Continuing our Guild Wars 2 round tables, I chatted with Guild Wars 2 Hub’s Lewis B and Massively’s Elisabeth Cardy about something that’s been on my mind as I find myself spending more time in WvW. The balance of classes in WvW cannot be ignored. ArenaNet is talking about balancing area-of-effect (AoE) abilities, which some classes can do better than others. However, it also feels like there are two other abilities that have become critical to WvW, and unlike AoE abilities, these are class-based abilities. I’m talking about stealth (mesmer and thief) and Portal (only mesmer). What do you two think about these two very class-restricted abilities having such a great impact in WvW?
Lewis: Excellent topic. It’s something that I find incredibly annoying in the sense that all professions deserve a place in a party, with specific skills that make them useful. As it currently stands, I stopped playing my Mesmer in structured PvP and WvW because I was fed up of being everyone’s Portal-Puppet. I’m all for the need to support a group of players, parties or guild members, but when a skill becomes mandatory, we’re then returning to the realms of World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 1’s build linking and that’s something I’ve never supported. Portals are exceptional in WvW and sPvP and that makes them all too useful at the expense of player freedom. Where stealth is concerned, I find it more of an annoyance to fight against than anything of real value (besides abusing culling). A good thief is still relatively useless in WvW, and easily countered in sPvP with effective use of dodge or AoE abilities. I think the wider issue here is ensuring that all professions have a single skill that make them shine, though that might exacerbate the problem.
Lis: I’m not a fan of the idea of one indispensable skill (for every profession or otherwise) in any of the game types. There was always an interesting balance in the original Guild Wars between skills being nerfed for being too OP (hello Shadow Form) and skills being left more or less as they were and the meta game evolving to embrace them. I’m fairly amazed that the portal skill has gone unchanged for as long as it has (I’d envisioned some sort of player cap being put on portals by this point). This can’t be intended use, but I’m wondering if it makes things interesting enough for ArenaNet to leave the skill as-is.
I haven’t seen stealth being so widely abused — like Lewis, I tend to see it as more than an annoyance than the ubiquitous tactic that Mesmers’ portals have become.
Ravious: I wouldn’t say stealth is abused, but it’s become a significant mechanic in WvW. What other professions without stealth can boast such a useful mechanic in WvW that affects the battlefield to such a large degree? Portal simply blows stealth away in terms of it being the king of useful mechanics there.
As opposed to changing Portal, Lis, ArenaNet last suggested that maybe other professions should have a portal mechanic to so as to spread out the love. In other words, Portal seems to set a bar of some sort that ArenaNet wants to keep. Even if say necromancers started creating rifts for soul passage or rangers get FTL giant eagles, this still would leave quite a few professions without a mechanic on Portal’s usefulness level. Would it just be easier to nerf Portal than dole out equal portions of pie to every profession? Could there be other skills ideas or live skills that other professions could have with a usefulness factor on the level of Portal?
Lis: I think if some professions got more portal-like abilities, it’d be fun to see anti-portal measures come into play as well. Given the fairly instantaneous nature of the portal, I’m not sure what that’d end up looking like, but it’d be nice for there to be a counter to it of sorts, rather than just giving everyone a very similar mechanic
Lewis: I think you raise some valid points, and Portal has seen a few tweaks (it now has a use cap, though it’s really high). The risk of implementing a skill of similar importance to Portal, for all professions, is that they too will be required to bring only that skill. If anything, the most sensible thing to do with Portal would be to add repercussions for its use. Even as a mesmer player, having players be effected by a condition after using portal would be a really good way of bringing it back into controlled use and/or stop the repetitive use of continued portal bombing. I’ve always thought that adding vulnerability and weakness to players leaving a portal would be a good thing (you have inevitably teleported a great distance!).
If we must keep Portal as it is, let’s add useful but not mandatory skills for all professions. It always frustrates me as an Engineer that I can’t repair siege equipment or Golems; why not? If my Tool Kit can repair turrets, wouldn’t it be amazing if it could repair siege equipment too.
Ravious: I agree that like stealth, it would be nice to spread Portal out in the profession pie a tad more. I definitely do not want each profession to have a Portal-like ability. However, I would like each profession to have more useful skills. Perhaps in the February update, when it seems like WvW will be the name of the game the skill devs will have a chance to modify a few unloved skills to that effect.
Going back to stealth, I feel that for thieves, their AoE stealth does provide a very useful, but not mandatory WvW ability. I’ve seen it used to great effect for guerilla tactics in tier 2 WvW. If Portal brought repercussions and perhaps a lower use cap, I think it would be getting a lot closer to a realistic bar for all professions. Do any other professions have anything close to a “useful but not mandatory skill” in WvW coming close to Portal?
Lewis: We’ve actually removed thieves entirely from our WvW lineup because Mesmers are capable of using Mass Invisbility and Veil to stealth entire groups of players. Combined with Portal, and rotating the use of veil between two mesmers, there’s absolutely no value in bringing a thief.
In regards to other group specific skills, I would probably state a Mesmers Veil, because it allows for easy exploitation of culling. Everything else, as long as it’s AOE has its place.
Lis: I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the meta game to rally around certain skills — not even a little bit. I get a bit concerned when it makes one class or skill indispensable. It’s good, really, that this is taking place in WvW and not PvE, but I do hope that they stick to the philosophy of no one class ever being necessary for success. I don’t want a new ‘trinity’ to arise that’s just based around the three classes with the most gimmicky skill.
That said, I’m really excited to see what skills and tweaks come about in response to this.
Lewis: As a final thought, I think ArenaNet really need to step back and assess the impact Portal as a skill has on the game and the fact that mesmers are fast becoming mandatory for almost everything in Guild Wars 2. The utility, damage and flexibility they bring to a party makes them indispensable. If we’re to have all professions given a fair crack at the whip, we really must revisit many of the mesmers skills and reign them in. The only alternative is to boost those around it, which I’m sure is a more difficult task. All that said, I’d still like to see engineers be able to repair siege equipment. For great justice!
Ravious: I would definitely enjoy more utility too across the professions. I know Guardian walls have been a bit tricky to balance, for instance, and I don’t seem to notice them in WvW anymore even though on paper they seem like a perfect WvW utility. I don’t want, as Lewis said, to be pushed towards AoE skills because my favorite characters don’t have the magnificent utility of a mesmer.
Thank you both for speaking on the topic, and here’s to hoping we have more excellent round tables!