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You no take skills!

May 5, 2012

When I was younger I used to torture flies by ripping out their wings and burning them with a magnifying glass. How does this relate to my blog? I have no idea whatsoever. In this installment I’ll take a look at your action bar and how ArenaNet is an evil company striving to prive MMO players from their acquired rights!

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If you ever played an MMO game before you are probably familiar with this: the Spellbook. This is the UI element that contains all the info about your skills and spells. There you pick the ones you want or need, drag them to your action bar and go stomp on things. This is how 99% of the MMO’s work regarding skills. And, surprise surprise!, Guild Wars 2 does it differently.

In this (awesome) game, you lose the ability to select the skills you want to use. “Wait, WHAT??!” That’s right, ArenaNet has prived you of one of your most basic rights as an MMO character! By forcing you to accept the skill choices they made they are in fact neglecting your right (and need!) for customizing your character and playstyle. Now before you go flame their Twitter account, read this: It’s actually a really fun and interesting feature, so don’t be turned off by the small size of the action bar (you got a dirty, dirty mind!!).

In most other MMO’s your character is given a number of skills throughout the game depending on your class choice. At level one you have maybe 2 different skills, by the time you get to max level you’ll have a lot more. The specific number varies from game to game, but I believe it’s safe to assume by max level you can expect having 30+ different skills and spells. But, in all honesty, who uses over 30 different skills? It’s true that with the now very common Talent feature, you end up focusing on one school or type of skills, but even then it’s not granted you’ll use all of the skills relating to your talent choices. What’s more, quite often the talents you choose end up giving you extra skills!

I’m really only using half my spellbook

Let’s try this, go log in to one of your MMO characters and count the number of skills and/or spells you have avaiable. Now count the number of skills and spells you have in your action bar(s) and compare the two. I bet you that the former is greater than the latter. And furthermore, that is most likely what happens with every other player around you, on your server and in the game itself. Some might say there’s not really a problem with that, you’re given a lot of different skills, some of them with a very specific use others with general and broad utility, there’s no downside to that. I’m forced to agree on that, aside from maybe (it’s a remote chance) giving players a bit of work browsing through the spellbook, there’s not really a problem. Or is there? There might be, read on.

Why did ArenaNet decide to give players diminished privileges regarding skill choice? In my opinion, ArenaNet is trying to induce playstyle choices on players. They are trying to make the Engineer A play different then the Engineer B. As in, they want each class to feel unique when compared to the other classes yet still allowing players to play their character they way they want to. I was very interested in this when I first heard of it and playing the Beta Weekend made me fall in love (yet another time) for the game. As I mentioned before my favourite class archtype right now is the Mage, which in GW2 takes the form of the Elementalist. Yet I’ve also always been very passionate about Warriors (not the GW2 profession, the archtype). But the gap between the two meant I never could enjoy them both. ArenaNet scraps that and tells me “Hey, you want to play a melee mage? Sure, take a look at this fella right here, he’s an Elementalist wielding dual daggers, try him out”.

So how does the developers’ intentions of having a number of different playstyles in each character relate to having a (some might say very) limited choice of skills for your action bar? Couldn’t they just give us those skills and nevermind the weapons we use? By limiting our choices ArenaNet is in fact making every warrior who decides to use a two-handed hammer play the same way. Some insight has been given my ArenaNet developer’s here regarding this issue. But a piece of that post made me think of a problem that some players might have with this. By making some of the work for players by giving them pre-built viable builds, the problem of differentiating good players from bad players arises. In Guild Wars 1, apparently, a part of being a good player was coming up with a good build. Ok you can look it up on the internet, but if you do you’re at least trying to become better, and that’s a sign of being good in my opinion. If everyone has a viable build already, that margin of evolution in one’s skill vanishes. In response to this argument, I believe granting that to players is actually a good thing. Facing a huge number of different skills can be overwhelming to new players and to me it’s boring and un-fun having to browse the internet for the “acceptable builds”. It’s as if I’m not playing MY character but a preset type of character, and that’s bad. And besides, I dont feel it’s WHICH skills you on your action bar that makes you a good player (or a bad one for that matter), but HOW you use them.

But we still haven’t figured out why did ArenaNet link skills to weapons. I must admit I did have a hard time thinking of a good reason for this. Not that I disagree with their system, I don’t. But some players have made some good points counter-attacking this system. As you probably know, there is no auto-attack in this game. It’s all skills and / or spells. This might help figuring out our problem. If a Warrior is wielding a one-handed sword, it makes no sense they would have a skill called “Crush” that stuns your opponents. You can’t (to my knowledge) crush someone with a sword, you’ll need a blunt (Hammer) type weapon. At the same time, some other player wielding a two-handed sledgehammer can’t “Slash” anyone with it. It’s kind of stupid how obvious this is. So linking what skills you can use to what weapon you’re using makes sense. Some other games handle this issue by inserting a weapon requirement on the skill (I’m thinking of WoW’s Rogue’s Backstab ability). But it always felt strange to me having locked skills if I dont have the required weapon equipped. At the same time, I can’t think of types of attacks that can be used by a Hammer, a Sword and a Dagger (think WoW’s Warrior’s Mortal Strike). I would at least expect different effects if I’m using different weapons to use the same attack. Crossing over to the real world, you just can’t attack someone with those weapons in the same way. So the case is cracked – at least partially.

     I’ll cut you with the sharp end of my hammer!

There’s one thing I can’t really explain. The casters. I really can’t come up with an explanation as to why my Human Elementalist can’t cast the same spells when he’s equipping a Dagger and when he wields a Staff. I would love to hear your theories about this, post a comment below if you have an explanation for this 🙂

So do ArenaNet developers really have an agenda to try and dictate how us, players, live our characters’ lives? I don’t think so. To me this system is very cool and (at least in some cases) logical. It’s a fun change from the standard MMO and leads to always having a different way to play your character, which I think we all agree is a big plus. And it lets me play a melee Mage, how cool is that?!


From → Guild Wars 2

  1. tjedgar permalink

    Was just giving the new blogs from the #NBI a tour and when I saw yours it instantly reminded me of this…

  2. Sylow permalink

    You really need a reason why some spells can only be cast with a certain type of weapon?

    In this case, i’d just point out: spell components. Refering back to an old pen and paper game i played years ago, it had similar stuff in place.

    Duids used their obsidian or glass daggers, since their kind of magic was enhanced by an earthen spell component. Both obsidian and glass, which is burned sand, are considered “earth”.

    Witches, on the other hand, didn’t just hold their brooms to clean the house, but since it’s wood and thus of organic material, it was a focus for their natures magic.

    Thus magic in GW2 perhaps just follows the same pattern: one spell requires you to have wood available, the other one requires iron. Some of the iron based spells might need a massive “resonance chamber”, which is present in big swords blade, others might require quick hand movement as it has a gesticular component, thus only a light weapon can be held when casting it.

    So, that’s really easy to explain. Your mage basically knows all of those spells, but since they have different requirements on spell components, he can only cast those for which he currently wields the proper weapon.

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