Is Balanced Worth Boring?
Although it’s early days with SW:TOR and I’m still somewhat off to the level cap, I’m an avid PvPer and queue for Warzones almost constantly when I play it (they’re a lot of fun). Taking a breather and switching back to WoW Battlegrounds for a few days though highlighted something I always suspected: it’s ridiculously unbalanced compared to The Old Republic.
It’s no surprise really. SW:TOR is a new game and designed from the ground up to cater to both PvE and PvP and, whilst I’m sure there will be balance issues of some sort (it’s unavoidable really), the PvP is a lot less frustrating than, say, WoW and none of the classes seem to stand out as being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any of the others. At least not yet. Of course, it’s not perfect and you still have to deal with the issues of level divides and gear progression but, unless you play PvP specific MMO like League of Legends, I’m not sure it’s ever going to be possible to solve those problems.
Also, whilst balance is certainly a consideration in PvE, I’m focusing on the PvP front here because I think that’s when unbalanced class and gameplay mechanics truly become noticeable (at least for me). Maybe it’s just my preferred playstyle but I find performing X% less on a DPS chart in a group or raid far less frustrating than getting my face rolled by an opposing class over and over again. PvE is also easier for the developers to sort out because you’re fighting against a controlled enemy in a, more or less, controlled environment. Not to mention that some abilities are naturally perfectly suitable for PvE, especially when combined with long cooldowns, but suddenly become hugely overpowered in a PvP setting.
BioWare took all of this into consideration when designing SW:TOR and made all of the classes, and both of the factions, as equal as possible. Republic and Empire sport the exact same classes, mirrors of each other, and all seem to get a pretty similar set of crowd control abilities and an early action to break them. Likewise, there are no hugely powerful killer abilities on long cooldowns, there aren’t a lot of mobility options, you can’t use mounts and there are gameplay effects in place to limit CC potential. And whilst this makes PvP in SW:TOR a lot more balanced than in WoW, I also think it makes the game a tad boring as a result.
Warhammer Online and Everquest 2 are another couple of good examples of this in where the former had a lot better balanced PvP mechanics than the latter but ultimately, I felt, was kinda boring due to it. WAR lacked the really iconic and crazy class abilities that a game like Everquest 2 had and tried so hard to make player combat as frustration free as possible but squeezed the life out of the game in the process. Of course, I never was on the receiving end of a Shadowknight’s Harmtouch or a Brigand’s stun lock in EQ2 but, hell, at least it made open world PvP a diverse blast. All classes were unique, many feared, and the iconic divide between good and evil, represented by classes like the Paladin and Shadowknight, just wouldn’t have been the same had they been mirrors of each other.
I suppose if we accept the fact that it may be impossible to balance PvP in a PvE game without sacrificing some creativity, then we just have to decide whether or not it’s actually important. Is it better to have a game that’s well balanced and potentially be more boring as a result? Or should we stop trying to obtain the unachievable balanced perfection and just focus on classes and game mechanics that are unique, diverse and fun instead? Personally, I’d go for the latter option. What about you?