When the open beta started, I decided to dive head first into the Ranger class, and boy am I glad I did. After having sunk over twenty five levels with both the Assassin and the Gladiator during the previous closed beta events, I must say that I had (and am having)a good time with the Ranger, a rip roarin' good time, even. The class is not without its faults, though. Luckily, most of those faults are only below level twenty. During this time the Ranger can be a bore and a hassle to play, due to a limited number of abilities. But if you're willing to see it through until the late teens, you'll find yourself quickly filling those britches. Some might say that it's like growing into adulthood; let's just hope you're not a late bloomer.
Between the levels of one and ten you're basically, for all intents and purposes, playing an assassin. I actually think that the Ranger should have its own archetype with another ranged physical class and the assassin should have its own sister class, a warden or a thief possibly. Maybe something that could be added for an expansion? You won't even see a bow until level ten, when it is presented to you as a quest reward. You still get new ranks in all of the melee abilities that were used getting this far. I know a lot of Rangers use melee to their advantage due to the lack of archery skills at this level. They will pull and attack with the bow until the mob gets within melee range, then they'll weapon swap to a dagger/sword combo for the finish. This is all well and good, and I'm sure it's a highly viable option for any inclined to proceed down that route, but ultimately, I found myself far too lazy for this.
You may want to consider stopping by the Trade Broker to pick up a good bow, it can greatly assist in making those terrible teens much less terrible. Which brings me to my next point: item enhancement. I'm actually pretty surprised as to how many people were unaware of this game mechanic during the beta phase of the game. Basically, enhancement allows you to break down unwanted gear with extraction tools and use the resulting enchantment stones to upgrade your gear. If you're new to it, you should definitely go track down some information on it and give it a read. The amazingly complicated strategy I used, which became quite successful, was to buy a decent weapon and then upgrade it as I leveled. In my case, I bought a Frozen Bow at about level twelve to use at fourteen. By seventeen, I had upgraded my bow eight times, giving it an additional thirty two points of damage. This extra damage (about a 30% increase), made any it better than just about any subsequent bows for quite a few levels. These upgrades only apply to the physical damage of the bow, any other stats (accuracy, physical crit.) all remain the same. Because of this, by around level twenty these stats may have overtaken my little Frozen Bow by so much that it may have been better to switch to another bow. But, I really wanted to wait until a bow's base damage matched my bow's modified damage, which was found at around level twenty four. Whether this was the most efficient choice, I don't know. I basically just wanted to run around with a brag-worthy weapon for as long as possible.
Playing a hunter during those terrible teens was relatively easy, despite being boring. There is a bit more kiting until sixteen since you have to wait for your only two skills to recharge. At thirteen, you get Spike Trap, which can definitely help snare a target in place if you wanted to get a lot of range on it, or for add control. Aside from that though, the only real lifeline comes in at sixteen when you get Stunning Shot. it is an attack that, as the name would imply, stuns the target--always nifty, although it doesn't seem to be a 100% proc rate. To help its awesomeness further, Stunning Shot has a weird little quirk where it will, on occasion, deal a great deal more damage than it lists on the tooltip, and not just crit damage, but non crit extreme damage. It will either hit for 300-400 or 800-1000. There doesn't seem to be any solid reasoning for this, so I just assume it's one of those nifty bugs that when fixed will make Rangers everywhere shed a tear for. Things are only uphill from there, with new skills being added every three levels. Rotations seem pretty loose this low, your best bet is to just save up anything you can cast while moving for when you're--well, moving.
I definitely look forward to further advancing my little robin hood over time. I also look forward to posting any musings I get during the later levels of the class and anything I do while getting there.