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Death to the Old Ways!

David North Posted:
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ArenaNethas made very bold claims during their development for Guild Wars 2.   There are many skeptics out there, but most of them argue against a single claim, the death of the holy trinity.  Ever since the claim, players from every game have turned their attention to Guild Wars 2, asking the question: “Can it really be done?”  It is hard to say without actually playing the game, so I would like to share from my hands on experience with 2 separate beta events now behind me.  Let me share with you what these eyes have seen.

The holy trinity formula has been used in MMOs since before most can remember, so how do you take something that has become so essential to a genres game design, and just pitch it out the window?  Simple: change the entire game design.  So many games focus on a simple game play experience that requires the player to just get into a position, and click on the proper skills at the right time.  For Guild Wars 2 they sped things up.  They also unleashed both the players and NPCs requiring both to move around in order to win.  No more standing still to cast spells!  In short, they brought in the element of action oriented game play.  The game doesn't feel like an MMO at all.  If you try to play it like a traditional MMO, you'll end up dying a lot.   This is something I have stated before, so let’s show how it mixes with the other elements. 

The next step in making a new MMO experience is changing the way skills and weapons work. The way skills and weapons are now connected, makes each profession a versatile and powerful character in nearly any situation. To give an example of how this works, let’s talk about a dungeon run I did with my Thief.  I was a bit squishier than a warrior so I decided to use pistols and keep my distance to deal some damage.  As things start to turn south however, and I was the only one that wasn’t about to die, I needed to switch roles.  With the simple press of a button, the weapons switch, which then switches the skills that available to use.  So I switch to, let's say a pair of daggers, to get in close and stab an opponent to get its attention.  It sure did the trick, but now what?  A Thief can't wear the same heavy armor a Guardian or Warrior can, so how did I ”tank”  with this squishy character?  I had to play in a non-traditional way. 

Like I said before, if you don't move around a lot, you die.  I did some damage, then used skills, dodge rolls, and movement, to get out of your enemies reach and move them away from my wounded party memebers.   Then by quickly shadow stepping on over behind the enemy, I got a few stabs in, then pull back again.  I just had to keep the attention off my party long enough for them to heal up.  Sure I make it sound easier than it actually is, because it’s incredibly tough.  It took a lot of practice for me, but it is very possible. 

Evading an attack with a dodge roll seems simple, but it goes a long way.

In some parties Warriors would just stand still and try to tank traditionally. The technique I just described with my Thief character was far more effective.  Having the right weapon setup with you is very important, as it allows you to switch roles almost instantly.  Think of it as rather than the Professions having their role predetermined in the party, the weapons you use decide your role instead.

I like to think that my characters belt is like Batman's utility belt.

Now let’s talk about skill.  In other games you just need good gear, be max level, and need to memorize the boss patterns to be considered good.  Skill isn’t really a huge factor.  It doesn't work like that in Guild Wars 2.  Sure level and gear can play a decent part in how well you can perform, but really that's only half of it.  It's very possible to bring the hurt on mob that's a higher level than you.  You actually have to pay attention and play the game, not just stand and click on skills, hoping your gear gives you high enough stats.  Pure skill can go a long way in Guild Wars 2.  How do you become skilled?  Just play the game, and experiment.  That's what allowed me to see the beauty of the game’s combat design.

I had to get used to how Guild Wars 2 played, but once I got some things figured out, and some pointers from the ArenaNet developers themselves, I started kicking butt.  After a lot of trial and error, my Necromancer not only did some serious damage, but could also take a few hits and support my team mates by offering a means of healing.  The same can be said with my other characters.  With even more time I feel that I could master the art of combat, like a martial artist does with fighting styles.  With each Profession able to do so much, and seeing it first-hand myself, I think we can say that the holy trinity has been put to rest.  Thank the Gods too, because things were getting pretty boring.


David North