The Archer’s Paradox: Rangers Then and Now

ArenaNet Ranger Concept Art

The Archer’s Paradox describes the phenomenon whereby an arrow aimed directly at the centre of a target will invariably miss. The bowman must account for the flex of the bow, the wind and the myriad of other external variables each time they release an arrow if they want to hit the target every time. The Guild Wars 2 Ranger profession might seem to be the same entity as it was in Guild Wars 1, but ArenaNet have made some significant alterations whilst still retaining the charm and lure which the profession holds in fantasy RPGs.

The Ranger was one of the core 6 professions in GW1. It always struggled to find a place in the typical PvE team – coming under the umbrella term of “DPS”. A Ranger would often find it difficult to worm its way into the standard setup due to having a lower damage output than Elementalists, Necromancers and Ritualists, less armour than Warriors and Paragons, a less reliable interrupt than a computer-controlled Mesmer, and virtually no support capabilities. It was a jack of all trades, and (at least in PvE) a master of none.

Despite these drawbacks, the Ranger was a very popular profession. To those of us who aren’t concerned with min/maxing, the Ranger was full of role-play potential (who hasn’t imagined themselves to be Legolas, running through the hordes of mobs to hit that all important interrupt on the charr flamewielder?) and jam-packed full of body-popping character.

In PvP, however, the Ranger flourished – most organised GvG teams include at least one, to either shut down casters in the main pack, or to harry the flag runners with snares and condition-based degeneration. In the more disorganised, “guerrilla-style” Alliance Battles and Competitive Missions, the Ranger provided a balance between solid survivability and killing-power – able to overwhelm individual opponents with conditions and interrupts, sustain a beating due to mid-rated armour and blocking stances, and out-kite most melee opposition with speed boosts and cripples. A Ranger running Natural Stride, Mending Touch, Troll Unguent, Apply Poison and Pin Down was a formidable opponent.

ArenaNet tried for 7 years to build the beastmaster element of the Ranger to be applicable in PvE and PvP, but never really achieved a balance which made it viable. Balance update after balance update made the beastmaster the yo-yo class: either the pets would be useless and a waste of space on the bar, or they would be overpowered and would be exploited for the lulz in PvP (Thumper/IWAY comes to mind). For the Ranger in Guild Wars 2, something had to change.

The problem with the beastmastery element of the GW1 Ranger was that it felt very much like a final thought. “They’re bow users, with the ability to apply preparations to their arrows, set traps and summon guardian spirits… oh yeah and they can have pets.” In Guild Wars 2, the Ranger has been built as a beastmaster class first and foremost. For a Ranger, the pet is the be all and end all – if you aren’t using your furry companion to his full potential, then you will struggle to be effective.

For me, the focus on pets was originally a great put-off when it came to the new Ranger. I had played Ranger for a good many years and had seen how ineffective the pets could be. I thought ArenaNet were mad to take what was arguably the most cumbersome element of the class, and make it the single most important feature. However, an arrow fired straight will always miss – ArenaNet knew their target, and they weren’t afraid to change their trajectory based on the context of the new game.

The ability to switch weapons mid-combat takes the focus of each profession away from the single weapon that they can use. Rangers have ceased to be the “bow and arrow” profession; you could almost as easily attach that moniker to the Warrior or Thief. Rangers can now use axes, swords, greatswords, longbows, shortbows, horns, torches and daggers – but ArenaNet have always wanted their deadliest weapon to be their pets.

There are dozens of Ranger skills which have combined effects, not only affecting the action of your character, but also of your pet. For example:

Quickening Zephyr: You and your pet move faster and gain quickness.

 

Hilt Bash: Daze your foe with a hilt bash. Stun them if you hit from behind. Your pet’s next attack does 50% more damage.

 

Similarly, when downed, the Ranger has the option to call their pet to them to get them back on their feet (a feature I used a LOT during the Beta Weekend Event, believe me). The upshot of this is that, over time, a decent Ranger will develop an instinctual awareness of their pet’s actions. If your pet is dead, it is in your best interest to get him back on his feet. If you are downed, but your pet is wandering free, then you can still get back into the action.

In GW1 the mantra was always “Kill the beastmaster, not the beast”, but in the new game this isn’t the case. Without his pet, a Ranger is stunted and vulnerable, and without his master a pet is aimless and ineffective. Your enemies would be wise not to ignore a rampaging bear after downing his master, and your allies would be wise not to ignore a downed pet – ressing a pet might be just as important as ressing his master!

From what I experienced, there are still a few kinks to work out of the pet system. Hopefully, these shifts in focus, combined with some other important features (e.g. better AI, more effective path finding, individual pet skill-bars and the ability to switch beasts mid-combat), should change the beastmaster from the joke of the Tyrian battlefield to a revered and ferocious barbarian. I mourn the loss of certain elements of the GW1 Ranger – chiefly interrupts, which I always argued were the core of the GW1 Ranger, but I recognise that ArenaNet have been brave in pursuing this new path.

Although a few tweaks are still required, I am confident that, although the Ranger has evolved from his first iteration in Guild Wars 1, his latest iteration will be an improvement on the first, and the Guild Wars 2 battlefield will be awash with bears, wolves, lizards, leopards, snozzwangers, whangdoodles and vermicious knids.

What do you think of ANet’s focus on Beastmastery with the new Ranger? Are there features of Guild Wars 1 professions which you wish were part of Guild Wars 2?

Will (aka Distilled) is a veteran of 6 years of Guild Wars and 2 years of gaming and Guild Wars blogging. Although he has been writing for Talk Tyria for almost a year this is his first post in his role as Talk Tyria’s resident Ranger Writer! In his spare time he enjoys taunting the Gods, constructing wings out of feathers and wax and pushing his luck.

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