Guild Wars 1 & 2 Profession Playstyles: Standard vs Advanced

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.

Mesmer Skill Diversion

Once you see it, it's too late.

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.

Minion Master: looking just as terrifying the second time around.

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?

Further reading:

  • http://twitter.com/Coffee4cr Edgar Doiron

    I think that flagging them as advance proffession, makes it less likely of having a new player to the genre playing them, and less chance for them being bashed by players (you know it will happen) of not playing there class properly.

    Let them create a Warrior, or elementalist. Let them grasp the concept of the game, see others playing other classes. After that, they’ll be ready to try there hand on these classes.

  • http://twitter.com/Coffee4cr Edgar Doiron

    I think that flagging them as advance proffession, makes it less likely of having a new player to the genre playing them, and less chance for them being bashed by players (you know it will happen) of not playing there class properly.

    Let them create a Warrior, or elementalist. Let them grasp the concept of the game, see others playing other classes. After that, they’ll be ready to try there hand on these classes.

  • http://belzan.wordpress.com/ Belzan

    I for one enjoy the fact that there are lots of playstyle options. Simple or advanced, control or damage or support: lots of options. I tend to favor the more advanced builds in GW to challenge myself but I also really enjoy just blasting away at baddies. I favor the necro in GW and really should dust off my mesmer now that I think about it. In GW2 my main will be Belzan. I have a few ideas for what his profession will be with the frontrunners being ele, prof #8, and necro. I have a feeling that I will be spending more time playing alts in GW2 though. Once titles were a big thing I stuck with one character to get them. GW2 is more account based though, so I’m looking forward to playing several characters rather than one very very well.

  • http://www.crossingtyria.com Kaden

    I like to think that I play standard professions in an advanced way. Or at least I used to, heroes and power creep have made me lazier when I can get away with it. Controlling agro to protect overeager casters and ball mobs on my warrior with a few interrupts to slow them down. Running a preventative heal build on my monk that could step in and heal people before they take damage by watching the combat not just the health bars. For all that I still have trouble with the indirect professions that are considered more advanced. Degen, conditions, hexes, protection, and more all seem to be outside my play style. Maybe I just like to see my impact on the battle, but I have trouble feeling useful one some professions. The mesmer overhaul helped and now that I can see Panic and Wastral’s triggering all over I enjoy the profession more.

    So I am glad there are multiple styles, and envious of the people who can play some professions effectively. However, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who plays every profession really well, although I’ve seen a few who play them all poorly. I think people can play any profession well, but to really excel at any of them they have to focus on it and fit it into their play style. Moving between roles takes some mental adjustment, although I sometimes tank normal areas on my monk.

    I think that in Guild Wars 2 it is still going to be that way with people being able to fill a number of roles but truly excelling at only a few. If a guardian needs to drop back and start throwing around wards and shields they will be able to, but if the player is most comfortable up front that will likely be where they contribute most to the battle. Sometimes I wonder if the members of a group will put off dropping back into the support role until it is to late. Although hopefully the combat system in Guild Wars 2 will allow a bunch of self healing damage dealers to at least survive an encounter. Even if they are stuck recovering a bit longer afterwards.

  • http://twitter.com/DaPhoolz Rapee Maleesatarn

    I don’t think having specified “advanced” classes is a bad thing. I do enjoy most of the builds in GW1 but sometimes get bored real fast with the simple build (like SoS) that just do the same things over and over in any situations. So far about GW2 professions gameplay i really dont know until i get to play one myself. but from what i’ve seen so far i think some of the players are having targeting problem.

    What trouble me in GW2 is the target system.

    From what i’ve seen in the Demo, it looks like you can only target something that’s in the Center of your screen. Which i think it’ll make some ppl (such as me) dizziness problem in some intense battle which you have to turn and turn to aim your target.

    I don’t really know how the target system really work though…. if some one would enlighten me.

    I personally like the idea of facing the target, but I’d like to know that you can select other targets in your (Arc sight?) or just the ones that’s around the center of the screen?

  • William Knight

    I’ve always played a ranger in Guild Wars – I consider them one of the intermediate classes (not quite as simple as a Warrior, but not quite as complex as a Mesmer). Each class has the potential to be very simple and very complex. Try playing a cripshot in GvG and then compare it with a barrage spam in JQ or PvE – its a totally different playstyle.

  • Draxynnic

    I’ve thought about this question, and I’m not sure there really are more advanced and less advanced professions. What there are, however, are more CONVENTIONAL professions.

    Maybe it’s just me, but the basics of playing, say, an early-game GW1 mesmer aren’t actually that hard to pick up, albeit maybe a little less forgiving of error than some of the others. It develops growing complexity as you go deeper into the profession, but all of the professions have that, with the possible exception of spiritspamming Ritualists (but even then, there’s a difference between those who just plop SoS and other spirits, and those who can easily shift into one of the Ritualist’s other roles if the party makeup demands it). On the other hand, I don’t think any were actually inherently significantly more difficult to learn than others (although some might be unsuited to a particular player’s style preferences or latency).

    However, the playstyles of some professions are certainly more familiar than others. Pretty much anyone who’s played fantasy RPGs is going to know what to do with a warrior, elementalist, or ranger, while mesmer-likes are uncommon enough that a lot of players simply won’t have had prior experience in that sort of style…making it just that much harder to pick up.

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