[GW2] Why the Guardian Matters

I think that Guild Wars 2 fans are going to be on a self-propelled roller coaster of excitement and energy until the guardian profession drops. It’s fun to speculate on upcoming Guild Wars 2 news with such focus, rather than trying to have a meaningful conversation about all the things we don’t know about Guild Wars 2. I am very happy that the guardian is the next profession of the four. I am much more likely to play a “mesmer,” but I think the guardian is more important in telling the story of combat and group dynamics.

With the few hints we know from concept art and the Edge of Destiny novel, the guardian is support melee. I’ll link the Edge of Destiny guardian breakdown over at Hunter’s Insight again because the article is so good. The guardian, as written, seems to minimize the effect of enemy’s attacks and control their movements. The profession also appears to have some sort of direct healing capabilities and may have assimilated a bit of ye ol’ ritualist profession by taking the weapon spells piece of the pie. Whereas the warrior profession has an offense-is-the-best-defense feel, the guardian well… guards.

The other four professions all have a very proactive feeling that seems to come with the conventional MMO’s DPS (damage-per-second) classes. Sure, the elementalist can switch to a very support-based water attunement, and the necromancer has some forms of crowd control support such as the necromancer exclusive fear condition. However, all of the profession released so far have a very forward feel to them. I can’t imagine a warrior or ranger playing a non-aggressive, reactive role like a conventional MMO’s tank or healer classes. Yet, the guardian is the first profession that feels like it could be a primary supporting role rather than the other proactive warrior, ranger, elementalist, or necromancer professions.

The thing that worries me the most is the monk paradigm from Guild Wars. In Guild Wars, every profession at launch had ways to change builds to perform different roles from attack to support to control. The monk profession steps in and completely blows away every other profession in regards to support. The group balance became so skewed with one or two monks in support role that there was no reason for anybody else to bring support skills. This just further skewed group balance. For example, instead of a warrior being a balanced, survivable body on the field that could deal damage, help support, and heal control enemies, the warrior became a rabid, frothing blood god of melee damage that knew the monk in the back would take care of that pesky support thing.

Yet, I have a lot of hope that ArenaNet did the right thing this time with the guardian. Even if the guardian is a so-called “support class,” there are plenty of ways to support a group rather than pressing the heal button. Locking down enemies with crowd control is much more proactive than locking down damage. Body-blocking projectiles and enemies by having great battlefield awareness can be very proactive. Weapon spells from Guild Wars, like Wailing Weapon or Vengeful Weapon, require skillful use at just the right time. These are the design strategies I believe ArenaNet took to heart in creating the guardian.

Still, this doesn’t necessarily relieve all the danger of the guardian following it’s monk predecessor to the point of being required in a group setting. In a perfect world, a guardian could easily be replaced by a mace and board warrior with a DPS elementalist ready to switch to water when necessary, or a necromancer that uses her minions and spells to harass a multitude of enemies. I pray that I will never hear “group looking for guardian then ready to go” when there are so many other non-guardian players waiting in the wings.

So far each of the revealed professions have shown great utility, and I think that the guardian class will not be any different. It will be very interesting to see how ArenaNet presents the next class with the dangerous prejudices in mind.

–Ravious
the rest, you’ve got to let go

32 thoughts on “[GW2] Why the Guardian Matters”

  1. Yup, so far it sounds a lot like they mixed tank and healer together in one character.

    If ONE Guardian is required, you might also hear the opposite: “4/6, no more Guardians, then GO!”

    Let’s see how this will turn out in the end.

    1. Healer? If anything, the class focuses more on protection and crowd control. It was mentioned in Edge of Destiny that Logan can heal a bit, but it’s over time. Weapon spells seem awesome, hopefully we’ll see some cool stuff.

      Just my opinion.. we’ll see. :-P

  2. In a persistent world, with shared kills, XP, and karma, I don’t see why people would even bother making groups in the first place. Yeah, ok, dungeons, but who cares? If making a group took more than 45 minutes, I’d say, “I could’ve made half a level by now, cya laters.”

    Honestly, I’d love to see people make a full Guardian group, respec for different roles, and just go. If it fails, at least you’re not sitting around waiting for stuff to happen.

    1. True. For so much of gameplay a group balance won’t matter much at all, but that’s almost the case for all MMOs now. Open world is a big solo fest, and dungeons are where you group.

    2. For me grouping is increasingly just a convenient way to keep track of friends I’m playing with. You get a private chat channel for communication, you can see where your group members are on the map, and you can see their health bars and what effects affect them in a list under your portrait.

      I’m hoping that the days where people make groups so that they can tackle specific content are on the way out and that they just make groups for those that they want to play together with. All we really have left in GW2 (unfortunately) is dungeons. For the rest you group because you want to, not because you have to.

      Or so I hope.

      1. Right. I agree. Grouping isn’t a necessity, but it’s available for you to make things easier. It’s a good thing, a nice change of pace from Guild Wars 1.

        I don’t think it’s unfortunate. You still have guild, friends, and random encounters that will still provide grouping. Regardless what a lot of people think, I know there’s going to be a few dynamic event encounters where you’re going to get group invites. There’s also going to be plenty of opportunities within your guild for grouping.

        Same thing goes for Rift. You don’t have to group in that game, but you can to make things easier. Just my opinion. :-)

        1. The issue in RIFT is that many of the support abilities only work on group members – which is an incredibly backward design choice if you ask me. There’s a very good reason WoW has been removing such limitations for the last 5 years…

          So if you’re playing a healing character, such as my Chloromancer? Grouping is really a necessity rather than an option.

          In the context of GW2, however, it really seems like grouping is mechanically redundant. I assume that the party frames will look something like GW1’s, where only the bare minimum information is presented. And given that there are no ally-targeted abilities, you won’t need to use the party UI to target allies…

          I’m looking forward to grouping really being a social tool again, rather than a mechanical headache. :)

            1. Luckily in RIFT’s case it’s a very easy fix, whether it be via some tweaks to the abilities, or a decent open grouping system.

              For that matter, you can just ask for an invite to the rift raid, it’s not a huge deal. :) I just like the idea of being able to help some people I stumble across, without having to feel like I’m begging for a raid invite or intruding on some guild group.

  3. As long as the Guardian isn’t any more effective than other professions in regards to healing and migating damage, it will not fall under the monk paradigm.

    Nothing wrong with giving a profession the ability to heal and buff but it doesn’t have to be worthwhile skill. Lets say they dramatically increase the cool downs or cost of using such skills where it it’s just not equated as a Monk profession.

  4. I’m quite optimistic that they’ll be as offensively-minded as the other professions we’ve seen; no more than 2 skills in any weaponset given over to purely supportive skills, often only 1 or none at all.

    The scepter & staff are question marks in that respect, but then there is that spectacular art piece of a guardian with chained magical weapons flying around him; could be a good avenue for a soldier to have magic offense – attack spells, but dealing slashing/piercing/blunt damage rather than elemental.

    I feel the profession mechanic is going to be the crucial element; if the profession is somehow inherently supportive that’s a big deal, but if it’s anything more self-centred then it will be on a similar track to the previous professions.

  5. I’m pretty sanguine about it. One of their explicit design goals is “no required group composition”, and they seem to be taking those goals seriously. The interesting thing is how they’re going to reconcile that with the heavy armor feel of the class.

    1. D&D Clerics (and Warlords in 4e) managed to combine heavy armor with a support role. It’s not too much of a stretch.

  6. What concerns me most is that we probably won’t really *know* what kind of class the Guardian is, for quite a long time. Arena Net has been incredibly vague in their profession releases so far, seldom offering any concrete details. If you think about what we know of GW2, the vast majority of it has come to light due to people dissecting the demo, or from ANet responding to specific questions from the community.

    So, for example, we won’t know if a staff wielding guardian brings 1 healing skill to the table, or 3. We probably won’t know the real mechanics of the “shielding” spells – sure, they “protect our allies from damage”, but how much? An absolute value, or a percentage? For how long? With what recharge?

    As another example, look at the necromancer – I distinctly recall ANet describing the necro as a potential support professions, but the official reveal doesn’t mention this that I can find. And in practice, it only seems to translate into two wells that apply the regeneration buff. That’s not substantially more than the warrior is capable of – in fact, I think it’s less if the warrior brings a lot of banners and the right traits!

    In short, ANet could give us a profession reveal that says “the guardian protects and heals his allies!”. We would then be forced to assume anything we can from that little bit of information – I don’t see them going back to the demo and adding the guardian at this point, after all – until potentially months down the road when we finally see the guardian’s actual weapon skills. At which point, we may very well go “oh, yeah 90% of these are just damage skills, or skills like water trident that do a tiny amount of healing in an area when you attack something”.

    Personally I’m unconcerned. I think ANet has done a good job so far of really making self-healing much more effective than group healing. I’m quite curious to see what exactly they give the guardian for cool toys, however – it seems to me like weapon spells, as the ritualist had them, just aren’t visual enough for GW2… Not to mention “prot monk”-like shielding spells!

    1. Good point. We were definitely spoiled with all the demo footage. Have to keep that in mind. Perhaps PAX East will have an updated demo… with at least the heretofore released classes.

  7. A very good article Ravious. It clearly states what a lot of people are thinking right now in terms of how the guardian will probably play.

    My only concern though reguarding the guardian in general is that ex guild wars players and other people comming over from other MMO’s (LOTR:O, WoW etc) are going to come into this with the mentality of “Oh look a guardian class, must be heavy support” thus starting the trend of trying to bring in the Holy Trinity.

    Now while I know that its bound to come back in some way, shape or Form caused by players who are comfortable with that concept, I really hope Anet sticks to their guns and does a good job on the remaining professions as they have with the others in term of offensive, support, crowd controle etc.

    Once again a very good article and keep them comming. Enjoy reading them.

    -Raz.

  8. Shrugs, I’m excited. I’m a raving anticpatory GW2 fanboy at the best & worst of times and until evidence turns up to the contrary, I’m going to continue being uber-optimistic about the Guardian combining the best of what I enjoy about tanks, CoH dominators (cc/damage) and buff/support.

    The thing about tanks that I love, besides the utter personal survivability, is their ability to cc by positioning. Facing mobs away from the party, utilizing scenery and LOS rules to pull ranged mobs, corner pulls, proper use of knockbacks, it’s a lot of fun situational awareness that can be done well or done badly = ability to show off player skill.

    City of Heroes dominators get to hold them (cc) and then damage them (dps). Done properly, with sufficient numbers of mobs to be exciting, and cc that lasts a reasonable but not ridiculous amount of time, it is again a big fun situational awareness cc juggling scenario. Taking out the heavy hitters, testing knowledge of which mobs are immune or susceptible to certain types of cc, juggling holds back and forth like a tank juggles aggro and taunts on multiple mobs.

    And again I’d have to thank CoH for making buff/support a fun and appealing role for me. Especially when the buff/support are significant enough to feel and can help both yourself and the other characters around you. Force fields, AoE heals, etc.

    The Edge of Destiny breakdown suggests at least one skill may resemble Global Agenda’s Robotics class shield, a positional shield wall that both they and others can take cover behind and hide from ranged attacks.

    If the GW2 Guardian ends up pulling from these sorts of roots, it’s going to be a very fun active and reactionary sort of class which rewards situational awareness and proper positioning. And of course, heavy armor and a big heavy mace or hammer mean a certain amount of happy thwacking of heads.

    (Even if the hammer follows GW roots and does knockdown, which then implies proper judicious user of hammer = another form of cc to set things up for the party’s takedown. *floats along deamily in imaginary melee tank/cc heaven*)

    … I can hope. It’s a change from being cynical, for once. :)

  9. I think we’re missing the really interesting speculation. Every class so far has had a companion or summon. What will a Guardian summon or have?

      1. Hopefully they’re more exciting than the elementalist weapon summons we’ve seen. :( Other than the icy bow, I haven’t been especially excited by them. I guess we shall see in time…

  10. I could actually see the guardian becoming the tank of groups, both PUG’s and dungeon groups. with warriors having that 3 attacks thing, sword warriors coming with sever artery and 2 others that I can’t remember now, but to my mind that puts warriors into a more DPS role. I can see guardians been a damage reduction style, both to themselves and the group. meaning that the guardian takes the aggro of the monster, whilst the rangers and warriors deal the quick damage (plus I’m assuming there are going to be ‘sins in this game, but there may not be)

    of course I could be wrong, the guardian may do other things, like perhaps he nominates one member of the group as the person to guard and a percentage of damage caused to that person is transferred to the guardian or something a lot like that.

    Personally I can see myself playing a guardian, hopefully with a big 2 handed hammer. very similar in feel to the warrior priest from warhammer (not the online MMO, but the tabletop game)

  11. Best as I can figure (connecting dots, reading between lines, etc), the guardian will be something of an amalgam between Warrior, Paragon, and Ritualist, but working in a very general sense like an Elementalist. I’m expecting AoE Buffs, prots, and tactical support (Those fire areas for arrows, armor of ice, and static field would be the ele equivelents).

    Of course, I’ve been wrong before. I’ll have to wait and see.

  12. Those that have been involved in GW1 and the set up for GW2; followed the dev logs and the profession releases; seen the manifesto, the retroactive and the other ANet videos; and have generally followed the game in its release period will not see the Guardian as a Monk class. These will be the players who try to play the game as it is meant to be played.

    It is those players coming from games where the holy trinity is king (WoW, Aion etc), or do not know the ethos the game is trying to build, who will try to play the game with certain professions being healers.

    What will be interesting is whether the game CAN be played like that – if not, then we might be ok, Guardians will be who they are meant to be and we will all be happy bunnies. If it CAN be played with certain professions being monks, then it WILL be played like that – this is what I’m afraid of.

  13. Looks like it’s shades of prot-monk, paragon and ritualist.

    http://www.guildwars2.com/en/the-game/professions/guardian/

    The asura Guardian looks hilarious.

    The idea of giving up self benefits for one’s allies at the right time is a very clever way to balance this. I suppose time will tell whether players will figure out how to move in and out of combat effectively, or if they will end up playing one half of a Guardian spamming ally buffs. Two minute cooldowns though.

    Skill videos need to load faster. *twitches impatiently*

    The shield of absorption looks nice, circular dome shield. Wonder if after absorbing those arrows you get ranged attacks in return?

    Not sure what faithful strike was showing with the glowing shields though, unless that was aegis in play too.

    Zealot’s defence looks fun, showing off the spirit weapon. Those hammer thwacks sound crazy meaty.

    Did you see the distance of knockback on the two-handed hammer in the wall of deflection video… Egads. Has shades of City of Heroes kb debates all over again. Should be fun times debating tactical use of knockback and punting it towards melee allies and away from ranged ones. :)

    1. And now that hammer of wisdom has finally loaded, I bet they’ve mixed up a few videos.

      That looks lots more like an offensive style kill ’em first type defence than a big hammer.

      *tries to figure out if zealot’s defence and hammer of wisdom got mixed, or if faithful strike was also mixed with those*

  14. Great read again!

    I totally can agree with you. I like the idea ArenaNet is going with where instead of healing someone after they have taken damage, why not just protect them from taking that damage in the first place? I think the guardian stands by this very well. Protecting and supporting other people instead of mashing healing skills.

    I also agree where you said ArenaNet avoiding the “dangerous prejudices” of Dps, tank etc. This is an issue they are tackling magnificently. Every profession so far has many different ways of going about the battlefield. ArenaNet really wants to make an ordinary game like no one has seen before. And by golly I think they can do it!

    Thanks again, Evan.

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