In a recent Massively article on Wildstar the subject of action combat came up with a comparison to action combat in Tera.
TERA was often very good about agency. There were several fights that required parties but could be managed completely solo by someone skilled at dodging and reacting. The BAM fights were my favorite part of the entire game, giving you huge opponents with overwhelming attacks who could be dispatched solo if you were smart. But it was an intricate dance, requiring a lot of awareness and careful timing of your various skills.
WildStar takes that thinking and runs with it. It brings that sort of scenario to every fight. Your opponents aren’t pushovers, but neither are they instant death. You have to dodge, weave, and think about your abilities if you want to emerge without a whole lot of extra bruises on your body.
Although the writer probably thinks of this as a positive for this upcoming MMO, I see it as a potential negative. Action combat for me is a double-edged sword, it can be fun but is usually overdone in games. Whether I think of Tera, Guild Wars 2 or the venerable Vindictus I find combat that emphasizes “bunny hop dodging” over anything as tiresome in the long run. Action combat was heralded as the solution to boring MMO combat, no longer do we stand still and hit a challenging monster for minute or more pressing ability buttons as and when available. Now you can dodge, position and jump around while hitting those same buttons! Guild Wars 2’s combat especially disappointed me, it didn’t seem to add much tactical thought to combat, but rather seems to require (in tougher fights) you to just dodge constantly while spamming attacks.
So if Wildstar is taking action combat makes every fight a dodge/movement fest then isn’t this just taking the now-common raiding mechanics from World of Warcraft and other similar games and putting them into every fight in the open world? Having raided a bit now (flex-mode and normal-mode) in WoW I feel that one or two boss fights with lots of movement can be interesting, but having lots of movement almost as a basic requirement is plain annoying (although WoW isn’t an “action combat” game per se, it certainly has a *lot* of movement requiring mechanics in raid-boss encounters).
I can’t see how Wildstar’s combat, according to this description, wouldn’t bore me very quickly from the ‘sameness’ of needing to move and dodge all the time. That may sound a bit backwards, but it was certainly my experience in Tera that the shiny newness of the action combat lost a lot of its lustre after 40 levels of leveling my priest with the need to constantly dodge and position.
I’d prefer more variety along a spectrum of ‘static —– action’ in combat in a game. But the trend seems to be one extreme or the other at present. Where are the games catering to the middle ground? I’ve not reached cap in Neverwinter yet, but so far on a squishy control wizard I don’t have to dodge constantly if I use my control abilities properly. So perhaps that’s the missing ingredient for action combat in some games (like my experience of Tera’s priest). At least if I can have a valid, alternative to the crazy bunny-hopping warrior or rogue type then I’m happy.