I’ve been playing a lot of World of Warcraft recently, probably more than I should have. All-in-all, I think it’s a testament to the strength of the new Mists of Pandaria expansion and between the new continent to explore, the hundreds of quests to complete, the new battlegrounds and the rather addictive side-games, there’s a lot to keep one occupied. Still, playing with my level 90 Warrior and low level Monk, one thing is starting to become clear: tanking has less of a place in the game than ever before.
As someone who used to be a die hard tank (and still considers himself one at heart, I’m proud to say), I feel slightly sad pondering the future of tanking in MMOs and it seems that the majority of activities for the majority of people in games now, WoW in particular, revolve around everything other than tanking. I can’t say I’m hugely surprised at this thought either as, with the increase in more casual orientated offerings, there’s less of a need to form a group and traverse through a dungeon than ever before. In fact, questing and PvP are two of the biggest components in WoW now and neither really has any place for a tank (healers at least have a hugely important role in PvP).
I admit it would be an exaggeration to state that tanking is completely dead in WoW because running heroic dungeons are still a mainstay of high level content in the game and someone still has to tank them… even if those players seem more reluctant and harder to find than ever before. As a fairly occasional tanker myself, the less than grateful welcome you sometimes receive from fellow PUGers combined with the need to dedicate a lot of time and effort gearing up for it makes the whole thing a bit of unappealing ordeal. Plus, you’re then faced with the crazy conundrum of how to gear up for a DPS position in raids if you’re tanking heroics instances constantly (and only being ‘allowed’ to role on tank gear as a result).
Perhaps it’s just the particular mechanics of WoW and the fact that tanking requires a whole different set of gear from DPSing that makes it so inaccessible but the constant lures and rewards that Blizzard seem to offer in order to entice people to do it suggests that it’s not a very popular activity. The introduction of scenarios, three man DPS group instances, further compounds this fact and honestly makes me believe that we’re going to see fewer and fewer opportunities to tank as the game progresses. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if, in five years time, every dungeon in WoW was a scenario and the sacred role of tank was reserved for elite raids only.
It’s not just WoW that seems to be spearheading the decline of this gaming mechanic either and if you needed any more persuasion that tanking was dying out you need look no further than Guild Wars 2 which, by all accounts (I haven’t played it yet so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here), has removed the concept completely. It truly is starting to look like the traditional holy trinity roles are becoming a thing of the past.
I know some people would welcome the Final Death for the old style trinity model of tanking, healing and DPSing whilst others would vigorously oppose it. For me, as much as I love both the playstyle and roleplaying aspect of being a tank, I appreciate the evolving nature of MMORPGs. Call it dumbing down, call it simplification, call it appealing to casual players or call it whatever you like, the people who play MMOs are changing and the games are changing as a result. Just like the idea of a Dungeon Finder would’ve horrified MMOers 10 years ago, perhaps the idea of tanking will do the same to players in another decade.
Of course, as much as I’m happy to embrace change, I would honestly miss being able to tank. Still, I guess I’ll always have my fond childhood memories of being beaten in the face by an Orc to keep me reminiscing.