Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Assassin = boring?

One of the devs explained what was the reason behind BS revamp and what were they aiming for:

Originally Posted by Ilaliya View Post

The approach we took was making it fun first and then only afterwards making it balanced. It's always easier to scale back numbers then to scale up fun.
I have decided to do some thinking: what made me chose an assassin and what is keeping me playing it.

The choice
At first I was very much into either Conquerer (my first choice) or Barbarian (I have decided not to roll one because every char I made was too "Conanish"). While doing first questes in Tortage I saw an assassin passing by and I tought: "them sins are cool". I was afraid to roll one because I remembered how in early WoW days rogues were:

a. Overrolled - 50% of server pop was rogues and 40% of them were undead rogues
b. Useless - back then no one wanted rogue in groups or in raids
I had quit my human rogue at lvl 56 or so along with WoW itself.

But then again: agile, slient, efficient my mind that was SOOOOO much cooler than Conquerer or Dark Templar (DTs are very much Death Dealer, check out those comics if you are a DT). I have went out and rolled a char - it came straight from random generator and the name just poped in "Slith" (sounded fitting for an assassin). After few quests I was hooked and never looked back. Without doubt Mephs videos and posts have been inspiring me through 20-80lvl grind along with Evii blog and infamous Wohast (the clicker) that was ravaging US assassin boards.

Why have I sticked with assassin?
Looking back it had a lot to do with my personality as a gamer:
a. I am "one-char" kind of player - even if at some point I do regret my choice I stick it out and hope for the best.
b. I am an achiever - once I roll in mmo I aim for certain things. In AoC I have decided to get to lvl80 and then get pvp lvl5 with assassin.
c. I am an explorer - Can you imagine better character to jump from building to building than an assassin?
d. I am a pvper - If anything assassins ARE COOL to pvp with (well not exacly in terms of mechanics, but more on that later)
e. I am a RPer? - sadly I haven't done much RPing in AoC even thou that was the MAIN reason I have rolled PVP-RP or even bought AoC itself. In WoW I was also on PVP-RP server and was doing quite a lot of RPing.

Last and not least - Slith as a character grew on me. When you get a character that is just right in every detail you don't want to part with it. Again in WoW I have sold my account with my other only character (60lvl paladin, pre BRC), but I have never gave it a second thought. Even if I would quit AoC at some point (unlikely) I would never do the same with this account.

What type of mmo gamer are you? Take this quiz.

After this rather lenghtly introduction (prelude perhaps?) here is where the metal meets the bone and where assassin fails as a class:

Disclamer: Assassin is quite capable in pvp/solo pve. The point of this post is to show why it isn't fun in terms of gameplay. In no way I am calling for assassin buff or going into how stuff should work. The devs have clearly stated that they are aiming for fun first and so this post was made to analyze my personal experience with assassin as the only class I have played since AoC day 1.

The stances
Funcom gave us an impresion that assassin stance system will be dynamic: supposedly stances were designed to be switched depending on enemy type - poision for casters and unholy for soldiers.
assassins can dual wield daggers with lightning speed and can modify their attacks against specific targets, such as unholy attacks against heavily armored foes, or poison attacks versus mana users.
Right now there is no reason for a "stance dance": the game doesn't really ecourage or support that (debuffs from stances are weak to begin with and require 5 point upgrade in feat tree). Being a "single target dps" I would love to "tailor" my stances (yes, atleast 2) depending on the type of enemy I am faceing, gaing both advantages against my target and disadvantages l(ike reduced armor) against other opponents that might pick me as their target.
What we are getting are two stances - on for each of trees- that give bonus to our attacks (without them we are doing marginal damage), make hybrid builds harder to put together and occasionally need to be reapplied after death. More of a annoying chore than anything.

Passive feats
I like my bars to be filled with diffrent stuff that I can use, mix, switch and micromanage to get best results in terms of DPS/surviviality. I like to tweak my keyboard setup for best access to those skills and use them at the right time. For some reason assassins have TONS of passive feats that are either working their magic in the background (example: deft blades giving passive +10% offhand) or are purely luck based (Flurry of blows might go off when the game feels like it).

Lets break it down:

Lotus tree
Passive - 5
Passive, luck based - 9
Active (clickable) - 11
total: 25

Passive -6
Passive, luck based - 8
Active (clickable) - 11
total: 25

General tree (up to agile mind)
Passive - 2
Passive, luck based - 0
Active (clickable) - 4

As you can see there is same issue with lack of active tools on both trees.

Now lets see how many of those active feats can be used often in combat
and by that I mean active feats with cooldown of 1 minute or less:

Lotus tree: 5
Unholy: 6
General tree (up to agile mind): 2

Combos that are build in for every assassin:
- Swift Strikes
- Grim corruption
- Slow death strikes
- Lethargy? (broken combo with marginal damage and useless debuff, hardly anyone uses it)

This is what we potentialy have, now lets see how many active feat with 1 minute cooldown or less do we get in two standard pvp builds Lotus/general, Corruption/general:

Lotus/general - Lotus:3, General: 2 (link to build)
Corruption/general - Unholy: 4, General:2 (link to build)

Lets go even further and cut out defensive feats and leave only those active feats that are improve your damage or cc your opponent:

Lotus/general - Lotus:3 (link to build)
Corruption/general - Unholy:4 (link to build)

Finally we set aside those active feats that have requirments to be used: either soul shards or flesh rots stacks (they can't be used without those)

Lotus/general - Lotus:1 (link to build) (snap kick is out because it doesn't work on all armor types)
Corruption/general - Unholy:2 (link to build) (death whirlwind is out because without soul shards it does next to nothing damage)

1 minute is still a lot of time when you consider the dynamic of pvp minigames so lets see what you can use in every single fight (cooldown of 20s or lower):

Lotus/general - Lotus:0 (link to build)
Corruption/general - Unholy:1 (link to build)

Thats right! When out of feats to use in every fight you are almost down to plain, standard combo of GC (for snare, not the damage) and Swift Strikes all the way. And if your opponent is already snared, stuned or knocked back? Just rotate diffrent ranks of Swift Strikes.
I call this state "the Vanilla Assassin". Happens all the time.

to sum it up: at best you have 3-4 active feats to use from fight to fight while your other stuff is on constant 2-3 minute cooldown. This is how your bar looks like in minigames - all is greyed out, constantly.
Also you have no means of tailoring your attacks against diffrent types of enemies through buffs/debuffs - you have to respecc for that (hardly ideal in minigame scenario).

It boils down to using EVERYTHING you have, whenever you can on whoever you can - this hardly fits smart and sneaky assassin type.

And what if you get CCed while buffed with longer duration active feats? (does that happen to you? Sure does to me). I guess you are screwed for the next 2-3 minutes so better save up those longer CD buffs rather than risking it going to waste (if barbarian is near you are bound to be stuned and if your excellent balance is on CD you are sure as hell to be knockedback).

This in my opinion is not what I would consider FUN. Looking for FUN factor? See how new DT was designed: now THAT is FUN - tons of stuff to play with, diffrent combos for diffrent enemy types, low on CDs, auras, buffs, debuffs - the works.

Soul shards
Last but not least: the dreaded soul shard system. At first (low level) getting shards was fun - you were using them for corrupting strikes, the spares were being burned for stamina (consume) and all was good. Later on it became a chore and finally it turned out to be a system designed to gimp you in pvp. What you will quickly realize is that other classes have instant access to as powerful or more powerful feats while you have to "get them shards" to do anything beyond standard Swift Strikes/Lunge buff combo. Even assassins specced Lotus have same stuff, but without need for shards (see Flurry of blows vs corrupting strikes). The soul shard system is a big stone tighted to your neck to drag along in pvp.

Let me be 100% clear on this: soul shards provide 0 (zero) benefits while requring constant attention. The soul shards are goggles on a cat - they do nothing.

So are assassins fun? Yes, but not because developers made them interesing in terms of class mechanics. Assassins don't bring anything to the table that other class would not do atleast as good, they are not unique (like ranger's tracking, DT's leeches, new Conq orders/command), they don't benefit from stealth (atleast not any more than any other rogue class does), we don't have any group buff, wear lighest armor and are limited only to shorest range weapon in game - daggers (that can be used by other classes too).
Assassins are iconic, pop culture phenomenom (assassin creed, thief and many many others) and this class will be played as long there are people who enjoy this kind vibe. However other players that rolled assassins just as they did with other classes have quickly abandoned them. That is why in minigames you only see battle hardened assassin veterans decked out with best pvp/pve gear while "trader trash" fresh 80' casters are common.

I won't even go into assassins in sieges - the numbers speak for themself.

How many developers does it take to fix class in MMO? I don't know, I have never build one, but I know what is fun and this ain't it.

1 comment:

Longasc said...

You listed many good reasons why many people have a negative view of Assassin classes or better their players in MMOs, me being one of them. ;)

If I remember right I scored ESAK or EASK in the Bartle Test. But it is somehow a bit like this Jung Typology test where 90% of males seem to become INTJ types.