New to MMOs - What to Play
by Tyler Edwards, December 9, 2014
Some time ago, we here at WhatMMO published a guide to help new players understand their options in the vast world of massively multiplayer games. But what if you know what you want to do, but not how you want to do it? There are a lot of classes to choose from, and each one can give you a radically different experience of a game.
In this article, we'll run down the most common class archetypes in MMOs, as well as who would be best suited to play them. Pick whichever one best suits the way you want to play.
Also known as: Fighter, soldier.
Concept: Warriors are a class that prefers the direct approach. They charge headlong into battle and lay about themselves with powerful melee strikes. What they lack in subtlety, they make up for with sheer brute force.
Warriors are usually the most physical class. They wear the heaviest armor and wield the mightiest weapons. They don't possess magic or other tricks. Their solution to every problem is simple: Hit it.
Warriors are most often relegated to the "tank" role, a high survival role that is expected to draw the attacks of enemies and be tough enough to survive the ensuing punishment. This means they should be ready to take a leadership role over other players and accept a certain amount of responsibility. Depending on the game, warriors may also have the potential to be formidable damage-dealers.
Who should play: Those looking to lead the charge, and those who like the idea of throwing themselves into the heart of battle and imposing their will on enemies.
Also known as: Wizard, sorcerer.
Concept: Mages are your classical magic users. Dressed in robes and empowered by arcane knowledge, they blast their opponents with punishing magical force.
Mages are a highly specialized class. They have incredibly weak armor and will generally crumble quickly under a sustained attack. But they make up for this with devastating ranged damage and spells that cripple their enemies. Mages could be considered the artillery of MMOs.
Mages are usually a fairly simple class to master, so they make a good potential choice for beginners, as long as one can master the art of keeping enemies at a safe distance. Given some breathing room, mages will quickly pound anything or anyone into submission with fireballs, lightning bolts, and ice storms.
Who should play: Those who seek to dish out the pain without the need to risk themselves in the chaos of melee combat, and anyone who wants something more visually appealing than a melee class.
Also known as: Assassin, thief, duelist.
Concept: Rogues are at the opposite end of the melee fighter spectrum from warriors. They wear very light armor, prefer daggers and other light and quick weapons, and are all about subtlety and cunning.
A rogue will rarely survive a fair fight, but they don't fight fair. They rely on stealth to hide themselves from sight, poisons that cripple their foes, and dirty tricks that tip the scales in their favor. They favor ambush tactics, hitting hard and fast before their enemies have a chance to react.
Rogues tend to be especially powerful, and despised, in player versus player. Rogues are almost always the most hated class in MMOs, and they wear this fact as a badge of honor. However, in some games, rogues can find their abilities more limited when not facing other players. They may still perform competitively, but abilities like stealth tend to play a smaller role, robbing them of some of their identity.
Who should play: Those who prefer to fight smarter, not harder, as well as though who like to deal a lot of damage very quickly and those who want to make the lives of their enemies miserable.
Also known as: Priest, healer.
Concept: Clerics are servants of the divine, calling upon the power of their faith to bless and uplift their allies. The primary purpose of clerics is to serve as healers, who restore the health of their team members in combat.
Healing can be a high pressure role, but it's generally not that difficult, so it's not a bad choice for new players as long as they don't mind having some responsibility.
Historically, clerics have had very weak fighting abilities, making them miserable to play outside of a group, but these days, that's much less common. They're usually at least able to hold their own in a fight, and many games even allow clerics to build themselves as damage-dealers that can equal the likes of mages.
Who should play: People who wish to aid their fellow players and be an integral part of any team.
Also known as: Hunter, archer.
Concept: Rangers are based on making use of bows, guns, and other ranged weaponry. They are usually the only option to fight from a distance without relying on magic.
Rangers are often seen as loners and survivalists. They are most comfortable among the wilderness, and they have the tools to survive it. They use trap skills to hobble enemies, and they may also have access to a limited amount of nature magic.
It's worth noting that rangers in MMOs are something of a departure from the more traditional view of the archetype in that they are usually a pure ranged class and have little or no ability melee ability.
They also usually make use of combat pets in the form of tamed wild animals. These pets make playing solo very easy, and for this reason, rangers are arguably the friendliest class for new players. However, controlling pets properly alongside your character can make them challenging to master for high level content.
Who should play: Those who want to be self-sufficient and anyone who thinks "Legolas plus Pokemon" sounds awesome.
Also known as: Warlock, necromancer.
Concept: Alongside mages, there's another magical damage-dealer class that always seems to come up in MMOs. These focus less on direct attacks and more on summoning magical minions to aid them in battle.
Like the ranger, the aid of these combat pets can make such classes very friendly to new players, but they often prove quite difficult to play at the higher end.
For whatever reason, these classes usually have a very dark theme. They are either warlocks, controlling demons and blasting enemies with hellfire, or necromancers, calling on the power of death itself to wither foes and summon undead monstrocities.
These classes often have a fairly methodical play style. They're about controlling the battlefield, manipulating their enemies as they command their unholy minions.
Who should play: Anyone who ever looked at an evil mastermind and thought, "I want that job."
Also known as: Paladins, druids, shamans, and many more names.
Concept: Most MMOs will feature at least one class that blurs the lines of different archetypes. Rather than specializing in one area, they offer a variety of ability types and can fill many roles.
One of the most common examples of this is the paladin. Paladins are holy warriors who combine the heavy armor and melee ability of a warrior with the divine magic and healing abilities of a cleric.
Different games may treat hybrids differently. In some, they are still required to specialize their builds into a specific niche. In others, they are true jacks-of-all-trades, able to fight enemies and support allies all at once. Each strategy has its potential pitfalls. Jacks-of-all-trades risk being masters of none who are passed over for more specialized classes, but when hybrids are expected to fit themselves into a specific niche, they lose a lot of their identity.
Despite being fairly complex, hybrids are a good choice for beginners, because they offer a variety of experiences. Even if you don't stick with your hybrid, it might help point you to the class you'll truly love.
Who should play: The indecisive and anyone who doesn't want to be pigeon-holed into a specific role.
Also known as: Martial artist, brawler.
Concept: Monks are one of the rarer MMO archetypes, but you can still see them from time to time.
In simplest terms, monks know kung fu. They eschew traditional weaponry to obliterate their foes with the power of their own bodies. They are blurs of punches and kicks, agile and deadly.
They also often have access to a certain degree of holy magic, allowing them to heal and support allies or smite enemies. If paladins are a combination of warriors and clerics, then monks are where rogues and clerics meet.
Depending on the game, monks can fill a variety of roles. They might be a different kind of tank, relying on their ability to dodge rather than heavy armor, or they might be healers or damage-dealers. They might have the option to do any of those things.
Who should play: Those who want to beat enemies into submission with their bare hands, those who want an agile melee fighter who isn't as sneaky as a rogue, or those who want to play a holy warrior who's more colorful than a paladin.