Guild Wars 2 finds its biggest departure from other MMOs in its responsive combat. The game’s eight classes range from fantasy standbys like Warrior and Thief to unique additions like Engineer and Mesmer, all sharing a focus on movement and positioning in battles. Major attacks from enemies can be avoided, and skills don’t restrict movement. Characters can even move around while preparing abilities with long cast times. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t embrace the full-on action feel of TERA, but it’s reactive enough to make challenging dungeons and world boss raids even more frantic and fun.
To help facilitate that action, Guild Wars 2 sticks to a single row of ten abilities rather than a screen full of buttons. The first five abilities switch automatically based on which weapon type you have equipped, and the other five can be swapped out from a deck of skills purchased using skill points. Fast weapon swapping aids Guild Wars 2 in ridding itself of the MMO “holy trinity” – damage, tank, and healer – instead allowing classes to smoothly fill multiple roles.
My chosen class, the Guardian, moves between a damage-focused two-handed sword, a mace and shield combo that mitigates a portion of the incoming attacks, or a scepter or staff, which grants skills devoted to slowing enemies down by placing a barrier in front of them. Using secondary skills, I can broaden my attack options, buff up my group, or toss out area-wide heals. The eccentric, open-ended classes leave room for devising unique strategies, even as new skills show up more rarely. Guild Wars 2’s combat requires timing and smarts, regardless of your class, your weapon choice, or whether you’re a level one scrub or decked out in the best armor in the game.
Getting to a point where you fully comprehend that combat system can be a challenge. After a very brief tutorial segment that’s light on explanation, players are tossed into Guild Wars 2’s huge world without further in-game clarification of the options available. If you haven’t played an MMO before, you’re going to be lost. If you have, you’re likely to be baffled by ArenaNet’s tweaks to the genre.