The wealth of stealth

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.

12 thoughts on “The wealth of stealth

  1. rowan January 16, 2012 / 11:00 am

    FIRST! Always wanted to do that.

    I have really warmed to the stealth potential of my Sith Assassin, I am literally about run into that heroic after I get done here.

  2. Brent Brown (@IBrentBrown) January 16, 2012 / 11:07 am

    My very favorite piece of loot ever was a grey item in Rift, where I received a “Still Beating Heart of a Rogue.” I often pull up the screen shot and giggle softly to myself… 🙂

  3. Rinvan January 16, 2012 / 12:39 pm

    I have been enjoying stealth on my smuggler lately. I slipped into one of the very well guarded rival houses on Alderaan last night & grabbed a datapad off the leader’s desk without fighting him or anybody else in the compound. The mission was complete in a few minutes & no need to fight my way out of the area.

  4. SynCaine January 16, 2012 / 12:47 pm

    “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.”

    You just described MMO PvP (in MMOs with real MMO PvP that is).
    Only in PvP the ‘mob’s have much better ‘AI’, drop much better loot, and the story is always unique and interesting.

  5. Syp January 16, 2012 / 12:55 pm

    @SynCaine — if “the story is always unique and interesting” means I got ganked for the 50th time and the “mob” teabagged me and/or made fun references to my parentage, then, yes. I agree.

  6. Scott McMillin January 16, 2012 / 5:38 pm

    I’m really loving my Operative so far — may be one of my favorite classes ever. Plus the story is great and Kaliyo loves my snarky, self-serving, Dark Side approach. Lots of fun.

  7. Feliz January 17, 2012 / 7:43 am

    One thing I don’t like about stealth is getting discovered.
    I still need to decide if I will continue to run my scoundrel, or if I switch to the Empire side of things.

    I have one question, though. How often are you asked to heal? How often do you volunteer, even if you are not specced into healing?

  8. Syp January 17, 2012 / 8:20 am

    I’m healing specced, so I advertise as healer. So I can’t comment from the non-healing specced side of things.

  9. ScytheNoire January 17, 2012 / 12:46 pm

    Have a 45 Shadow Tank and I love the stealth aspect. I’ve never played stealth classes because they’ve always been a DPS only class (I like to tank or heal often) and often filled with douches. So it’s nice to see that a Tank or Healer can have stealth too. I find it saves so much time avoid mobs or sapping them (I got one on my Shadow). With my Bounty Hunter I have to go around slaughtering everyone on the way to and from my destination. Won’t somebody think of the enemy NPCs?

  10. RyanRMC January 17, 2012 / 1:32 pm

    My Operative is the first stealth class I have really played. Like you, I had always been sort of turned off by it, as I don’t usually play DPS classes or melee classes if I can help it. The idea of a stealth healer was strange to me at first, while in beta, and I fought it tooth and nail. But now that I am more into the routine, I am finding that I like it.

    There are issues though. Again, as you point out, there is some content that is just too easy. There are heroic 4 man quests I can solo with zero deaths if I use my stealth buff and combat steath ability just right. (I have in fact reported each one of these to BioWare, so they are aware that needs to be changed). And I am able to skip a LOT of content that other classes have to fight through.

    So it’s a toss up. I like it, but I am aware of, and prepared for, some needed changes to stealth in SWTOR.

  11. SynCaine January 17, 2012 / 3:44 pm

    @SynCaine — if “the story is always unique and interesting” means I got ganked for the 50th time and the “mob” teabagged me and/or made fun references to my parentage, then, yes. I agree.

    You need to get out more, the forums are a poor place to learn about something. And if you are getting ganked for the 50th time, maybe it’s time to do something different? What what exactly does it say about you that for the 50th time, someone as mature as a teabagger is able to gank you?

  12. Syp January 17, 2012 / 7:52 pm

    @SynCaine – This is my personal experience with PvP. The “story” therein is a mere passage of events — what happened, who died, who used what skill, did we win/lose, etc. It’s a very flimsy narrative, and for every time I’ve seen players honestly trying to inject it with something greater, there are plenty of the jerks I’ve seen who take it to its base Counterstrike level.

    But hey, troll as you like.

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