Is It Possible To Balance Melee and Ranged Classes?

It’s a perennial problem for MMOs: either melee classes have the advantage or ranged ones do. In WildStar, the constant moving and dodging out of red means ranged classes have an advantage simply because they can keep attacking while they move. In older MMOs like Lord of the Rings Online, where most of the ranged classes are rooted casters and most of the melee classes have a lot of instant casts, melee classes have the edge. From what I’ve heard about SWTOR, it seems that they’ve recently swung the pendulum; melee classes have always had more DPS/tanking potential, but many of the recent dungeon and raid bosses have included mechanics that require melee classes to move back to avoid massive damage, thus limiting their output. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that I do better with melee classes in games with action combat like Elder Scrolls Online because I’m more likely to miss with ranged attacks. Sure, this isn’t really a balance issue so much as a “stop failing” issue, and probably less of an issue in dungeons where, if it’s anything like every other MMO I’ve played, most bosses are the size of a small house, but still, this is a genre where people create massive spreadsheets of damage output to determine the META, and I’ve seen people literally complaining that one race or faction has an “advantage” over the others because their casting animation is a little more subtle.

The best solution I’ve seen to this problem is in Guild Wars 2’s, where most classes can be either melee or ranged depending on what weapon you’re holding. This allows the developers a lot of freedom when designing fights because everyone should be able to step back and hit things from range at least sometimes. Unfortunately, it also means that you really have to have at least one ranged weapon set to be viable most of the time, which is annoying because there are many classes that have two melee sets that I like (for instance, Revenant’s Mace/Axe and Sword/Shield). Couldn’t I have a whole bunch of weapon sets like Guild Wars 1?

So what do you think? Is it possible to truly balance these two class styles? Have you played any MMOs with any clever ways of bringing these two class types into balance?

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2 thoughts on “Is It Possible To Balance Melee and Ranged Classes?

  1. GW2 has one other elegant caveat to the melee/range dilemma. Melee tends to do more damage than ranged, as opposed to the typical MMO where melee tickling tanks are the norm and mages sit back and range hurt from a safe distance.

    Add that to all classes being able to fight effectively from both range or melee, and now you have a situation where you have to juggle more risk if you want to do more damage by going closer to the mob.

    I do note that elite specs and post-HoT patches are changing that initial balance though. I wonder if the designers consciously realize that, or if it’s just shifting as a result of trying to avoid the “dungeon stacking” meta complaints by introducing mobs more lethal to melee in HoT and buffing certain ranged weapons to make them more appealing and viable to use.

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