I’ve been thinking over the last few days about combat in the various games I play. The seed for this post was I think planted by reviews of action combat in Tera and my experiences playing Amalur and Vindictus.
Lord of the Rings Online has at face value pretty standard ‘hotbar’ combat, you target an enemy with your mouse or the tab key and then use hotbar commands to issue attacks and other maneuvers according to your characters class.
LoTRO holds to the ‘holy trinity’ of tanking, healing and damage dealer roles within combat. Each class has at least some mechanics that are unique to that class to vary combat up a bit. So my champion main has a ‘fervour‘ meter which powers most of his more powerful attacks. So above and beyond the energy meter that all characters have to limit activity over the longer term, I also have to manage his fervour points which makes combat somewhat tactical as I can build up higher for very powerful attacks or use mid-level abilities in relatively quick succession.
I’m not a huge fan of melee DPS classes in most games, I detest them in WoW and preferred to tank on my warrior in Rift than DPS. Strangely though despite this I really like playing champion, in part because the fervour mechanic is very well designed. But more than that LoTRO has a ‘skill queue’ which allows you to have an ability executing and the next one lined up ready to follow. This has a remarkable effect on the rhythm of combat, it helps to avoid ‘mash button’ syndrome that I often found myself suffering from in WoW when playing a fury warrior.
Button mashing is normal in action combat games, in hotbar MMOs it can result from frantic and complex boss fights, but it most often comes down to the fact that global cooldowns mean you spend a fair amount of time waiting to do anything. Maybe it’s only fractions of seconds at a time but it adds up to give combat a stop-start-stop-start vibe. In LoTRO the ability to plan and execute two moves in a mini-chain helps to alleviate this and dissuades simple button mashing as pressing a third key will cancel either the skill about to execute or the next queued skill depending on the exact timing. The effect way of playing in LoTRO is to think what your doing and plan a move or two ahead as much as possible and I really like it!
LoTRO’s combat system has been criticised over the years for being slow and unresponsive, given the rash of action combat games that are coming out it may be re-appraised by some who tire of the new trend in button mashing, hyperactive combat.