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June 14, 2007
Vanguard - Classes in Review
 

By G. Lance Brazell AKA -Avalon-

Well, Vanguard has been out for over four months now. In that short amount of time, we have seen the rise of Sigil, the fall of Sigil, SOE take over the game, and several other changes. There have been many in-game changes. Performance has gotten better overall, content has increased, teleports have been included, and more. But have the characters changed much? How do the classes fare that have changed a great deal? It is easy to research where they stood at the beginning of the game. So, where do they stand now?

Defensive Fighters

There are four main defensive fighters: Warriors, Paladins, Dread Knights, and Inquisitors. Inquisitors were promised to be in the game at some point in the future of the game, but as of yet, have not been included. They were supposed to be a hybrid between warriors and psionicists, but currently all of the information out there is speculation and rumors. Otherwise, the role of the defensive fighter has been, and will always be, the role of the tank. A tank is a hero who is meant to stand up in the face of insurmountable odds and take the brunt of damage so that his/her friends can kill the enemies from safety. They are intended to draw as much attention upon themselves as they can, and either ignore a portion of damage, or take it and like it!

The warrior is the most straight up version of these fighters. Warriors have undergone a few changes but not many. They have the highest amount of damage mitigation allowing them to reduce the amount of damage they take. They also have the most hit points, and the most armor class per point of armor they wear. These abilities combined together make them the longest lasting of all classes, but they do not feature a healing ability of any sort. This means that although they can theoretically stay alive longer than any other class, they cannot continuously fight unless a separate form of healing is included through grouping or items. The best parts of being a warrior are the ability to wield nearly any weapon found in either hand (dual wielding), use of shields, and several abilities that make them more like a general than a group member. These abilities allow the warrior to give commands to party members such as a command that increases the target party member's damage by 10, 15, 20, or more, percent for 8 seconds.

Paladins have been changed a decent amount. They started out as on of the worst defensive fighters, as there was very little reason to choose to use the "Sword'n'Board" approach to tanking. Sword'n'Board means using a one handed weapon, usually a sword, in the primary hand, and a shield in the off-hand. Later, included in patches, paladins were given special abilities that focused on their shields. Although the paladins do not gain any way of using a wide variety of weapons, and do not have any special benefits to using two-handed weapons, nor do they gain the ability to wield weapons in each hand, they are the best at wielding a one-handed weapon and a shield. The holy knights in this game have the usual ability to heal, but also have the buffs and auras that allow for expert undead fighting(which there are tons of undead, unlike other games), and also give party members an instant endurance regeneration.

Dread Knights are not necessarily an evil breed as the name suggests. They focus on an aura which instills fear and doubt into their opponents. They are also the defensive fighter that has changed the most as far as I have seen, and also need the most changing in the future. Some of their abilities are still very broken, and the developers have said that they are in the works for being fixed, so let's not go into those right now. The abilities that they possess truly strike terror into any who are on the receiving end of their massive strikes. They have not received any sort of special bonus for using the "Sword'n'Board" style, and they cannot dual wield. So most dread knights wield two-handed weapons in favor of the devastating damage amounts and crippling critical hits. This is partly due to the fact that their own flavor of healing is determined by how much damage they do on particular hits. It is easy to imagine the confusion and terror that comes about from fighting an enemy who not only wields a weapon as large as the target, is enshrouded in darkness and shadows, teleports around leaving the target wondering where the next attack is coming from, and saps away the target's very life energies to fuel their own ability to continue to fight.

Offensive Fighters

Even though the role of the offensive fighter has remained the same, the way they perform has changed pretty dramatically. The offensive fighters are rangers, rogues, bards, monks, and berserkers. Yet again, we were promised the berserker at some point, but have yet to see or hear much about them. The rest are out and have seen many changes from the launch of the game to the current state. The point of an offensive fighter's existence is to produce massive amounts of damage. As time has gone by, another definition has been added: to allow the group to deal amazing amounts of damage above and beyond what they normally would do without the offensive fighter.

The base model for the offensive fighter was supposedly the monk. At first, monks were among the best characters in the game, even though they had no way of healing themselves much like the other fighter base type, the warrior. The monk has the ability to choose from three specializations, each focusing on different things. The dragon style focuses on pure damage from their own attacks; the harmonious style focuses on causing vulnerabilities in their foes that can be taken advantage of by other party members; and the drunken master who focuses on parrying and dodging their enemies' attacks to turn the tide against them. The monk has since seen many of their attacks lose potency and cost more endurance to activate, leaving the monk as one of the least played classes in the game.

Rogues have come a long ways on the other hand. They started as undoubtedly the weakest class in the game and become a very handy hero to have on your team. They can barely stand on their own two feet when fighting alone, but add a tank to grab the opponent's attention, give the rogue a good solid back to aim at, and the rogue will slaughter the enemy! They are one of the most dynamic of classes in that positioning makes a huge difference. They pride themselves on the ability to take advantage of almost any vulnerability in the game to grant themselves great boons in the damage dealing category.

Bards started strong, and became a little weaker over time in some areas, but stronger in others. They are the one class who really does not need a mount in the game. They can compose songs that will make the bard and whoever is grouped with them travel and enormous speeds, levitate, and be invisible, all while traveling the massive world. Other than traveling, the bard also has components to put in their songs that allow the group to deal upwards of fifty percent more damage, regenerate health and mana, and cause secondary damage types like fire and cold. In those raid situations where NOT taking damage from special attacks can be very important to the survival of the party, they also have awesome abilities to add resistances to the group. All of these components are used in yet the best part of the class: song-making. Unlike in other games, the bards of Vanguard have a unique song tool that allows them to craft their own special songs unique to each bard!

The ranger has not moved much overall, but has changed a great deal in the process. They started as one of the best classes for dealing damage in either ranged or melee combat. Through a series of patches they have been dropped and bumped up by varying amounts throughout the four months, only to arrive almost where they started. Rangers can handle almost anything within reason by themselves by slowing the movements of the enemy, poisoning them, setting them aflame, running circles around them firing deadly arrows with extreme precision, and finishing them with one of the best critical chains ever created. The ranger wins the "rollercoaster power curve" for having been through all of the changes and not really being all that different in the end, as well as repeating the basic moral of life, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it!"

Defensive Casters

The defensive casters of Vanguard come in four variations currently: Clerics, Shamans, Disciples, and Blood Mages. The basic role of this type is to heal and keep the party alive through defensive methods. Some of these methods include buffs, debuffs cast on the enemy, and in some cases outright damage dealt to the enemy because a dead enemy deals no damage.

The disciple is the tragedy of the game. They began as a sort of monk-healer type hybrid, able to dish out huge amounts of damage (for a healer) and heal their party members while doing so. They do not have any real enhancements to place on friendlies, nor do they have any real spells to cast on the opponents. They harness the energy called "Jin" to empower their attacks with healing or damaging abilities. Unfortunately, through various patches, the disciple has crashed down amongst the weakest of classes to land at the bottom. They have been somewhat buffed back up, but it does not look like they will ever again be what they were at the beginning. Now they do about the same amount of damage as any other healer, have some basic heals, and do a modicum of healing with their attacks. This makes them often looked at as the third choice of healer for a group, and usually the group wants a second healer type along with them.

The shaman is pretty cool. It has three choices just like the monk, but their choices make a big difference in the future of the character. These choices are bear, wolf, and phoenix! The bear pet is a tank, does decent damage, but can take a licking and keep on ticking. The wolf is fast, furious, and fun. It deals damage like an offensive fighter, but takes it like one also, making for a dead wolfy if no one is there to take the attention off of them. Finally, the phoenix is like having a pocket nuke at all times. It cannot take any damage at all, but continuously fires off blast after blast of high powered damage dealing magic. The shaman can tank decently for a healer, which is to say not much at all, but enough to handle weaker enemies but need a tank for tougher ones.

The blood mage is a great new class that unfortunately is not in demand most times mostly because the players who play them pretend they are sorcerers with a bit of healing, not healers with a bit of nukage. The blood mage gains life almost every time they damage the enemy. They also have the ability to siphon that damage, or their own life, into their friends, healing them instead. Along with some of the best buffs in the game, and some truly great straight heals, the blood mage is a very formidable addition to any party. They also have the ability to augment their friends and enemies using symbiotes which they harvest from living enemies and attach to others. Some of the effects include charming an enemy by taking over its brain, adding spikes that damage attackers, and making their own blood more conducive to transfers to friends and enemies.

Clerics are almost a completely new breed, even though they have been in almost every game out there. Every other game has the cleric as the poor weakling that needs a tank at all times to protect them from dangerous things like dragons, minotaurs, and the occasional rabid paper bag. Vanguard instead puts the cleric in the position of a strong hero who can solo through almost every fight they get into on their way to the top. The cleric has the best heals, which are almost non-interruptible to begin with; the best buffs overall, some of which make their spells less interruptible; and great secondary spells that allow for mass carnage and mayhem. This makes for a character who wears heavy plate armor, can take a few good hits, can heal the damage they take, and not be interrupted while doing so. Clerics are amongst the strongest of heroes in Vanguard, and have been changed hardly at all, except for a few enhancements to their power.

Offensive Casters

The final archetype in Vanguard is the offensive caster. They include sorcerers, psionicists, druids, and necromancers. Their role in the game is the same as it was in the beginning: deal tons of damage in some manner to the enemy and do it fast!

The sorcerer is the basic blaster of the game, and has changed some, but still focuses on the same thing. They burn, freeze, and blast their enemies to smithereens in very small amounts of time. Their spells also usually have secondary effects. The fire based spells have a damage-over-time effect that follows after their initial burst. The frost spells have either a snaring effect that slows the enemy down or roots them to the spot entirely. The arcane blasts return a small amount of energy to their mana pool allowing for more follow-up spells.

The psionicists is just a pretty name for an old-time favorite, the enchanter. They hold monsters in place by hypnotizing them and placing them in a trance state. Also, they can trick an enemy into believing it is being attacked by a clone of itself. Other tricks of the trade include changing their appearance with illusions, and messing with time. All in all, this class seems the least focused overall. It is called a psionicists, because it can mess with the mind, but it can also control time which has nothing to do with the mind. It is a lot like the enchanter of old, but it can create clones of enemies and perform other non-enchanterly activities. I think it is a collection of abilities the developers wanted to have in the game, and labeled under a title that sounds cool and fits a decent portion of their abilities.

Druids seem to be the most confused class in history at this point. No one can figure out exactly what they are supposed to be doing. They are a protector of all things natural by definition, but in prior games they were included as healer types meant to keep the group alive and going. In Vanguard, they were originally called "Arcane Casters", but that didn't float with the vast majority of players who cut their teeth on pen and paper rpg's like Dungeons and Dragons where the druid was a divine class. So the name was changed a few times, and over all, offensive caster has been the universally accepted archetype since. But that still leaves us with the question of how is the druid an offensive caster, not a defensive caster. The developers answered this with the spell lists. Druids have some very potent blasts, but also have the damage over time variants that allow for killing things slowly while running around in circles (kiting). They have some good buff spells, too. The most potent thing in their arsenal though, is called Phenomenon Points. With these, the druid can deal truly wondrous amounts of damage in different ways; one of them is calling down a meteor to smite his/her foes into dust!

The final offensive caster is called the Necromancer, or necro for short. The necro is able to summon a zombie for a pet, raise dead enemies for an army, sap the life from the living, and cause the ones who do not succumb to the overall godliness of the necro to just simply run away. Probably the best soloing classes in the game are the cleric and the necro. Necros can tackle three or four enemies by themselves by starting at just one, killing it, raising it, fighting against two more by fearing them to make one run away, sending the two pets (zombie and ex-enemy) against that one while rooting the other and sapping its life to fuel the necro's fighting ability, and on and on. The necro is the class that requires the most concentration overall, followed closely by the blood mage, which is often thought of as the little brother to the necro due to its ability to siphon off life energies to feed the caster.

Summary

The classes have changed a great deal. Some have changed more than others, and a few have been killed effectively in the process. The ranger has been on a rollercoaster, the rogue has been given a red bull to drink, and the disciple can rest in peace. The rest really have been better off and the ones who haven't changed much are no worse for wear. The only question still lingering around, though, is, "Where are the inquisitor and berserker??"

 
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