[GW] Guild Wars as Puzzle Game

One thing I am aware of but that has yet to fully become a part of me is that Guild Wars is not a game for “your build.” There is a baked-in expectation that you will vary your build to the circumstances, rather than seeing just how well build X works. My usual Ranger loadout has been based around the combo poison-bleed-Epidemic, so when half the enemies in a mission are fleshlessly immune to poison and bleeding, 3/8 of my skills are useless. I don’t see the game seeing this as a problem, because you can leave and come back with other skills or even another secondary profession. Different builds will play dramatically differently, but you cannot switch on the fly, so it is kind of like my old dream system of giving you many alt options painlessly without repeated level-grinding. But I need to get into the mindset that this is Schroedinger’s character, who is at one moment this, one moment that, and at all times all of them.

Looking for some recommendations on a Ranger build, I learned that Guild Wars players will design builds to farm exactly two spawns. This is a new degree of specialization beyond my habits.

Two other things I am learning about Guild Wars recommendations? They take into account that the game is about to turn 7. They expect that you have all the skills and probably all the elite skills. Commenters have helpfully been providing suggestions for my newb experience, but Guild Wars builds are based around elite skills, and I don’t even recognize the zone names where you can get those skills. Similarly, because of all the above points, the game seems to be balanced around the assumption that you know what you are about to fight (and will bring the appropriate skills/party). I refer to games/levels/etc. as being “fair” if you could reasonably beat them without knowledge from previous playthroughs. Some builds must have a larger margin of error for that, but Guild Wars does not share that principle, as with the missions in which 3/8 of your skills are useless for the boss fight. So these are some knowledge barriers to adapt to unless I am just exploring GW as a single player game.

: Zubon

20 thoughts on “[GW] Guild Wars as Puzzle Game”

  1. I suppose you’re right, there are certain encounters which become inexorably easier when you know in advance what you’regoing to face. For example, there is a mission in the middle of the nightfall campaign which requires you to fight a whole load of tough earth enemies in an environment where earth damage is multiplied by 4. If you know in advance you can bring the ranger skill “winter” (which changes all elemental damage into cold damage) and save yourself a real headache, but its making those mistakes and learning from them which us early adopters had so much fun with.

    1. “… but its making those mistakes and learning from them which us early adopters had so much fun with.”

      ^ this.

      Making do with the skills you have is part of the game. GW’s difficulty got a lot reduced over the years on top of adding very powerful skills and helpers that I still consider to take away rather than add to the game, like the “consumables”/”conset”. People nowadays seem unable to run to a collector without a runner and a conset.

    2. Yet you do not need to rely on external resources to get the information you need. In the Rilohn Refuge outpost is an NPC named Motur who will give you a mission briefing, and one of the tips he gives you is to bring either skills that protect against earth damage or convert earth damage to something else.

      I believe all mission outposts in every campaign have someone who will give you necessary information, though the ones in Prophecies are not as informative as the others.

  2. It’s that design that makes me wish you could change your loadout on the fly. It’s not as much fun to go back to town to respec and then trudge through the instance again.

    To be sure, I *love* that you can respec as easily and as fundamentally as you can in GW… it’s just that encounters designed around multiple playthroughs, skill farming or external research never sit all that well with me and my limited schedule. It’s a playstyle thing.

    1. The right build makes things a lot easier.

      There are some horrible Elementalist bosses that deal incredibly much more damage in Hard Mode. More than people would expect even if they know they are going to fight in Hard Mode.

      Without Protective Spirit and Broad Head Arrow this is going to be a tough fight.

      But you could also figure out how to do it with the skills you have. Staying at max range and shooting from there while one buffed as much as possible player “tanks” such a boss works well, too.

      THIS will get taken away in GW2. You will apparently be able to switch your skills out of combat. It makes sense the world is set up in GW2, much more open and all that.

      I want to point out that also valid arguments can be made against switching skills on the fly.

      I wouldn’t change that in GW anymore and in GW2 the way they intend to do it makes sense.

  3. At least in the missions if you talk to the one guy in the outpost they’ll give you a general idea of what’s to do in the coming mission and what you’ll encounter. But this info is really general so I don’t know if it’ll help you every time you enter a new mission.

    As for the elite skills, there are a small set of ‘core’ elite skills that can be found in each of the campaigns that’ll probably be easier to get than any none core skills. A good ‘all-purpose’ elite for rangers is probably Barrage. It’s even better if you have a Ritualist secondary or a even a Rit hero that has a skill like Splinter Weapon. However this means your condition/epidemic build might have issues as barrage negates all preparations.

    In addition to that, I usually have a interrupt skill on my bar as that is always handy. You’ll have to look at the wiki for details as I plum can’t recall any names.

    Hope this helps.

    1. This is good advice, except Barrage is a pain to capture in all campaigns. The only place it isn’t is Boreas Seabed, which you don’t get to for quite some time into Factions.

      Weirdly, the easiest place to get a decent Ranger elite skill early is in Nightfall, where you can get Burning Arrow after the 4th mission, Consulate Docks. Alternatively, Poison Arrow is available around Droknar’s Forge in Prophecies and Prepared Shot is available just outside Eye Of The North.

      They aren’t necessarily the elite skills you’ll find being used or recommended by lots of people, but they are decent enough to get you through the game with enough umph to reach the ones that are. The main problem with Guild Wars is that there are too many filler skills. Ones that only see the light of day in really specific circumstances, or never get used at all. For elite skills, these seem to be front loaded in every campaign which is really sucky for new players.

      So you’re right, starting Guild Wars now with all the content and skills that are out there is tough. My best advice is either play through Prophecies or Nightfall first. Prophecies because it is the most stand alone of the 3, and you get a lot of skills for free from doing quests. Also these skills will usually be the ones you need as you go into the next area. Nightfall because you get the heroes and free skills from hero skill points (of all professions).

      Happy hunting!

    2. While checking builds over the weekend, I found that I could easily get Barrage: I was half-way through the Asura primary arc, and a Destroyer boss in one of the outdoor zones had it. I switched to a Barrage/Pet Ranger shortly after this, and I am very happy with that. I’m not using my secondary much, and I did keep the bleed because I like it so much and it works against the vast majority of targets.

      1. That’s good to hear. I was going to offer the same advice as Tasha did; barrage is just one of those skills that is always pretty useful. My general ranger build is something like Barrage, one or two interrupts (distracting and savage shot), a res skill (either res signet or a perma-res if you have a monk or ritualist secondary), and then pretty much anything else.

        You’re totally right that 99% of the guides out there are HIGHLY specialized. Of all the campaigns, EotN is by far the most expecting of full builds because it both came out last and was designed to be challenging for level 20s because it was only an expansion rather than a stand-alone. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy your barrage pet build, I remember using it a lot back in the day. It’s still a decent fallback.

  4. You’ve put your finger on the main problem I’ve always had with Guild Wars and, to a lesser extent, with Rift. I play characters, not “toons” or avatars. I’m not a roleplayer but I am a character player and I become untethered and uncomfortable if my characters begin to drift.

    I strongly prefer defined class systems to open-skill. I always preferred AD&D to Runequest. I don’t even like multi-classed systems all that much. It’s much easier to come to grips with if the abilities can be hot-swapped. That seems much more like sitting down hastily and thumbing through a spell-book to learn a new spell or rifling through memories of previous fights to come up with a strategy that might work.

    Having to leave an instance and respec as you do in Guild Wars or run far enough away from the fight that you drop out of combat as you do in Rift is a serious jolt to the integrity of the character. It’s tantamount to saying you were playing Fred but now your playing Jim instead.

    It’s game-like and increasingly I find I dislike game-like mechanisms in my games.

    1. How do you feel about GW2’s swapping weapons to change skills?

      Seems to me that is a good middle ground between being stuck with one build that is ineffective sometimes and basically retooling into a totally different character like GW1.

      1. I think it is a reasonable approach. The GW1 convention (“Hey, you’ve forgotten all 1000 skills you laboriously learned and capped – except for these 8 which you have active”) didn’t make much sense either aside from play “balance” which shouldn’t matter all that much in PvE anyway. Different weapons handle differently anyway, so why not use that?

        Now, I’m not sure I’m a fan of having only four skills and the traditional one elite skill to customize withe the first four taken by weapons and a mandatory heal. We’ll have to see how it works in practice. It had better be worth it to all of the console players for whom it is designed… *grumble*

  5. Yeah some of my suggestions the last time involved elites from deep in the Prophecies (Ether Renewal) and Factions (Soul Twisting) campaign, well at least you’ve a boost in power level to look forward too. There is a way around it, you can unlock elites for your heroes through acquiring Balthazar faction (3000 pts or several matches worth) in PvP, but if the elite is for yourself you need a costly elite tome to acquire it.

    Talking about being prepared for missions/quests, when you rescued Koss there was a one time only chance to acquire ‘Barrage’, otherwise you have to wait til later. I think that sums up the GW experience, there is always plenty of ways to be better prepared and the wiki is king.

    So elites you do have access to, besides Tasha’s suggestion about Prepared Shot, I’d suggest Grenth’s Grasp (+volley).

  6. The thing about GW1 is that outside of hard mode and some storyline missions, your build really doesnt matter that much. You can fill your group with a good mix of henchmen NPCs and get through most of the content by just walking around and letting them do most of the work. Once you get through Nightfall, you can make hard mode fairly easy with a few good hero builds. The GW wiki is a great place to tell you where and how to capture the elite skills you need to fill out your team.

    A mesmer hero with Panic and some interrupts is invaluable for reducing your enemy’s effectiveness. A necro hero is generally as good of a minion master as a person. Hero monks dont complain about how hard it is to keep you alive. I prefer one protection monk to negate incoming damage and one healing monk to heal any damage that does happen. A restoration ritualist with protective spirits helps keep your group alive long enough for the monks to recover from massive initial attacks. An SoS Signet of Souls) spirit summoning ritualist summons an army of spirit warriors that will help spread enemy damage out and gets you the initial kills you need for your minion master to start building an undead army.

    I guess you could say that I generally run around with “my build” (which is usually a pretty generic toolkit build, not a trick build) and instead tailor my hero team for any tricks needed.

  7. Not /entirely/ true. Most things in the game can be solved with simple damage-stacking. Conditions aren’t usually as powerful though they are helpful for more powerful bosses with large amounts of health.

    Glass Arrows is a great skill for pure damage on rangers, though I don’t remember where you capture it. Pair it with Dual Shot or Triple Shot for great single-target spikes (which is not all that popular in group play, mind you). There’s a number of other PvE skills which increase straight damage as well, and I’ve seen damage go into the triple digits per shot with such builds (especially with skills that switch your damage type to suit elemental weaknesses).

    1. Jepp, speaking of offense, most areas in the game ar easy if you go for pure damage with a bit of interrupt (one or two mesmers, possibly even three, since the can do both).
      If you look at the defense, you just swap around a bit of “more anti-condition”, “more anti-hex”, “more active protection” and “more heal”, balance it according to the area, pull some little trick like the aforementioned “winter” and you’re done.

      Most of the game is manageble without changing the build much. And I agree in degeneration being mainly useless.

  8. I’ve been duo’ing GW for a while, mostly Prophecies but also a bit of EotN after that was unlocked. I do find the need to research builds, and the frustration that I haven’t reached most of the skills in these builds has annoyed me.

    No doubt as two relative novices we are pretty bad at playing but we’ve hit walls a few times (working on Ascension quests in Prophecies and I think the Norn quests in EotN) where we just can’t work out how to complete missions.

    To be frank I don’t enjoy a game that is *that* overtuned to expecting specific builds for quests or pre-knowledge of every little fight.

    Up until this point we got on ok, very rarely dying in fact but it just seems to have flipped over from super easy to really hard on a knife’s edge. Sort of like going from leveling in WoW to Cataclysms pre-nerf heroics.

    1. I’m assuming you’ve gotten max armor for your characters. After that, you need to take a long look at your armor upgrades (runes and insignia). Individually, they look very minor, but collectively they have a huge impact. Multiply that by your entire party and you will have a much more enjoyable experience.

      I remember the first time an experienced player told me an ele shouldn’t bother to play without 100 energy in their pool. I thought it was insane, but once you’ve tried a big pool, your mindset changes. Same for a high-specialization headpiece (headpiece +1; superior rune +3 = +4 to skill – wow!) and same if you have too many superior runes. Rune of vigor – plus 30 to 50 health doesn’t sound like all that much by itself, but it can give your monk that extra second or two to heal you or it can offset a different superior rune. Extra armor or resistances for warriors, extra punch or energy management for rangers, that edge of speed for mesmer interrupts… it’s beautiful.

      Don’t overwrite runes unless you have to. Get another piece of armor instead and swap it out when you want more or less of a thing. Same with shoes. I was astounded when a player showed me their shoes – several sets! It’s not about looks (necessarily), it’s about function. Spare shoes at max ac = 1k. Extra rune and insignia set = at least 1k, usually more for the worthwhile runes.

      1. At least 100 energy?! That is ridiculous, and while I do not doubt the player to be experienced (in terms of having played much), I would never say that he or she really understood the game. No elementalist needs more than 80 Energy – ever. Just like any other class it is energy management >>>> energy pool. Your ele could have 5000 energy, with poor management, it would still eventually run low, while the ele with just 60 energy and good management will still be casting its spells.

        I do not want to speak against being properly runed, It is just the example that is completely wrong.

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