Recently, Jonathan Sharp commented on class roles and balance philosophies. Here's what he had to say:
Class balance philosophies
We normally try to employ metered and controlled balance changes with each pass, rather than huge reductions or improvements to classes. We want to get all classes on the same playing field, and we want to avoid “whack-a-mole” style balance. HUGH increases and HUGE decreases lead to meta instability, and thusly, we try to make multiple small tweaks rather than putting in massive changes that we have to later correct.
When designing and balancing the classes, we try to make sure that class roles and identities stay intact. So, in doing so, we make sure that there are rules and boundaries outlining the capabilities and weaknesses of each class.
- We want the Warrior to be capable of good melee damage in a sturdy body. They can still do some decent damage at range, but they aren’t as good at it as the Ranger (with their pet). They have a hard time taking enemy boons down, and instead, have to just go through them with raw force. They may have a hard time with enemy conditions, and may need to ask for ally help in order to keep themselves free of hampering conditions.
- The Guardian is a heavy armor class who relies on boons to make up for their low levels of innate health. They focus on area control and punishing enemies for the position on the battlefield. We want them to feel very powerful when their boons are active, but if those boons are removed, they will start to feel pressure. They can remove conditions more easily than the Warrior, but share the Warrior’s need to be in melee range to dole out maximum damage.
- The ranger class combines its own innate abilities with the skills of their pets. We’ve balanced the class around the idea that you always have a pet with you to aid in any fight. The fact that the ranger can have multiple pets allows them to combine their pets in ways that most impact the current fight. We want the Ranger to have some of the evasion enjoyed by the Thief, as well as the mobility other classes employ. The class is able to deal physical or condition damage, and it can do this in melee or at range.
- The Engineer is a highly versatile class. While it doesn’t have the long range capabilities of the Ranger, or the melee capabilities of the Warrior or Guardian, they are comfortable at medium ranges in most fights. They have a lot of control, and use their boons to keep themselves (and allies) alive in a fight. They can use different kits based on the situation, but this extreme versatility comes at a cost in damage on their main hand weapons.
- Thieves are the masters of mobility, stealth and high single target damage. They can be very fragile if you counter their stealth with area of effects or large stacks of conditions, but they trade this fragility in order to have some of the highest burst damage in the game. They are able to help allies through traps, venoms and the mobility to flank most encounters.
- Mesmers rely on illusions in order to accomplish their goals. They need illusions to accomplish some of their highest damage and control, and without the illusions, they become fairly fragile. They can deal with enemy boons better than most classes, but enemy conditions can often be a problem. They share some of the stealth and mobility that the Thief enjoys, but suffer from a low health pool if you get past all their tricks.
- We see the elementalist as the king of versatility. The skill ceiling for the Ele is exceptional, as the ability to leverage all four attunements at the right time is crucial for understanding the elementalist. The Ele boasts some of the best team support and control abilities in the game, as well as some great area of effect damage.
- The necro boasts the highest natural health of all the caster classes, and also has death shroud to extend that life total even higher. While they don’t have some of the escape or damage reduction capabilities that other classes boast, they do have a lot of ways to win attrition fights. They have access to poison on multiple weapons, they are able to combine condition damage with raw damage, and they have multiple disables to interrupt enemy skills. Necomancers also have multiple movement disabling abilities, while allows them to chase down enemies who are low on health.
- Tank vs spike vs physical DPS vs condie DPS. We want to keep making balance changes that allow all classes to have various builds they can use. We don’t want tanks dominating the game, and we don’t want spike builds dominating. It’s healthy to have multiple types of builds in the meta, so we’ll be improving the balance to facilitate a healthy meta.
- AOE balance. We feel that in PvP some AOE builds are too strong for the opportunity cost, and we’ll be bringing those in line in the next few patches.