I think it’s fair to say that the reaction to the guardian specialization has been mixed. Whether it’s on the official forums, Reddit or social media, many players have made their feelings, whether positive or negative, well and truly known.
When I received a preview of the dragonhunter several days ago I was more than surprised. On the run up to the reveal I would have bet my house on the specialization being called the paragon, and would never have guessed that it would use traps. We all already knew that the longbow was certain after the World versus World leak and the concept art that ArenaNet teased, but the combination of a theme and playstyle reminiscent of a ranger, as opposed to a holy battle commander, has rightly ruffled some feathers.
I’ve spent a large amount of time on both my ranger and guardian and enjoy both for very different reasons. The ranger offers me a ranged playstyle that I love and I can, for the most part, ease through PvE encounters in the Silverwates or comfortably roam World versus World. The guardian I predominantly use in dungeons and fractals for its damage and utility, but also in PvP due to its strength at playing a frontline damage dealer that’s capable of providing support and surviving for long periods.
On paper the dragonhunter seemingly homogenizes the role of the ranger and guardian to the point where they negatively overlap. A longbow and traps for both will tend to have that effect. Having said that, I think it’s wrong at this stage to leap to such a conclusion and although I may be proved wrong in several hours time when the Points Of Interest goes live on Twitch, I think fears surrounding the dragonhunter will ease.
Although there were requests for dagger and off-hand sword, the vast majority of the guardian community wanted a longbow. The scepter, while functional in PvE and PvP, fails to offer a truly ranged option for the guardian. As a result, you’re forced to be in melee range at all times and this can significantly limit your ability to deal with certain situations (notably World versus World and some PvE encounters). Considering the guardian is more support orientated than a warrior, it’s also largely impossible, due to its melee nature, to support both ranged and melee allies. One inevitably loses out due to the limited range of your Virtues and skills.
The longbow was the answer to this very problem because with the right skills, it could provide the guardian with a reliable means of not only dealing damage from range but also - with enough of a rework - the possibility of supporting allies from afar. From the limited details we’ve seen so far, there’s every expectation that the longbow will fulfil this role. Symbol Of Energy provides a ranged boon that grants vigor and Deflecting Shot destroys all projectiles in its path. Both of these skills offer direct ranged support and are exactly what the guardian needed.
At the moment the only profession that is able to grant boons from afar or to support allies in a positive way, without the need for an enemy to trigger an effect (such as a necromancer well causing conditions to become boons) is the staff elementalist. In Water attunement they’re able to heal and cleanse conditions from a range of 1,200 units. If the dragonhunter bow builds on this principle (as it clearly is with the two known skills) the guardian will have a distinctly different role than it does now and one that would become very important in PvE and WvW. Being able to heal from afar or directly buff allies with ranged attacks is incredibly powerful, even more so when tucked safely at the back of the action with an array of new Virtues.
Although the reaction to the longbow was largely positive (I doubt many Guild Wars 2 players doubt its potential) it’s the dragonhunters traps that have caused a stir. As a ranger my first reaction was to groan when I read this news because we all know how poor traps currently are. Lengthy cooldowns, poor range, an arming period (soon™) and them being at odds with the nature of Guild Wars 2’s playstyle means they’ve been on the scrap heap for thieves and rangers since Guild Wars 2 launched. In many ways it’s actually unfortunate that ArenaNet are forced to call some of the dragonhunters skills traps as they have so many negative connotations. Fortunately and as we’ve seen with the chronomancer, ArenaNet aren’t afraid to make changes to a skill-sets core design (a chronomancers wells pulse and then deal an end effect).
I suspect that the same treatment the chronomancer received to its wells will happen to the dragonhunters traps and instead of them mirroring the rangers, will likely differ in several ways. Based on the description we’ve had of the trap-based heal, there’s every possibility that traps will have multiple effects. If a dragonhunters heal can heal a small amount on use and blind, deal damage and heal for a large amount on being triggered, what’s to stop the other traps being this potent?
The rangers traps are largely terrible because:
- They each only offer a single condition (except spike)
- A minor amount of damage
- No additional utility outside of a combo field
- Lengthy cooldowns
- Require heavy trait investment
- Can be easily cleansed
There’s little wonder, then, that people avoid taking them when their negatives outweigh their positives.
What I’m hoping is that the Guardian can not only place traps at a range of 1,200 units (they are light based, after all) but that each trap has a minimum of two effects. For example and purely for demonstrative purposes, there could be a trap that when triggered knocks down opponents and causes burning. Allies who then enter the field are cleansed of all conditions and receive protection. The possibilities and scope for traps to be incredibly strong is undoubtedly there, especially themed around the guardians offensive and defensive capabilities, we just have to hope ArenaNet capitalize on it.
The Name And Theme
To finally discuss the elephant in the room, I’m entirely undecided on the name. Dragonhunter isn’t anything I’d have ever called a spezialization or profession but then again, the name is currently out of context. I suspect that the name dragonhunter has arisen from the death of Eir and Braham taking up her bow. My issue with this is that the term itself is what all heroes of Tyria are currently doing. We’re all hunting dragons in an effort to protect the world and yet a guardian and all subsequent guardians now share this highly specific and slightly unimaginative title. It would be like calling the necromancer specialization Vinehunter because one killed Marjory’s sister.
However ArenaNet weave the name of the specialization into the profession, it’s never going to sit right with large parts of the community and in all honesty, it’s entirely at odds with the theme of the Guardian. The ranged support from the bow is great, even traps (if we ignore the name) that deal damage and buff allies could be seen as Guardian-like, as long as their styling and art direction reflects a light-based nature. But the name dragonhunter feels distinctly thief or ranger-like. Have you seen this concept art? That’s a dragonhunter.
To briefly touch on the theme a little more, if we ignore the name of the specialization and that traps are called traps, thematically I think it all works. The skill effects seen so far look great and I see nothing here that doesn’t shout guardian. There’s lots of flashy light effects, wisps of blue and plenty of ethereal effects. The problem is that the accompanying video to highlight the dragonhunter only reinforces how much potential the paragon had, especially considering ArenaNet are utilising the spear, wings and support concept.
Overall I’m currently neutral on the dragonhunter as there are things I like and dislike. What I keep thinking back to is the community reaction when the engineer was first revealed and how everyone felt it didn’t fit into Tyria and was at odds with the game. Fast forward two years and it’s one of the most popular professions and people adore the steampunk styling that somehow marries perfectly with the rest of the game world.
I think more than anything, ArenaNet would have been better producing longer specialization videos as they did when they first revealed the professions. They highlighted a variety of skills and their functions in a setting that could be analysed and understood, whereas the current crop are too short and show little. Thankfully we won’t have long to wait to see the dragonhunter in action. I’ll see you in the Twitch channel later.
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