I did a rundown of core skills for caster characters a while back, after checking out some of the various casters in EQ2. I finally dug up the time to do a similar rundown of the melee classes I haven't tried (Fighters and non-bard Scouts). Though this collectively spanned ten different classes, it seemed like most characters did some combination of the following three things.
Several character types basically engage in a DPS race with the mob/mobs. They don't heal, crowd control, or sneak, the two just meet and pummel each other and whomever runs out of health first wins. I was looking at both tanking classes and DPS classes, and the two differ slightly in approach - the tanks have more health and mitigation, while the scouts rely more on dodging. Even so, this seems to be the baseline, I guess for obvious reasons.
All of the scout classes have at least one flank attack, one stealth attack, and sometimes some combination of rear attacks, rear stealth attacks, etc. Two of the scouts really seem to be built around this sort of mechanism though - Assassins specialize in backstabbing, while Rangers specialize in melee/ranged hybrid attacks, hoping to root/immobilize foes and then dart out of range to pepper the foe with arrows. Though each class has some limited tools for attempting to position unruly foes accordingly, I had a lot of trouble making either class work solo. I'm sure they're incredible with a tank.
Self-Healing and other Utility
Intellectually, I realize that utility can be deceptive. Generally, classes that get to heal themselves and/or increase their own DPS have less baseline DPS to compensate for this advantage. Even so, there's something that feels elegant about giving yourself a leg up in the DPS race by healing yourself AND doing damage at the same time.
Is Variety Better Than Power?
Interestingly, my Dirge actually blends some of each - moderate DPS and lots of evasion for standing and fighting one on one, medium self-healing abilities, and a few ranged and positional attacks (along with lots and lots of speed to help use them). I didn't feel like any of the classes I took for a test drive offered quite as much variety. To sum up my top three potential alts:
- The Brigand offered a good balance of positional abilities I could actually use and raw DPS, but felt like it was missing a dimension for lack of heals and speed.
- The monk was a bit of fun - decent damage, avoidance, and a self-heal - but it lacks the positional part of combat and didn't have a ton of combat arts. I felt like I would end up just standing there trading blows.
- The Shadow Knight... well, that guy just felt overpowered, with high DPS, more self-healing than the Dirge, heavy armor mitigation, and even a broad selection of AOE abilities (one area where the Dirge is decidedly lacking).
Are any, or even all of these objectively more powerful than my Dirge? Quite possibly. Still, it didn't feel like any of them were quite as well rounded. It's quite possible that I semi-accidentally blundered into the single class in EQ2 that best fits my playstyle and keeps my interest. With 24 options to choose from (well, minus a few that I didn't consider seriously for being more group-focused than I would prefer), the odds of my having gotten it "right" on my first serious character weren't that great (though I did try out about half a dozen classes before settling on the Dirge).
As an aside, as I mentioned previously, if there's anywhere in the EQ2 experience that could seriously use some help, I'd say that it's pointing newbies to the correct subclass in a reasonable amount of time.