The Two Honorable Mentions
A quirk to today's flexible class systems is that in some ways you're choosing based on what you don't want to play (or at least are willing to forego) as by what you like. For example:
- Rift's warriors do some interesting things. In a few examples, there is the anti-magic specialist Void Knight, the DPS Beastmaster with its off-tanking pet cat, or the highly mobile ranged elemental attacking Riftblade. That said, warriors can't heal others and offer only limited support/utility. If you're not looking to tank, you're just another DPS. That's a bit of a liability in a game where you're probably going to run into open rift groups that have someone tanking but are struggling for heals.
- Ranged DPS pet classes always have an easy time leveling since they have a tanking pet they can hide behind. Rift makes this even easier for the appropriate combinations (Rogues who take Ranger and Bard, Mages who take Chloromancer and either Necromancer or Elementalist) because these archetypes offer passive DPS smart healing. You won't have to watch your pet's health, because you'll be topping it off automatically as you nuke, and you won't need to worry about aggro too much since your DPS will usually be slightly lower to account for the healing output. No thanks.
The Top Contenders
So, I'm left with the Rogue and the Cleric.
Rogues do a bit of everything. Beyond the smart-healing bard (which might be very useful in public rift groups, where you can't be sure who will have aggro or who else will be trying to heal them), I find the Riftstalker tanking soul intriguing. Riftstalkers can turn their combo points into damage shields for extra durability and healing. The other soul that stood out for me was the trap-based Saboteur. If you're going to be tanking the mobs yourself anyway (which everyone does while solo), dropping traps at your feet seems like a good way to increase your AOE damage. Also, throwing half a dozen explosive charges at a mob and then detonating them all at once is one of the more amusing combo mechanics in the game.
Priests also do a bit of everything, but with a major in healing and a minor in off-tanking (rather than the other way around). The Justicar off-tanking soul does some passive self healing powered by life elemental attacks, including life spells you get from other souls (such as the healing/nuking Sentinel or Purifier). Melee priests seem to like the elemental attacks of the Shaman, but I found that I was getting by alright with the Druid occupying the third slot with a mix of melee, ranged, healing, and a support-based pet.
In the end, I think I'm going to go with the Cleric to start with. My favorite race, the high elves, comes with a minor bonus to the priest primary stat. I'd like enough tank-ability to solo, but I'm more interested in healing than tanking in a group setting, and the Clerics definitely offer more options in that department (even if fewer involve smart healing). The thing that's surprising about this decision process is that it's almost entirely driven by what I'm less interested in doing than by what I'm actively looking for.
Now watch me end up switching to a warrior in the first week, just because I said I wasn't that interested. :)