Syp of Bio Break has a post discussing MMO combat systems. and the relative merits of certain action MMORPGs’ attempts to mix-up the old formula of tab-target combat.
Combat is such a core activity in any MMORPG that it certainly is important to get right, unless you’re playing one of the rare games that allow players to really focus on playstyles other than combat (e.g. crafters in Everquest 2) then you’re likely to be fighting a lot of the time. Generally I prefer tab-target, slower combat with plenty of abilities and options during combat.
I’ve played quite a few of the more recent “action combat MMO” generation, for a while all the MMO coming out seemed to be action-oriented. Of those games I liked the combat in Neverwinter (the Cryptic MMO) the most. It’s a matter of personal taste but I want clearly defined trinity roles and for me Neverwinter did this without having a super-weak healing class – the Devout Cleric in Neverwinter can deal a lot of holy pain to enemies, much better than the Priest or Mystic in Tera for instance. It helps that the classes have very different, interesting spells or abilities with impressive effects.
Syp gives Guild Wars 2 as a better/best example of action-y combat – I have very mixed feelings on this game. At launch and through most of the levelling content I enjoyed the combat well enough, the character animations are excellent and the weapon swapping mechanic adds some needed variety to the limits of the active abilityset. But from the living story onwards (especially season 2) I quickly was turned off the game by the combination of content/encounter design and rising difficulty.
Wildstar also gets a mention in the article and actually I’ve changed my opinion of the game for the better since my first impressions in beta. In my more recent playthrough of the leveling content, I have found the combat in Wildstar to be ok; I haven’t played enough classes to be able to give it a fair comparison to Neverwinter’s but it seems generally fairly forgiving.
I’m still on the fence about what combat I prefer since I play both action and traditional-combat MMOs with some regularity. I’ll be interested to see if Wildstar’s combat gets more (or even too) action-y for me in later levels.