On the Healing Fence

… or, when it comes to healing, I’m on the fence. Specifically, when it comes to TSW healing, but there are some general topics mixed in, too.

So on my return to TSW I decided to go the healer route for group content. The reasoning was like this:

  1. I’m not gonna play DPS. I just don’t like playing DPS in group settings any more. I play it all the time when I solo, I want to do something different when I group. Besides, I like to fill a “supporting” role.
  2. There is no pure support role in TSW, like the EQ2 bards and enchanters or the RIFT Archons. At least not for group content. Maybe for raids, I don’t know.
  3. I’ve played tanks before, and I like tanking. But I’ve played little organized group content these last years, and I notice I’ve become very nervous about potentially underperforming in groups. I’d need new confidence to retry a role that always seems to end up having to know everything about every boss to succeed. Besides, coming late to a game makes tanking hard, if you end up with DPSers in your group that massively outgear you.
  4. So, that leaves healing. Why not, I’ve never done that seriously, outside of leveling a Disc priest in WoW during Cataclysm.

Now, healing isn’t bad. It can actually be quite fun. At the moment, I’m rocking a Fist/Blood deck, which means I have a lot of healing choices, mostly dots and shields, with some oh-shit instant heals for nasty situations. It has served me well in Elite dungeons (TSW’s second-tier group content).

All green, all healing.

All green, all healing.

I like being able to support other players (point 2), and I got back some limited confidence in my playing abilities in a group context (point 3). Picking up people from the brink of death is fun, if sometimes pretty frantic. There’s just one thing about TSW healing that I noticed:

I really miss the mana bar.

See, with a mana bar, your healing decisions become less tactic and more strategic: which heal do I use? Can I wait for a few more moments to regen mana? Do I then have to use a more expensive heal? Which choice is the better one?

During vanilla WoW, I played a mage for some time as some sort of an alt. Endgame mage meant frost, and frost meant spamming one button most of the time. However, I enjoyed the mana management game immensely. Interleaving potions, mana gems (of different qualities), evocation (with a spirit staff to switch to), and, if I got really lucky, synchronizing those with an Innervate… the tactic game was boring, but the strategic game was an additional, appealing, slower gameplay layer on top.

Anyway, the problem with TSW is that it doesn’t have a mana bar. All abilities follow a builder–consumer ability style, even heals. Some abilities cost nothing and give you resources; others consume resources for more powerful effects. That makes the game very tactic and not very strategic: building up resources happens anyway, and since you are capped at 5, even if you spend them, you’ll have them back in no time. Conversely, that builder–consumer scheme means that every moment you don’t use an ability is wasted; as a healer, filling every gap with spamming builder heals because they don’t cost anything and potentially keep someone alive is a good tactic. And during downtimes in fights, where nobody is taking any damage, you are completely useless. In other games, using the downtime to regen mana felt like doing something sensible. In TSW, I feel like I’m twiddling thumbs in fight pauses for no beneficial effect at all, especially on fights that have the boss disappear and the others DPSing some temporary target that doesn’t deal damage.

I guess that’s one of the reasons people drift away from pure healing builds as their gear gets better. Most seem to end up running a healing leech build. Which I imagine can be lots of fun: I love classes that heal by dealing damage. I had lots of fun playing my Disciple in Vanguard or my Chloromage in RIFT before they overhauled that part of the game. But the gear requirements in TSW to run a leech healer well are very steep, ands I won’t be able to reach them for some time.

And then there’s the whole thing with watching health bars. That’s a more general remark and doesn’t have anything to do with TSW. But I noticed that I feel more disconnected from the world. When I played a tank, my impression was that 80% of good tanking was being aware of your surroundings. That worked pretty well: you tanked some boss or adds in the middle of your screen and just scanned the periphery regularly.

As a healer, I noticed that I have a harder time keeping awareness of my surroundings. Half the time, I watch health bars at the border of the screen. That runs the risk of getting boring. Every fight ends up being the same for a good amount of time, because, in a way, your primary enemy as a healer are the health bars, and you have to focus on those. I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely kill myself or others any more by missing environmental effects in the world, but I still feel like someone who’s texting while driving: watching the health bars… watching… watching… oh snap, I gotta move! I’m slowly getting used to it, but it still feels weird. I wish there was a better way of integrating healing into the world.

So yeah, I still enjoy TSW, and I enjoy doing group content, too. The community, overall, is refreshingly non-toxic, and the fact that there’s no randomized, auto-group-creating dungeon finder probably helps with that. I enjoy healing, but I do have some beefs with it.

Hm, maybe I should try tanking again. Start with some beginner dungeons for newbies…

4 thoughts on “On the Healing Fence

  1. Concentrating on groupmates health bars was something I really liked about playing a cleric in EQ. In a good session it felt like some kind of formal mediation exercise – incredibly calming. I miss healing in general and that specific kind of healing in particular. I really need to get back to playing a healer in group content in at least one MMO even if it’s only one session a week.

    Can’t really offer any insight into TSW healing – too long since I played and I did very little grouping when I did. I seem to remember having a pretty good leech healing set-up for solo/duo though but without logging in (which would mean patching up) I have no idea even what weapons I was using let alone details of the build.

    1. Times have changed, though. Or at least I imagine they did, from the impressions I have from EQ. The stately, measured pace of EQ healing (excepting such horror stories as told about the Avatar of War) has made space for frantic button pushing, because you are often at the risk of losing your tank or other teammates within seconds. Part of that might have to do with getting used to it, though. After all, tanking also involves snap decisions and darting across a room to make sure Rend Blackhand’s famous command, “Fools! Kill the one in the dress!” would not be fulfilled.

      And leech healing, one of your two weapons in TSW was probably the attack rifle. That seems to be that weapon’s “thing”. Or, as we Germans like to call it, its “Alleinstellungsmerkmal”, because it sounds more important.

  2. I am kinda late, but still like to comment:
    – Interesting bar. I personally would drop the blood healing part and rather take more fist healing.
    – The “more fist” would include some abilities with longer cooldown. Those up to some degree also add your “stategical” part of the bar, although not fully covering what you describe.

    That being said, yes, pure healing in TSW is not the ultimate challenge, once your gear is fine. Mostly you have to do the dance which all the team does and keep the healing up while others do the same with damage. That’s why most healers go for leech healing at some time, it’s just more of action. (And -good- leech healing is more of a challenge than good DPS, as you basically try to do a good DPS job while healing at the same time. )

    { Kind of makes me miss the Warrior Priest of Warhammer Online, though. Melee leech healing in a PvP environment, hard to find a bigger challenge in an MMO. }

    1. The thing is, I picked up fist later, because I needed to complement blood with… something. I really like blood. In the meantime, I’ve also dabbled in a blood/AR build that focuses on EC and uses AR almost exclusively for Shot of Anima and sometimes Platoon. Liked that concept, though it was a bit spammy, too.

      I’ve fallen off the TSW train again recently. I need to get back onto it. I was on a good way towards decent gear, but I’m only about halfway there, I think; and that’s not even for the other roles! I also have a tendency to miss or shy away from seasonal events, so I often miss big and easy gains to catch up.

      And when it comes to melee healing, Vanguard’s Disciple reigns supreme over the (admittedly few) versions I’ve seen of that idea.

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