August 30, 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Review: Skills and Combat

Check out a video of combat at the end of this article
     Arena Net has been quite vocal about their intentions on skills and combat from the development of the game all the way to release. The team wanted a combat system that is more active as opposed to a more passive combat that has been the norm for this gaming genre. This is quite a departure since these passive systems already works quite well seeing as it has been adopted for a large majority of games. I myself don’t have any qualms about it but I am intrigued as to how Arena Net wants to implement this new system of combat. Let’s dive a bit further.

A typical skill bar
     First we’ll look at skills. In Guild Wars 2, skills are initially separated into 4 main groups: Weapon Skills, Healing Skills, Utility Skills and Elite Skills. Weapon skills are skills tied to a certain weapon (or weapons) and this fills the first five slots of your skill bar. These skills cannot be changed unless you choose a different weapon. So if I am a Guardian wielding a sword and shield, my first five skills will be the same as any other Guardian that uses a sword and shield. Note though that different professions will have different skills for the same weapons. Using the earlier example, if a Warrior uses the same sword and shield setup, you can expect skills that are different from the Guardian.

     Healing skills are quite straightforward. This is a set of 3 to 4 skills that you can choose from that provide a benefit that involves replenishing the life of your character. Note though that you can only equip one healing skill at a time so there is some choice involved as each healing skill will have its own pros and cons in a given situation.

Guardian Healing Skills
     Utility skills are a bunch of skills with varying effects and you can choose 3 of these at a time to fill your skill bar. A profession will have access to around 20 of these skills and it depends on the profession chosen as well as the race of the character. These skills are more free form in the traditional MMO sense where in you slot certain skills in your skill bar. The only caveat is that you can only slot 3 at a time which thus implies some specific skill choices for your build.

Guardian Utility Skills
     Elite skills are skills that have stronger and more dramatic effects as compared to the rest. Because of this, you are only allowed to slot one elite skill at a time.

Guardian Elite Skills
     It is also worthy to note that although you can change skills without any particular cost associated to it, you can’t change skills during combat thus your choice of skills is quite crucial for your characters success and survival in the world.

     There is also another system to complement your skills and these are called traits. As I have mentioned in the previous article, traits supplement your skills by improving a certain aspect of your character. You can think of it as some sort of specialization or if you play World of Warcraft, this is similar to how talents work. Whenever you level up past level 10, you get one trait point to spend improving a certain trait line. After spending five points (and in intervals of 5 thereafter) you unlock special added effects that make that trait line desirable for your particular play style. As an example, the trait can give you a bonus of 5% increased sword damage or decreased cool down of certain skills. Also worthy to note is that putting points into a certain trait line will increase attributes associated with it e.g. the traits for Guardians under the Valor line add toughness and critical damage while the Radiance line adds precision and condition damage.

Skills Panel
     I was hesitant at the skill system at first since your weapon skills are a set of five skills that are not exactly customizable. I was initially concerned that there might not be enough freedom to tailor fit my character build however, this wasn’t the case. Yes, the weapon skills still define what main skills you use but having a customizable healing, utility and elite skill changes how you play. Even when I wield a sword and torch combo, I can slot my utility skills to focus more on giving boons to players giving my character a decent damage and support role.  I can also slot passive signets to these slots to increase the amount of damage burning does to my opponents.  The same thing applies to the traits I choose.  Since trait lines increase a specific attribute, you’d quickly notice that your character is more effective around those attributes. The additional effects that traits give you also change your play style.

     Finally, combat is very active in this game. Dodges are handled manually where you have to time double tapping a directional button to avoid a large hammer from pounding you to the ground. The game gives good cues as to when you are supposed to dodge but it is still challenging enough to require precise timing to pull off correctly.

     Combat is fast and fluid. It focuses more on being mobile rather than spamming a set number of skills repeatedly. This doesn't mean to say that skills and stats don't play a role. This just means that Arena Net has found a good balance between the two to keep combat as fun as it should be.

     The skills and combat systems for Guild Wars 2 is a departure from traditional MMO's in many respects. Having a limited number of slots for skills gives a good limitation to look for a build that works for you, while the active combat ensures that everyone is on their toes actively playing the game rather than spamming a certain set of skills. These two systems taken together makes combat very satifying.

Back to The Guild Wars 2 Review: Primer

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