On Pet Classes

Pet classes in RPGs tend to provoke strong reactions. Most people either love pet classes and play them at every opportunity, or hate pet classes and avoid them like the plague.

Fighting the undead in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing IIII’m a strange case in that both of those are true of me. Depending on the game, I either love or hate pet classes.

For example, you’ve probably heard me complain bitterly about pet classes in World of Warcraft. Yes, one of my most played characters is a warlock, but I started her as a leveling challenge to see if I could play a lock without pets, and once Grimoire of Sacrifice became a thing, I’ve used it as much as possible. The pets have always been my least favourite part of being a warlock.

Similarly, pets are one of the bigger reasons I haven’t spent much time playing a hunter, and it’s not entirely a coincidence I started losing interest in my mage around the time they made frost a pet spec.

On the other hand, when it comes to single-player games, I tend to embrace pet classes with open arms. When the Van Helsing games revamped their classes, I went straight for the Constructor and terrorized Borgovia with my army of dismemberbots.

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of the gameplay of Diablo II, but one of them is definitely having a posse of skeletons following my necromancer around. In D3, I never quite managed to click with the witch doctor, but I have done my level best to rekajigger my crusader into a pet class (a “zoosader”). At a maximum, he can be accompanied by three swordsmen, four archers, Kormac, and a demon minion summoned by his sword.

And let us not forget my zombie goons in Lichdom: Battlemage.

My zombie posse in Lichdom: Battlemage“…Zombie goons?”

Then there’s party-based RPGs to consider. We generally seem to separate companion characters from pets, but practically speaking, they’re pretty similar. AI minions who assist you in combat. And I definitely enjoy party-based RPGs — I prefer them to games where you only control a single character. In fact, my most common complaint about them is that the parties aren’t nearly big enough. Dungeon Siege spoiled me with its nine party slots.

So what accounts for this split?

Honestly I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think it’s necessarily one factor as much as a combination of them.

Broadly, it seems to be a difference between single-player games and MMOs.

For one thing, MMOs never really seem to take pets into account when balancing the difficulty in the open world, so while pet classes are at no particular advantage at endgame, they’re brokenly OP when soloing, and since most MMOs tend to make their solo content rather insultingly easy to begin with, it just makes the whole experience a snorefest.

On a related note, most tab target MMOs have incredibly stilted combat with little meaningful interaction between the player and their opponent. You kind of just ignore whatever the enemy is doing and mindlessly drill through your rotation. Having a pet tank hits for you exasperates the issue.

My party in Dragon Age: InquisitionMMOs also usually use an over-the-shoulder camera, which causes pets to take up an obnoxious amount of screen real estate. They mess up screenshots and cause all sorts of problems.

Meanwhile, a lot of the single-player RPGs I favour use an isometric camera, which makes pets far less of an encumbrance.

Perhaps due to less concerns about lag, single-player games also tend to allow you to control much larger numbers of pets, and I definitely prefer a swarm of minions to just one.

It could also have to do with the rigid threat mechanics that tend to exist in a lot of MMOs, but not in single-player games. Most MMO pets have taunt abilities that ensure enemies will focus on them almost 100% of the time. This, again, robs you of any meaningful interaction with your opponent.

In single-player games, pets usually don’t have taunts or threat modifiers. At best they’re a physical barrier between you and the enemy. Even in Dragon Age, where the warrior in your party will likely have taunts, it’s rare for them to hold aggro on every enemy. This means that you still have to look to your own defenses and survival at least a little.

Another divide is that MMO pets tend to require a lot of micro-management, at least in group content, whereas single-player pets and companions are almost always fire and forget. I definitely do not want to have to spend a lot of time baby-sitting my pets — that defeats the purpose as far as I’m concerned.

My Imperial agent and Lana Beniko in Star Wars: The Old Republic's Knights of the Fallen Empire expansionAll that said, I can still find exceptions that muddy the issue even further. I quite like the companion characters in SW:TOR, for instance, and they’re essentially pets. In that case I suspect it’s a combination of the fact they’re meaningful characters within the story and the fact I already dislike the combat in that game, so how much worse can the companions make it?

In ESO, also, I’ve leaned heavily on my Clannfear pet, perhaps because unlike most MMO pets it doesn’t require much management. Then again it’s also worth noting that I have been moving away from using it recently — it doesn’t fit my character’s RP very well, and it bugs out a lot.

It’s definitely a very muddled alchemy that determines whether or not I will appreciate pets. The one thing you can be certain of is that I will always have strong opinions on pet classes one way or another.

Gaming: Thoughts on the Future

Right now I’m in the thick of Mass Effect: Andromeda, but massive as it is, it isn’t going to last forever. It was such a landmark release that all my gaming plans for the last several months have dealt with Andromeda and the lead-up to it. As a result, I’ve given very little thought to what I’ll play after I’ve finished.

My monk strikes a pose in World of WarcraftHere are some of the leading candidates.

World of Warcraft:

This is probably the safest bet for where I end up after Andromeda, though I wouldn’t quite declare it a sure thing yet. As always, I maintain very mixed feelings on the game, but there’s still a lot more I’d like to do in Legion, and now that flying has finally been turned back on, now seems the time to start.

My main goal is still to go alt-crazy and see as much class content as possible. My monk has already started on the Broken Isles, so she’s probably next, but I’m not sure who to level after her. My paladin, shaman, demon hunter, priest, and warrior are all in the running.

Elder Scrolls Online:

I’m in a strange place with ESO. I almost always enjoy it, but I’m never particularly blown away by it. It’s good enough, and it’s consistently good enough, but it’s never more than good enough.

So I remain very open to playing more without feeling a very strong push to do so. There is an expansion coming soon, but there’s still so much in the base game I haven’t done yet that I’d be in no rush to move on to it.

My templar alt in Elder Scrolls OnlineI did rather like the templar alt I was tooling around with, and it’d be a shame for all the effort I put into crafting my gear to go to waste, so there are pretty good odds I’ll be back in Tamriel at some point, but I’m not sure when.

Star Wars: The Old Republic:

I was pretty heavily invested in SW:TOR for a while there, but as you may have noticed, I haven’t touched it in a few months. I was getting burnt out, but don’t think I’m done with the game. I just needed a break.

I will be back, but as with ESO, I’m not sure when. There’s a major story update coming soon, but I don’t necessarily want to jump straight from Andromeda into another Bioware game, so I may hold off on that for a while.

There are also still two class stories I fully intend to finish. Again, it’s all just a question of when.

The Secret World:

Sigh.

Entering the Savage Coast in The Secret WorldI’m still pretty heartbroken over what’s happened to TSW. I don’t like to ever rule anything out (I certainly never could have predicted getting into SW:TOR as much as I have), but I currently don’t have much interest in making the transition to the new game. It sounds like a much shallower experience, and I just don’t think I can start over from scratch.

There isn’t much point in investing much more time in vanilla TSW, as it will undoubtedly be shut down before too long, but I do think there are a few more things I might want to do before it’s over. Dorothy is very close to getting her Panoptic Core, and even though there couldn’t be less of a reason to do so, I’d kind of like to finish that.

I may also run some of my favourite missions one last time, and I’m thinking about where I want to park my characters before they log out for the last time.

For a game that I once considered my virtual home, this is really hard to cope with.

Old favourites:

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time replaying games. It was often a matter of necessity, as there simply weren’t enough good games to keep me fully occupied in those days, whereas now there’s more good games than there is time to play them, but I still kind of miss it. Lately I feel a slightly stronger pull to revisit some old favourites.

Hawke battles the Arishok in Dragon Age 2I’d really like to play through Dragon Age II again, but the lackluster gameplay has always driven me off. Recently I’ve been considering downloading some mods to try to make it more palatable, because I loved the story in that game. For that matter I’ll probably replay Andromeda at some point, but probably not right after I finish it the first time.

The thought of more StarCraft replays is also in my mind. At the very least I should do another playthrough of Covert Ops at some point, as I’ve only done it once so far. Plus there are still a few Legacy of the Void achievements I’d like to get, and I have a vague desire to do another replay of the original (via Mass Recall), if only to once again bask in the awesomeness that is old school Zeratul.

Then there’s Diablo III. I remain very bitter that the story is apparently being abandoned unfinished, but I still have a lot of fondness for the game, and the new necromancer class is seeming increasingly tempting. Have you seen the blood golem model? It’s the most disgustingly horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I need it in my life.

I even briefly considered reloading Neverwinter the other day. I was organizing my screenshots and realized how badass my Half-Elf paladin looked. I never did try tanking in that game…

Other possibilities:

I maintain a list of games I’d like to get around to playing if I ever find the time. The Division is prominent on that list, especially now that I have a computer that can run it a bit better. I enjoyed what I played in the beta, and while I don’t think it’s a game I’d stick with for a long time, I think it could be an enjoyable diversion for a few weeks.

My bridge crew in Star Trek OnlineStar Trek Online also pops into my mind every now and again. It’s not a great game, but I did really enjoy the whole “I’m a Romulan commanding my very own warbird” part, and every time I get a jolt of Trek nostalgia I want to play it again.

Destiny 2 is apparently getting a PC release, which is tempting, but since I never had the chance to play the first one, I’m not sure it’d be worth it, since the story is the main thing that would interest me. Plus I’m not sure I’m okay with them replacing an MMO with its sequel so quickly. I know they don’t like calling it an MMO, but let’s be real here.

Plus I’ve got a Steam wishlist a mile long at this point.

For those who are playing Andromeda, what are your plans for when you finish it?