Right now, if you looked at CoF1, you would conclude that GW2 was horribly imbalanced. Warriors everywhere, Rangers don't get invited to dungeons, and no one runs a healer build. And you'd be right, to an extent. GW2 PvE is imbalanced because of the kinds of monsters we fight.
I mostly play sPvP now, with some WvW on the side, and in sPvP, pretty much every class is viable. Some are a little more "required" than others, but you would never send 5 of one class in and expect to dominate. This is because the trinity in sPvP is extremely well implemented.
GW2 has a Trinity, just like they said. Except instead of DPS, it's Damage (with a subset of DPS, Burst, Condi, and AoE), Control (With a subset of CC and debuffs), and Support (with subsets of healing, damage boosting, condition removal.)
These sets are finely balanced against one another. Guardians, to use one example, form a triangle of burst, bunker, and pressure/DPS in a kind of rock/paper/scissors about who will beat whom. There's no one true build, as it should be!
I run a low DPS guardian, and I can still contribute massively to fights because my CC knocks people off the all-important control points. CC matters. Knockback matters. Lockdown matters. No one on my team wants me to switch to DPS because CC is great.
The kinds of things we face in PvE though completely change the way we play. Human players, at least the good ones, are canny and adaptable, they run away at low health if they can. They swarm with greater numbers. Sometimes they have to hold a chokepoint to let allies capture a point.
Let's look how the trinity fares when applied to the kinds of things you face in a typical dungeon run. The dungeons I am MOST familiar with is CoF P1 and all the paths of CM. Most of those are dominated by either big brutish bosses, or "silvers". Also, I'll talk a bit about world bosses.
Now let's talk damage. DPS matters, obviously. Let's set that as a baseline. AoE sometimes matters, but not against big bosses. Ok, that's reasonable. Burst damage ends up being completely useless against monsters where the HP pool is large. Burst damage is amazing against monsters who can heal. Take the Blue/Red Lord in the Foefire sPvP map. He has a self-heal that, if you hit with enough burst damage, he cannot use. But silvers and higher have so much HP that burst damage is pointless -- might as well have brought DPS.
As far as condition damage goes, that's kinda useful in a dungeon. On a world boss, you can forget it.
So we've already got two or three playstyles severely limited. On big bosses, AoE is useless without adds. Burst damage, the cause of so much kittening in WvW, does nothing in a dungeon. Condi damage is questionable at best.
DPS rules the day.
But there are still two other lets of the trinity. What about support?
Support (at least offensive support) isn't totally unused. Those zerker warriors aren't just hitting, they're also buffing one another for fury. This is not bad. Defensive support, like a water staff elementalist, doesn't see much use though. Why? Probably because in an attempt to ensure you never need a healer, the game more or less ensures you never need defensive support.
Almost all attacks can be dodged. Healing? Well it's useful, but everyone brings enough self-healing that a water-staff ele (my one true love) might as well not even show up. Condition removal? Bosses don't apply enough conditions to matter. Better to bring more damage, probably DPS.
And then we get to control. The way defiant works sucks. I understand why 80% of CC is intended to not land: because one boss versus five players means CC is five times as effective as a fair 5v5. However what really happens is that players don't even bother. Most big bosses can't be knocked back. Most small monsters aren't worth CCing because there's nothing to CC them into. CC tends to be a delaying tactic, which is fundamentally less effective than smacking a monster until he's dead.
Better to bring more damage, probably DPS. See the pattern here?
Thing is, I'm fairly sure all of this could be fixed. It would be fixed by making bosses bring a lot more bullshit, and I suspect it might make players unhappy, but here's the thought.
First of all, bosses need adds. Adds make burst damage more useful. Adds make AoE way more useful. And second, give monsters a self-heal that actives (once) at the last sliver of health. That would mean access to burst damage to prevent the self-heal ends the fight a little faster, with players hanging onto their best attacks until the very last moment. Suddenly the thief tactic of HEARTSEEKER, HEARTSEEKER, HEARTSEEKER has some use inside the dungeon too. Not for the whole fight, just when you see the self-heal about to proc.
This is stuff that will make the zerker warrios go "that's bullshit!" but I'm ok with that.
Bosses need to apply the occasional bits of damage or conditions which can't be stopped in a narrow radius around them. Nothing which causes automatic death, mind you, just enough that your melee DPS needs to decide between standing next to the boss and taking the pain, OR withdrawing for a few seconds. In this way, a healer increases effective DPS, but isn't strictly necessary. Do you want 3 warriors wailing on the boss 70% of the time, or 2 warriors wailing on him 100% of the time?
Even better, applications of weakness in an unblockable field would make a condition removal class supremely useful. Weakness reduces DPS but it doesn't kill. Now a water ele can make his zerker warrior buddy more effective by canceling extra weakness pulses.
Then we get to CC.
As much as players hate the "guard this NPC while he tries to do something" missions, at least they make CC builds worth something from the knockback. What would be even more fun would be "own this circle" type of jobs. The kind of thing where killing the monsters is ONE way to do it, but pushing them out via CC is faster. Now you have a tradeoff. Do you want the CC build for that part? Is it worth the DPS loss for later?
Finally, defiant needs an overhaul. It should not require players to communicate via mic to plan 1-2-3-4 weak attacks, and now here's the one which matters. Imagine if CC was turned into its own highly effective mini game. For example, bosses might have stability most of the time, but every now and then they fire off a highly powerful, difficult to dodge attack on the whole party. A second before they do it, they're in a "windup" phase where CC -- blindness, knockback, etc, totally wiffs the attack. Now you have a hammer guardian sitting there on his 4 skill just waiting for that move to show up, so he can save the party instead of making them all withdrawn.
What if bosses dodged every now and then, instead of having a giant HP pool. Suddenly immobilize becomes super useful. Most importantly, you don't need multiple CC people to do this, just the one. CC doesn't stack in effectiveness.
I'm not saying we need and end to all DPS, but it would be nice if the party had a reason to bring burst damage, a reason to bring AoE, a reason to bring CC and support healing. Ideally, five zerkers should be able to finish the dungeon. Support should not be mandatory. CC should not be mandatory. But a good control build should make DPS players go "oh sweet, you can hit him before he does his telegraphed dodge, that means more damage for us!"
Again, notice that all of these changes I'm proposing are changes on the boss end of things. None of it involves changing the way players work, because the way players work is great in sPvP.
TL;DR we have an abundance of one kind of enemy: a big dumb non-dodging non-healing single-target bag of hitpoints that ignores most CC and doesn't reliably apply conditions that players can't dodge. If ANet would change the kinds of monsters that we face, and the kinds of player builds required will change with it.
Edit: Everyone telling me that AR is an example of a dungeon which gets this more correct than before. I'll give it a try with my sPvP team and see how that works out. Thanks for the heads up!
Edited by Ritter, 06 July 2013 - 03:37 AM.