Guild Wars 2 Updated Q&A - New Combat, New Changes, and the Elementalist Class

We get the first details on Guild Wars 2's overhauled combat system, profession system, and the elementalist class.

While the original Guild Wars' unique combination of action role-playing and strategy was first introduced some years ago, developer ArenaNet has quietly been working on the sequel. Now, the studio has finally begun to take the wraps off Guild Wars 2. Lead designer Eric Flannum sits down with GameSpot to discuss the nitty-gritty details on the sequel's improved combat system, its changed profession system, and one of the game's returning professions, the elementalist.

GameSpot: We understand that Guild Wars 2's combat is being enhanced beyond the strategic skill choices of the original game. For instance, tactics such as careful positioning and combination attacks from different professions will play a stronger role. Can you elaborate?

Guild Wars 2 will have an overhauled combat system where positioning, environments, and strategy will really matter.

Eric Flannum: When we say we want positioning to matter, what we really mean is that we want tactical awareness to matter. If, for example, you are using a skill that hits all targets in a straight line, you'll want to line your targets up for maximum effect. A spell that affects a cone-shaped area may need to be aimed in such a way that the middle of the cone is between two targets in order to hit them both. Some skills encourage positioning by providing bonuses if you attack an opponent from the side or rear, so flanking your opponents will matter. A character built to inflict damage at medium range needs skills that will keep opponents from closing the distance as well as those that let him close with long-ranged foes. We want to reward players who are able to maintain good tactical awareness of a situation and can maneuver to take advantage of it.

Combination attacks definitely play a role in this. For example, when an elementalist uses the static field ability, it will create a circle of electrical energy that will damage and stun anyone entering or exiting it. A warrior who uses his rifle to shoot through this circle will charge up his shots, dealing additional damage. If the warrior is to take advantage of the situation, he'll need to position himself to shoot through the static field.

GS: We also understand that weapon selection will greatly change the way different characters perform in the game--certain weapons will affect not only the speed, damage, and types of attacks characters can use, but also half of their 10-slot skill bar. How will choice of weapons affect gameplay?

EF: The first five skills on a player's bar are tied directly to what they're holding in their hands. If I am an elementalist and I equip a staff, my first five skills tend to be skills that are effective at long range. If I equip a scepter or focus [item], then my skills will change to shorter ranged skills. A different profession wielding a staff will have a completely different set of skills to play with. Most professions can equip two weapon sets and switch between them for greater versatility.

GS: And will your characters also gain situational abilities depending on their environments? What are some of the environmental skills and combat powers players will pick up in the right place at the right time?

EF: I've talked about how your weapon affects your first five skills. Well, that system extends to anything that you hold in your hands. For example, picking up a boulder will let you throw it, while grabbing the controls to a catapult will let you aim and fire the catapult.

There are a ton of cool environmental weapons already in the game, and we're adding more of them on a regular basis. We've got an enemy called the Jotun, who wield these massive swords in one hand. They will sometimes throw these huge swords at players, and if they miss, players can grab the sword out of the ground and use it themselves (of course, it's a two-handed sword to a player). One event requires you to protect some beehives from a ravenous bear; if you succeed, you might be able to acquire a jar full of angry bees that you can throw at a target. An elementalist can summon a fiery sword from the heavens that others in their party can use. Each profession is also capable of doing different things with some environmental weapons. An elementalist who picks up a boulder can not only throw it, but can also launch it into the air to have it come crashing down as a meteor.

GS: We're sad to hear that the secondary profession system from the original Guild Wars will not appear in the sequel--instead, players will choose only a single profession. Why go in this direction?

EF: We did have secondary professions in Guild Wars 2 for a time before we decided to remove them. We found that they complicated the game a bit too much and also restricted how unique we could make each profession. For example, elementalists can attune [themselves] to the different elements, which will change their skill bar. This gives them an added layer of complexity that wasn't meshing well with how we wanted the warrior to play. With the addition of racial skills, we found that we just weren't getting enough out of secondary professions to justify the complication and balance issues they add to the game.

GS: However, we understand that Guild Wars 2 will now have multiple playable races that will bring with them various racial abilities, which, along with your character's profession-specific skills, can be used to fill up the other half of your 10-slot skill bar. What races will be in the game and what abilities will they have?

EF: We have five playable races in Guild Wars 2. They are:

Humans: Most of the human abilities in the game call upon the power of their six gods. These abilities can ask for a small favor such as the "prayer to Dwayna," which heals the player. Some of the human abilities ask for major intervention from the gods, such as the one that summons the two fiery hounds of Balthazar to come to the player's aid.

The elementalist will control fire, ice, water, and air--and each element will offer a different experience.

Asura: The abilities of the asura have a lot to do with golems and magic. An asura player might use a simple "arcane blast" or create a deadly "radiation field." If they are really in a bind, they can summon a magical "golem battlesuit" that they can climb into and use to devastate their foes.

Charr: The charr use technology, explosives, and sheer ferocity in battle. Whether laying down a "shrapnel mine" or using a mighty "battle roar," the charr are a force to be reckoned with. Charr also use advanced tactics, such as calling upon warband support to overwhelm their foes with numbers.

Norn: The norn rely on individual feats of strength and their faith in the spirits of the wild. Their link to nature allows them to "call upon bear" to increase their health or "call upon raven" to attack their foes. When the situation calls for it, they can assume snow leopard form to wreak havoc on the field of battle.

Sylvari: The empathic nature of the sylvari allows them to call upon both other sylvari and all green and growing things. They can use the "blessing of the pale tree" to protect themselves or cause an enemy to "take root," immobilizing them. In times of great need, they can call upon the "strength of the dream" to heal themselves from critical damage.

GS: We're pleased to be able to help share the first details on the elementalist class, which uses the power of fire, air, water, and earth. Tell us about each of these four elemental powers and the roles they play.

EF: Elementalists can attune themselves to any of the four elements. While they are attuned, they can then wield that element, which will change their first five skills. They also gain a passive boon while they are attuned. Fire damages anyone who strikes elementalists, water heals nearby allies, earth shields elementalists from harm by increasing their armor, and air causes bolts of lightning to strike nearby enemies.

GS: The elementalist possesses various classes of spells. Tell us about how the glyph spells work, for instance. How can they be used in interesting combinations with other players?

EF: Glyphs are skills that modify elementalists' other skills. For example, "glyph of elemental storage" lets elementalists store a skill for later use. "Glyph of elemental power" gives elementalists the "might boon," which makes all skills do more damage. Elementalists might use the "glyph of elemental storage" to store a skill called "static field." This skill creates an area that will stun anyone entering or exiting it. Elementalists can then use the skill on demand, regardless of what attunement they're using, and use the skill to stun an opponent that is chasing down one of their allies.

GS: Tell us about the profession's signets--how will they differ from glyphs?

EF: Signets are skills that have a passive, ongoing effect whenever they are equipped. The skill then can be used for different active effects, but the player will be without the signet's passive benefit while the skill recharges. "Signet of fire," for example, provides players with an increased chance to inflict critical hits passively. When activated, it will burn elementalists' targets.

GS: What kinds of effects do the profession's conjuring spells have?

EF: Conjures create an environmental weapon that can be picked up and used by either the elementalist or his allies. For instance, "conjure frost" creates a bow of frost that can be used to shoot an icy arrow that freezes the target.

GS: Can you give us some examples of the elementalist's area spells?

EF: The elementalist specializes in area-of-effect spells, so there are many to choose from. One of my favorites is "dragon's breath," which pretty much turns your scepter into a flamethrower. Spewing out a giant cone of flame is never boring. Another would be "frozen ground," which creates an area of icy ground that freezes anyone passing through it; the tactical possibilities of that one are great.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Guild Wars 2's combat, the elementalist profession, or the game itself?

EF: In the coming weeks we'll be revealing a lot more about Guild Wars 2, and I think people will be pleasantly surprised by some of the new and interesting directions we're taking [online] gaming. I also wanted to thank all of the people who have been there to support ArenaNet and the Guild Wars franchise. Seeing people react positively to all our hard work is really one of the great pleasures of creating a game.

GS: Thanks, Eric.

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Discussion

138 comments
ninn1000
ninn1000

@Red Signal, You need to pay to buy the base game but you get four free character slots (you can create up to four, but delete them to regain a slot) and you can unlock more by paying money or buying new campaigns. You can try out different classes in each slot. This is for GW1 though, GW2 will likely be similar though.

Red_Signal
Red_Signal

I have a question.... can you have multiple accounts for GW1 and 2? So that you can try different classes... if you can, I'm definitely getting this game =)

burn6
burn6

sounds promising. but the game engine looks the same to the original, i am really expecting it to look better since the latest games these days have more & complex polygons.

Anicsin
Anicsin

hah this game will kick ass:) long live ascalonian necros

amit1993
amit1993

@Akmehadz0rz I pray that they keep it out.Hated that class,it always felt too all doing. Anyway,sound awesome.The first GW was great and I expect no less from this one!

Akmehadz0rz
Akmehadz0rz

I pray that they keep the Dervish class.

Akmehadz0rz
Akmehadz0rz

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

marcarrelus
marcarrelus

I have no opinion about the game for the moment. I just hope the makers know what they are doing.

Judge_Omega
Judge_Omega

Restricted to one class... Totally the wrong direction. The reason i like the original so much is because there were so many options. Limiting the players options can only decrease the fun factor, turning every elementalist into just another carbon copy of the 2 million others... totally eliminating the aspect i loved so much, the building of novel skill combinations. Terrible terrible terrible.

Hikiera
Hikiera

dragon's breath? multiple races with racial abilities and 1 profession. reminds me of WoW. I always liked GW for its uniqueness from that game by having two professions. The main skills sound awesome tho. I'll have to find out for myself whether it will be better than the first GW which I loved so much

mardinn
mardinn

I hope GW2 will help me remember the spirit of Rpg with MMo..

mardinn
mardinn

I really, really, really miss RPG games.. ;( The only game that I've truly enjoyed was Gothic 1 and 2 .. No Oblivion Or Morrowind for me. Gothic 1 was The Game.

Funlimited
Funlimited

I like the idea of racial skills over secondary professions. I just hope they make each racial skill unique while equally valuable. No need for a dominant race in a diverse game. No need for dominant professions either, aka mage... in nearly every game

icubod88
icubod88

recently started to play my old campaign and even bought all the rest of the guild wars series, that's how cool this game seems to be. Preparing myself for the big number 2! this is the only game that sucks me into the mmo genre, especially since its free from any subscription! Graphics looks like its upping the game for mmo's, and not as out-of-date looking. good buy life...

icubod88
icubod88

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ermhm
ermhm

wow, this just might suck me back into the mmo genre

483paul
483paul

The graphics look the same! lol. Goes to show you how good GW graphics were for its time.

jacozardo
jacozardo

been waiting for gw2 for a while now, been with gw since the release, sounds very promising, hope there r no more delays

483paul
483paul

No second class!?! hmmmm.. I wonder how this is going to play out. I loved that about GW1. Made it so much fun of creating different builds.

danaketh
danaketh

Even that I'm now waiting for SW:TOR, I might try GW2. Looks nice and it's not another WoW crap.

BikerPunk
BikerPunk

GW is a great game. its miuch different from WoW which is why i played both at the same time. GW2 will bring me back to the MMOs and i really look forward to the new system.

whitemute
whitemute

It's hard for games to get me really excited...but GW2 found a way.

Tankerr80
Tankerr80

@WolfWatch This is why Peer 2 Peer is going so hard. People are sick of keeping a open mind for something that looks good.. Talked up.. Then fail hard. But as for the WoW killer.. Many have come many have tried and many have fallen. GW 2 has got my high hopes. I played GW and left it and never came back and untill GW 2 out of nowhere showed up on Gamespot and then I was WTF. A lot of people do not know is WoW programs left blizzard to make GW which is why a lot of GW is a lot like WoW. If ya don't believe me google it. You will see.

WolfWatch
WolfWatch

@musha97 I'm a GW fan, I have all the current releases, but I don't believe it will destroy WoW. Now I'm not saying that I don't share your optimism, I think GW2 is going to the best MMORPG released to date (obviously this is opinionated). But I have to say I believe GW2 and WoW work differently. I would have to believe GW2 will not thrive on the online community as much as WoW does. Since that online community is so important in WoW, GW2 would not seem like a sufficient replacement. Still, Wow Fans, GW Fans, and MMORPG Fans alike. I would completely recommend this game to any of you. We can at least have an open mind and give something a try.

misha97
misha97

I am trying to convince many friends on the fact that Guild Wars 2 will completely destroy World of Warcraft. WoW players are extremely stubborn. Finally, less grinding, more fun. Just the way it should be. Keep it up ANET - best MMO company out there.

Farkeman
Farkeman

hope they will add some cc in the game , coz pvp in gow 1 sucked so much that i sold the game on ebay for 99 cents :)

danyjr
danyjr

Wow looks great. I hope smoother than the original GW. If they get the servers running without crash they can attract lots and lots of players. I mean who wants to pay for an MMO when there is one sitting here, for free!

keymaster7
keymaster7

This is going to be one hellava game when its released...can't wait!

Crusnik-02
Crusnik-02

I have never played this game, but i like the idea of paying for game and playing it without any monthly fees. This is how it should be.

amerus
amerus

if gw sticks to a no monthly fee then im definatly going to play this as a second mmo.

LordDeArnise
LordDeArnise

Guild Wars...the only MMO game I've played for more than 2 years, and the sequel, the way it's being built, will be no exception.

guitarist1980
guitarist1980

This is going to be a tough choice... I am only going to play one more MMORPG.. its either this or the TOR. Going to be very interesting to see who wins the subs.

xxscammersxx
xxscammersxx

i absolutely loved the first guild wars, and number 2 is looking even better.

Syrenz
Syrenz

Right now I'm leaning towards Sylvari for my first character. Not sure which class yet as I want to see which new classes they are adding. They say 8 classes, some old ones and some new ones. Can't wait to see them. Sylvari Assassin sounds nice though if they're using assassins :).

Nodashi
Nodashi

Sounds really interesting. I'll be playing an Asura Elementalist probably, little alien guy with metal golem and arcane powers FTW :)

FuriousDre
FuriousDre

God, I've been waiting for this game for so long. I knew it'd be worth the wait. I just know it's going to sell millions of copies within the first month and months afterward. Go ArenaNet! xD

Slagar
Slagar

Everything I've seen from this company has been top notch from day one (and I've watched, when I first heard about the company, being some ex-Blizzard talent). These guys work hard, take risks, and have some exceptional talent. I can't wait. I'm also still dying to see/hear about the swimming they're being so tight-lipped about.

ionusX
ionusX

@ mamono141 yes and swim in fact swimming was originally supposed to be apart of gw1 but it was removed after the content for the underwater side of the game was considered dull.. so yeah now you know..

keemoz
keemoz

gotta say , those people of A net are so creative and deserve all the success.

mamono141
mamono141

Bottom line for me, can you jump in GW2? I don't trust a game where you can't jump.

Lordan007
Lordan007

I am WOW fan,thats all i got to say

jad206
jad206

The one then I LOVE about GW is that you can make a pvp only character and jump right into RA and TA.

winyon
winyon

@IAmWhopperMan Does it really matter if the skills have the same names and similar icons? Really, I don't see the problem, why fix something that isn't broken? Why make up new names when the previous names are good for the skills? Like "Fear me!", should it be "Run for your life!" with a different icon?! Lack of creativity, surely not. I just don't understand how you can focus on something so trivial.

Streetrider9873
Streetrider9873

While the secondary profs are fun in GW1, i think its a great move by ANet to take them out this time around. Players mainly specialized in their primary ability anyways - I never made a R/Mo and played as a monk, for example...

TheFallingOne
TheFallingOne

Oke I'm going to freeze my self until it is released... It worked in South Park, right? I WANT GW2! Been Playing Gw1 for 5 years now ME WANT GW2!!!!

walk0nwalls
walk0nwalls

I am going to miss dual-speccing though. That was one of my favorite things out of Guild Wars.

Robinvd1986
Robinvd1986

those 2 screens look very pretty! keeping an eye on this.