The Secret World: Do MMOs need classes?

by manylaughs on July 16, 2012

The Secret World says it’s different from other MMOs. In terms of the game setting and the atmosphere, dark and foreboding, this is true. Maybe only a few failed MMOs such as Hellgate: London have even been close to comparable in atmosphere.

TSW also claims it’s a game without classes. While this certainly makes it different from most MMOs, it isn’t especially new – other MMOs have had classless or near-classless systems. Cryptic had very similar systems when they released Star Trek: Online (STO) and Champions: Online (CO). Those systems allowed players to choose skills in much the same manner as TSW, without restricting players to class trees. CO was probably more freeform than STO, which restricted your build to tactical, science and engineer “classes”. However, STO still allowed a lot of freedom for picking and choosing skills even within those three classes.

It’s telling, however, that, now, that CO is free-to-play, it has moved to more traditional classes. Is too much choice a bad thing? It’s very possible STO and CO’s classless systems hurt the MMOs, for instance . They both had other problems, but confusing your players doesn’t help.

While classless systems seem like a great idea in theory, they don’t work out in practice. In classless systems, a player is sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer number of skill choices. Often, if some sort of guidance isn’t provided, a player can easily end up with an ineffective character build. A lot of players in STO and CO, probably ended up in exactly this situation and it probably helped turned them off to those games.

To help players who might be confused by all the skill choices, TSW provides build decks. TSW’s decks provide players with builds, detailing skill allotments players can copy or follow, so they can build an effective character in the game. At the moment, they’re a little lacking: There are fewer than 12 build decks. But the decks TSW has provided are a good start and will help players who might otherwise get confused stay in the game.

MMOs don’t need classes, but it’s a bit of a risk if they don’t. Class systems actually help make a game better by insuring more people have better builds. By restricting builds to class trees there’s less likelihood a player is going to royally screw up his or her character build. If an MMO, such asThe Secret World, doesn’t have classes, players are much more likely to end up with an ineffective, horribad character build.

It’s possible, TSW’s classless system might hurt the game. Like CO and STO, it’s a game with lots of other problems, however, unlike CO and STO, Funcom has taken some steps with the build decks to help players.

However, since people gravitate in TSW to specific roles – healer, tank, dps – you do have to wonder if there’s really a point to having a classless system. It’s an appealing idea, but maybe a pointless one.

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