Welcome to the fourth part of our five-part Beginner’s Guide! Today, we are going to cover the many game mechanics of Guild Wars 2.
There’s a lot of ground to cover – there are around two dozen weapons to use, different roles to play in combat, different ways to grow your character, travel and MUCH more.
This will be one of the largest guides we release, but every word is worth understanding. To begin, move through the break.
Weapons and Skills
Every profession has access to multiple weapons. Each weapon has it own set of unique skills for that profession. In the case of the Elementalist, each attunement for every weapon has its own set of unique skills, so a staff attuned to fire and a staff attuned to water are two wildly different things. For a complete list of which weapons every profession can use, there is a handy chart over on the Guild Wars 2 wiki. To see the weapon skills for each profession, consult the wiki’s articles on each profession.
Eventually, you will be able to have two weapon sets that you can swap between during combat. The Engineer and the Elementlist are the exception to this mechanic, since they have access to other weapon skills through toolkits and attunements respectively. For the other six professions, you can switch from one weapon set to another at any time you deem appropriate.
With each weapon, there is a general theme regardless of your profession. For instance bows, rifles, and pistols are all ranged weapons. However, pistols for all professions have a maximum range of 900 units, and rifles have a range of 1,200 units for almost all of their skills – meaning you can attack targets farther away with one weapon than you would with another. Most dagger skills have very short ranges for their default auto-attack skill, but they will have a few longer range options for one or two spells. In general, daggers will require the user to be in closer range.
Weapon selection really depends on your play style. If you really like luring your enemy and never want to take any damage, then picking a short-range weapon probably isn’t your best option. If you want a lot of control spells to stun, daze, or immobilize your enemies, then you may want to pick weapon sets that require closer range, such as a mace or a shield. ArenaNet has said that they want all weapon sets to be viable and for the most part they are, but there are of course some weapons that suit a profession better than others. Examples include a greatsword Mesmer or a shortbow Thief.
Finally, your character will have access to a unique set of underwater skills that are also influenced by the underwater-only weapons you choose. Your user interface (UI) will automatically switch over to the water based skills when you enter water. In some cases, your Utility Skills will automatically be changed due to some of them being unusable in a water environment. These skill also have to be unlocked by use, similar to your normal weapon skills. We will go into skill unlocking later.
While there is no dedicated healing profession, there is still healing in the game. In fact, it is one of the most crucial aspects of the game. Every profession gets a heal skill at level one. Each skill is unique to the profession and really reflects their play type. The Necromancer gets a minion that siphons health from enemies it attacks and it can be destroyed to get a bigger heal. Engineers get a sketchy looking concoction that they can swallow to heal and get one of 3 random boons – you really never know which one.
Alongside these basic healing skills you get at level 1, you can also invest skill points into at least 2 other healing skills also unique to your profession and, possibly, your race. These other heals are not “better” per se than your original healing skill. They are more like side-grades in that they have some benefit but a downside as well. For instance, the Elementalist default heal is Glyph of Elemental Harmony, which heals for a large amount and gives a powerful attunement-specific boon, including one that regenerates more health. Ether Renewal, another heal skill, is a 4 second channeled spell that heals you and removes a condition with every pulse. This seems instantly better, but keep in mind that you can’t move during this channeling period, the healing is reduced, and it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have any conditions on you. The last Elementalist healing skill is Signet of Restoration, which has an on-use big heal and a passive secondary small heal for every spell you cast. This sounds great, but the downside is the passive effect of the signet is no longer active when you cast the big heal, and it will not be until the 40-second cooldown is up. Also, the secondary healing effect requires you to constantly be casting, so an enemy that is able to slow down your casting, repeatedly stun you, or moves out of your maximum weapon range will render this effect useless.
Again, each healing skill option has a benefit but also a downside. These skill are situational, and you will have to play around with them to get a feel for each so you know when you should be equipping each.
There are a few rules to healing you should obey.
When to heal:
- You are below 75% health and still in a fight.
- You recently entered the downed state and just rallied from killing a foe.
- You are not currently in combat, don’t expect to be soon and are using your heal to create a secondary effect such as a swiftness boon.
- You are in combat and you are using your heal to activate a secondary defensive effect that is more useful than the heal itself, such as a block, evasive maneuver or condition removal. (This is a high skill level technique and should only be used by professionals)
When NOT to heal:
- If you are above 75% health and still in combat. It’s just a waste.
- You just left combat. It only takes 5 seconds of leaving combat for your out-of-combat regeneration to kick in. NOTE: Do not confuse this with the boon regeneration.
- Someone tells you that you are the healer. This person is a moron.
- You are within a hair’s breadth of death and the enemy is almost dead. Seems odd right? Here’s the reasoning – you will probably end up in the downed state, and by chipping away at the last bit of health of one enemy that is almost dead, you will be able to trigger a rally that will give you some health back (which is probably more than what you would have gotten with a direct heal) and one second of invulnerability. Now you have one less enemy hitting you and a whole second to free cast a major healing spell.
Skill points are a type of currency used to gain access to skills, including elite skills. Utility skills are the abilities you have on the right-hand side of your screen, and to the left of those is a healing skill, for which other options can also be bought with skill points. Skill points are acquired by leveling (you get one per level, after level 5) or through completing a challenge called a skill point challenge. These challenges typically involve fighting an NPC of higher difficulty than most that are encountered in Tyria.
Many of them are soloable (meaning you can do it by yourself), but some get significantly more difficult, and it may be beneficial to do them in a group. Other skill point challenges just require you to activate them.
Skill points can be acquired at any level and on any zone. There are typically three to five of these skill point challenges available in the zone, although they may take some time and bloodshed to get there. The New Krewe article The Skillful Art of Hunting Skillpoints covers the best ways to acquires these. Until level 10, you will only be able to spend your skill points on healing skills. At level 5, you will then gain access to a tiered skill point system and your seventh skill slot (the second utility skill) will be unlocked.
To spend these points, open your Hero Panel [H] and select the second tab on the left hand side of the screen. Each skill costs between 1-30 skill points to buy, less for lower tiered abilities and more for the Elite skills. Once bought, you can place any skill you want among your unlocked skills on your bar, and you can freely switch them out as long as you aren’t in combat and the skill isn’t on cooldown.
In the current system, you only have access to buy certain utility skills until you invest enough points in that tier to gain access into the next tier. The final tier of skill points is your Elite skill. Every profession has access to 3 different Elite skills, and each race has its own Elite abilities unique to that race. An Elite skill is an extremely powerful ability that has a very long cooldown before it can be used again, around 1-4 minutes. These Elite skills can range from purely damaging abilities, like the Elementalist Tornado Elite that turns you into a destructive vortex, to major support skills, such as the Guardians Tome of Courage that grants access to a new set of weapon skills, including a healing skill that will heal all allies to full health.
Skill points have one further, final use in Guild Wars 2. They are used to purchase Bloodstone Shards to craft Legendary weapons for use. It currently costs 200 skill points to purchase these shards, and there are more than enough skill points available in the world to buy every skill and still be able to purchase this shard. Not much is known about this process yet, but it will not be available until you reach level 80 anyways.
Traits are where the variation in play style for a profession really become noticeable. They have a wide-ranging impact on your profession as a whole. Traits can grant bonuses to using certain weapons, enhance damage, alter the way skills inflict damage and even add abilities or boons to common aspects of the game like dodging. They also act a bit like an attribute system, granting you bonuses to primary and secondary stats in the game depending on where you spend your points. You gain access to trait points at level 11, gaining 1 point every level. To use them, you must purchase a Training Manual. There are multiple levels of Training Manuals that allow allocation of 10, 20, or 30 traits in a trait line. You can always reset your spent trait points by visiting a Profession Trainer or using a Training Manual, both will cost you money to use.
Every profession has 5 trait lines, and in each line there are a total of 30 points you can invest in that line. Each trait line is specific to that profession and has two attributes associated with it, a primary and a secondary attribute, that will be increased with each trait point invested in that line. One of the primary attributes will be a profession-specific attribute that enhances the unique primary mechanic of that profession. Every 5 points invested in a trait line will unlock a tier of traits, either minor or major. There are 3 tiers of traits for each line: Adept, Master and Grandmaster. All the minor trait tiers give a set bonus, but major traits offer more variety and let you choose what upgrade you carry with you.
Each major trait in a trait line allows you to choose a bonus related to that line. For instance, Elementalists have a line devoted to Arcane Magic, and the major traits in that line all augment some aspect of that type of magic. The major traits are tiered so certain bonuses are only available at master and grandmaster levels. You can add any of the previous major traits in a tier, but you can only add the two grandmaster traits for that line to the grandmaster major trait slot, for instance. You will have a total of 70 points to spend by the time you reach level 80, and you can allocate them however you see fit into any trait line. Some builds may be more useful than others though.
Confused yet? This is perhaps the most daunting aspect of Guild Wars 2. Thankfully, you won’t have to rush headlong into this subject any time soon unless you plan on participating in sPvP. The game takes its time in giving you these points, is VERY forgiving in how you spend them at early levels, and you will really only have to worry about how these trait builds will effect the game when you play PvP or are doing higher-level content. If you are interested in what the different builds look like for your profession or if you want to design your own, there are a number of excellent sites with this information, including Guild Wars 2 Codex and Guild Wars 2 Skills.
Each profession falls into an profession type with its own armor class type. It follows the standard fantasy tropes of “magic using classes wear weaker armor” and “more physical classes wear heavier armors.” Each profession type can only wear their armor type, even if they can wear the heaviest armor in the game.
Scholars are the magic using professions in Guild Wars 2. This level includes the mesmer, elementalist and the necromancer. As logic follows, these professions didn’t spend a lot of time in the weight room, seeing that the heaviest thing they lifted was a scroll. Maybe a lexicon. As such, the armor that they can wear is limited to light armor, basically cloth. It has a very low armor rating but is machine washable.
Adventurers are the professions that operate well in both ranged and melee. Engineers, rangers, and thieves are all adventurers. Life on the road is hard, so adventurer professions have built up the stamina to handle wearing medium armor, otherwise known as leather. NOTE: Not machine washable. Try not to get blood on it.
Finally, we have Soldiers, which are the on-the-frontlines melee classes that only occasionally use ranged attacks. It makes sense that warriors and guardians would fall under the soldier category, as they have that military feel about their professions. With all that intense training, they are able to withstand wearing heavy armor, plate mail and the like. NOTE: Also not machine washable unless you think rust is cool.
When you first begin your adventure, you may notice a curved, yellow bar above your health pool. This is your endurance meter. In Guild Wars 2, you are able to perform evasive dodge rolls to avoid attacks. You can dodge by rapidly tapping the key for the direction you want to dodge or press the direction key and the dodge hot key at the same time. These allow you to move around the battlefield quickly, but more importantly, you are immune to damage while rolling. Thus, these should be saved as a means of avoiding huge damage, telegraphed attacks or getting away from particularly nasty enemies. However, each dodge take 50 endurance to use. Since you start with 100 Endurance total, this means you have two dodge rolls at your disposal before your next roll depends on your endurance recharge. So use them wisely!
Keep in mind, not all attacks have to be dodged. You can quite easily side-step to avoid a number of attacks using your strafe keys. You can also use objects in the game world to block the line of sight between you and your foe, which obstructs enemies from causing you damage (you know, since they can’t see you). You will not only avoid damage from, say, a charge ability, but you will also keep your endurance bar full. In sPvP and some PvE instances, you may want to just take the damage, if it isn’t too much of a risk, in anticipation of a more dangerous attack that you MUST avoid. This will ensure you have enough endurance available to dodge when you need to.
The quotation marks are to remind you that Guild Wars 2 deviates from this typical MMO mechanic. Its vastly improved system of events, either scripted or random, are difficult to describe in a way other than as a “quest”. So no nitpicking, okay?
A Personal Story is a unique experience in the game that creates an epic questline for you. This questline isn’t mandatory and you can even skip over a lot of the cutscenes in this mode to help speed it along. I wouldn’t recommend this route at all. I am the first person to go, “yeah, yeah, how many of what I have to kill? Boom, here are your 10 rat tails.”
This way of telling a unique story has not only gotten my attention with almost every character I created, it has also lured me and pushed me to increase my level so I can complete the next leg of this story. This also isn’t a case of “you’ve done one, you’ve done them all.” I have made a LOT of humans over the Beta Weekend Events and I am constantly surprised at the variations in my storylines based on my choices. Every race has its own personal story with variations to each, based on your choices in the character creation section. It is a testament to the time and effort put in by the developers to make this story one worth being experienced by every player.
One of the great things about this personal story is you start it right away, giving you one of the most epic MMO starter zones ever. On top of that, the storyline continues all the way to 80 up to the final dungeon, portioning out the story in a bite size chunks but the effect is a massive tale.
Heart Quests, or Renown Hearts as they are officially known, are sets of tasks related to a specific region in the map. These tasks relate to what you would expect to find going on in the area. For example, if you were at a farm you might have to water plants, tend to cows, or remove pests from the area. Unlike traditional quests, you can complete any of these tasks or do a few different ones to complete the heart. You will notice a little progress bar with a list of tasks in the upper right hand side of your screen when you enter one of these renown areas. Once you complete the progress bar, you will notice the heart on the map is now solid instead of just an outline. You will also receive a large chunk of experience, karma and money as a reward. You will also have unlocked a special vendor for this area, and you can buy items with karma from them or sell your items as well.
Dynamic Events are events that can occur randomly or through player-generated actions in the world. When one is nearby, you will get a notification on your screen, and you can look at your mini-map to see the area where the event is occurring. It will be circled with an orange line. Anyone can participate in these events, and while they are sometimes soloable, you will most likely need the help of other players in the area for many of them. The events can range from herding a rampaging bull to stopping a shaman from wreaking havoc on the land by summoning the Maw. These events can have multiple steps and, if you are victorious or fail, you can see long lasting effects on the world as a repercussion. Many events also scale in difficulty and chaos as more players participate.
After you complete a dynamic event, or at least the current leg of it, you will be rewarded based on your level of contribution to the event. You will get rewards similar to hearts, which include karma, experience, and money. You will also receive some rewards, even if you fail the event.
The way you move in Tyria is a bit different than you may be used to in other MMOs. You can quickly travel to major points throughout a region by using the Asuran-created Waypoints. Using these point does cost a little bit of money, which increases in cost in relation to how far you are traveling. These will also serve as your resurrection points if you happen to die, and you are charged a small fee for these as well. Keep in mind that you have to discover these waypoints on the map before you can use them. On the plus side, you can gain experience for discovering these points and there is a New Krewe article detailing how you can level doing this! For larger distances, such as traveling between major capital cities or battlegrounds in WvW, you will use the Asura Gates.
Unlike other MMOs, you don’t have a mount, so you only travel at normal running speed. This is intentional so you don’t skip by all the dynamic content that can happen in the world. The only way to speed up your travel speed beyond using waypoints or Asura gates is to use swiftness boons or use traits that increases your run speed depending on the weapon you have equipped. These boons are thoroughly covered in the New Krewe article Need for Speed.
This really isn’t the hindrance you might initially think it is. Waypoint travel is extremely convenient, and the scenery is very beautiful. The only time this is an inconvenience is during WvW, where there are vast distance to cover to get to a battle site and no Waypoints in between.
That concludes today’s guide on the mechanics in Guild Wars 2. Join us tomorrow for the final part of our guide, covering the game’s economy and group play!