Craving that good old-time MMO dungeon healing experience

As I continue to evaluate my summer gaming plans and figure out just what I’m looking for in MMOs these days, I think I’ve put my finger on one missing part of my diet: I miss dungeon runs. Specifically, I miss being a healer in dungeon runs.

I’ve been an off and on again healer in my MMO career, and when I am paired up with a fun class that works well and a game that has interesting dungeons, then I’m all over it. It’s just deeply satisfying to be part of a team and keep them alive for the run, feeling as though I’m fulfilling a unique role in the group. But I haven’t had this for a long while now, and I’m starting to feel the absence of this.

But where can I get this? Guild Wars 2 is not an MMO with your typical dungeon crawl and trinity, even with the last expansion. Plus, I don’t have a healing spec at the moment. So after drawing up a list of potential MMO candidates that would offer the healing class + dungeon crawling combo to my liking, here’s what I’ve come up with (along with my thoughts on each’s potential).

Lord of the Rings Online

  • Never really thought about turning my Lore-master into a healing spec. Could do it with multiple spec options, though.
  • Does anyone use the group finder for dungeons? Is it too late to get in on the dungeon scene?
  • Would be cool to see this side of the game after having neglected it for so long.
  • Better loot? Different cosmetics?

World of Warcraft

  • I loved healing dungeons as a Druid and have the option of that class, a level 100 Shammy, or starting over (Monk, perhaps?)
  • Great dungeons. Solid healing mechanics. LFG works wonderfully and healers get in quickly.
  • Feeling more than a little burned out on this game at the moment, but maybe just concentrating on a healer would be a nice break.
  • Don’t know if I have the energy to go through all of the Legion content again and the grinds.


  • Have absolutely no idea what the dungeon scene is like in this game, although it is a D&D title, so I assume there is one beyond solo instances
  • There’s, like, one healing class in the whole game, so I’m guessing they’re in high demand
  • Perfectly suited to a pick-up-and-put-down mindless gameplay approach
  • Still popular, still has a healthy population

Dungeons and Dragons Online

  • Was reminded recently that dungeons here are pretty dang awesome and varied… and I miss that
  • Never did healing in this game, though. Would have to really research a healing build.
  • Worried about the low game population and fading presence. Feels like it might be “too late” to return.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

  • Now that I think about it, I did do a spot of healing as an Operative. Could do that again, I suppose?
  • Or maybe roll up a new class?
  • Dungeons were kind of on the long side and not terribly interesting, which is why I stopped running them.

Final Fantasy XIV

  • Would need to subscribe. Been thinking about coming back, with the new expansion and all.
  • Group content in this game is fantastic and I had an absolute blast being a healer.
  • Lots of dungeons. Probably rusty running them as a healer, but hopefully it would come back to me.
  • Fairy healing pet! Love having a pocket healer
  • People seem to run dungeons at all levels, not just at endgame, probably thanks to the game design.

Elder Scrolls Online

  • Big unknown in terms of potential interest and quality, but that could work in its favor as a “new” experience
  • People do talk about running dungeons — and often favorably
  • The new Warden class has a healing spec, sounds a little Druidish


  • I kind of miss RIFT! Always nice to return to it.
  • Surprisingly awesome dungeon scene in this game and I really did enjoy healing… until I got in over my head with the newer expansion-level stuff
  • Hated how there’s like one optimal Cleric build that everyone has to use or else get out.
  • Also, healing fairy pets.
  • Wouldn’t be the worst thing to finish up the newer expansion and reconnect with my guild.
  • But could I really get a fun healing spec going again?
  • Might need some more time away before returning, else I could hit that burnout wall again fairly quickly

Healing by numbers

Seeing as how this is my birthday week and all (May 31st, get your presents now before store shelves empty!), I’m feeling a little puckish and in the mood for an experiment. I’m going to spend at least one night working up a healing spec in LOTRO and seeing if I can find any groups to accept my sorry butt in an instance. If group content in this game is dead, so be it, but if not and I can heal every now and then, I’d actually be all for that.

I’m also probably going to resub to FFXIV, at least for a month, to get the lay of the land and see if I remember to heal and all that. Might be the time to reconnect, although I’m kicking myself that I never wrote down the name of the guild I was a part of right before I quit. They were insanely friendly, if I recall. Oh well, if anyone has any guild recommendations on Cactuar, let me know!

14 thoughts on “Craving that good old-time MMO dungeon healing experience

  1. I completely share the sad lack of healing options during my current pre-expansion break from FFXIV. I’ve tried healing in most of the games you list. My experiences:

    1) LOTRO: unless you’re at endgame, there just aren’t any dungeon runs. People simply don’t do leveling dungeons. I’ve never made it to endgame so I can’t speak to that side.

    2) WoW healing has the standard problem of that game. Either the healing is too easy — to where you will win as long as you keep pushing buttons and it virtually doesn’t matter which you push — or it is too hard for a player with middle-aged reflexes and no dedicated guild. I don’t know why WoW is so much less capable than other MMOs of middle-ground difficulty where decisions matter but you don’t have to be a “core gamer” to win.

    3) Neverwinter dungeons feel a lot like GW2 dungeons; disorganized action combat where dodges and blocks can mitigate most damage. In my experience, healing is only really in demand for some end-game content and otherwise people prefer to just burn stuff down.

    4) DDO just never runs without constantly crashing for me.

    5) SWTOR has been reworked so most people run solo or tactical flashpoints and healing seems unwanted outside of some endgame content.

    6) FFXIV has great dungeons, many of which hit the difficulty balance I was talking about vis-a-vis WoW. Healing is fun and requires attention but isn’t usually punishing. Players are mostly nice. In the new expansion, stance dancing for healers is gone, so that will be a further plus.

    7) ESO healing in dungeons is often exceptionally punishing. Recovering from mistakes — yours or someone else’s — on a very limited healing budget isn’t easy. Level scaling can also be punishing. The advice I’ve heard is to solo to cap and a good number of CP and then start doing dungeons. Unfortunately the solo content in ESO isn’t compelling enough for me to do that.

    8) Rift healing in the base-game dungeons was a lot of fun. I found the Storm Legion dungeons terrible and never got past that point.

  2. As somebody who always ended up as healer in any MMO, i can understand you very much.
    (Although recently i get to tank more… that’s the “price” you pay for having a gaming girlfriend, it seems. 😀 )

    Also, a while ago i would’ve complained about such a list not holding TSW. I will miss leech-healing and healtanking, but i guess the games time is over. 😦 I’ll miss it forever. 😦

    On all the games you list, i can only comment on three, and only on one of them i have recent experience.

    It’s been a while since i was in SWtoR,but when i was active there the dungeons felt very much along the lines of WoW. This shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that some classes skillset looks like all abilities were copied from WoW and just given different names.

    This isn’t a negative per se, unless you also know that they at least for me felt a bit boring and uninspired. But what really killed them for me was that while they had story, it also had the big label of “doesn’t really matter” stamped all over it.

    On the positive, during the time i was active in SWtoR and did dungeons, the community was “under control”. I mean there were a lot of “i’m here for the loot, let’s just rush through this” people, but while i encountered a lot of indifference, there wasn’t as much toxicity as in some other games with heavier raid focus.

    So this one is a bit of “middle of the road”. Its dungeons might not be utterly special to me, but they work. They are done well enough and my experience with the community was acceptable. Only your state of “burnt out by WoW” could be a big blocking point, as in many aspects you head for “more of the same” here.

    The next one is Rift. In my book, it’s again very much WoW. Unfortunately while this would be the only blocking point i would see for SWtoR for you, here it at least for me feels like a smaller issue in comparison to the big picture.

    Last time i visited Rift was around Xmas, so my status is not fully up to date, but considering how the game changes, it probably still is very valid. Dungeoning (like about anything else) seems to be very heavy on meta builds there. This is not surprising, considering how soul system rework several years ago gave heavy advantages to fully speccing souls. This turned souls practially into classes, with the other two souls in a setup getting very few points and basically only adding a little flavour.

    It also doesn’t help that most meta setups are very boring. In case of doubt, look at the games class forums, where you’ll not only find the meta setups, but also one to three macros, which will contain all abilities you should use. This effectively turns the setups into one-button to three-button classes, as the macros do the “best” rotation and anything else clocks in at lower numbers.

    So if you like using a meta build and like the WoW-style dungeons (albeit in my eyes at slightly lower quality), Rift could be a good place. On the other hand, the dungeoning community there, at least according to my personal experience, is very unforgiving to a new player. I might have been unlucky with the people i encountered on all my tries, but i found dungeoning there not enjoyable at all.

    Even when things were going fine, no wipes, no problems, people still were toxic. The simple fact that a beginner clocked in like 20% less damage than an experienced player in the group was enough for some people to go bonkers on the beginner. Several times. (I was healing, so as all were alive nobody blamed me… but several people just vomiting all over a beginner damage dealer, just because his total damage was a bit lower than of a veteran was enough to drive me away. Even the best DD couldn’t have saved as much time in combat, as arguments afterwards wasted, even before considering the social aspects. )

    It could very well have been personal bad luck that i several times in a row, without exception, ended up with this kind of people, all insisting on meta setups and all toxic even when things go well, but for me that experience is a good reason to advise not to go there.

    The third on my list to comment is ESO. This is where i have most recent experience.

    On this one i could write a wall of text by itself. (Starting with: any class can heal by using a restoration staff, but Warden, Templars and Sorcerers are considered to be better, for different reasons. )

    The game (or rather the community) doesn’t seem to push you as harsh into a meta setup, although some criteria still has to be met. You have to bring a good selection of healing abilities. For some it’s adviseable to talk with your team on what they use, so you can adjust your toolset. And in any case, as a healer you want a magicka heavy setup with just enough health to stay alive and no attributes or glyphs invested in stamina.

    But the simple advise that for harder content you should speak with your group and adjust your abilities according to what they use for me makes a big difference. It means that you don’t just run a setup out of the can (although the game of course also has its ressource sites for meta setups) but adjust, sometimes even specifically to what the boss you are heading for is doing.

    Even the beginner i am in ESO, i already experienced the “we wiped several times, let’s not attack but adjust the setup first” break.

    It might also be important to know that the pure “stands back and heals” healer doesn’t exist in ESO. Not only are you also (but not as a beginner) expected to also bring some buffs and boosts, but simply for ressource management you will also have to attack the enemy. So while you might be responsible for keeping your team alive, you’re not standing far back and just healing. This also wouldn’t be possible to to how heals work in ESO. There is no classical “target groupmate, trigger heal” mechanic. You can’t aim a heal at one specific person. Instead you have heals with different areas They are like heals everybody in front, heals everybody around you, heals everybody inside the ground targeted effect or even heals the person with lowest health in range.

    I found that not only are people running around like crazy chickens in a bossfight, but i am running even more so i keep the group within the areas of my healing abilities.

    The next aspect is that while the game allows you to get into dungeons rather early, i would advise to get some more skillpoints if you want to do that as healer. Thanks to the games upscaling mechanics (your attributes and armour are brought to the level of the dungeon) i found that dungeoning as damage dealer is possible at rather low levels and even tanking can be done with just a few selected abilities of the shield skill line equiped. For healing you want a broader skillset, though, so the healer job can indeed be the one which takes a bit longer before you feel ready to go.

    The other thing i advise for a beginner is to not care for daily dungeons and the dungeon finder tool. The community is mixed. When i asked for people on the zone chat, declaring that i am a beginner and want do go into the dungeon here, the worst i got was a high level, who was able to easily solo the dungeon and just ran us through it much too quick. But while that’s a case of “mission done, but not much learned”, it’s neither a good nor a really bad experience. But asking in zone chat also usually get me a group of several beginners or helpful people. And while having several beginners in group resulted in a few wipes, those dungeon tours were enjoyable, people were (mostly) friendly and we learned how to do things. Not in the league of old-time TSW, but hey, you can’t have such a community everywhere.

    Things get different in ESO when you use the group finder or when you somehow end up in a group which is more experienced. Even if you stated that you are a beginner, people tended to get toxic at even smaller mistakes. Not that they bothered to exlain stuff in advance. It might not be WoW-levels of toxicity (and far from my experience in Rift), but for somebody coming from TSWs old community it can feel rude and harsh.

    That all being said, generally the dungeons at normal difficulty and with the number 1 behind the name are nicely done and not too hard. All dungeons i yet experienced also have a number 2 version, which is harder and has more complex mechanics and all of them exist in harder versions for veteran players. Be sure to go to the right difficulty. 🙂

    If you do, you’ll find nicely done dungeons and an enjoyable experience. If you play them based on when you encounter them (so not using the dungeon finder, but finding a group for them in the zone you are currently active), they fit into the zones story. Sure they don’t match up to TSW in terms of dungeons also telling a story, but as that was unmatched by any other MMO, it’d be a bit unfair to measure ESO up against this. Without the comparison to TSW, at least for me the dungeons in ESO are more fitting and memorable than those in SWtoR.

    So in the end, being a healer in ESO is a mixed bunch. From all the roles, it seems to be the one which requires most effort to be ready to start. That’s not to diminuish the other roles. In the later game they all have their own challenges, but according to my experience a tank or damage dealer can get away in the beginner dungeons with a smaller toolset than the healer. (When i look at guides for veteran difficulty, all roles seem to be challenging. ) The dungeons are well designed and with reticule based combat it feels different from healing in the other games, giving it a bit of a fresh touch.

    The only thing you should have an eye upon is who you group with for the dungeons. The community goes from toxic to overeagerly helpful and while the second sounds good on paper, being rushed through a dungeon by a high level player and your actions not mattering also doesn’t feel that great. But when asking nicely for the right people or having an eye on the zone chat and joining a group when beginners (or helpful players who also know how to help without turning it into a rush) gather for a dungeon tour worked out well for me.

  3. Neverwinter doesn’t really do old-school healing; everyone simply hits the mobs and as a healer you just bring some buffs and trickle heals to the table, at least while levelling.

    Surprised to see you talk about SWTOR’s instances being a bit on the long side? I guess they go faster these days than they used to, but my average run clocks in at 20-30 minutes, a bit longer if we have any wipes.

    Also have to disagree with the first commenter about healing being unwanted outside of endgame content – I’m levelling a healer through flashpoints right now, pops are quick and it’s good fun. In fact, while the system allows for groups without a healer, it’s often quite a pain not to have one, so from my experience they are always welcome.

  4. I haven’t played in a few years, so maybe things are different now, but my experience with Neverwinter was the dungeon community is fairly active, and Devoted Cleric was the most fun I’ve ever had as a healer in an MMO. I highly recommend at least trying it.

    After that, I think the best game for dungeon runs is probably WoW, but if you’re already burnt out on that, it may not be the best choice. If you do give it a try, I recommend the shaman, as I think their healing is a lot of fun right now. Monk feels very weird (it’s a HoT spec that can’t efficiently spread its HoTs, which is usually the point of a HoT spec), but it works, and maybe you might find it a refreshing change of pace. It’s certainly different.

    I haven’t tried healing in ESO, but my experience has been that running dungeons there is an absolutely miserable experience. I just gave up. Seems like the sort of game where you need a regular group/guild to run with. Not PUG-friendly in the slightest.

    @Shintar: I’m surprised your runs are only a half hour. My experience has been that most SW:TOR dungeons take at least an hour, and often more. That’s why I stopped running them. They were exhausting.

  5. I haven’t played ESO in a while and I can’t speak to PUGs because I was always with friends, but I quite enjoyed the dungeons (and healing) in that game. The dungeons are suppose to be for 4 players but really you can get away with less, especially with the Level 1 dungeons. Doing level 1 dungeons with 4 people is super easy, things are slightly more difficult with 3 people, and it’s challenging (but in an interesting way) to do them with just 2 people. A friend and I actually managed to go through all of the Level 1 dungeons by ourselves (with several wipes and switching up strategies though).

    For the Level 2 dungeons, you definitely need at least 3 people, but 4 makes things easier.

    In terms of healing, I especially like it in ESO for a few reasons:

    1) Any class can be a healer.

    2) Anyone can rez. They just need a soulshard.There was one boss fight where I was the tank and everyone else died. I was able to keep myself alive long enough through self-heals to rez one of them, who rezzed the other and we were able to finish the fight with everyone alive.

    3) Running around and casting AoE heals where you have to take distance and aiming into account is far more interesting than standing back and tab-targeting (which I did a lot of when I was healing in WoW).

    4) If you’re not needed to heal right then or if something is chewing on your butt, you get to DPS.

    5) You’re not ridiculously squishy. The tank likely isn’t going to be able to gather up every mob (there’s no AoE taunts) so you have enough health not to die if a mob so much as looks at you. I distinctly remember a boss fight where the tank died from standing in the bad and I, as the healer, spent the rest of the fight kiting the boss around and basically tanking it. It was great.

    6) The unofficial flexible group sizes as I mentioned above.

  6. Just a suggestion if you’re going to try FFXIV again. Wait until after Stormblood to come back.

    The game’s battle systems, including healers, are getting major overhauls. So much that even folks who are still leveling will feel the differences (don’t have to work up other jobs to get cross class abilities you need, Cleric Stance is changing, and damage will be calculated differently, etc). Too much to list here.

    But if you want to get a feel for how healing is going to be going forward in FFXIV, wait until after the changes drop with the expansion. I really like the direction healers are going in, and might even dabble in it a bit myself. I never liked stance dancing to get my DPS in, and that’s going to go away. 🙂

  7. I see lots of instance runs happening in LOTRO. There’s often two or three being formed at the same time in the LFF channel. The majority are cap level, and many are for whatever the Featured Instance is that week. But I do see plenty of other ones as well, from people doing the Great Barrow in the 20s right on up through the levels. And no doubt there are plenty more group runs within the larger kinships that I don’t even get to hear about.

    I don’t know if people would regard a Lore Master as being a strong enough of a healer though. You could give it a shot, esp for content that you’re overlevel for,, and see if people are willing to give you a try.

    Or if you’re happy doing just the lower level instances you could roll a new Minstrel or Rune Keeper. You can get up to 40 fairly quickly and that’ll give you a good range of instances to do.

  8. Yet again you’re thinking along the same lines as me – it was particularly amusing to see your post here and on MassivelyOP both echoing things I wrote on the same day!

    I’m doing some dungeons in FFXIV on the free trial right now – not as a healer at the moment but no doubt that will come. If you really only want to get the buzz of healing dungeon groups back for the sheer fun of it then you don’t need to subscribe. You could just make a new account and do the sub-35 stuff. Dungeon queues as a DPS are running me barely ten minutes in the low twenties so I imagine as a healer you’d be getting them almost on demand.

    As far as GW2 goes, I’m not even sure it has a dungeon scene any more. ANet pretty much dropped dungeons off a cliff years back. Fractals are still thriving but for those you have to get into all that Agony stuff, which takes time. Contrary to popular belief, healing in GW2 is extremely important and very well served if you play Druid (for which you need HoT) or Elementalist. The main places healers shine, though, is in Raids and WvW. I’m not sure much has changed in dungeons/fractals since the old days of “bring five zerkers”.

    Really, though, I find every MMO a pale shadow of EverQuest, if even that, when it comes to healing. Rift might be the closest to proper healing of the games you’re considering. I did Chrono-heal there back at launch and it seemed good – of course that was back in the dark ages. Does anyone in Rift do anything other than run around in a huge gang blitzing everything these days?

    If you do find a good healing option, please write it up – I’d like to get back to doing some full-strength party healing one of these days too.

  9. “Worried about the low game population and fading presence. Feels like it might be “too late” to return.”

    It’s not too late! The Ravenloft expansion this Halloween will be epic…

  10. I can’t comment on healing in dungeons from a first person perspective, but I’ve been running a lot of dungeons in ESO and FFXIV.

    Obviously FFXIV hasn’t changed since you last played it in regards to dungeons, there may be more of them, but the game is pretty consistent. Stormblood brings some combat changes, unique mechanics to each of the jobs, which could spice things up, but I think if you liked healing in FFXIV before, you’ll still like it now and after the changes.

    ESO though is a little strange. In a normal dungeon, healing is required to a degree, but it isn’t targeted, so it is heavily reliant on the other group members being in the right place at the right time to get healed. There is a lot more focus on positioning, damage dealing and having the correct set of abilities when you play any role in an ESO dungeon. Veteran mode dungeons and Trials obviously take this to a new level, you certainly couldn’t go through the Trials without applying the latest meta to min/max your setup. Though if you are interested in giving ESO a good, now is a good time, the new content is nice, but the Warden has been very well designed and is easily makes one of the best healers in the game, right from the early levels.

  11. Beyond the cleric Neverwinter does have Paladin with a healing spec (bit like scholar in FFXIV – you start as tank but can spec as healer later on), I’d read that Scourge Warlock could also be played as some kind of healer but that’s probably very gear dependent. I’ve healed group dungeons and it is some of the best healing gameplay I’ve experienced (alongside Priest in Tera), but definitely not ‘relaxing’…

    I actually prefer Paladin healer at the moment in WoW, I’ve gone off Shaman in general this expansion. I have a lowbie Monk healer that I’m playing in a dungeon leveling group and it seems ok, but we’re only in the 20s so no proper experience yet.

    I’m in a similar position at the moment. I want to get into dungeon healing in either LOTRO or EQ2, two of my favourite MMOs of choice, but it seems being in the right guild is mandatory as pug groups focus almost exclusively on end game stuff…

  12. Funny enough I end up being the healer because my friends are so bad at it I let them DPS.

    I was playing through as a RK in LOTRO because you can switch to DPS or Heal mode. I liked that flexibility.

    I ended up rolling a Priest for NWN because the others picked the DPS classes or Sorc, Fighter and Thief and GW2 every class pretty much heal themselves.

    Now in ESO my main is a Templar Tank/Healer but I have recently made a Dragon Knight DPS/Healer. I have to admit I like the flexibility ESO offers with their class and weapon skill lines. When I am soloing I DPS and when we do dungeons as a team I heal. It feels much more substantial for me as a player, not being locked to one class and skill line. There isn’t the “cool down and switch” period the RK’s need in LOTRO either. One minute I’ll be DPS mode then switch weapons and start healing then switch back. Especially good in ESO dungeon boss fights as I can get there at the end and start beating on the boss with the others 🙂

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