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Combat Mechanics Detailed; Elementalist Revealed

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Yesterday we were treated to a massive reveal of Guild Wars 2 in the form of a lengthy blog post by ArenaNet studio Mike O'Brien on the newly launched ArenaNet blog. Mike's post outlined three problematic areas with MMO game design and what ArenaNet's plans were with Guild Wars 2 to address them. In doing so, Mike hinted at two things we'd be hearing more about today: the Elementalist class, and combat.

The Elementalist was teased in a few examples Mike used to illustrate various points about the game's combat systems, such as the fact the Elementalist would have access to the "Stone Boots" trait that would prevent them from being knocked back, or the fact they could combine their various spells to devastating effectsm etc. Today, ArenaNet has officially unveiled the Elementalist, the first of eight Guild Wars 2 professions.

The Elementalist is a bit of a glass cannon, she'll be able to deal a massive amount of damage, but she pays for that damage by being fairly fragile. However, the Elementalist can channel the forces of nature, including, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, attuning herself to different elements based on what the situation calls for.

When attuned to Fire she burns any enemies that come into close contact with her. The Elementalist also gains access to AOE focused attacks, giving her the ability to rain down meteor showers upon her enemies or setting the ground ablaze. 

Attuning herself to Air, the Elementalist gains access to wind and lightning attacks, dealing high single target damage, and similarly to the Fire attunement enemies in close range will be continuously struck by lightning bolts.

The Elementalist isn't just about damage however, being a versatile profession, she can attune herself to Water and sacrifice some damage dealing ability for greater control. In this mode, the Elementalist can freeze foes solid in blocks of ice, cause them to slip and fall on sheets of ice, and even support her allies by continuously healing those nearby her.

When things get particularly desperate, however, the Elementalist can attune herself with the power of Earth, granting her the ability to protect her allies by paralyzing nearby enemies in stone prisons, knocking them offer their feet with seismic shocks, and attacking her foes with volcanic eruptions. Attuning herself to the power of Earth also offers the elementalist some much needed magical protection, reducing incoming damage.

The Elementalist will also make use of Glyphs, Signets, Conjurations, and Area spells, giving her a set of distinctive mechanics to work with that really contribute to her aforementioned versatility:

Elementalists have a number of special spell types:

  • Glyphs—These arcane spells enhance or modify the natural power of the Elementalist. She uses the Glyph of Elemental Power to increase the damage, range, and duration of her spells.
  • Signets—Signets provide an ongoing benefit to the Elementalist, but can also be activated for a greater effect. An Elementalist equipped with the Signet of Earth has increased damage resistance, but activating the Signet sends out a wave of stone, stunning nearby enemies.
  • Conjure Spells—The Elementalist uses Conjure spells to summon useful items and potent weapons that she or other party members can use. For instance, she uses Conjure Flame to create a fiery rock to hurl at the enemy.
  • Area Spells—Using Area spells, the Elementalist creates hazards and mayhem all over the field of battle. The Elementalist fires lava arrows in a cone-shaped blast or creates walls of fire that scorch any enemies passing through.

Part one of Guild Wars 2 Lead Designer Eric Flannum's combat feature was also released today. In the article, Eric describes the game's combat in greater detail than yesterday's blog post by Mike O'Brien. Combat in Guild Wars 2 is designed to reward proper positioning and the combined use of abilities between players. Eric illustrates this point by providing an example of a combat scenario he witnessed involving two of the game's developers:

To reinforce the importance of movement in the game, we want your character's position in combat to really matter. You'll see a lot of attacks in Guild Wars 2 that encourage and reward tactical player movement and positioning.

To illustrate what I'm talking about, I was watching two of our game designers--Jon and Isaiah--play the other day. Jon is using his shield to deflect the fire breath of a drake, when Isaiah hits the drake from behind with a skill called Devastating Hammer, launching it into the air. The drake is sent flying over Jon's head, who immediately turns and uses a skill called Savage Leap to impale and finish the drake right as it hits the ground. This was a very cool looking (and effective!) sequence of events that flowed very naturally from how combat in Guild Wars 2 works.

One of the more interesting things to come out of Eric's combat feature, is the description of the game's layered skill system, which will use a 10 slot skill bar. Mike briefly touched on these yesterday in his post, but today we've also learned that Guild Wars 2 may share some similarities with Final Fantasy XIV. In Guild Wars 2, players will acquire their base set of skills from the weapons they wield, which bears some similarity to Square's upcoming MMO. Once you have your base set of skills, you then customize them further through the use of racial skills (such as the Norn's bear transformation), healing skills, and a devastating elite skill. The skill bar will be configured with five skills from your base profession and weapon, one healing skill, and one elite skill, leaving players with three completely open slots. Eric describes elite skills as, "Elite skills are designed to be infrequently-used, ultra-powerful skills that have a dramatic impact on the game." To use the Elementalist as an example, she'll be able to transform into a massive tornado, dealing heavy damage and knocking back foes.

Find out more about Guild Wars 2 in our exclusive interview with the ArenaNet dev team.


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB