Today, ArenaNet unveiled the 6th Guild Wars 2 profession, the Paladin Guardian. While there’s been a fairly steady release of profession profiles for the past few months, the Guardian is the first class new to Guild Wars 2. The Warrior, Ranger, Necromancer, and Elementalist have gotten revamps, sure, but here was something never-before-seen.
So, what the hell is a Guardian exactly, other than a crappy spell from Diablo?
The guardian is a devoted fighter who calls upon powerful virtues to smite enemies and protect allies. As dangerous with a staff as he is with a mighty two-handed hammer, a true guardian is a master tactician who knows when to sacrifice his own defenses to empower his allies to achieve victory.
Could… could it be? A support class without broken (OP) or broken (UP) mechanics?
In previous action-RPG games, there was always a glaring balance problem for support class characters. If the class had a skill that buffed every ally, like Diablo 2‘s Paladin or Guild Wars’ Paragon, it was a matter of course that the skill would either be worthless, or render the support class pitiful by comparison to his/her allies.
For instance, the Paladin could use the skill Defiance to quadruple the defense of himself and his party. The only problem? The Paladin is now a character with really high defense (and not much else) while everyone and their peg-legged little brother are now powerful, balanced characters who also happen to have ridiculous defense. In the ensuing fights, Barbarians, Sorcs, and even Necros are tanking and producing endless corpses while the Paladin’s flitting around, waving his rubber mallet at shit and trying to look useful.
Of course, there’s also the opposite problem, when the supporting character has a skill that would be balanced if it only affected him/her, but becomes ridiculous when your entire team of loot junkies is killing stuff in one hit and setting things on fire just by looking at them. For example: every fucking Paragon skill before it was nerfed into oblivion. Of course, once support skills are heavily nerfed, they go back to being the former category: a waste of skill points for the support player and a nice-to-have bonus to everyone else, who was doing fine anyway.
Has ArenaNet learned? Will other devs follow?
The Guardian seems to take a 90 degree turn from these unbalanced methods with an interesting gameplay mechanic:
Players have constant, powerful passive abilities, but can temporarily eschew them to buff allies.
For instance, every fifth attack normally made by the Guardian sets enemies on fire. Anyone who played the original Guild Wars (or has more likely been set on fire in real life) knows that it is highly undesirable to be set on fire. But, with the press of a button and a shout of the [insert lore bullshit], the Guardian can give every teammate this ability for exactly one attack. After sharing this power, he/she can’t use either the passive or the active version of it again for two minutes.
Many of the Guardian’s abilities work this way. Normally, anyone playing the profession receives constant health regeneration and is also invincible to one attack every 30 seconds. But as we all know, sharing is caring, and the Guardian can sacrifice these passive skills to heal allies or protect them from a single attack, respectively. And, because Guild Wars 2 won’t have a dedicated healing profession, these skills give the Guardian a way to help out without granting the player so much responsibility that the group turns on him when everyone wipes. Nothing pleased Guild Wars Monks and Ritualists more than getting screamed at because the group refused to wait five friggin’ seconds to heal. Seriously, what the hell, guys?
The passive/active theme goes deeper, as the Guardian can summon passive spirit weapons to fight with the team, but can activate them for a powerful, single effect. These effects destroy the spirit weapon, but can smite enemies who are dressed in a provocative manner, just begging to be smitten.
While I personally find the whole spirit-weapon concept a tad lame, it’s certainly interesting from a strategic point of view. Is it better to have an idiotic A.I. ghost hammer to smack down giant iguanas, or a spell to outright murder just one of them? Decisions, decisions.
While ArenaNet has yet to unveil what appears to be two more professions, it should be interesting to see what roles they fill. Will the Mesmer make a return as the support class focused on debuffing enemies and forcing them to cause their own demise? Has the Assassin made a comeback for players who prefer stealthy, combo-tastic violence? Or will a new profession, like the powerful Financial Consultant or the bumbling Middle Manager appear?
Your move, ArenaNet.*
*Technically, it was their move the entire time. I mean, sure, okay, I get it; I don’t actually work at ArenaNet. But a guy can dream, can’t he?