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.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. 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?