The Heart of Thorns announcement answered some questions we had about the future of Guild Wars 2, but it also created a whole lot of new ones, for example, these new specializations make one wonder, will we see new build choices allowing players to play as healers?
People are crying out for more heals, yet the trinity is dead! It’s currently possible to play a healing build in the game, even though healing in Guild Wars 2 isn’t going to be as focused as the Monk from the original series. Still, it’s enough that it allows you to prevent your party from wiping to get through those tough encounters. To me that sounds exactly like what healers have done in MMOs, the only difference is in Guild Wars 2 you get to use some non-healing spells as well. So why are so many players asking for a healing profession?!
Perhaps it’s the way healing is done in Guild Wars 2 that’s so confusing to the majority of players, that it prevents it from being as accessible as the developers had hoped for. Especially for certain professions that can’t fill the role as well as others. Sure, any profession can try their hand at it, but they will lack the skills necessary to be equals with others. I think we are going to see an answer to this issue in specializations.
We know a Ranger can become a Druid, gaining new skills, the ability to use a staff, and finally some new traits to help fine tune the new build. What we don’t know are the specifics, but it wouldn’t be tough to imagine 1 or 2 weapon skill slots being used for support, or healing skills would it? New traits could also make healy allies more effective, applying boons not just to them, but to those around you while using healing skills. This could be a way for rewarding players to focus on healing.
Now let’s not forget about those utility slots. We could see more signets like the Signet of Undeath, allowing more professions to take on the role of a healer easier than before. It may be more beneficial for the utility skills to open up these healing abilities over the weapon slots, otherwise these new builds will have a harder time getting in some damage, even with weapon swapping.
Normally a healer doesn’t need to do damage, but Guild Wars 2 features dynamic events which require players to participate in large groups. Currently the system doesn’t reward players that heal, only those who deal damage to a target. Maybe this is why players could never create a build that had a primary focus on healing. It’s hard to say if this was originally a design choice, or forced by the limitations of the game engine, but some time has passed. Here we are a bit over 2 years since launch with multiple updates to the game. Perhaps with this added experience ArenaNet has finally found a way to reward healers for event participation.
Specializations are said to change the core mechanics of a profession, which could include adding in a healing focused mechanic. Sure, healing does exist in the game already. I’ve ran healing builds myself. Any player can help get rid of conditions on their party, revive downed players, and even throw some boons to everybody before a tough fight. But I see a lot of players having a much easier time making the connections between damage dealing skills, over support. Hopefully the specializations will truly act as the dual profession system we saw in the original Guild Wars, letting players still get to have fun taking down their enemies, yet making it easier for them to switch over to a support role. Of course this will only works if the design of Heart of Thorns supports the need of survivability, over DPS.