I’ve been pondering a quick introduction to GW2’s combat ever since the beta weekends and now that so many players are deep down that rabbit hole, I’ve had plenty of time to analyze my own playstyle during various encounters and listen to others experiences. As many have pointed out, combat in GW2 is both similar and different to older MMOs which means depending on where you’re coming from, it will take more or less adjusting.
Naturally, the following beginner tips are all based on these personal experiences, having played several classes during beta and mostly an Elementalist since headstart. If you’re handling yourself just fine in GW2’s combat, then congratulations – this guide is not for you! If you however feel slightly frustrated with the new playstyle, things like damage taken or frequent deaths, maybe you can find something here. For myself, I know it takes time to evolve a playstyle that fits with an MMO this new and comparing notes is always the way to go for me before reaching final conclusions and judgements. I’m still learning how to properly move and work with my Elementalist and here and there I am carrying old MMO baggage in terms of combat mindset. GW2 has different, tactical elements from WoW or Rift for example and beasts of habit that we all are, I think it would be a lie to claim I am not affected, nevermind my general enthusiasm.
So, the following recommendations are sweet and simple my observations and tips for getting into GW2 combat for fellow rookies:
1) Move it, move it, move it!
Level-inappropriate mobs and bad pulls aside, the majority of all my deaths in GW2 so far can be attributed to not moving and dodging enough. I’m not just talking obvious red rings on the ground; many attacks and mob-specific specials can be anticipated and dodged with some experience. Circle- and side-strafing IS your friend to keep tougher mobs at a distance which can’t be kited as much as maybe in other MMOs (they reset quite soon). This is particularly important for all the more squishy, ranged classes out there: mobility and timing are key, which is easily forgotten while taking unnecessary hits. You can move while performing most attacks, so make use of that advantage and remember that most GW2 attacks/spells/projectiles aren’t homing missiles!
Some illustrations for the visually inclined (images expandable):
|Take the hit? I don’t think so!|
|Use line of sight / Circle strafe while casting|
If you find your fingers playing twister more than usual, consider using a keybind for lock-on-target that suits you. Obviously mouse key bindings are fantastic for various commands.
2) You have more than 5 attack abilities!
My partner commented that, having played a ranger just a short while and then reading up on it, he had completely missed much of that class’ full potential. Using a more “classic hunter approach”, he had stuck to one pet rather than swapping frequently, and within the same encounter. While at a first glance GW2’s 5 attack skills appear very straightforward, none of the classes actually only have 5 of them and they are also not “your spec”! I am not a fire elementalist; I switch elements all the time during longer fights, to cycle through AoE or kiting abilities as needed or to avoid spells on cooldown. At any given time, I have 20 attack skills to use within the same encounter. More when I switch weapons between fights.
For other classes weapons work the same way in combat, or pets, or turrets. This is your versatility – make use of it and don’t stare at cooldowns unless you want to! If you’re the type that gravitates towards a “rotation”, consider that your rotation can include a lot more than the attacks currently seen on the action bar. If you dislike the use of F-keys for switching, change some key bindings.
A note on auto-attack: At first, the auto-attack in GW2 takes some getting used to. The best way to think of it though is as your “bridge attack”; its not the strongest attack, but it let’s you cycle through different weapons, elements etc. looking for other, active attacks while not doing nothing. Considering that GW2 does encourage frequent switches within longer encounters, one auto-attack ability used as “time bridge” is incredibly well conceived an element. (You can actually re-assign your auto-attack by clicking ctrl+mouse2; I would advise keeping a no/low-cooldown ability though for obvious reasons.)
3) The show ain’t over at death!
Hunter wrote an interesting article pointing out that in GW2 parties don’t just wipe because one or two people are down. If you find yourself in a 5man dungeon for example, there’s the option to rez at a waypoint and run back to your (hopefully) still-fighting buddies as fast as your two feet will carry you. I’ve always liked this approach in other MMOs I’ve played – just because someone is down shouldn’t mean the entire group surrenders! Where’s the challenge in that? Players should be able to make up for each other and try outlast such situations. It can be an incredible rush and fun to make it despite all odds!
Obviously, having no focused roles in GW2 means it’s easier to outlast critical deaths. Roles are fluent and there are no more or less “important people” in a party, the often unforgiving way you’d have it with a holy trinity. This adds tactical and potentially chaotic elements and decreases the sort of downtime where some party members are constantly forced to kill themselves because of others. No, you can still do it – so, don’t give up yet after a death, keep fighting and/or running back!
4) Know your utilities and adapt
It’s easy to get used to the same buffs and abilities in your right skill bar, but many skills have situational value and are worth swapping frequently depending on encounters. If you notice survivability issues for example, maybe it’s worth choosing more oh-shit abilities and debuffs (blind, paralyze, slow etc.) for a while, or pets to get some mob focus off yourself. In some areas enemies use status ailments frequently – that’s when otherwise shunned dispel abilities come handy.
In general, quite a few utility skills you can buy in your character tab probably look a little “useless” at first; however, if you think of them as less permanent and more situational, things change.
5) A word on traits
It’s worth mentioning that your traits especially have significant impact on your overall powers and abilities. Unlike skills which you cannot reset (there are skill points available to buy what you need in abundance), you can reset your traits at your class trainer. Experimenting can make a great difference and it’s how your personal preferences and specific playstyle really come through and impact on overall combat. Is your gear low on a certain stat? Choosing traits accordingly will let you balance that.
…Of course, it only took me 24 levels to realize I actually had traits at first. Oh, blessed are our newbie days! All guides and good intentions aside, enjoy them is all I can tell you – they are wonderful and not here to stay!
P.S. I’ve written a similar overview for leveling and gaining experience points in GW2. It can be found here.