The Scrying Pool: The Pointy End

This article of The Scrying Pool looks at how weapon skills could be expanded.

In each article of The Scrying Pool, I look at what is and what could be. After taking a look at what is present in Guild Wars 2 now, be that lore or game mechanics, I then ask What If? What if this happened in the lore or this feature was added in a future patch.

In both The Scrying Pool: No Expansion!? and The Scrying Pool: Second Class I delved into how utility skills could be expanded within Guild Wars 2. A big reason for expanding the utility skills is to help create build diversity. With more skills there are more options for players when creating builds. While expanding the utility skills would help build diversity, it already is pretty decent in its current state.

With the right side of the skill bar in a good place, it is the left side of the bar that I want to talk about. The first five skills on any skill bar are determined by the weapon that a player is holding. A character wielding a two-handed weapon will have all five of the weapon skills that are tied to that weapon, while a dual-wielding character will have the skill split with the first three belonging to the equipped main-hand weapon and the latter two skills from the off-hand weapon.

Ever since this setup was first announced I have loved it. Each weapon had power, giving skills that players wouldn’t have without them. Weapons were no longer arbitrary items that gave some statistical number. When my mesmer picks up a greatsword, she gains the ability to shoot lasers!

But then when any other mesmer picks up a greatsword, they also have the ability to shoot lasers. My greatsword wielding mesmer is just like one of the clones I summon, exactly the same as every other mesmer.

A common thing I see when the topic of weapons and build diversity comes up is that Guild Wars 2 needs more weapons. I’d agree to a point. Having more weapons would indeed help give more diversity, especially in underwater where each class can wield all its underwater weapons at any moment. Where do the options come in when my mesmer only has access to the spear and trident and can have both always equipped?

It is not solely be the number of weapons that each class can equip that should be increased, but also the number of skills that each weapon grants to a player. How many times have you looked at your skills and realized that you never use a skill, yet you continue using the weapon because the other available skills are so valuable?

What I would like to see is every skill for every weapon have an alternate skill, which would come to a whopping 326 additional skills that would need to be created not including any conjured weapons or engineer kits.

That is a lot of additional skills. Then each possible skill combination on a weapon (32 total combinations for a two-handed weapon) would require testing to make sure everything is balanced. It is a lot of work.

Something I mentioned in The Scrying Pool: Second Class was that not everything needed to be new. An example I gave was giving guardian a skill similar to meteor shower but with blue fire. It started off basically just copying a different skill and from there could be refined and balanced to fit its new class. It wouldn’t require new ideas, animations and starting from scratch on balancing; it would start in an almost complete state.

This copy/paste bypass could also be applied to creating alternate skills for weapons. For example, elementalist, fire staff and main-hand dagger have two very similar skills: Burning Retreat and Burning Speed. Both of these skills move the player while leaving a trail of fire that burns foes. The only difference is that one skill moves the player backward in a retreat while the other moves the player forward toward their target. These skills could almostbe the alternates of each other. Burning Charge would have the same stats and cooldowns as Burning Retreat, but would move the player forward instead of backward. Likewise, Fiery Escape could copy Burning Speed that instead moves the player away from the target.

These alternates don’t change much of what an elementalist can do, but that is partially the point. If you see an elementalist holding a staff, you have an idea of what they are capable of and alternate skills like these wouldn’t change that. What it does do is give players more options to fit a weapon to their play style. Are you a dagger/dagger ele that finds yourself in over your head at times? Fiery Escape would be a good choice to get out of danger. Likewise a staff ele could use Burning Charge to, well, charge into battle or make up that little bit of room so another skill can get into range.

To give another example, Temporal Curtain is one of the two skills on a mesmer focus that creates a line that grants swiftness to allies, cripples foes and can be used again to pull enemies toward it. Temporal Curtain’s alternate could be Temporal Void, an AoE for players looking to control an area. The void would pulse, giving short duration swiftness and cripple to any ally or enemy within the AoE. Players could then use the void again to push enemies away from the center of the AoE. Fundamentally the alternate does the same thing; it grants swiftness, cripple and a control effect, but it does it in a different way. Players going up against mesmers will still know what they are capable of even if they don’t know exactly how exactly they will be engaged.

So how would players unlock these new alternate skills? The same way they unlock weapon skills currently. A new player only has access to the first skill on any weapon and by gaining experience while using the weapon unlock skills one at a time down the skill bar. These alternate skills would function as weapon skills 6-10. The only exception I would make is that players could not unlock these alternate skills immediately on new characters. To prevent new players to a class from being overwhelmed and allow them to learn the default skills, I would lock these alternate skills until a player is a higher level such as 70. By now they will have played with and understood the default skills, so these similar alternate skills wouldn’t be too crazy new to understand, and are not these max-level only abilities.

Have any alternate skill ideas that are both similar and different enough from their current weapon skill counterpart? Post a comment below with a current class/weapon/skill combination and then describe your new alternate skill for it.

Matt "Mattsta" Adams was sad some of last year's Halloween content didn't make a return.

October kind of messed up the two patches a month that were tied to same theme/content. It seems that the next patch is going to continue off where the Tower of Nightmares patch ends. It would be nice if ArenaNet slipped in a "to be continued" title card, especially for this patch as it just ends. It feels like there should have been another cutscene to tie up gathering these samples for Marjory.

I also learned that all of the auto-attacks for elementalist underwater are projectiles. Yay for the lack of underwater weapon choices and underwater monsters with reflect projectile abilities!

If you have a question for me or a topic you would like to see talked about here, leave a comment below. You can also tweet your question and topics or follow me on twitter @MattstaNinja.

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