Guild Wars offers a total of ten carefully fashioned professions that cover just about all your standard MMO needs, and then some. One thing you’ll notice when reading descriptions in the original manual is that some of these offer what ANet considers more advanced play-styles, a factor that attracted me to make a mesmer as my first character. What does that mean, though? Exactly how do you define standard and advanced, and how would such concepts fit, if at all, in Guild Wars 2? Let’s explore.
First off, we need to get rid of the notion that standard classes in Guild Wars are “ez mode”. What I consider standard is something that is accessible to new players, straight forward in their play, and flexible. This isn’t to say they take no skill to learn or that they don’t offer something for those with experience; the use of four sometimes very different attributes and the ability to combine your skills with a secondary profession are the bread and butter of what makes Guild Wars such a fantastic game to play. Generally speaking, the warrior and elementalist are most commonly referred to as standard.
Now, the “advanced” professions in Guild Wars were originally the necromancer and mesmer. What set these apart was the fact that many of their unique abilities require a little more attention to detail and micromanagement than others. Mesmers, for instance, offer one of the most powerful PvP (and PvE, for that matter) mechanics out there; the ability to interrupt and shut down your opponents skills.
Even with fast casting (the mesmer’s primary attribute that lowers casting time of skills) at their disposal, being a sufficient and successful interrupter takes timing and patience. Sure, you could bring a build of 5 interrupts and spam them at your disposal and get a few lucky hits (and be the subject of ridicule in PvP). But to be really good, you need to know which skills to use and when, because most of them also offer additional effects and aren’t just there to cut an enemy short. Some will return energy to you or your enemy, some will do AoE damage, some will increase your opponents recharge times, etc. Keeping in mind what you have in your arsenal and knowing when to use it takes a certain level of dedication and memorization.
The interrupt role isn’t solely the job of the mesmer; rangers, warriors, and assassins all also offer strong builds to do the same, and most other professions will have one or two skills to do the job as well.
Now, necromancers are heavy on hexes, conditions, and passive damage. There are skills that activate only when something dies, ones that are dependent on a pre-set factors (enemy’s health, what conditions they suffer), or that work with specific outside influence (such as damage type). You need to be able to register these pre-set requirements to efficiently execute them. Likewise, some assassin builds rely on properly chaining and again certain skills will only work when above mentioned conditions are met.
When you think about it, all of Guild Wars’ professions can offer a straightforward, easier style of play; mesmers can go illusion and stack degenerative skills. Necromancers can do simple touch or ranged damage. And so on. Similarly, all professions have more than enough viable skills that can be called more advanced or are a little trickier.
Now that Guild Wars 2 is a completely different animal, there’s of speculation on just how hard or easy each profession will be. We’re still 2 reveals away from a full set, but we know enough about our current six to get a solid feel for what the they are all about and offering.
I did get to play the demo at Pax East this year, and while that’s getting it’s own full entry (soon, I promise!), I can tell you this much: those who favored the more advanced game styles in GW1 won’t be disappointed.
The weapon swapping and emphasis and movement and positioning will play a huge role in determining your play style and success. The fact that you can do many things on the fly (like switching weapons that change your skills, or the elementalist attunements) both makes things easier and more challenging. Paying attention is very important here; there’s no target / space / follow spamming anymore. Now it’s up to you to do the moving and make sure you’re facing your enemy correctly.
I only got to play the guardian and found that within that profession alone there were more challenging builds and styles than others, not to mention what I saw while watching other fans play. And like GW1, it would seem that every profession this time around will have it’s standard and advanced settings, so to speak. But the balance between standard and advanced is much more blurred. And this is a good thing.
What class you play is probably one of the most important decisions you make when you first step into that world; sure, you can switch it up later or make alts, but there’s always something about that first character you got to max level and the profession that got you there. Anet has already made a few comments on the complexity of the classes and haven’t denied that some may actually be a little more difficult to play than others. Finding the balance between hard and easy is key to survive today’s modern MMO world and they are working hard to have something for everyone. Making the game too difficult will turn away the new players, but make a game too easy and veterans will turn up their noses and walk away. Not to mention the never-ending battle for PvP balance, arguably the most painful experience in game development outside community management.
I, for one, like a challenge. I can also admit defeat; if something is just beyond my level, I know when to give it up. But I’m fully aware there needs to be something for the number crunching hardcore minmaxers and from what I’ve seen so far of GW2, I think everybody will find a niche somewhere.
To the readers: What do you guys think about the concept of separating advanced and standard styles of play? Do you think having specified “advanced” classes is good or bad? Did you find any of the professions / builds in GW1 hard / complicated, and did you enjoy it? (I know a lot of you are mesmer fans!) What do you think of what you’ve seen, heard, or experienced for the GW2 professions?