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A Case Against Water Combat (and in Favor of Anything Else)

Guild Wars 2 Columns - By Steven Weber on June 01, 2018

A Case Against Water Combat (and in Favor of Anything Else)

In Guild Wars 2 we have had opportunities to take to the skies, dive into the depths of volcanoes, explore dangerous jungles and even tarry in the afterlife to some degree. Throughout the starkly different landscapes and mediums of gameplay, players have experienced, there has always been an underlying consensus from the greater populous. Underwater combat is bad. If you disagree, I refuse to apologize, and will vehemently fight you on this. 

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On May 8th Arenanet released a bevy of information on the changes they released to water combat, and rumors are swirling that the next expansion may contain a substantial amount of seascape to traverse with increased emphasis on water combat. Whether that will come to pass or whether the next expansion will go a completely different route, I’m here to make a case against extensive water combat, or at least, water combat as we know it, in favor of other types of gameplay that aren’t already sullied by a sordid and unpleasant past.  Here are some areas I can see Guild Wars 2 expanding gameplay in areas that the community would love.

Expanded Mount Combat

In Path of Fire mounts were added to the game.  While mounts were requested even before the launch of the legacy version of Guild Wars 2, Arenanet finally delivered, nay, surpassed expectations, when they finally released mounts.  Mounts are exceptionally fun, granting you increased movement and new ways to interact with the environment like how the skimmer can glide over dangerous landscapes.  One of the main reasons why mounts were so well received is that they enabled players, whereas even to this day, after all of the changes, water combat is a detriment to gameplay. You move slower, many of your abilities don’t work, you can’t use the same weapons or skills, but more importantly, your choices of weapons and skills are greatly reduced. 

Adding mounted combat that doesn’t dismount you would be a great boon to gameplay as a whole. When I’m on my mount going from area to area, having to hop on and off of my mount is annoying at best, but expansive mount combat could not only increase enjoyment of these mounts as tools but expand them as extensions of your favorite class specializations.  To go one further, adding underwater mounts that allow for water combat would do for submarine warfare what the Path of Fire mounts did for land travel. Simply put, it would make it a pleasure rather than a chore.

Naval Combat

We have traveled to the Jungles of Maguuma and the arid Crystal Desert, so let us pretend we’re heading into Cantha on the next expansion.  How would one suppose they would migrate across the oceans blue to find out what came of Cantha after the Zhaitan attack?  I won’t be patronizing of you, yes, Naval Combat can open up a lot of opportunities, while not completely losing sight of the current work they’ve done on water combat.  Sure, this doesn’t completely remove the necessity for underwater gameplay, in fact, you could make the case that it puts you in a position for substantially more underwater gameplay but sailing the oceans on a schooner that you can control could fundamentally change the perception of water-based combat.

In addition to that, utilizing ships as an alternative specifically for water combat would also be very helpful in the legacy game too.  Currently, several levels require that you trudge through a hefty expanse of water to complete heart quests or earn Skill Points. What better way to do it than to stay on your ship, firing cannons and swashbuckling to your heart's content?  This would also open up a substantial amount of content. Think of the pirates you could hunt, or the pirate you could become? Imagine guild ships where you could quest together in the open ocean, but never be too far from your Krytan home.  It would be all of the enjoyment of seafaring combat without the downsides of being underwater.

Deep Sea Combat

If underwater combat doesn’t tickle your fancy, why would Deep Sea combat?  Let me just float this out there, no pun intended. Tyria is a world of vast magic and wonder. There are plentiful sea dwelling races such as the Quaggans, the Krait, and the Largos. Who are we to say that somewhere underneath the ocean there are cities built within air pockets, where all the enjoyment of land combat exists deep under the ocean's surface.  Why spend so much time trying to make abilities make sense for underwater combat when the easiest premise would be, make underwater combat act more like land-based combat?

The implications of this could extend to many areas of the game. Just as mounts and gliders activate during certain circumstances, an air pocket generator could make underwater travel enjoyable, while also making all combat abilities available for immediate use.  Strategically speaking, it could even work better alongside the use of the current set of water combat abilities that sink and float enemies.  In turn, this could open up a lot of opportunities later on for heavy underwater exploration.  We took stock of Arenanets abilities to make multi-tiered zones with Heart of Thorns. Utilizing the same structure, being able to drop to the bottom or rise to the top quickly without sacrificing speed or combat ability by the use of air bubbles could be a lot of fun.  Currently swimming slowly through water zones, whether it’s horizontally or vertically challenges one’s patience and much less of one’s gameplay.

We have no confirmation yet as to where the next expansion might take us.  Will it be Cantha? One can only hope, but the sudden prevalence of a water combat update was an interesting if not unwanted revision. My pedantic side screams, “that’s not what I wanted” yet, in truth, the reason why it is unwanted is simply that it’s too little, too late to bridge the gap that will make underwater combat a welcome inclusion to an otherwise stellar game. My opinions of what could be added in lieu of more prominent water combat are just options that would make sense and work well within the lore, without sacrificing too much in the way of gameplay.  The reality is, many of us don’t feel that undersea battles are enjoyable, they just don’t resonate with many of us in their current iteration.  Whether you like it, or you hate it, what would you do if it was your choice?

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