Sunday, August 26, 2012

More Impressions of Guild Wars 2

First part found here.


I adore the skill system in GW2. It's diverse and elegant, with lots of choice and restrictions to make it very interesting.

You have a limited number of ability slots. Only about nine or so.  The first five slots depend on the weapons you have equipped. Each class has a different set of abilities for the different weapon types they can equip.  Slots 1 to 3 come from the main-hand weapon. Slots 4-5 are provided by the off-hand. A 2H weapon gives all five slots. Slot 1 is an auto-attack.

As an example, my Guardian can use swords or maces, along with shields and off-hands. A sword gives more offensive abilities, while the mace is more defensive. The shield gives protective abilities, while the off-hand leans more towards healing.

So changing weapons means something, it actually changes your gameplay. It's not just cosmetic. This also allows GW2 to make weapons feel appropriate. The sword is all slashing finesse, while the 2H mace is slow and hard-hitting.

Slot 6 is a healing spell. There are four or so different spells you can unlock, but you can only choose one at a time.

Slots 7-9 are extra abilities. You unlock them with skill points that you get as you level, and you can use any three.

The Guardian has a lot of abilities which have both a passive and active component, including abilities that you can activate to give friendly players around you a buff.

There's also traits, which are virtues for your class that you can invest in and they give bonuses to specific stats. For example, traits for the Guardian include Honor and Zeal. Very Lord of the Rings Online, in fact.

I really like the skill system in GW2. It's structured, but also has a lot of options. Weapon choice means something.


I'm not certain if the observations in this section are Guardian-only, or if they apply to all the classes.

The combat in GW2 is ... odd. At first glance it looks like standard MMO combat, but it really isn't. There's no resource involved, so ability use is governed entirely by cooldowns and the situation. But it doesn't seem like there are enough abilities to form what we would traditionally think of as a "rotation". In particular, GW2 seems enamoured of medium-term cooldowns at the expense of short-cd rotation mainstays.

Now, my thinking on this might be skewed because I'm coming from a SWTOR marksman sniper, which features a very formal A-F-X-X rotation with something like 9 regular abilities. (It's actually a little excessive, and I actually want to write a post about it sometime.)

But GW2 combat is like having a paladin with auto-attack, Crusader Strike, and 6 abilities that each have a 1 minute cooldown and are highly situational.

So what does actual gameplay end up like? You start auto-attack, and hit Crusader Strike on cooldown. Maybe use a cooldown every so often, but those abilities can only be used once per fight, and you'll maybe use only 1 or 2 of them.

Now, maybe this is better in PvP, where it could become all about moving and timing those medium-term cooldowns.

But mundane PvE is a little boring, with lots of waiting around for the next ability to come off cooldown. I find myself gravitating to the weapons that have abilities with shorter cooldowns, just so I have more buttons to press.


So far, crafting is pretty similar to crafting in other MMOs. I just want to mention something that I thought came *this* close to amazing, but GW2 didn't take that last step.

Among your inventory is a "collection", which is a grid of every single crafting material in the game. You can send crafting mats directly to your collection from your backpack. This is huge for preserving bag space and organizing crafting mats. I really like the collection, and hope that more games steal it.

Unfortunately, when actually crafting things, the game does not look at your collection to see if you have enough mats. It only looks at your backpack. So you have to move mats from your collection to your backpack before crafting.

You can see how much more streamlined crafting would be if the crafting UI could draw directly upon the materials in your collection. They're so close, and they just didn't take that last step.


  1. I strongly disliked the Guardian in the beta. Not only is it melee-centric - your ranged attacks with the scepter and staff are weak/slow - but most of them involve placing stuff on the ground, which obviously doesn't work well in PvP. Being able to create domes and walls that physically prevent enemies from getting through them are pretty cool for the node-capture gameplay of BGs though. Just don't expect to be able to kill much of anything.

    I have 3 classes near level 10 (Elementalist, Engineer, Ranger), and they all follow the general pattern of:

    1: Autoattack
    2: 6 second cooldown
    3: 10-12 second cooldown
    4: 30-45 second cooldown
    5: situational 15-20 second cooldown

    I have never cared whether my character wields a sword vs mace (etc) in a game, so the weapon-swapping is simply a "stance" button to me. It makes PvP more strategic in many ways ("do I want the sword+shield bag of tricks, or the staff bag of tricks?"), and will likely come into play in harder endgame encounters. I just think they could have done the same thing without tying it to weapons per se.

  2. You know, I tested Guild Wars 2 for a considerable amount of time, and not until the last beta weekend did I find out about chains. I thought I should mention them here, because in the game you get ZERO information about it, which is one of the things that pisses me off about the game. Combos are the other part.

    Anyhow! Chains. That auto-attack button on 1? If you look closely after pushing 1, you'll see that the icon changes. If you push the button again, it will used the changed attack, and the button changes again, for the final chain attack. As example, for guardians using a Greatsword:

    Strike --> Vengeful Strike --> Wrathful Strike

    The final part of the chain is the most powerful attack. After that, it starts with a normal Strike again. If you don't keep pushing 1, it will flip back to the normal Strike and do the next auto-attack.

    Confusing and not explained anywhere at all? Heck yeah! Why explain anything in-game when there's a Wiki, will the fanbois say!

    Yeah, I am slightly bitter about the GW2 hype still.

  3. @Kadomi
    Having not tried GW2 yet I'm sitting back wondering about the chains you described versus what Rohan describes in the combat. Do chains cover the gap in terms of waiting to use abilities or does chaining allow you to always be casting? Personally I prefer continously active combat with situational abilities mix in when need arises.

  4. Regarding crafting -- notice that at the crafting stations you have full access to your entire bank vault, including your crafting mats grid. So you don't have to grab your mats at the bank first -- every anvil *is* a bank. Once I discovered this, crafting became much more smooth.

  5. "There's no resource involved, so ability use is governed entirely by cooldowns and the situation."

    Actually, thieves use resouce called Initiative and their weapon skills don't have cooldowns. You need to be careful about resouce management during combat and you have a broader range of tactical options at your disposal.

    I suggest that you try a thief. Weapon swapping, situational awareness, positioning and dodging stuff are very important, more than a perfect dps rotation

  6. @Rohan
    ...and slot 10 is an elite ability with a longer cooldown (about 3 minutes) which is a bit stronger than the others.

    As for combat, I found PvE combat a bit more mobile - one could say "PvP-like" compared to WoW. I might have been doing it wrong and the mundane way may be the right one.

    @Azuriel, they did something like that for elementalist as they can't swap weapons in battle but have 4 attunements they can swap on any weapon.

    @Kadomi, I think you get the info about chains on mouseover, they added something like that in BWE3.

    @jonreece, as far as I recall, the crafting stations are nothing more than a bank and a station and there is no "cooperation" between those two. The mats still need to be moved to the inventory before using them.

    Overall, the combat felt to me that it was the overall positioning and buff/debuff management that mattered more than skill rotation or selection. I'm not sure which one will I like more in the end but it did feel more action oriented that the WoW model.

  7. I could be wrong, but I think the auto-attack goes through each step in the chain. At least the animation seems to change, so I assumed it was moving through each stage in turn.

  8. Auto-attack does, indeed, just walk through the chain. Hit 1 and stay in range to execute. They did add a good mouse-over tip for each step.

    Overall, I think that the weapon-swapping is a noble attempt. There are some things in it that are a bit annoying and for a solo player there isn't a lot of depth but it is interesting. Also a good bit of fun on the Guardian, Warrior, and Rogue.

    I haven't seen much in the way of reactive skills yet, which flattens the system. I'm not sure if this comes in later but for now it seems very predictable. Probably a requirement when high-tempo groups will require cross-class combinations.

  9. No mention of combos? Try this on your guardian:

    (focus equipped) - cast the shield of wrath, then Purging Flames (utility)

    (swap to greatsword) - cast Leap of Faith, then Whirling Wrath.

    The purging flames will cause the shield of wrath to light enemies on fire when it bursts, leap of faith will surround you with a damage aura because of the combo, then Whirling Wrath will shoot fireballs everywhere.

    Replace Purging Flames with a light field, and shield of wrath grants a counterattack to all nearby enemies, your charge gives you a counter, and whirling wrath spams status cures on everyone around you.