While ping-ponging between my two MMOs du jour — SWTOR and LOTRO — I acutely feel the loss of my Operative’s stealthy abilities every time I go to my Lore-master. Instead of gracefully navigating an enemy-strewn battlefield to quickly arrive at a quest destination, my poor LM has to bullheadedly plow through a body count high enough to put Quentin Tarantino to shame. Seriously, if the real world was like this, I’d be one of the most notorious mass murderers in history just by the time I left my house and arrived at a McDonald’s for breakfast, one mile away. The XP and loot is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to cut out the middleman and go right for the deal, y’know?
I used to hate stealth in MMOs on principle, mostly because it came attached to WoW Rogues, which I hated so much that I’ve had to have surgery on my twitching, bloodshot eye to get it to stop doing that. Stealth seemed like a cheat designed to screw up your day personally, as if these classes were playing a completely different game that happened to co-exist in the same universe. While the adults are out earning their wings the hard way, stealthers are popping in and out of the shadows — often with a gleeful “WHEE!” — and stabbing us in the back like teenage girls at the prom in any high school movie I’ve seen.
Yet I think my attitude toward stealth has refined somewhat, as long as you keep me the heck away from PvP. Over the past year or so I’ve engaged in stealth classes in RIFT, LOTRO and SWTOR, and started to appreciate what they have to offer. What it all boils down to is starting a fight on your own terms or avoiding it entirely — and the strategy those options present open a whole new world of gameplay. I mean, with most classes you don’t have an option of how to get from point A to B in a quest; it’s generally a straight line through angry mobs that serve as speedbumps to success. But with stealth, I can bypass them if I choose (and if I’m careful and perhaps use stealth skills to distract my foes).
On Nar Shadda in SWTOR there was a 2+ heroic mission right off the bat in the spaceport that I soloed creatively using stealth abilities. Since I couldn’t hit the groups head-on, I crept my way to the rooms with robots that could be activated as fight helpers, then dropped stealth right as I activated them. BOOM, sudden assist, and my new robot buddy ran interference. It might have taken a little while longer than if I was with another player, but I felt pretty darn satisfied when I was done with that.
It’s also quite fun to hit the enemy hard right out of stealth with a shout of “SURPRISE!”, because then you’re imagining all of the hilarious responses on their faces right before they die. It’s that ninja love feeling. (Hm, on a side note, I’m casting aside Bartle’s personality chart for my own, which uses Ninjas, Pirates, Cyborgs, and Zombies as player archetypes.)
And face it, some days you just really want to finish the mission without all the walk-two-steps-fight-for-two-minutes-walk-two-steps-more nonsense. I don’t know who actually *lives* in these game worlds, but they probably are the last survivors as everyone else, including the kids, got slaughtered by the sheer mob density around them. I mean, you’ve got a village that’s literally ten feet away from rampaging bears, boars and giant spiders, and all of the NPCs are standing around like they’re on holiday. They’re probably happy we come along, since our corpses feed the rabid beasts and keep them satiated so that the villagers can enjoy another day of life.
I’m sorry, were we talking about stealth? Or ninja zombies? I forget.