A Peek Under the Waves: Underwater Combat in Guild Wars 2

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Hello and welcome everyone! BigCat72 here with a new article on something that has been a recent subject of much hype and circumstance; underwater combat. Underwater combat in Guild Wars 2 has been a selling point for the Game Breaker TV crew and after having watched a Gamespot video featuring Jon Peters showing off with a Necromancer, I am BLOWN away by the way this has been implemented into the game. So for this article, I will be going over my thoughts on the video and small things I’ve noticed. For reference the video is linked here and it appears that the level of gameplay is only in the 30’s.

Jon Peters is a Game Designer for Guild Wars 2 and in the video, he is showing off the underwater combat for the Necromancer but a lot of my general questions are answered here as well. For me, I have only read about the underwater combat system but reading is not nearly the same as seeing it take place (even if it’s a YouTube video). I have played games in the past that had “underwater combat” capabilities but it was clunky and the skills you used didn’t interact with the environment at all. You also you had to pay attention to how much breath you have left as well. So in reality you really didn’t have an underwater combat system, you just had a land based combat system that applied itself in water. When you enter water you are bogged down in movement speed to that of walking, not to mention the breath timer forcing you to keep near the surface so that you can’t fully explore the underwater areas.

Take for example World of Warcraft. I played WoW since vanilla off and on where you have a combat system that works very well on land, but jump in a small stream and you hardly move at all. Skills that use fire don’t get extinguished and lighting doesn’t zap everyone around you. It’s like you aren’t even in water except for the massive move speed decrease and the nice breath timer bar that indicate where you are. And the shoddy swimming animation that has you flailing around like a dog, moving at the speed of a snail. Underwater combat has never been enjoyable in any game that I have played, not just World of Warcraft.

Guild Wars 2’s version of underwater combat is really well thought out, with a breathing mask, new skill bar and weapons that can be switched just like they can on land to give you a different skill bar, changing the way you fight. A major drawback for me, that may not be finalized, is that you have no skills while you’re swimming across the top of the water… Now I’m not sure why this is implemented the way it is and maybe there is a good reason behind it. What that is we don’t know yet. I will wait on giving too much thought into it until the game is released and I am able to explore the reason for myself.

Depending on your profession, when you dive under the surface you are presented with skills that can poison your foes, sink them, entomb them in ice, toss spears (thanks paragon influence), and more; that’s not even half of the skills available. You also have the ability to customize your skills for while you are underwater so that you can maximize your chances of survival or damage output.

Along with showing off the underwater combat system, you also get to see in action the still frames seen by so many of us with the giant mouthed Gulper fish and the newly introduced underwater race called the Quaggan. The Quaggan appear to be a lot smaller than I thought they were, which makes me even more interested to find out what is so special about them. In a blog posted by ArenaNet (The Mostly Harmless Quaggan) it is said that if you upset them, you won’t like them when they are angry! Turning into a hulked out, fang bearing, roid raging monster! The best part about the Quaggan is they are so polite that after they get done hulk smashing, they will apologize immediately for harming you, a million times over. Almost forces you to smack one around a bit until they hulk out and you run off screaming like a little girl.

(picture used from the blog post linked above by ArenaNet)

Ok got a little off topic there, so back on track.  The combat system seems very seamless, transitioning from land to water via your character’s animations and skills. Creatures that are also amphibious, like drakes, interact with the environment differently such as not using a flame attack but a twisting stun attack and trying to bite your head off. The scenery, of course, is spectacular. I feel almost spoiled seeing everything so artistically created just for our enjoyment, but I am also greedy and every little bit I get to see only makes me want more! It’s a like a whole other game when you peek under the waves. Like everyone else, I am so thrilled for the game to come out, having waited the 5 years since its first announcement. Guild Wars 2 is nearing the stages of completion and I couldn’t be more excited about it. For now I will enjoy the content videos, sneak peeks and community fervor of the game so many are waiting to get their hands on.

Thank you so very much for your time and as always, take it easy.

To the readers: With all the recent information regarding underwater combat, what are your thoughts? Like it or hate it? Unimpressed? What are your favorite aspects or current concerns regarding the system? 

About the guest Author: BigCat72 is an avid fan of Guild Wars 2 and eagerly awaits its release. He writes at his own blog, DragonSpawn Gaming, and can also be found on twitter!

Further reading:

  • “you have no skills while you’re swimming across the top of the water…” I picked up on this and have given it some thought. My conclusion was actually that it makes sense. Less convenient? Certainly. But think of the practical application: If you are swimming across the surface of the water, and something swims up and attacks you, you -would- be defenseless. You don’t see it coming. Your head is essentially engaged in a different world than your body if you want to think of it that way, so chances are you’re going to just flail and die.

    I think back to the scenes in the movie Deep Blue Sea. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s not exactly a documentary lol. But the shark wrangler guy in that- in order to ‘square off’ on a shark, doesn’t sit with his head above water. He gets down under and faces off. That’s how I see this. I’m sure it’s less convenient in practice, but I’ll take a bit of less convenience as the price I pay for realism!

    On that note, happy shark week! lol

    • ArcherAvatar

      This is an interesting justification for the transition from land-based skills to no-skills to underwater skills, and it “could” be the reasoning… but it’s not.

      The reason for the transition to be the way they have it is rather simple; it’s to avoid exploitation.  Unless you want players trying to use water skills vs land mobs, and land skills vs underwater mobs, then you need to have point inbetween where no skills are available.  If you had land skills while swimming on the surface, then those could be used vs underwater mobs – conversely, if you had underwater skills while swimming on the surface then simply using the edge of the water you could employ those water-based skills vs mobs along the shore. 

      ArenaNet have demonstrated in numerous ways that they are, in fact, players themselves, and are familiar with the mentality of players who seek to “game” the system.  This is simply another example of a way the DEVs are attempting to circumvent a “breaking” of the game by it’s players.

      BTW, I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the article’s author… very entertaining read – well done.

      • Thank you very much, your explanation is very reasonable and I believe is the right one as well. Ill keep posting articles. Thank you again for the compliment, this is my first article posted on a community blog, i was nervous as hell!

    • BigCat72

      Happy Shark week, that is a good explanation for the non usage of skills. Thank you for reading. I am glad you enjoyed!

  • Oh as a footnote, I just considered- it’s also probably because the game devs don’t want you just skimming across the surface. They want you to go under and explore. This is an easy way to encourage that.

  • MidnightOgre

     I think he said, in the video, theres no skills while your swiming on the surface of the water, so that your forced, in a way, to go underwater, also if you swim on the surface u could get atacked from underwater, sow your pretty vulnerable.

  • Anonymous

    I think the reason is to avoid people attacking land enemies from the surface of the water. My only concern would whether there is water in PvP, and if so, can you attack underwater enemies from land? Can you attack “surfaced” enemies from land?

    If the pay off for being on the surface and without skills is that you’re immune to attacks from the land I can see people jumping into water and surfacing to avoid an unexpected attack.

    Still – I’m really looking forward to the underwater areas of the game. So much to explore!

    edit: havent seen the video before and one of the first things I can say is: I LOVE THE UI CHANGE! The little splash+bubbles when the skillbar changes to underwater – bellicimo!

    • I agree, it is a concern for PvP. In the video, with the game still far off from being finished, you were still able to be attacked on the surface of the water. Thank you for reading and your comment!

    • ArcherAvatar

      Those little graphical touches really do take a game from “good” to “great” imo also. 😉

      “Surfaced” players can be attacked from underwater, and also from land (there is clear evidence of both occuring in various videos that have been released.)  I’m sure someone will inevitably complain about this for some reason or another – to which I would just like to reply ahead of time; “Get off the fence!  There is an old adage that describes a man standing with each foot on the saddle of a different horse and then attempting to cross a stream of water… predictably this proverb concludes with the man being very wet… the moral; don’t half-a$$ it.”

      • Anonymous

        My favorite part of underwater stuff was the fact that if you swim through plants and such, they move in reaction to your being there. 

        I later tested it on the surface and some long-stemmed plants did the same.
        Those little things really make it amazing. 

  • ajp

    John Peters should be *Jon Peters*

    • Seanikens

      The reason you can’t user abilities on the surface comes down to 2 things.

      1. Neither set of abilities would necessarily make sense. Depending on who you’re attacking from the surface, boiling the water vs a land enemy wouldn’t make sense nor would shooting a fireball at an underwater enemy.

      2. Being on the surface of the water revives you from a downed state. Being able to fight on the water like that would essentially make you immortal, no?

      • ArcherAvatar

        This is an excellent point about the surface simultaneously reviving underwater players from the “drowned” state and removing skills from the hotbar (requiring the player to either get out onto land, or dive back under in order to regain combat abilities.)  You should not be able to fight from a location that automatically revives you for very obvious reasons.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the heads up. Fixed. 🙂

    • Thank you for the correction, it is appreciated! and thank for fixing it Izziebot!

  • GhostEyes

    I think the reason behind not having skills when swimming on the surface would be because of the drowning state were you heal up when you reach the surface, thus preventing players from sticking to the surface and attacking what’s below without fear of drowning.