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Casual Thursday Episode 11: Archetypes vs. Hybrids

This week in Casual Thursday, Banath discusses the merits of Archetypal classes versus Hybrid classes based on the standard trinity system, and what Bioware’s take on class structure means for the casual gamer.

Casual Thursday

Episode 11: Archetypes vs. Hybrids

By Banath

Hello yé full-hearted followers of the TOROcast. This week, as you might have expected considering the title, I will zoom in on the archetype versus hybrid class discussion. The question I am posing is, would you even want a pure archetype system?

The traditional three-way of the tank, healer and damage dealer has always played a very important role in MMOs, but if I understand the MMO crowd here at TOROcast correctly, only a few games manage to balance these three archetypes properly. 

At least in the beginning of most MMOs, it doesn’t work to have such a separation of powers. You are taking baby steps in a world with a lot of enemies and you don’t know yet how everything works. In this first couple of levels you need to be as strong as you can be, especially when you are a healing archetype. Your defense and attacking abilities are limited when you start bumping your healing abilities right away, so that is a no-go, if you want to defeat the first couple of quests or enemies. Unless you begin in a group right away. But not everyone is willing to work in a group, or finds a group they like immediately upon entering the game.

The hybrid system has elements of all the three types. You can do what you need to when a certain situation arises. The problem with a fully hybridized system is that it makes working in a group difficult, because you lack specialization. This is a detriment to endgame activities like raiding and large PvP battles.

What SWTOR is doing, at least in my eyes, is making a crossbreed between the two. In some sense this makes everything a hybrid, but essentially, early on, every class before level 10 is a DPS class, perfect for soloing. Probably, most skills in those early levels are somewhat generic, although you would still expect that a Sith Inquisitor’s abilities will hint more at its DPS/Healing specializations than a Sith Warrior’s.

But during your journey toward endgame, (especially after receiving your AC) you become more and more specialized. You gather companions and they can fill up the other role, or at least a chunk of the other role. If I play a DPS character, I think it would be great if my companion heals the *&$% out of me when I am dying. This way you can play your specialization the way it’s meant to be played, instead of trying to cover all the bases when you solo.

Of course in raids, or in SWTOR’s case Operations, specialization is vital to the construction of a working group. However, still no class will be purely one roll. You still have an attack, sometimes quite damaging. Healing-focused Sith sorcerers can still throw out Force Lightning. It is rather that you are more aimed at healing then any of the other types.

So Bioware hasn’t jumped away from the hybrid. Once you introduce any hybrid elements, you’ve stepped away from archetypes. And a pure archetype system would never work in a new MMO. How can you play a game and kill enemies when you are a pure healer? I mean a pure healer. That means no skills or abilities to help you kill something.

And before someone says that’s not playable, I agree. But it is purity. From this perspective, no MMO that I know of has purely archetypal classes. Mainly because of the healer. How can a healer garner experience besides healing? I think that it would be most interesting if a Sith suddenly decide to become a medic, in a literal sense. You would bump into people that need healing a lot in quests. That is not quite the Sith way of course. A Sith healer would probably draw life energy out of wounded enemies, or something. Is there even a game that is fully based on a pure trinity system? Because in most games I know, you could build a damage dealer with a high level of heavy armor, making it a damage dealer that can help as an off-tank. Or a tank that has a high damage dealing weapon, but no extra skills aimed at doing damage.

Now to my original question. I would not want a pure archetype system. Not only because it is almost undoable, but it would also kill a lot of the fun. You shouldn’t feel like the game becomes a chore and that you are forced right away in a pre-set character. This is why the Paladin was and is played so much in World of Warcraft. This character was highly adaptive -maybe even too adaptive, but that is another debate – but did have the almost archetypical lineage to it. With respec you could become all three of the types, but to be effective you do need to go down the line of one of these three, but they are never as pure as you would think.

The advantage of Bioware’s take on the trinity is in my eyes the same as the Paladin style, but distributed to many, many, many classes in many, many, many different ways (watched Policy Academy recently). You can switch to a different archetype, since the respec of the advanced classes is now confirmed, if you find out that the specific AC you choose was not working. We don’t know how long this respec will be allowed in game yet, but at least in the first few levels after your AC choice you can still decide to go another way. Even within the skillset of a single AC you can choose to hybridize a little. You are just not going to be as specialized as you could be. But to me it is not clear if it is that cut and dry. Maybe the hybrid system as it is normally seen will always be active. At least what I can recall from the Eternity Vault, the archetype system was not so cut and dry. But maybe I’m just not seeing it properly, since I’m not knowledgeable in any other MMO’s.

But what do you think? Is SWTOR now going to be an archetype or hybrid system? And would you even WANT a pure archetype system?

Remember as always,

May the Force be with you!

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