The first profession I’m going to comment on is also the one I was originally the most excited to play. The Guardian is one of the two Soldier classes in Guild Wars 2, and fits the stereotypical heavily armored crusader role in the fantasy genre. It’s closest MMO analog would probably be the Paladin from World of Warcraft, except that the Guardian blends in aspects of Damage, Control and Support regardless to how you decide to play it. Like every class in Guild Wars 2, you won’t find a Healing tree or a Tanking tree or a Damage tree. Everything is interwoven in a more elegant fashion, and it is quite possible to throw out heals and supportive boons (buffs) to your allies while swinging a greatsword. Different weapons, utility skills and traits will allow you to specialize to your desired focus.
As a bit of an intro, it is only fair to say that I’ll be making a fair amount of use of information from the official Guild Wars 2 Wiki to illustrate my talking points, as it is a phenomenal resource.
I took pains to unlock every weapon ability when playing my Guardian, but I won’t bother to completely reproduce the wiki. Instead I’ll go into why I chose certain weapon sets over others as a means of demonstrating how the class fit my play style. The phrase “Your Mileage May Vary” applies to every class in Guild Wars 2, and you can have vastly different class experiences depending on how you build your character.
Personally, I fell in love with a combination of using the greatsword along with the mace and torch.
Let’s start with a look at the greatsword:
|Greatsword||Both hands||Strike||0||Chain. Strike your foe.|
|Vengeful Strike||0||Chain. Strike your foe again|
|Wrathful Strike||0||Chain. Attack your foe with a final powerful strike, that applies Might for each foe you strike.|
|Symbol of Wrath||15||Symbol. Pierce the ground with a mystic symbol that damages and burns foes while granting retaliation to allies.|
|Whirling Wrath||10||Spin in place and swing your greatsword while hurling powerful projectiles.|
|Leap of Faith||20||Leap at your foe. On hit, blind nearby enemies.|
|Binding Blade||30||Throw blades at your foes, causing damage over time. Bound foes can be pulled to you. The effect ends when a foe moves out of range.|
This was my default weapon.
1. The primary attack chain was extremely good and like all melee weapons, it hit every enemy within its swing arc. It did respectable damage on single target opponents, but I really enjoyed the built in cleave effect you could get against multiple opponents if you manipulated your positioning.
2. Symbol of Wrath was extremely useful as both a potential AoE ability and a support skill. Retaliation is a wonderful boon which damages those who attack you, and Guardians have several ways to apply it to themselves and their allies.
3. Whirling Wrath is just what it sounds like. This ability looks as impressive as it is, and I looked for every opportunity to use it. The 360 degree arc of the ability made it powerful for leaping into packs of enemies. Which brings us to…
4. Leap of Faith. This was a clutch closing ability. Not only did it allow me to jump into a pack of enemies and damage them, but the Blind condition (debuff) means your enemies automatically miss with their next attack. This usually gave me time to fire off a quick Whirling Wrath and put a severe dent in my enemies before I took a beating myself.
5. Last but not least is Binding Blade. This is a two-part ability. The first attack launches ghostly swords out around you and damages your enemies. Hitting the ability again pulls all of those enemies in close for more WHIRLING WRATH!
I loved everything about how greatsword performed. It lacked the thunderous and earth-shattering impact of the Hammer, but it was also a bit shorter with swing animations, and I felt more mobile using it. The other advantage the greatsword has is the Zealous Blade trait which gives your greatsword attacks the ability to heal you. This is an extremely potent trait, and would be a staple of my Guardian build.
I found the weapon ideal for solo play, but for larger groups I tended to swap out to using the mace and torch.
The mace and torch combination offers:
|Mace||Main hand||True Strike||0||Chain. Smash your foe.|
|Pure Strike||0||Chain. Bash your foe.|
|Faithful Strike||0||Chain. Hit your foe with a final strike and heal nearby allies.|
|Symbol of Faith||6||Symbol. Smash a mystic symbol onto the ground that damages foes and regenerates allies.|
|Protector’s Strike||15||Surround yourself and nearby allies with a shield. Knock back enemies that strike protected allies. Grant protection to yourself and nearby allies if you are not struck.|
|Torch||Off hand||Cleansing Flame||20||Breathe magical flames that damages foes and remove conditions from allies.|
|Zealot’s Flame||20||Set yourself alight, periodically burning up to three nearby foes.|
|Zealot’s Fire||Throw your Zealot’s Flame at the targeted foe, damaging them but increasing the skill’s recharge time by 50%.|
1. The mace’s primary attack chain provided built in AoE healing which was perfect for grouping against tougher opponents.
2. Likewise, Symbol of Faith provided an AoE heal over time in the form of Regeneration.
3. Protector’s Strike was a channeled ability that rooted me in place, but would fire off as an immediate knockback if I was hit or would give the Protection boon out to nearby allies if not. Another great ability against tougher opponents and packs of enemies.
4. Cleansing Flame is useful in groups and just a lot of fun to use. Something about putting a torch to your mouth and breathing fire just sold me on it.
5. Zealot’s Flame! Another two-part ability, I mainly only concerned myself with the first one. A large part of my proposed build plan revolves around the Fiery Wrath trait that boosts all of your damage by 10% against opponents that are suffering from the Burning condition, so it made sense to me to make sure things were on fire as much as possible. Plus, running around covered in blue flames was pretty awesome all by itself.
I originally thought I would use the shield in my offhand, but I’ve found shield abilities for all classes to be a bit underwhelming across the board. This is probably just a personal bias, but it isn’t like they come standard with a big chunk of vitality or toughness or passive block chance that makes them worth using over other offhand options. The shield just couldn’t compete with being able to yell “FLAME ON!” and charging into the fray.
For my heal, I swapped out the standard Shelter ability with a 2 second cast time, block and self root for Healing Breeze. It cost me four skill points, but I thought it was worth it to be able to heal myself and my allies. The fact that the heal stacked with regeneration only made it more useful.
|Healing Breeze||30||4||Heal yourself and allies with a healing breeze. Stacks with regeneration.|
For utility skills, I decided to focus on trying out the Spirit Weapons. They are signature Guardian abilities, and there are traits for the Guardian which double their duration, allowing you to use their special abilities without them evaporating after as they normally would, and that give them the ability to apply Burning to your enemies.
|Spirit Weapon||Bow of Truth||60||4||Summon an arcane bow to remove conditions from you and your allies.|
|Command||Command the Bow of Truth to fire a barrage of healing arrows at its location. This destroys the Bow.|
|Hammer of Wisdom||45||1||Summon an arcane hammer to defend you.|
|Command||Command your Hammer of Wisdom to knock down targeted foe.|
|Shield of the Avenger||60||5||Summon an arcane shield to defend you.|
|Command||5||Command the Shield of the Avenger to Knock fly out [sic] striking multiple foes. This destroys the shield.|
|Sword of Justice||30||2||Summon an arcane sword to defend you.|
|Command||Command the Sword of Justice to strike the ground at its location damaging nearby foes. This destroys the sword.|
I chose the Hammer of Wisdom and Sword of Justice because they fit my offensive style, were the cheapest to unlock and had the shortest recharge.
Unfortunately, they didn’t work out to be as effective as I had hoped. Often they just seemed to hang out without a sense of purpose like my old college roommate. When they did take a swing, it seemed fairly lethargic and I couldn’t really get a sense of their timing. The one thing I did notice that made me keep them was the fact that they also hit any number of enemies that fit inside their swing arc. This came in useful for packs of enemies and for WvW.
Overall I played my Guardian for the majority of my time in the beta weekend. It started out as everything I was looking for in a Guild Wars 2 character, allowing me to put out some real damage while supporting and healing. It was fantastic for solo play and for grouping for dynamic quests and personal story missions.
Then my friends and I decided to try World vs World PvP, and the wheels came off the bus…
To put it very bluntly, the Guardian brings a knife to a gun fight when it comes to WvW.
While the staff and scepter do provide the class with some ranged alternatives, it is the only class I experienced that was limited to medium range. Furthermore, the Scepter’s main ability is a slow moving orb that is easy to dodge and which hugs terrain. This means it is pretty useless for firing over distances with different elevations – say during a keep defense for example. It just kind of limply putters out the end of the wand and wanders off like a grandparent with dementia.
In skirmishes, the Guardian still offers chances to be a great and terrible force on the battlefield. In zerg vs zerg, melee is suicide. Leap of Faith is quickly followed by rezzing at the nearest waypoint. During keep defenses, I found myself limited to babysitting the ramparts. I’d rez downed players, heal people when I could, drop my symbol abilities to give out boons and use Cleansing Flame to remove conditions from allies. I was marginally useful at being supportive, but I wasn’t able to directly assault the enemy.
In organized WvW, I could see this changing a bit. A strike force that focused on skirmish ops to take out enemy caravans, depots and siege equipment would be ideal for my Guardian. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to find that level of organization during beta weekends.
On the upside, I’m not the only one who considers the lack of ranged alternatives to be a tragic flaw of the class. Even Jon Peters at ArenaNet recognizes the problem, and officially noted the amount of feedback on this issues received from Guardian players on the official forums. I’m hopeful they’ll revise the class to shore up this weakness. It is one thing to have something like this as a balancing factor in your class design. I understand no one class can be the best at everything. It is another thing to be the only class not invited to the party, and for true ranged combat, the Guardian is sitting alone by the punch bowl.