A View from Atlas Park: “We Need a Healer”

I generally play CoH solo, mostly out of convenience and time-pressure than anything else. Grouping can take up a lot of time – the setting up, the waitng for friends to get here, the “I’m off to sell enhancements / level / see my contacts”, etc – in both good groups and in the horribly disfunctional ones. But I do enjoy grouping when I’m in one. Getting into a pick-up group that works well and can talk to each other is a fantastic thing, as is the feeling of accomplishment when you finish off a arch villain or task force together.

But (and there is always a but)…

I can’t stand it when a group refuses to do anything until a healer joins the group. “We need a healer” becomes a rallying cry for inaction or as an excuse for mission failure due to poor tactics. I’m here to tell you no, you don’t need a healer – you just need to play CoH.

I’m certainly not bagging healers or the people who play them. My time in CoH (quantified in the below section) has certainly taught me the power of a good healer. Healers can hold entire groups together through some of the worst player behaviour and tactics (and again, my thanks go to Medicine Man on the Virtue server – he is the best healer I’ve seen yet!). But they shouldn’t become crutches for teams, or an absolute requirement before anyone will enter a mission.

Non-healing Defenders have for a long time railed against this bias towards healers. Not every Defender can heal, yet a lot of players expect the Defender on their team to heal them. This clash of in-game reality versus player expectation can lead to some nasty accidents than can (and have) broken up teams. Non-healing Defenders can offer a lot to teams, but many players get frustrated when they are turned away from a potential team because “we need a healer”.

In my opinion, the best team size is between 3 – 5 heroes. With this number of heroes, instanced missions appear not to get ridiculously crowded, you can be heard on the team channel and it is easier to work out some tactics. Once you get above 5 heroes, it appears to me that things just get needlessly complicated. The “we need a healer” issue comes into play here because teams bulk themselves out unnecessarily – if one healer is good, then two must be better, right?

To some extent, yes they are. But by adding two extra non-combat focused heroes, you end up increasing the number of villains you fight on missions while reducing the overall experience you get per villain deat… err, knockout. It is the other players in the team who end up having to take on more in order to complete missions. You end up fighting more enemies for a lower per-enemy return, and it just doesn’t feel like it balances out as well at an eight player team as it does at a four player team.

(And before you healing types write me angry emails about how you pull your weight in a fight – I certainly agree that you keep your team-mates alive, but winning in CoH is determined by doing damage to the enemy. Your endurance is going towards healing your team-mates, reducing your function in combat. Having a quarter of an eight-player team not damaging the enemy means everything takes longer and more downtime is spent in-between fights as everyone waits for their endurance to return.)

Healers are also often used to mask poor team tactics. Unfortunately, a lot of players equate not dying in a fight to playing CoH well – it’s not. It’s not a good way to play since when things go wrong, they go disasterously wrong. You end up with eight heroes staring at the carpet and some blame being thrown around. Although healers can turn the tide sometimes and help to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat, they have limits. I’ve seen these limits repeatedly broken by players who expect to be healed when they are nowhere near the healer, or don’t wait for the healer to recover from one fight before starting the next one.

It is much better for a team to work out how they are going to tackle the next group of villains they fight rather than simply having a healer on the team. A minute spent working out some tactics creates a team that is much less dependent on relying on that healer to pull their butts from the fire.

Finally, I find “we need a healer” is a bit insulting to all those players who aren’t healers. All of the archetypes and their unique power sets add to a team’s ability. This over-dependence on those powers that can heal appears to have diminished the importance that some players put on non-healing characters, leading to teams that reject perfectly good candidates in favour of waiting for a healer to come their way. Such behaviour is just, well, rude.

Healers certainly have their place in CoH. However, they aren’t the be-all and end-all of a team, so think carefully next time someone goes “we need a healer” – do you really?


In moments of downtime, or just to see what they say, I often click on Paragon citizens the citizens of as they pass by. In my last play session, I was dismayed to find out I’d spent a total of 118 hours in Paragon City. That’s just under five days of my life spent on CoH. I want that time back, Statesman! I want it ba…

… on second thought, I’d have wasted that time anyway…

[p]Semi-seriously though, it makes my rate of progress look abysmal. I’m only at lvl 22 for those 118 hours. That’s what happens when you explore, collect badges and do things that aren’t fighting villains, I guess.

[p] – UnSub [email protected] 28 January 2004

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