Watery Depths and Hints of Things to Come

I’d like to be,
Under the sea,
In a quaggan’s garden,
In the shade…

With the unveiling of underwater combat mechanics during Fan Day, it’s probably no coincidence that the last two races revealed have been two with whom we’ll be sharing the deeps. They cover two ends of the spectrum – the aggressive, omnicidal krait on one side, and the pacifistic quaggan on the other. Within a fortnight of the last reveal John Peters, has given our first tour of a quaggan village (courtesy of Gamespot), as part of their presentation of underwater combat and environments. Interestingly, while we’ve known from the quaggan article that a friendly relationship had been established between the Krytan crown and the quaggans, this tour has shown just how close this relationship is, with the quaggans occupying an underwater cave almost directly below the Ascalon Settlement. It appears that humans and quaggan may have come to an agreement to intersperse their territory, with each occupying places that are unsuitable for the other.

Quaggan welcomes human to quaggan’s home, but asks that human not damage quaggan’s walls. (From the Gamespot video, above)

The underwater mechanics seem to be like many had predicted. Since attempting to place area spells would be problematic in a 3D environment, the control mechanics seem to be even more similar to an FPS, with long-range effects being effectively point-and-shoot in behaviour – although I suspect shoot-and-detonate effects similar to the guardian’s Orb of Light above the surface may be present for some professions. The “drowning” state – allowing characters to revive simply by reaching the surface – is an inspired one, as it evokes the feel of the depths being more dangerous than the shallows without the inconvenience of a healthy diver needing to continuously return to the surface. I could see this also having interesting tactical implications in underwater PvP, with “sink” effects being used to prevent a drowning foe from reaching the surface.

While the reveal is impressive, one discrepancy that has caught my mind is the relative lack of weapons – while the designers have said that they wish underwater combat to be just as rich and fulfilling as above-water combat and largely they seem to have succeeded, there appears to be no real choice in which weapons you bring under the surface with you. Professions that use weapon switches in the conventional fashion will, in the current system, find themselves with exactly two weapons to choose from – a spear for close-range work, and either a trident (appearing more as an aquatic-themed staff, as the one we see lacks multiple forward-facing prongs) or a harpoon gun for magical and martial professions, respectively, for longer-distance work. Apparently, rangers are willing to compromise on their anti-technology stance in environments where bows and thrown weapons are unsuitable. Professions that lack the ability to switch weapons in combat gain only a single weapon each – the trident for the elementalist, and the harpoon gun for the engineer.

I can’t help feeling that, despite all the other work that ArenaNet has clearly put into the underwater side of the game to make it just as important as dry land instead of a gimmick, this lack of choice might translate into a lack of depth (pun not intended) in underwater combat. While it’s probably not practical for underwater weapons to fully match the range above, it would be nice to have some more options to choose from when beneath the waves. That said, the second of the GuildCast videos (links below) shows some characters fighting underwater with above-water weapons – if this isn’t simply a privilege of being NPCs, it might mean that some above-water weapons are in fact available underwater as well.

A party of adventurers goes "fishing" with harpoon guns and "tridents"

The other major reveal that has come with Fan Day has been the dungeons, including a total of eight minutes of footage of the Ascalon Catacombs – a minute and a half of briefing, and the rest of combat footage in a separate video followed by more underwater combat, both courtesy of GuildCast (The second video finishes with a minute and a half of underwater combat). While I’ll leave a more detailed analysis of the dungeons for others, there are a number of things in the combat footage that may be of interest to observers looking for clues about previously unseen weapons and maybe even profession:

  1. The engineer in the PC group wielding a flamethrower in many of the combats, giving us our first view of that weapon in action. See the G4TV article for a comprehensive list of skills for the flamethrower and other weapons.
  2. At approximately 0:35 to 1:10, and again at around 5:20, we see ghostly hammer wielders slamming their hammers into the ground to create a shockwave of disturbed earth in a line or in a burst to knock back surrounding players, possible signs of what might be available for hammer warriors in Guild Wars 2.
  3. Rytlock wielding a combination of sword and pistol, despite all previous evidence suggesting that he is a warrior. It’s possible, however, that from ArenaNet’s perspective this might simply be a method to represent what is mechanically a sword/rifle warrior without actually swapping weapons – he certainly seems to be using his pistol frequently enough that it’s not equivalent to a player character’s offhand weapon.
  4. Starting from about 6:00 until around 6:30, the appearance of signs of mesmer activity in purple sprites, butterflies, and a purple lightning storm theorised by some to be the new version of Chaos Storm that seem to be attacking the PCs (which can more clearly be seen in this IGN offering at 2:09) or in Nox’s detailed video here.
Vassar’s Chaos Storm rips into a flamethrower-wielding charr engineer.

For fans, and mesmer fans hungrily waiting for news, the last might be the most significant. While all of the above points except the first may simply be examples of NPCs doing things that the players can’t, the mesmers fought in the catacombs may well be the first clues we have of just what the almost-certainly playable mesmers of GW2 will be capable of.

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