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MMORPGs: Items or skill?

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MMO's are wonderful battlegrounds for players to hack each other and computer AI alike in half. Full of challenges while climbing the seemingly never-ending leveling tree that leads to an assortment of kick-@$$ skills and opens up new gear options, worthy of the high-level mass-murderer that you play. However, just how much power should a player be able to gain from gear, or skills compared to legitimate skill at task?

Whether it is Player-versus-Player or Player-versus-Environment, in games like World of Warcraft it’s the gear rather than the skill that makes for the player’s survival. You could always be optimal and press buttons a bit quicker or perhaps devise a new rotation that sets off your procs much more often and increases buffs, there’s only so much a player can do to actually control the flow of battle besides from gear and good coordination. For instance, once you complete a continent (there are currently five including Outlands, soon to be six with Draenor) you can easily best any content save for dungeons or raids on the previous continent. Even with dungeons, you only need to get the next continents gear to receive a health boost to literally obliterate everything you once thought was frustrating, terrifying, and difficult.

Still, there is plenty of incentive and obliterate your former foes, with plenty of views and sights to find the world of Azeroth from throwbacks to the original RTS games, to new clues about lore or just overall silly things. It's even refreshing to be able to idle anywhere below your level on the map without fear of being devoured by the inevitable mob of enemies nearby.

Many players’ criticize World of Warcraft for being too easy, with an AI that will easily fall if you get your greedy paws on the most level-appropriate gear. Along with accusations that the game is too easy, most often complain about the uneven level scaling with Health literally going into the millions for the most epic of raiders (this will apparently be fixed in the upcoming Draenor expansion).

However, in the opposite end of the Fantasy MMORPG spectrum is Guild Wars 2, a game that is known for being unforgiving in its end-game content and dungeons with a more hands-on approach to combat. While the quality of your gear matters in Guild Wars 2, it’s the skills of rolling, timing attacks correctly, good team coordination, and the proper use of cool-downs that keep groups alive. For instance, most bosses in Guild Wars 2 will down players multiple times, leaving it up to their allies in arms to revive them, or to unfortunately leave them to their fate.

Combat is sink or swim in Guild Wars 2, either you excel in repelling the hordes of centaur, voo-doo zombie things (Orrians) and Harley Quinn wannabes (ahem.. Scarlet) or you sink and find your armor broken multiple times during combat, being used as more of “bait” to your squad than a competent dungeon crawler.

The game also features every single area inside of an instance, taking you to a loading screen while you traverse from green hilly farming communities to frozen mountains inhabited by a Dragon Cult of Norn. With this feature of instancing, you have level scaling, which means if you expect to one-hit kill anything besides a critter, or hoping to run away from the keyboard to “puff a doob” because you’re in a safe-zone than you’re wrong. Guild Wars 2 adds humility to your “all-powerful” avatar slave; you’re only as strong as your opponent.

Guild Wars 2 is often criticized for its short, temporary, and uninviting Living Story events, and a rather bland and almost non-existent end game. It’s also often described as too difficult, with there being a very fine line between beating an encounter and failing due to ultra powerful enemies.

Is it better to have an MMO based around gear, where your power depends on what exactly your avatar is wearing and how great of ‘numbers’ it has, leaving zones easy to conquer and locations easy to explore and ‘idle’ at. Or should an MMORPG be based on skill, how quick you are, and your tactics in battle, where there is a very competitive feel?

Feel free to comment your opinions below.

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