Fight or Kite: Examining the state of Guild Wars 2 PvP ahead of the big balance patch


About two weeks ago, ArenaNet dropped one of the largest – maybe the largest – balance patch previews for Guild Wars 2 to date. And I don’t mean just in terms of the sheer number of changes coming down the pipe; I’m talking about the significance of the changes as well. By all accounts, the studio is taking the phrase “power creep” and shaving it down to just a “peep.” That’s right; we’re talking about nerfs flying out the wazoo! Everyone, look under your chair. You get a nerf, and you get a nerf, and you get a nerf! Healing and damage will be cut down to size. I’m seeing order of magnitude nerfs in some cases (power coefficients from 2.5 to 0.01).

By and large, I’m a fan of this move.

So, as a long time Guild Wars 2 PvPer and purveyor of MassivelyOP’s PvP column, I wanted to share some thoughts on this patch and get back into the fray for one last hard look at the current state of PvP prior to the big change-up.

Slowing down combat is a good idea

Irenio Calmon-Huang posts on the Anet forum that the devs wanted to “focus on gameplay being more active.” I can’t agree more with this concept. I’ve said several times that for PvP combat to be truly amazing, it must include room for counter play. I really love that the designers are taking a chance to make this a reality again.

Guild Wars 2’s combat had become so burst-y and fast that it wasn’t fun in PvP a lot of times. It became more a game of who walked up on whom first to unload a skill rotation. To live up to that original Guild Wars combat, it needs to have more finesse. It needs to include counter play. It needs to be fun. (If you’re interested in learning a bit about the history of the franchise, our own Game Archaeologist just did a two-part deep-dive!)

However, adjusting combat isn’t just a matter of improving one-on-one encounters. When you are fighting with any number of players over two, it is an absolute visual mess. Fighting on a point (because that’s the only kind of PvP that counts, right Mike Z?) your eyes can’t even attempt to keep up with what is going on on-screen. Instead, you simply switch between watching your target’s health bar, cooldowns, boons, and conditions – and your own.

I’m all for big flashy skills, though, so I’m hoping this update will alleviate some of the eye strain. If skills are popping off less often and more intentionally, then I’m hopeful we’ll be able to see what we’re playing a bit better.

Don’t forget to balance often, and don’t be afraid to nerf

We’ve heard it time and time again: Balance patches will be applied more often and consistently. Well, Cal Cohen posts that it is still the case and that the goal is “to have better flexibility to fix problems in a timely manner.” Sure, we’ve heard that before, but quick, timely adjustments are critical to keeping PvP fun and successful.

One of the things that will stop me from queuing up to another fight is a stale meta. After it’s been that way for too long, I know that I’d rather be playing something else.
No developers have ever made every player happy with a balance update. Chances are they’ve never made any individual player completely happy either, but balance is still something that must be done for the health of any living game. As much as I hate seeing my current build or playstyle get nerfed into oblivion, I actually love nerfs. I love that it gives the meta a chance to move around. It gives players a chance to try out something new and experience different fights than what we were previously accustomed to.

One of the things that will stop me from queuing up to another fight is a stale meta. I know what I’m going to be facing. I know what I can and can’t do about it. And after it’s been that way for too long, I know that I’d rather be playing something else.

So, Cal, Irenio, and the ArenaNet team, hear me: Embrace the nerf. And players, don’t fear the nerf! Think of it as a new way to experience the character you already enjoy playing. Sure, it could be a whole new playstyle, but it might be fun. Just like getting to know your boyfriend, girlfriend, or miscellaneous friend actually likes Jar Jar Binks and thinks that Spider-Man 3 was the best Spider-Man film. You can still love being with them despite their faults! And if not, roll up another character and learn something new there.

Combat can slow down, but don’t slow down matches

I couldn’t get in here and talk about GW2 PvP without offering up some suggestions on the arenas too.

Straight up: I cannot stand long PvP matches. It grinds my gears. It melts my wax. It fogs my mirror. And I don’t like it. Now, that might seem counterintuitive to everything I’ve said up to now about slowing combat being preferable, but it is not. Combat should be meticulous and well thought out. But a match shouldn’t last beyond the point that all participates know the outcome.

I really hope Anet has played at least several dozen matches with the new damage curve in play and ensured that matches don’t consistently reach the full 15-minute conclusion. If it were up to me, I’d compress the matches down to five minutes. (Well, actually if it were up to me, I’d have more modes so that players could do whatever suits them more, but let’s not go there again.)

Just don’t forget to test the length of matches. Maybe points tick quicker, or possibly reduce the total points for a win from 500 down to 250 or 300. I’m just nervous that the slower combat could lead us to boring, drawn-out matches. We don’t want to have uncaptured points and fewer deaths resulting in less point accumulation.

Overall, I’m really looking forward to playing the updated combat and seeing how it actually handles in practice. I like the idea, and I like what I’ve seen of the patch notes previewed so far. It certainly sounds like it will be a huge shift in play – and I couldn’t be more excited!

So, how do you feel about slowing down the combat in Guild Wars 2? Do you think this could actually encourage more impactful, thoughtful, and fun gameplay? Do you think it would work in some games but not here? Is this change long overdue, or do you feel like it won’t change anything at all? I know the community has felt burned by Anet’s balance changes/promises in the past. Do you think it’ll stick the landing this time, or is there no hope left here?

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!

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Bruno Brito

PvP in GW2 was ALWAYS extremely bursty. That’s the nature of the game. We just had less weird mechanics to contend with. For instance, we didn’t have stacking conditions, so you wouldn’t have burst condi builds. They were made to wittle you down, and most of them were tanky. Direct damage builds were always spiky, but you didn’t have things like Superspeed/Alacrity on demand, so you had more time to react. You also didn’t had 15k CoRs, 20k sped rapid fires, and elite specs.

But GW2 always had problems with their stat distribution and several tanky stats being weak on their own, so bunker builds became meta with Celestial amulet which allowed you to be extremely balanced. It was a mess, people hated it, because GW2 PvP being conquest based means that tanky builds are hated since they hold extremely well. Anet nerfs bunkers, now we’re here.

How to fix this? Mainly, stop forcing Conquest down everyone’s throats and get other modes, and rotate them. Builds should be adapted to the mode, not a be-all-end-all style of play that only see changes when the nerfhammer hits.

As for making the PvP more methodic? Sure, go ahead, but just nerfing damage won’t fix it. You’ll need to change several core design flaws inside the classes, and some design directions. For instance: you need to diminish boon generation and condition cleansing across the board, because the game right now is a spamfest of buffs to enable you to burst. That’s bad. Launch GW2 at least allowed you to have boonless builds which weren’t bad. You also need to diminish access to boons and conditions that enable winds of uncounterable burst.

Take for instance both Dhummfire and One-Hundred-Blades. Both skills are essentially how you deal ungodly ammounts of damage in GW2. In the Necro’s case, you need to use your resource for your burn procs, and rotate through your skills for more condition damage. It’s also not a burty talent by nature, but it does it’s job of doing reasonable sustained damage. OHB, in the Warrior’s case, roots the warrior in place, and forces the warrior to run stances, which have huge cooldowns, and maybe the warrior wants consistency and needs Bull Rush to get more OHBs, losing a stance in the process.

Anyway, the game has to go back to bursty damage being tied to a skill that’s complicated to set up. CoRs, Rapid Fires are not complicated, and they should be tied to sustained damage, not burst.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Anton Mochalin

Never tried PvP in GW2, maybe will try after the patch. So yeah slowing down is definitely welcome at least in my case xD

It seems many of these changes will affect PvE too and if the open world becomes a little bit harder as a result this will be very very good. I guess I will create a new character in that case and have some good time leveling them.

Edit: I tried PvP activities like Dragonball Arena and the like but they have totally different balance/skills/etc