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Specializations - A New Way to Play

David North Posted:
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Some more news has spilled all over the internet yesterday detailing specializations.  It seems the real goal for the developers is to completely change not only how players progress their characters, but how they play them as well.

Simply by swapping a weapon a player can go from playing a control role to a supportive role in mid combat.  This mechanic is the reason why the trinity doesn’t exist in Guild Wars 2, but has it really worked?  Certain professions are much better are playing certain roles than others.  HoT will be bringing in specializations, a way for a character to become something new, allowing them to play in a way they weren’t able to before.

I wonder what an Engineer with a Hammer would play like?

Gone are the days when I’d sit for what would seem like an eternity to find a party.  Some days you just couldn’t find a tank, and others there wasn’t a healer in sight.  Guild Wars 2 is different.  If  people want to play through a dungeon, they only need to party up!  Every profession could fill a role in the party, making every player versatile, never requiring them to play a certain way just because of the profession they chose. 

Of course, certain profession are much better at serving these roles than others.  For example, a Warrior will find it much easier to act as a tank than a Ranger.  All that extra health and heavy armor helps soak up some of that damage, allowing the Warrior to stay in the front lines longer.  Even still, with the right build, and lots of practice, any player can fulfill any role.  

This is where I’m hoping the specializations step in to reinforce how each profession can play different roles, and perhaps even level the playing field between professions.  With a Ranger Druid build using a staff, it could open up new and unique ways for the player to try their hand at a more supportive role. It could also mean the complete opposite.  The character may use their new powers to fill a heavier control role through the use of its pet. Imagine actually casting spells on your pet!   We won’t know exactly what roles the specializations will focus on until ArenaNet shows us, but it’s sounding like a great way for players to try something new.

It will be interesting to see what role the Druid will fill.

Every profession has something that truly makes them unique, like the Mesmer creating illusions, and then shattering them to deal damage.  Specializations are also going to be changing these mechanics, which may be the biggest change of all.  Maybe shattering illusions could heal allies, allowing the Mesmer to play a more supportive role.  Or  maybe the way an illusion is shattered is altered, which may require a bit more skill to get a bigger pay off.  While a new weapon and some skills will definitely steer a build in a new direction, by altering the core mechanics of a profession you really start to see the character become something new. 

I can see now how specializations can be compared to the type of dual classing we saw in the original games.  That’s in fact one of the best features Guild Wars had to offer.  You really could pick your way to play!  HoT will only bring one specialization to each profession, but it’s still more options than we had before.  We may have to wait till more expansions are released to get the same amount of build options that the original games provided, but this is a start. 

I wonder what new weapons the professions will get.

The changes to how a profession can play, and reinforcing a specific role the player can fill in a party is definitely exciting.  The specializations are still wrapped in a few layers of mystery, as we have yet to see the actual traits, skills, and even how they manipulate the mechanics of the professions.  To see that players will have new options is always welcoming, and the way they are being offered is new and unique.  Perhaps thats why the developers are taking a more slow and steady approach to adding them.  These first steps will help them fine tune this system while it’s still small.  They will learn from it, and more than likely make a few changes. This may allow them to take larger steps in the future. 

Are you excited about the changes specializations are bring?  Do you think specializations will help professions play different roles?  Let us know in the comments below.


David North