Monday, May 14, 2012

Dismal Science : Interjection! (And the Stress Test, Reviewed)

(Introductions are hard. Really, what do you start with? I have no idea.)

Hi. I'm Kaenes. I'll be joining Divinity's Reach and working with Entombed to bring our readers the best Guild Wars 2 news, commentary, and analysis that can be conjured forth from our collective minds.

I daylight as a musician, night as an economist (yeah, you have no idea how much fun that was to explain to my girlfriend). I've played essentially every western MMO to come out in the past five years. I've raided since vanilla WoW as a druid, stomped through keeps as a swordmaster in WAR, and sythed small armies of random monsters as a dervish in Guild Wars 1. After all of that, all I can say is that I am sick of standardized MMO's.

And I am incredibly excited about Guild Wars 2.

Also, Necromancers are the best profession. I think I should just get that out of the way, for disclosure's sake.

So, the first stress test has come and gone.

Aside from the obligatory "Server cannot be found" warnings when trying to queue for sPvP, lag spikes that make me feel like there is the mesmer from paragraph fifteen throwing a party inside my hard-drive, and periodic bouts of sheer, computerized insanity, I would consider it a rather successful test. Successful for ArenaNet because they undoubtedly gathered large amounts of data that will be invaluable for optimizing servers in the weeks coming, hopefully in anticipation of a mid/late summer launch (We all can dream, can't we? LET ME HAVE MY DREAMS). Successful for me, because it was a single sitting of pure, instanced-PvP bliss.

Not much really can be said of the servers, even though this was technically a stress test, they still ran far better during my playtime than many servers ran months after launch in other MMO's.

Having spent the day rolling from one match to the next, I found myself sitting at my desk come the servers' closing, meditating over my observations of the evening. One however, was profound, especially considering that this is still technically beta.

Guild Wars 2 has the most balanced PvP that I have ever played in my life.

The mix of classes vs. score in this match is particularly revealing. A mesmer was #2 on my team, and a mesmer was also last on the other team.

At no point in the day did I look at the class symbol next to someone's nameplate and think, "Oh, he's only an <insert weak class here>. I've got this in the bag." Every time I found myself facing another player, my immediate thought process went something like this:

  1. What profession is he?
  2. What weapon is he using right now?
  3. Can I infer anything about his build from this?
  4. How is he going to react to my attack?
Upon thinking these things through, I could begin to form a strategy and engage. But that really is the beauty of what Arenanet has built. Never once did I run in to a fight and expect to come out on top by keyboard smashing 1 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 1 -3. Either think and adapt, in genuine, tactical ways, to every fight you go into, or you will lose. And isn't that, in essence, what PvP is supposed to be about? This isn't WoW, where "I'm a rogue, therefore I claim permanent rights to spawn-camp you and all of your friends/guildmates/children from now into oblivion" is a perfectly valid statement.

This is Guild Wars 2, where everyone is OP and the classes don't matter.

The guardian on the losing team still destroyed everyone else on this map.
After spending the evening mashing away at whatever I could get within casting range, my thoughts about the various classes have condensed thusly:

  • Guardians are monsters. More than once, a greatsword-wielding guardian appeared out of nowhere, dashed right over to me, and proceeded to start blowing chunks of my health bubble off with reckless abandon. When they want to, they can hit hard. And when I say hard, I don't mean, "Oh, that was an unpleasant amount of damage that he just did. I think I should play defensively now." More of a, "OMGWTFBBQWHEREDIDMYHEALTHGO *mashes death shroud* *mash* *mash* *mash* *mash*." Besides that, when they build for defense, they are essentially immortal. I distinctly remember fighting in the clocktower at Kyhlo against a single, shield-wearing guardian. It took myself, and another 4 people on my team, about a minute and a half to put him down. I can't really say precisely how good they are at forging a hybrid path between these extremes, but guardians have definitely found a place on the list of things that I will be wary of when they play to the extremes.
  • Warriors are the only class I would almost consider to be too good. More than once, they simply rushed over to me, looked at me like I had some kind of nerve for still being alive, and hit me once for around 11k. That was half my health pool.
  • Elementalists aren't glass cannons. They're paper lasers. The staff-fire autoattack hits, easily, for 1k. That's not even talking about all of the mess that the other skills on their bars can be. They can keep a solid chain of heavy damage on an entire area for longer than anyone else that I saw on the field. However, unless they were seriously invested in defense, they pretty much crumpled if anyone so much as looked at them funny.
  • Engineers are probably the best defenders in the game. I know a lot of hoopla has been going around about elixirs and whatnot, but an engineer packing a full load of turrets is nigh impossible to dislodge from a control point. In one match at Niflhel, an engineer set up shop in the keep, completely alone. After dying about three times trying to push him out, I simply gave up and decided it was a lost cause. Those turrets can be an insane amount of CC-proof damage and control. (Note: it ultimately took myself, a warrior, and an elementalist to push him out.)
  • Thieves are exactly what you expected them to be: a lot of dirty tricks, hit and run tactics, and really frustrating amounts of damage. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to try to kill a thief who won't even stay visible for more than a few seconds at a time?
  • Rangers are like thieves, exactly what you expected them to be. They can throw down serious damage at just about any distance and are frustrating to no end to try to pin down and kill. Pets, despite all the bad press that they've gotten, were incredibly annoying as well. I couldn't count how many times I wanted to get out of combat after breaking a skirmish, only for the ranger to leave his pet on me and prevent me from healing. Which left me gift wrapped for our Mr. 11K-Warrior up there. *sigh*
  • Mesmers are incredibly frustrating, even more so than guardians when played well. Towards the end of the day, I attacked a node being defended by a single mesmer. Before I even knew what was going on, there were clones and phantasms surrounding me on every side. Trying to pick through them all to find out which was her took a short eternity, until I figured out the pattern she was using to switch between herself and her clones. After that I managed to eventually get her down, but not before a shield-guardian ran up and used his Signet of Mercy.
  • Necromancers. C'est magnifique. The least common class I saw throughout the day, and coincidentally, my profession of choice. I understand what the Developers have been saying about the skill cap for Necro PvP, it's definitely serious. Still, I am certain beyond the shadow of a doubt when I say that Necromancers are something you should definitely fear (See what I did there? No? Ok. Let me explain. You see, necromancers can inflict the "fear" condition on enemies through a number of skills, fear is actually exclusive to the necro. So, when I say that you should "fear" them, I am making a sly reference to the fact that fighting one will most likely end with you being "feared." It's a joke.)
Every class strikes me as being OP in their own way: Guardians can become unstoppable wrecking balls, Warriors devour health bubbles, Thieves and Rangers are difficult to kill and have an army of tricks up their sleeves, Elementalists' have more attacks than they know what to do with and all of them can kill you rather quickly, Mesmers are probably the trickiest class to ever be birthed in an MMO, Engineers could hold a CP against the four horsemen of the Apocalypse,  and Necromancers are what the horsemen were running from.

Needless to say, ArenaNet could not release this game fast enough to appease me.

Death Shroud might have an animation bug or two to work out, but lord, do I love that skill.


  1. I'm very interested to see how class balance evolves with time. It's interesting to see how many builds are either very offensive or very defensive at this time, and how few hybrid or support builds exist. I completely agree, every class has at least one attribute that makes them incredibly OP, whether that be the Warrior's burst or the Guardian's defense. I hope to see some more reverse roles in the future(i.e. defensive Warriors, Support thieves, etc.) I do agree that for the game being just in Beta, the game is pretty decently balanced in PvP.

    1. I've really noticed the extremity of most builds out there right now, as well. It's the reason I've really discounted nearly all PvP videos that you see making the rounds right now, they're just guys who stacked up offensive stats and recorded themselves nuking some random guy right before a ranger pet two-shot them. I feel like a significant degree of my success came from the fact that I was playing a hybrid-type build, and the cumulative experience of the GW2 community hasn't advanced enough to have proper methods for dealing with that kind of playstyle yet.

  2. MIG, look up team paradigm and their video. Vids of glass cannon eles, tank mesmers, and a lot more.