First Impressions of Healing in WildStar

Choosing a Class

Brutal honesty time. I decided to try an Esper healer because I loved the way the spells looked. Espers heal with butterflies, fish, giant lanterns, paper lanterns, balloons and a giant absorb shield that turns your target into a super –armored golden knight. They’re basically amazing.

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Fortunately, I also ended up enjoying the Esper’s healing style. It has more single-target spells than the other 2 healing classes (Medic and Spellslinger), but since my tank was the only person taking consistent damage I was able to mostly keep her targeted and heal the rest of my party with my telegraph abilities. I only found myself needing to switch targets when another party member was either targeted by a specific ability (which was rare) or when one of us failed to move out of a telegraph in time.

The non-tank damage in WildStar’s Adventures and Dungeons is almost entirely avoidable. If you are quick enough to move out of telegraphs before they hit you, it is very possible to go through an entire encounter and take very little damage at all. That may sound like it has the potential to get boring, but remember that you will also be dodging those same telegraphs as the rest of your team as well as aiming your healing spells so that they will hit your tank.

While I was using 2-3 single-target spells in the Dungeons I ran, I noticed that those spells tended to be more expensive to cast than their telegraphed counterparts. So while I suppose I could have worried only about moving out of enemy telegraphs rather than using my own healing ones, it would been a significant strain on my Focus (your spell-casting resource) to only use my single-target heals.

The Add-on Frontier

For many seasoned healers, the use of an add-on to augment our efficiency and speed has become second nature. I have been using some type of healing add-on for very nearly the entire time I have been healing in WoW, and I have always suggested at least the use of mouseover macros.

But WildStar is, of course, still in beta and while its developers have decided to allow add-ons, the functionality and availability of them can change from day to day. This week I did stumble across a Grid-style add-on for WildStar healing, but I haven’t downloaded it just yet. In fact, the only add-on I’m currently running is BijiPlates, which draws friendly and enemy nameplates in a way that feels more natural and readable than the default UI.

So all that said, I have been running 5 person Adventures and Dungeons without any healing-specific add-on for the last several weeks. And you know what? I’m doing just fine.

I’m never going to make the obnoxious argument that using a healing add-on is akin to using training wheels, and I totally understand if folks will want healing add-ons if for no other reason than it’s what we are used to and what feels most comfortable. But a major part of why I feel that I can go without healing add-ons in WildStar is directly tied into why I enjoy its healing in the first place.

What Makes It Fun?

Everything I’ve said so far today pertains only to healing in Adventures and Dungeons. I have yet to try healing in raids, and I am sure I will not do so until sometime well after launch. But despite my limited experience, I’ve gotten enough of a taste to be pretty sure that I’m going to enjoy what’s next.

As I discussed yesterday, WildStar’s combat system feels more engaging because it requires me to pay so much more attention to my surroundings. I was initially very skeptical of its developers claim that their combat system would have healers doing something more than watching green bars. Now, let me be clear. I do still spend plenty of my time keeping an eye on green bars. The first thing I did was move my party frames down to the bottom of my screen so that they’d be at the same eye level as my feet – the eye level I’m used to from my WoW UI.

Over time, however, I found I was able to train myself to start looking up rather than down. I was keeping an eye on the friendly nameplates above my teammates’ heads rather than the party frames. It’s a small psychological and semantic distinction, but an important one. By encouraging me to raise my eye level to the characters on the screen, the game made it possible for me to simultaneously watch my allies’ health and positions, the telegraphs of enemy mobs and also my own healing telegraphs. It felt much more like a system that was designed with all the pieces moving together, rather than a setting in which my focus on a healing add-on feels distinctly divorced from my attention to positioning and boss abilities.

Essentially, I was able to focus on the screen in a way that is usually reserved for tanking and DPS players, which is a much more intuitive and fun way to interact with a game’s PvE content. I suspect that this may also be a part of why players who usually do not enjoy healing in traditional tab-targeting environments are likely to find WildStar’s healing more engaging and accessible to them.

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