Like many of you, I’ve been eagerly digging into many of the beta reports circulating around the internet. One of the more frequent comments many of the testers have made is that class balance is still an issue. Several of the classes are overpowered in certain situations. Others many be overpowered at some levels and underpowered at others higher up.

Personally, I don’t think class balance will be a game breaking issue for Warhammer Online. To sum it up for you, I’ve constructed a list of my three biggest reasons for feeling this way.

1) Class balance is ongoing. Anyone who’s played an MMO before knows that just about every notable patch features changes to the skills and abilities of certain races or classes. So, even if things are unbalanced now, or even at launch, I’d bet my bottom dollar that fixes will be forthcoming soon.

2) Players will adapt. In an RVR game, balance is key. If there was no balance, you’d see roaming warbands or even whole guilds of a given set of OP classes. However, MMO players are renowned for being able to strategize, number crunch, and determine their own counter balances against such adversaries. Heck, this is what raids in other games are about, minus the variance that PvP features. If, at launch, class balance is an issue, you can plan on players figuring out ways to fight back against whatever classes may be OP at the time. Fair? Not exactly. Impossible? Definitely not. We’re not focusing on how to take out that next big raid boss here, we’re focusing on how to take down their army.

3) The skill structure in WAR lends itself towards balance more than systems in other MMOs. Most classes are mirrored, skill-wise, in the opposing faction. Now, this is not to say that each class is not unique, fun, and customizable in its own right, but the system seems to have been designed with a “weight and counter-weight” system in mind. This makes it easier for players to respond to OP classes, even though it may be challenging, and easier for developers to work on.

Class balance is certainly something that we’re all concerned about. It’s no fun to lose all the time, or to see someone else as virtually “unkillable.” However, we have to bear in mind that balance, as an issue, will never go away. Three years from now, we’ll still see players commenting that their class is underpowered but THAT class is overpowered. They may be right. So far, though, Mythic has shown us that their ears are open to us. So long as that continues, class balance will always be a work in progress.

On a related note, and not based upon anything I’ve read, I believe that some player’s issues with class balance stem from what I call “WoW Syndrome.” As many of us know, WoW has tried to make the game more accessible to all players, regardless of skill, time, or class choice. Classes excel at their archetype, sure, but it seems that anytime someone dies, “OMG UR CLASS IZ OP!” is called. As a result, classes have become more homogonized than in MMOs before it. And players have gotten used to this.

I believe that certain classes should be more powerful than others but only in certain ways. Every class should have something unique to make it something to be feared in battle. It should have something that makes other characters cringe and want to use their own special skill against them. The skill system in WAR features psuedo-mirroring but also allows you to customize the characters skills and abilities. It’s the best of both worlds. Not having been accepted into Closed Beta, it’s hard for me to say how well it lives up to my hopes. Regardless, that’s one man’s opinion on skill systems. Even if it doesn’t match up to what’s currently in the game, I’ve read enough to believe that I’ll enjoy what’s there.

Tomorrow morning brings us Preview Weekend! I’ve made plans to play quite a bit while I have the chance. Since it’s only a four day preview (out of which I can play two) I’ll be trying out the starting content of as many of the races as possible. I also plan on trying out open world RVR and all the available scenarios. I’ll be taking notes for a post on my first impressions, so if there’s anything you’re wondering about, feel free to ask in the comments.

Until next time, WAAAGH!