That question took me all of about two seconds to answer. The hunter class in World of Warcraft.
From a sheer overall enjoyment, most involved, most fun ever, the hunter wins out for me.
There are some other classes that I have quite enjoyed. I liked my berserkers and swashbucklers in EverQuest II. I had a soft spot for shadow knights and paladins and all their hybrid woes back in EverQuest. In Lord of the Rings Online, the rune keeper may have some of the best spell effects ever. You always know one is around because of those lightning flashes, and that wave of fire spell is a joy to behold. And if you have never played a dwarf guardian in Middle-earth, then you have missed out on the most enthusiastic warriors ever.
Oddly, Rift holds no spot in my favored class list despite… or because of… the famed flexibility of the soul system that lets you mix and match and create your own flavor of a given class. I think I just come from an age where a class had a role and a few skills and you made do with what you got and suffered when you couldn’t.
And when it came to making do with what you got, the hunter class had that in spades. Well, the old hunter class did, the way the class played back when I started WoW in 2005.
Hunters were primarily a ranged weapon class. You likely went with a gun if you were a dwarf or a tauren, or a bow if you were a night elf or an orc, since that was what they handed you at the outset. Maybe you opted in for a crossbow later on, if you found a good one and wanted to buy and train up the skill.
But ranged weapons required ammunition, which came in stacks of 200 rounds and which took up space in your inventory. And you wanted an ammo pouch or quiver because of the speed bonus it gave you, so essentially you ended up forfeiting an entire inventory slot. This in the limited bag space hell of early WoW.
So you were hauling around stacks of ammo and had to make sure that your ammo pouch was full up before you set off on any prolonged adventure, with maybe a couple extra stacks in your bag, just in case. And then you would level up and the ammo you wanted would change.
Ammo had a damage value that was rolled into the total damage done with each shot, and as you leveled up, you better ammo became available. And then there was crafted ammo, which boosted damage a bit more.
And you still had to keep an up to date melee weapon or two around as well. Ranged weapons had a minimum range, and when things went wrong, you might find yourself fighting toe-to-toe with a hostile mob. It was nice that hunters could dual wield, and the saying was always “every weapon is a hunter weapon!” I just hope you were keeping your melee weapon skills up to date as you leveled. It could be embarrassing to be reminded that you were way behind on a skill in a tight situation.
But it was all worth it once you got your pet, which back in the day required you to get to level 10. At that point you could run the pet starter quests, learn the skills, and the run off to tame your first pet.
But what kind of pet should you tame, and what skills would it come with? You were given a special skill to tell if pets were tameable, which also showed what skills they knew and at what level.
And the level part was important. You pet might come with all the skills it could learn, but as it leveled up, it would become eligible for a new tier of its skills. A couple of basic skills were available from the hunter trainer, but for the rest… you had to hunt.
You had to stable your pet… and your pet was a major part of your ability to fight and survive in the wild… to go find another animal that knew the skill you were looking for. You had to tame that animal and then go off and kill mobs with it for a while until your close contact with the animal lead to the skill being rubbed off onto you, thus entering your knowledge.
Then, once you had acquired that knowledge, you could dismiss the pet you just tamed and then run back to town, get your own pet out of storage and train him in the new skill.
And then there was the whole food aspect to things. Once you tamed a pet, you had to feed him to improve his attitude towards you. A hostile pet would fight badly and might flee. And each possible pet would only eat certain kinds of food, which you had to keep on had, using up more inventory space, in order to keep your pet a maximum happiness.
And then there was the matter of leveling up your pet. It had levels and needed experience to advance. And if the pet you really wanted was lower level than you, then you had to take your new catch out and level him up.
And for all that effort, you would just assume that it would be a sought after class for raids and instances, right? Not at all. While the hunter had its uses in groups, it was generally considered to be poor on the damage side relative to just about any alternative, while pets were not really up to the whole boss level tanking aspect of such play. Besides which, what self-respecting hunter would choose any talent path other than Beast Mastery, the path least likely to make you attractive to a group?
No, your big compensation for choosing such an odd-duck class was the skill “Spirit of the Cheetah” which improved your run speed, which was actually a kind of a big deal back when you had to wait until level 40 to get a mount (and use chain armor). You just did not want to forget an leave Cheetah running, as having it up meant getting stunned every time you were hit by a mob.
No, it was the class itself, which at the time was done better than any pet class I had ever played, that was the draw. Warts and all, it has always been a popular class in Azeroth. And getting the right pet has always been part of the allure. Back when storage was limited, and strict leveling was in place, you really had to pick and focus on one or two companions. My daughter and I traveled all over Azeroth to tame special pets.
My daughter would scan the site Petopia looking for new and interesting animals to consider taming.
Things have changed since the early days. Skills are easy now. Pets jump to your level on being tamed. Feeding is no longer about attitude, just about healing. Keeping pets with you or stabling them has changed dramatically. And there is a whole tier of exotic pets.
None of which is bad I suppose. The class has evolved with the game and has become more viable over time while remaining popular.
But there is something in me that misses the early days of hunters in Azeroth.