You Said There Was No Holy Trinity!

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Now that the 20th of February has come and gone and we’re all drunk on GW2 news – holy crap, *beta registration* much? – I’d like to toss out a thought I had about their Holy Trinity-less combat while I was introducing this epic game to my friends. Of course, my greater goal – besides bringing more revenue to ArenaNet – was to have people to play with so I wouldn’t be stuck swinging a lightsaber alone. Oops, that was the lonely, bitter, SWTOR-playing, side of me talking.

Like any hardcore GW2 fan out there, I started off with the three basic, but most common, factors on why you should be playing GW2 and combat definitely came into play. I smugly proclaimed to my friends: “ArenaNet aims to remove the Holy Trinity so you will never have to ‘LFG’ again if you want to run a dungeon. Why should the game make you wait to have fun instead of just letting you have fun? It doesn’t make sense.”

"I'll guard you. Let them come through ME first!"


They all seem mighty impressed because like many others, they were plagued by the inconveniences of any lesser MMO. The same inconveniences that ArenaNet sought to seek out and remove. Seeing an opening, I seized the chance at wowing them further. Sounding like the PR guy, or a CM, I exclaimed: “Yeah, there’s no dedicated tank and healer so we could totally run a dungeon with five mages if we wanted to!” In my defense for using “mages”, they weren’t familiar with the professions at that time so I had to use a generic archetype.

And that was when things all went slightly wrong. You see, my friends mistook the fact that there was no holy trinity to mean that we can all just charge in with a battle cry and weapons held high and we’d come out on the other end unscathed. Their reason: “You said there was no tank and healer so it doesn’t matter!”

So I tried to correct them by explaining that there is still an “aggro meter” except that it’s not as strictly and rigidly enforced as typical MMOs. You still need to strategise and handle aggro from mobs. I told them that your threat is based on how close you are to the enemy, i.e. mobs will go after the nearest player, but there is no emphasis on requiring a profession to soak damage or taunt. With the player’s skill, experience and knowledge, anyone can effectively “tank” without having the burden of knowing that your death resulted in a wipe.

They just blinked stupidly back at me, kind of how a human would react when he first talks to an asura. And it hit me that because they’re so conditioned to the Holy Trinity that they cannot fully imagine how versatile this new combat system would be. Plus, I was confusing them because the Holy Trinity hasn’t been removed like I said it was; it’s very much still there but in a much flexible version. In the end, I just repeated what Rubi said: “The combat is just not built that way. If you try to pigeonhole your character into one role, you would not be able to maximise its potential.”


Whee! Size doesn't matter, even in the lands of Tyria.


Well, they’re slowly getting there but up till now, they haven’t yet been able to fully comprehend the Holy Trinity-less combat. It’s not just them though; new fans of the game or those who haven’t been religiously following interviews and podcasts, seem to be having the same queries repeatedly. And it doesn’t help that in interviews, ArenaNet staff use the words ‘tank’ and ‘heal’ quite often while describing combat experiences.

Maybe I wasn’t clear enough because I haven’t had a chance to personally experience the combat mechanics but our dear Elixabeth posted her latest installment of Flameseeker Chronicles which I thought broke it down pretty well – soft trinity, anyone? Hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on the demo at PAX East but ArenaNet hasn’t announced anything yet. I’m sure they will though. In the meantime, here’s a virtual toast to a successful press beta and public beta events. Let’s prepare for the opening of the floodgates (soon) and the buzzing speculation on the forums.

To the readers: What are your thoughts on the (soft) holy trinity in Guild Wars 2? How do you feel about how it’s been presented over the years from ArenaNet? For those who’ve played the demo, do you love it or hate it? Do you think gamers will be able to adapt to the new system?

About the author: A self-proclaimed geek, Damagedself constantly straddles between the two very different worlds of gaming and entertainment. While not slinging fireballs from his sexy female Elementalist, he’s swooning over Darren Criss on Glee. He loves watching television and enjoys the witty dialogues of Grey’s Anatomy. Constantly fantasizes on how the hospitals of Singapore would be more enjoyable if the doctors were as gorgeous as the fake ones on Grey’s.

Further reading:

This entry was posted in Gameplay, Guild Wars 2 and tagged , , by damagedself. Bookmark the permalink.

About damagedself

Hey guys hey! I'd like to think I have the personality of a quaggan even though my articles might suggest otherwise. Hehe. And the only straight I am is a straight up bitch and a geek. But I hardly unleash my inner little monster (get the Gaga reference?) on people unless severely provoked. Relax, I don't bite. Much. ^^ Currently, I'm playing LoL and DCUO and I spend the rest of my time watching television series and obsessing over pop culture. My absolute favourites are Castle and Grey's Anatomy. That is why I constantly fantasize about how happy I'd be if the hospitals were stocked full of gorgeous doctors. P.S. I love McDreamy. And Darren Criss. Oh, and you're more than welcome to talk TV shows with me!
  • izziebot

    I remember when I played Guild Wars 2 for the first time at fanday, and one of the things that I was surprised about was the fact that, yeah, the trinity was still there.

    I wasn’t mad about it; but I was a bit taken back. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of being misled or just reading the information wrong, but I was under the impression that they had completely done away with it. 

    There is still the need, as you say, for coordination as to be expected in any team environment. And that includes people being willing and able to support their team or distract / meatshield for them. 
    The key difference is that just about anybody CAN do it. And any profession CAN do it. Some may be better at certain aspects then others. 

    I think it’s gonna be tough at first. You’re gonna have the stubborn mindset gamers trying to force people to tank or heal, and then to counter players bitching that “Hey, Anet said there was no trinity but there’s a trinity.” Getting gamers out of the old mind-set is gonna be hard; and the fact that a trinity exists at all is just going to fuel that.

    Where we can stand relieved is that you don’t NEED any specific profession or player. Some may just make things easier. 

    That’s the part I’m really interested in seeing. How this all plays out. 

    • Agreed. I actually thought they were completely removing it. But maybe they should have worded it differently, e.g. “remove the need for a holy trinity team composition”. But Elixabeth’s Flameseeker did mention that they didn’t explicitly mention removing it though I could have sworn that was the impression I got.

      I’m kind of worried about the bitching though. Not that ArenaNet will succumb to it – though I pity them for having to constantly sit through all the flaming by the naysayers – but rather I grow weary of it. Look, a game isn’t perfect and there will always be something to gripe about. But in all honesty, has ArenaNet ever failed to live up to their promises? And so many of us haven’t gotten any hands-on time, so how would we know if the mechanics work or not?

      For combat, ArenaNet did fulfill their end of the bargain. Yeah, you can still be a tank, dps or support but you don’t need to build your team around this trifecta. That’s what they promised and that’s what we’re seeing. ArenaNet is giving you freedom to build your character any way you like, and if you want to go with the old school roles, go ahead! Let freedom ring! But this is certainly not the start of a slippery slope that ends in the implementation of the Holy Trinity.

    • Jesse Wan

      I foresee a short period where gamers experience the MMO equivalent of growing pains, a small jaded minority keep trying to pound away at it before quitting, the top 1% figure out optimal builds and win all that esports money, and the rest of us adapt to a more or lesser degree, and cancel our TOR subs.

  •  I’m not against it. Though like izzie said, it is something I was taken aback by when looking at the hard facts in terms of profession skills and traits. Not to mention all the builds people have built, with currently known information, that are very support heavy in hopes of finding the remains of their old healer roles. Unfortunately for them, I fear all they are going to dig up is the rotting corpse of a starved and abandoned mechanic. This mindset though will be hard to get past in terms of community play during the first few months of release.
    It might lead to a lot of arguments in chat channels, and people might just drop the game out of frustration. Either from feeling they were lied to by ArenaNet, or by the reaction they get from other players on the subject. I mean, you can’t get too far deep into certain fan forums before you find people complaining about the current iteration of the Traits system and even more so other people complaining about those complaining. ArenaNet’s tried to temper the flames, but they’re there, and they’ll be there at launch unless they can find a way to quench them once and for all. Kudos to the developer/PR rep/player that does it.
    That being said, once the flames do die, or are to the brink of death, I’m sure you’ll find a community of players that are brighter, faster, and much more flexible. Smart gamers, or some other sort of gamer with an adjective that represents the type of skillful play that Guild Wars 2 wants to bring to life from its community. I’ll be waiting for that with open arms!

    • Yeah… kind of worried about the backlash too. But judging from the press reviews on the dungeons, it seems that ArenaNet has nothing to worry about. I don’t think anyone ever commented negatively on the holy trinity, or lack thereof. I don’t get why people are so quick to judge even though they haven’t tried the game yet.

      If people are unable to change their playstyles and mindset and end up rage quitting, then it’s on them and not ArenaNet. ANet did achieve what they set out to do and if us players cannot accept it, then it’s our loss.

      I’m not blindly defending the game, god knows I’ve been so cynical about ArenaNet especially after they pulled the Guardian reveal debacle but I’ve been proven wrong by them time and time again. So I’ve just learned to let them do what they do best, and I’ll judge when the time comes, i.e. I get to play the demo or I get the actual game.

  • I still remember how confused I was when I came to Guild Wars from WoW and somebody told me that there are no tanks like in WoW and aggro works differently. It took me quite some time to understand and figure that out. So for me, not having a dedicated tank OR healer is just one more step. 😉

    I’ve also had one person tell me that with no healers, they’re not interested in GW2 because there’s nothing else that interests them.

    I guess people will have to try it out and feel it for themselves to really understand this new concept, partly because we’ve been used to the usual holy trinity for much too long.

    • damagedself

      Exactly. And truth be told, I was one of those who initially wasn’t too thrilled with the new combat system because I always played a Priest on WoW and I loved healing.

      I still don’t think that ANet has filled that void for me because I can’t heal in the traditional sense which I absolutely loved because it made me the most important group member and everyone died to protect me, but I don’t agree with the naysayers when they start complaining that the Holy Trinity is still an integral part of combat.

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  • Dndhatcher

    One of the big fears I have for this game is that people will get frustrated when they hit the dungeons and get frustrated and start crying for the nerf hammer when then real problem is they still havent learned how to play as a team member without being assigned a specific role.

    Will GW2 survive that growing pain?  Will there be enough players willing to go through it?

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  • I never was a fan of the holy trinity. My play style doesn’t really fit. Tanking is stressful and boring. Healing is, well…stressful and boring, and DPS is a whole bunch of button mashing. That’s why I loved my necro so much. He had style. I didn’t use him as a tank unless I was farming (and I’m terrible at tanking anyway, so you can guess at how that went) and he wasn’t near as efficient a healer as a bars-go-up monk. I fell most closely into a combination of DPS/Healer. I handed out conditions and hexes like candy and provided DPS through degen and life steal. I provided pressure with minions. I didn’t make my group hardier, I made my enemies squishier. 

    And that is what is being overlooked here. I was a support character in a Trinity world. I didn’t get invited for groups because I wasn’t efficient enough at one of the 3 jobs. I got pigeonholed into something close to one of the big 3 or I sat the benches (unless I was playing with guildies/allies). 

    Bring on the soft trinity! I’m excited to have options for playing a supportive character, but I’m more excited to play a warrior and monk (read: guardian) now that I don’t have to be a tank or healer. Some people may mourn the death of the holy trinity. I’m just happy people are starting to recognize its time is past. In truth, it died long before GW2, we just kept resurrecting it for its efficiency. 

    •  Haha! I actually love healing! I just wanted to feel important and watching a fire Mage sacrifice himself for me in a dungeon – true story on WoW –  was one of the highlights of my gameplay!

      But that aside, I never really hated/supported the Trinity; I just assumed it was a staple MMO mechanic. I’m just looking forward to this new combat system because it’s rather refreshing and I think it’s time the genre progresses as well.

    • ArcherAvatar

      I’m in 100% agreement with the sentiment Belzan expressed here.  I would just add that, although I usually played some form of healer in most of the past MMOs, I never enjoyed the feeling of having obstacles placed in the game by the designers to prevent players from developing “complete” characters.
      Being restricted to being “truly good” at only 1 out of 3 facets of a trinity based game was always annoying to me, and the limitations this placed on group dynamics were a source of constant frustration.
      I’m looking forward to this well tenderized horse being put in the ground finally.

  • saluk

    Explain the combat of GW2 to a non-mmorpg player, and they will just get it. Thinking about what mmo combat would be like before mmos existed I never once thought it would be like it is in most games. I don’t remember trinity combat in my shadowrun or rifts sessions, even WITH slightly more rigid character builds than GW2’s flexible weapon-swapping system.

    The problem here is conditioning. People have been playing trinity combat for so long they think that’s the only way to have teamwork. Huh? In baseball, just because you have someone who is excellent at hitting home runs doesn’t mean that same player can just sit in a corner when the other team is at bat.

    We still don’t know for sure GW2 is as arenanet claims though. They have obviously made some strong design decisions that seem to support their philosophy, but whether it works in practice when the game is finished is a HUGE question mark.

    • I find it harder to explain it to a non-MMORPG player because though they might be able to understand how it works, they’ll never fully understand what’s so brilliant about this design or why it’s so much more convenient.

      I agree with you with regards to conditioning. I know WoW took a little bit of this and that from other games but it’s kind of the most popular/biggest MMORPG on the market and a lot of ignorant (I don’t mean this negatively) MMO players take it to as the be-all and end-all of MMORPGs. Hence, playing with a Holy Trinity is second nature to us and it might take time to adapt. It also doesn’t help that a lot of MMOs tend to borrow mechanics from WoW too.

      As for GW2 not turning out as ANet suggests, I don’t think it’s a cause for worry. So far they have lived up to their promises and even the press seems to agree with their recent beta experience. Now that we’re nearing the finish line, it’s a matter of having faith in the company to pool their efforts and put forth the “best game possible” as they have so proclaimed.

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