WoW: spec flexibility (or holy dps)

I spent some time this weekend duo leveling with my partner through the Pandaria Horde version of Jade Forest. There are enough story differences from the Alliance side, and it has been long enough since my last journey through the zone, for this to be a fun little side activity.

I had a Troll priest as main for our old Horde-side guild (the twin of our Alliance guild) during the Cataclysm era. Playing the new level 85 content I found myself wondering why I was having to play her Shadow off-spec and not her Holy main. The problem is that damage output is king in WoW’s PVE content. It brought to mind this morning my clueless attempt at leveling a paladin as Holy back in 2007 – it was next to impossible as you barely did any damage as a healer back then.

Nowadays I could duo as Holy certainly but, I suspect, my damage would probably be about 50% of what it is in Shadow. Since it is just me and a paladin tank for this duo, I’m providing the main damage and the odd shield or heal. So to progress with a half decent pace through the content my spec is decided for me, the old dev mantra of “bring the player not the class” doesn’t apply to spec as well. The two specs play pretty differently despite being the same class!

I can contrast this to my cleric in Neverwinter who, even with his powers and feat points focused on healing, can put out respectable damage easy enough. All I have to do is slot a different mix of abilities from those I’ve unlocked while leveling. I can go from having a full buff/heal set to a full on DPS with emergency heal set in a few mouse drags.

MMOs with sub-classes (SWTOR’s advanced classes or WoW’s very distinct talent trees) make players choose between sub-types of the class to play. Sometimes these choices are irreversible by design (SWTOR’s advanced class cannot be reset), many times there are additional costs in-game that hamper the character’s ability to operate in more than one mode equally well (WoW’s reforging system has overcomplicated the gearing system with regards to dual-spec).

I feel this issue will need some more thought when I have more time: many MMO games offer build flexibility options, but the reality isn’t so free when you actually play them.  What do you think? Is it important to have the option for multiple character ‘specs’ for role flexibility? Should the options be playable without a complex process of respeccing or regearing the character – e.g. should a healer be able to do enough damage to level / solo dailies while in “healer mode”?

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4 Responses to WoW: spec flexibility (or holy dps)

  1. Jonny 5iVe says:

    I don’t think so.

    Using WoW as an example, you mentioned holy paladin’s. The problem with which is no where near as bad as it once was.

    The major issue I have with healers being able to dish out a lot of damage is that they become incredibly overpowered in PvP play. Back in WotLK, restro druids were near invincible in the arena as they could heal on the move, had plenty of HoTs, as well as the then fairly rare ability to get out of stuns/polymorphs regularly… If you then threw in some strong DPS, all you would’ve seen were 3 restro druid teams dominating the 3v3 scene.

    The problem a lot of people face when reviewing these kinds of gameplay design choices, is that they only look at it through the eyes of a subset of the entire playerbase, in this case, PvE. Then, only questing PvE. There are tons of people who level through BG’s and/or instances exclusively (myself included with subsequent characters, once I’ve seen all the quests), who have no problem keeping themselves thoroughly entertained from 1-90 as just a holy priest.

  2. Trippin Ninja says:

    Jonny is right, I bet pvp is the main reason it is like this. I suppose they could increase your dps on npcs only to circumvent the op in pvp factor though.

    Shadow priest is my main and has been since about midway through BC. I actually use two shadow specs, one for pve and one for pvp. To be honest I wish I didn’t even have to bother switching specs unless I wanted to be holy or disc but it’s a perfect example of how different pve and pvp can be and why having multiple specs in a game like wow is almost a must. Something that’s awesome in pvp isn’t worth a damn in pve and vice versa.

    I wonder if a company will ever try a moba type approach to their instanced pvp. It will still be your character from the pve portion of the game but his abilities would be narrowed down to just a few and balanced with other classes for pvp. It is extra work to develop two skill sets but I feel like it’s one of the few ways you can keep one side from affecting the other.

    • Telwyn says:

      I guess you’re both right here, certainly I ignore PVP completely so wouldn’t naturally think of that. I’d prefer all games took a Guild Wars approach to completely separating skills/gear for the two sides of the game to avoid complicating balancing.

  3. Nobody says:

    I think you might be surprised by holy dps. I haven’t tried holy, but as disc my dps is comparable and the survivability is out the roof. and if you need more incentive, I did see a holy priest lead dps in a dungeon I was healing on my shaman. I investigated and there does seem to be a dps build.

    http://www.icy-veins.com/forums/topic/3118-holy-priest-dps-54-guide/

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