Going into Guild Wars 2 I did not think the Ranger would be my profession. I was all about the Necromancer or the Guardian. I was very excited to play either of those professions, that is, until the demo last weekend. I was assigned the Ranger to write about for the few days we played and am now very happy that I took the task. The Ranger was a breath of fresh air and I found myself getting more excited as I leveled really enjoying the profession. Between the ranged attacks of the bow and the devastating two handed sword melee attacks, the Ranger delivered on plenty of levels.
You get the choice of three pets in the game when you start out. Different races had access to different pets. For the Norn I had a wolf, bear, and snow leopard to choose from. I chose the wolf. There were a bunch of pets that were unlockable and I could see them in the Mists when I was leveled up to 80 for a short time. The ones that stood out were the panther, owl, several insect like creatures, and of course lots of lizards as well. The pet worked well with my character and was responsive to my commands. You can assign them different roles like passive or to attack your target, as would be expected. The wolf had a howl attack and several other melee style moves. Mostly I focused on my own attacks and let the pet draw aggro. This system worked great especially when using the bow. Overall the pet functions similar to other MMOs but the variety of pets is fun and the mechanics were easy to get down.
Ranged weapons were a fantastic part of the Ranger’s arsenal. You begin with a throwing axe and weapons drop fairly easily. Soon I had a bow and brought a starting great sword from the merchant. Using the bow was cool with moves like Rapid Shot; a knock back which was great in PvP, and barrage that acted as a ranged AOE shot. One of the skills you get as you level up is the ability to drop traps. I started off with a mud-pit trap that I could open up to slow enemies as they charged in. This combined with the bow was a great attack system for dealing with groups of mobs. Overall I think the bow is a perfect weapon for ranged fighting, as it should be.
The great sword or two handed sword was the perfect complement to the bow. Getting in close with the Ranger and slashing away with some jump attacks and retaliation moves was very effective. I found using the great sword to take out some of the higher level guards in the World vs. World zones worked great. The effects that come with the sword were cool too, such as an ethereal hawk flying over your head as on a leap attack was fantastic to watch. For me I loved this weapon so much I plan to use it when launch comes. It was devastating.
Weapon Swap is a great ability you get at level seven in the game (though not on the Engineer and Elementalist since they have toolkits and spell rotations to compensate). The Ranger can really take advantage of switching from ranged to melee and have their pet handy to boot. This ability is available to all professions and honestly it is one of the great things about the game. I know other games allow for swapping weapons in combat, but for some reason Guild Wars 2 integrates it perfectly into the interface. It is right next to your hot bar or can be done via the ~ key next to number one, and once you can swap you will be able to choose the two weapon styles you like best and work on integrating them into your strategies.
ODDS AND ENDS
The feel of the Ranger is one of exploration, mainly because the world is so open. With the active event system going on in the game and constantly unlocking things to do really creates a sense of adventure for the players. If you are a Ranger at heart then going out into the woods and lands and exploring on your own has a great feel to the character. A Ranger really belongs in this world and the character “theme” works very well with the design of GW2.
As far as I could tell I was able to use Rawhide (medium) armor on the Ranger. There were several different bow designs and great sword designs as well. The armor looked great and had all the feel of the Ranger profession. However, there are some great looking sets at higher level and also there is a Guild Emblem system in the game that will allow you to display Guild Pride at any time on your armor. I am sure there will be a ton of options; our beta guild hosted by the ArenaNet folks had a Kraken wrapped around a trident.
I will end by saying that one of my favorite D&D characters was a Ranger. So, while I did not expect the Ranger to be my profession in Guild Wars 2, I am happy to say that I think I will be playing one as my main in this game whenever we make it to launch. The pets are cool, and the weapon combinations are really impressive. I also liked the skills and stats you could unlock. At low levels in the game we did not unlock much, but the traps were awesome for crowd control and being able to stop a bunch of mobs as they charged forward. Fans of ranged classes and pet classes alike should be excited; you will have a lot to talk about in the coming months.