When I was first dipping my toes in to the variety of classes in Blade and Soul, I was not only trying to work out a guide, but also wondering which class would speak to my tanker-loving sensibilities. I am a proud member of Team Trinity in MMO design for a variety of reasons that were outlined on this very site. As I was making my journey through those opening levels, a worry began to creep in to my mind – a worry that the soft definitions of each class role would lead to a lack of cohesion in grouping. After having run Blackram Narrows on a few occasions, I’m sorry to say that most of my worries were indeed well-founded, and it’s brought me back to thinking about group roles in Blade and Soul.
A Blade in a Blender
First and foremost, Blade and Soul does dungeon forming very differently, focusing on a lobby system instead of a traditional raid or group finding algorithm. It seems like a bit of needless window dressing since party formation really doesn’t focus on class makeup so much as party size. While each class offers up DPS in a variety of ways and some can certainly draw more attention than others, it all still feels like a mishmash of individual styles stuffed together for the purposes of getting a clear. I refer to this sensation as being “a blade in a blender” – sure, you’re part of five others, but each one is basically spinning about and doing the same thing as the other: blending enemies in to a loot smoothie.
It’s this lack of teamwork that is only fostered by the fact that there aren’t very hard role definitions. The teams I ran with barely even bothered to wait for everyone to zone in and instead just charged forward – a problem that was exacerbated by the fact that level restrictions on dungeons don’t appear to be a thing in Blade and Soul. Since things were not really structured, many of my runs felt like I was being led along by my nose. I didn’t get a sense of shared effort or goals. Hell, I barely felt like I contributed. About the only time there seemed like our group was going to form a team was in the waiting room, where each of our avatars struck a superheroic pose before starting.
I should maybe clarify that I’m talking about contribution and cohesion a lot in a more emotional sense. I’m not parsing DPS. I’m not running some meters or metric or trying to issue the most hurt the fastest in order to stress out a tank. When a group forms up that gets things done effectively, that feels great. You feel like there were a bunch of strangers pooling resources together to achieve a great task, though dungeons can certainly be argued as less than epic. Regardless of how one feels about dungeon content nowadays, the fact remains that these things are a chance for people to come together and for players to really know what their class can do…and since Blade and Soul didn’t offer any clean delineation between various flavors of DPS, I ultimately got the impression of just walking along. Or even worse, of being dead weight.
Perhaps it’s a problem with my class choice, as a great deal of my abilities depend on my striking first or arranging a dodge from a hit. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare myself, and more often than not the skills that would have really let me unload didn’t get used since I was not frequently on the receiving end of an attack. All I ended up doing was smashing my left or right mouse buttons, throwing out some Poison Breath and occasionally managing to get a proc off due to someone else’s knockdown skill. As a tanker player – a person who’s used to being the lynchpin of group efforts – the whole experience was pretty damn jarring.
And that’s even before taking in to account that loot had to be bid on in a running live auction. Granted, bids are at set increments that are pretty small initially, but those bids can add up fast if you’re not paying attention.
For all of my complaints here, though, I did have one run that almost had a whiff of cooperation and teamwork. The Destroyer of the group took point, the others laid back and we managed to single out targets for the most part. The “soft trinity” managed to seal itself up in to a beloved composition. It still wasn’t pretty, but by that point I was desperate for any dungeon run that felt like a concerted effort.
So it’s that one good experience that makes a line of bad ones easier to swallow, which seems to be a running theme for me and this game. It made me hopeful that, perhaps in later levels, roles and classes were better defined. It made me feel like maybe my Assassin and her bouncy pigtails would make an impression…or at least make something that felt like a useful contribution. As it stands, though, the whole thing feels too loose and undercooked. It’s like you’re eating a delicious pie and you taste some unexpected spice out of nowhere that leaves you sitting there chewing, brow furrowing as you try to identify this rogue flavor. All I ended up thinking was “How much cooler would this whole thing be if the Destroyer had more obvious tanking tools?”
But I digress – Blackram Narrows is one major dungeon out of several smaller group matters I’ve played thus far, and perhaps the classes come in to their own later on. Or perhaps there’s mechanics in other fights that command more joint efforts. Until such time as I experience either of these things, I keep thinking back to more active MMO’s like WildStar and its combination of trinity roles with high-paced combat, or Final Fantasy XIV and its traditional group makeup and dungeon and raid encounters, and I just get the sense that Blade and Soul missed something here.
Regardless of how much my early group experiences miss the mark, I’m still going to follow through and see if this is a one-off or if the lack of roles really is as bad as I think it is. I have yet to see many MMO’s really provide an answer for a trinity design, and Blade and Soul is not helping the case against. In the meantime, I’m off to some desert regions it sounds like. Until next week, see you in the fields or soaring through the air!Related: Blade & Soul, Column, Dungeon, Tower of Mushin