Last Guild Wars 2 beta weekend, I joined a guild. That may sound silly for beta, when nothing will save over into launch. To someone like me with general commitment type issues, it’s the perfect time to join a guild.
Also, it’s Guild Wars.
Just doesn’t feel right without.
Sunday evening, as everything was winding down, we were in guild chat talking about what profession we were going to put the bulk of our efforts into come launch.
As a point of clarification, I should note that “profession” means “class” to those of you coming from elsewhere. A lot of RPGs refer to their crafting skills as professions. Guild Wars refers to their character archetypes, or classes, as professions. We all jivin’ together now? Shiny.
From that discussion, most of us had given all of the professions at least a courtesy play and the dilemma was unanimous.
We like them all!
Sure, we have vague hierarchies of preferences, but the gold metal remains unclaimed.
As part of my altoholic therapy, and to sort my thoughts, I’ve decided to give a brief overview of the professions as I perceived them. Even briefly, there’s a lot to say, so this will be a two parter. I do so hate long posts.
Profession Primer A
The warrior is one of the more versatile professions in the game through his huge arsenal. Two two-handed ranged weapons, two two-handed melee weapons, three one-handed melee weapons (which can go in either hand), and two off-hand only items make up his ordnance stockpile.
In GW2, this isn’t a simple visual difference. Your first 5 skills (aka, attacks) are decided by the type of weapons you have equipped. The first three slots come from the main-hand weapon, the other two come from your off-hand weapon and two-handers fill all five. That means, yes, shields have skills too. Because of this, a greatsword warrior plays like a whole different character from a hammer warrior. It totals out to 39 different weapon skills mixed into 19 possible configurations.
And you get two configurations between which to switch, for 171 possible load-outs!
Also, a warrior who picks both ranged weapons as his two sets is not only viable, but extremely potent, since the longbow and rifle have very different–and very complementary–strengths. Wrap your head around that, warrior nation.
To top it off, warriors get a special attack called a Burst skill. As a warrior attacks normally, a three-tiered adrenaline meter fills up. When the Burst skill is activated, the adrenaline is lost and he brings the beatdown proper to whatever poor soul evoked his wrath. More adrenaline equals bigger beatdown. These can unleash crazy burst damage when fully charged, but their secondary effects can make them worth using early too. A mace Skull Crack does solid damage at any adrenaline tier, with a scaled stun. An axe Eviscerate does more damage at higher tiers, but is always accompanied by a very useful lunge at your target.
TL;DR: It’s hard for anyone to seriously write off the warrior. There’s a build in here for almost anyone, sealed in a high damage, high durability package. He’s a dozen classes in one.
The elementalist is the warrior, but not. While the warrior is designed to fill a wide variety of roles based on his choice of equipment, an elementalist is designed to fill a wide variety of roles based on his whim. He doesn’t get very many weapons to choose from. He can’t swap them out mid-fight like most professions.
But a single weapon in his hands is actually four.
An elementalist has four elemental attunements he can swap between. Each weapon has a different set of skills for each attunement, giving him 20 weapon skills at his disposal at any given time.
Let’s use an elementalist dual-wielding daggers as an example. In fire attunement, he has a lot of close and melee range attacks that burn multiple enemies over an area such as breathing cones of fire and surrounding himself in a ring of flames. The air attunement skills have a lot of mobility, wicked looking lightning whips and a brief aura that stuns anyone who dares take a swing at him. Earth attunement skewer foes with jagged stalagmites, dealing superior sustained damage through bleeds and inhibiting mobility with magnetism and earthquakes. Water attunement has more range, for fights that might make him regret dueling at dagger range. His skills weaken the opponent’s armor, slow them with ice and heal his allies.
TL;DR: Warriors have a little something for everybody. Elementalists have a little of everything for somebody. If you want to be able to fill multiple roles and situations within the span of a single fight, an elementalist is eager to please.
Rounding out the traditional fantasy archetypes is the thief. Thieves are flexible in a whole different way. The warrior is flexible in catering to playstyle. The elementalist is flexible within an encounter. The thief is flexible within the moment.
The highlight of the thief is the Initiative bar, which will appeal to more traditional MMOers. For most professions, skills cost nothing. Instead, all but the first one have a cooldown (the first skill is essentially your auto attack, and defaults as such). The thief instead has a self-restoring resource called Initiative. None of her weapon attacks (the first 5) have cooldowns. Instead, they cost Initiative.
But the similarities to traditional MMOs end there. While you can certainly chain different thief attacks together for interesting and brutal results, their true strength comes from the fact that most thief skills are conditionally useful in the moment. Evasive leaps, shadowsteps (teleports), blinding effects, stuns, invisibility and bursts of damage all remain lit up and ready for the exact moment they are most needed. If that means using them more than once in a row, that isn’t a problem.
Thieves also get an ability called Steal. Unlike most professions, this profession-specific ability isn’t central to their playstyle. It is, however, interesting and beneficial. By hitting Steal, she will shadowstep to her target. Steal will then be replaced by a special, one-time use skill, randomly chosen according to the target. Furry or feathery creatures might give you “Blinding Tuft”, which turns you invisible and blinds nearby enemies. Ghosts or elementals might give you “Consume Ectoplasm”, which will heavily buff the thief for a short time. Fanged or spiky creatures might give “Tooth Stab”, which will bleed the target for a long time. Steal is handy as a gap-closer alone, but the benefits of these random skills are well worth taking advantage of all their own.
TL;DR: The thief uses a resource meter rather than cooldowns on her weapon attacks, giving her a bountiful grab-bag of damage and control at her fingertips anytime she needs it. She is a profession that is easy to pick up, but extremely fulfilling to master.
In terms of types of abilities, certain parallels could be drawn between the thief and ranger. The ranger’s modest selection of weapons provides a steady balance between ranged and melee combat chock-full of mobility, defensive effects and malignant conditions.
To support this end, every ranger gets a pet.
Contrary to popular belief, pets are more than just bags of HP with teeth. In addition to variations in raw statistics, every pet has four attack skills at its disposal, which may influence your choice of companion.
For example, all cats temporarily lower a target’s armor with their regular slash attack. They will also periodically bite for solid damage and occasionally maul, inflicting a bleed effect. All spiders fight from a range, spitting at their targets. They will also launch immobilizing webs and emit poisonous clouds.
The fourth attack is decided by the specific species. A Snow Leopard leaps at its target, slowing their movement and attacks with ice. A Jungle Stalker cat can instead roar, buffing the damage of you and your allies. Spiders apply a venom to your weapon that inflicts a condition on your target based on the type of spider.
These species-specific skills won’t be activated automatically like the rest. Instead, they rest above your skill bar for you to activate. (Currently, pet AI is still in development, so this doesn’t always work yet; beta is beta.)
At any time you can have two pets at the ready and swap between them with only a 20 second cooldown. Swapping out pets completely heals them, but if they lose all of their health that cooldown doubles. In any given event, you’ll always see at least one dead ranger pet on your mini map. It’s disheartening, given how easy they are to heal up.
Don’t be that ranger. Swap your pet.
TL;DR: Rangers use pets. Gotta catch ‘em all.
Next Time: Guardian, Necromancer, Engineer and Mesmer
Also: Jeremy Soule composed the music for Guild Wars 2. I know this, because I was questing around Queensdale, when I heard a song lifted directly from Neverwinter Nights. Please say the barrel is not running dry, Mr. Soule!