tank’), its here to stay for a long, long time. Regardless of how much we might want the holy trinity to accidentally asphyxiate itself during a sordid little sex game with its dirty sandbox cousin, it’s never going to die, especially not when developers have found a way to keep the darn thing on permanent life support. Y’know what I’m talking about – the concept of hybrid classes and versatility.
Indeed, it seems as if those cunning MMORPG designers have come up with a way of bypassing a lot of the restrictions that the holy trinity gameplay model of tank/healer/DPS introduces – they’re just allowing all classes to fill multiple roles. This fad really kicked off seven years ago when WoW first launched and introduced the idea of talent trees for different purposes. Paladins could DPS AND tank AND heal. Same went for Druids. Even ‘normal’ healers or tanks could fill the role of DPS if desired, all-in-all a true departure from the original concept way back that healers healed, damagers did damage and a tank was a tank and nothing more.
This versatility was, of course, a jolly good thing because it meant that those guys (and gals) who’d spent their entire leveling career as a tank but didn’t, for whatever reason, fit the bill for the single main tank role on a raid could still switch roles and join the 20 or so other DPS classes. Same went for healers (see what I mean about the whole disjointed raid experience now, don’t you?). Plus it helped with balance issues.
Over the years this idea of classes being able to fill more than one role has become very popular and we now see games like RIFT and SW:TOR in which every class can fill at least two of the holy trinity roles, sometimes even all three of them. RIFT’s soul system is particularly versatile and I have to say quite novel in its offering of Cleric tanks and Mage healers, Trion proving how much they want to make the old holy trinity model as accessible as possible. Likewise, Blizzard has also shown renewed recognition in the power of flexible classes and both their latest offerings, the Deathknight and now the Monk, are hybrids, the latter being able to perform all three group roles.
So it seems that versatility is the next big thing in MMOs and we should easily expect the next few games to be announced to do away with the notion of classes being able to only perform a single role. After all, who really wants to play a Mage or a Rogue that can only do damage when they could play a brand new shiny Monk and get access to a whole range of different play styles? As fun as they might be, I certainly shudder at the thought of just playing a DPS class and knowing that I’ll never be able to fill one of the more desirable and scare roles. Give me a hybrid for quick dungeon queue times any day, that’s all I can say.
Still, all of this flexibility is really just a band-aid for a style of gameplay that we all know is ultimately flawed but no one has yet to come up with a better solution for. I know I certainly can’t think of anything (and I’m not saying it would be an easy feat, by any means). However, I can’t help but think that maybe we’re being a little lazy and looking for the easy way out here. Of course, making sure everyone can tank, heal and DPS will smooth out issues with grouping and raiding but isn’t it just a cover up for a more fundamental issues at hand? Perhaps that the sheer concept of raiding is broken? Or that no one actually likes playing tanks or healers in the first place?
Then again, maybe I’m just overthinking everything.