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To live and die in Tyria -- death, healing, and combat in Guild Wars 2

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

As the Guild Wars 2 news continues to roll in, one of the main topics of conversation has been the lack of a dedicated healer class. No monks in Guild Wars 2? What will we do?

The question of death mechanics is a natural one to follow that line of thought, and it's something else we've been anxious to find out. Well, "everyone take a deep breath. It's going to be OK." That's straight from the designer's mouth. Game Designer Jon Peters finally lifted the veil on this information, so to speak, with the newest update to the GW2 site. Follow along after the jump as we take a look at "A New Way of Looking at Healing and Death."

"Downed mode" is the first highlight in this new system, and one that makes a lot of sense. Think about it: If you've got an enemy at 10% HP, why is he still fighting and casting at full strength? If you're nearly dead, you should probably feel like you're nearly dead. So that's what's going to happen in Guild Wars 2: "Rather than being presented with immediate failure, when a player loses all of their health in Guild Wars 2, they are put into "downed mode." In this mode, the player has a number of downed skills they can use to target enemies and fight for a chance to survive."

You can still be attacked, so be careful. Being defeated while you're in downed mode is it -- you're left to wait for a rez from an ally or resurrect at a waypoint. This is absolutely a last ditch effort, but you can still fight -- maybe you'll be able to retreat to the backline and hurl rocks from behind your allies, or use Grasping Earth to hold your foe in place while your team takes it down. If your enemy is defeated, you rally and return to your full strength, leaping right back into battle. The introduction of downed mode is going to make those close battles even more exciting.

Wait a minute, a rez from an ally? Yes, it looks like we're going to get a Guild Wars 2 version of Resurrection Signet: "While you are downed or defeated, any other player can come to you and interact with you to bring you back to life. We call this "reviving," and everyone, regardless of profession, can do this starting at Level 1." If that's not an option for whatever reason, you can choose to release to any discovered waypoint via the world map.

Since the travel is through the waypoints, it will cost you a small amount of gold, but there's a pretty sweet tradeoff in this case. Death penalty has been reduced significantly, mostly because it's just not fun. Jon explains it well: "It's as simple as that, and why not? Why should we debuff you, take away experience, or make you run around for five minutes as a ghost instead of letting you actually play the game? We couldn't think of a reason. Well, we did actually think of a reason--it just wasn't a good one. Death penalties make death in-game a more tense experience. It just isn't fun. We want to get you back into the action (fun) as quickly as possible. Defeat is the penalty; we don't have to penalize you a second time."

So what about the healing part of all this? Won't we miss our monks? Maybe, but will we miss spending much of what is supposed to be our play time standing around saying "LF monk to go?" Will we miss loading into RA with a bad combination of professions and giving up in defeat before we even started? That sort of thing -- those frustrating restrictions -- is exactly what ArenaNet hopes to avoid with this new setup: "From the highest level of PvP, to the sieges of World vs World, to PvE in the far reaching corners of Tyria, that level of creativity and tactical freedom is exactly what we want combat in Guild Wars 2 to be about."

We've watched ArenaNet break the mold over and over as we learn more about Guild Wars 2, and the heal/tank/DPS holy trinity is no exception. The standard holy trinity is out the door with this game, because we have learned to expect something different and better from ANet -- and the developers intend to deliver. As always, they're not just tossing it out without looking back. Instead, they're taking it and using it as the foundation to build something better.

This "something better" technically falls into three categories: damage, support, and control, but the team still isn't quite satisfied: "You could say instead of DPS/heal/tank, we have our own trinity of damage, support, and control, but we prefer to think of them as the variety of elements that create a diverse and dynamic combat system that gives each player a toolbox to work with to solve any encounter we might throw their way."

Damage is all about making red bars go down, but it's so much more than poking stuff with the sharp end of your weapon. As with the professions and skills, it's all about combining what you've got to make something even better. You've got projectiles, damage over time, area of affect, and so on. But what if you put them together? Jon gave a great example: "There are projectiles, AoE projectiles, AoE projectiles that apply damage over time, etc. Try shooting a spread of seven arrows through a wall of fire--it works wonders for roasting up a set of attacking monsters or enemy players." Bottom line? Damage in Guild Wars 2 is going to be fun.

What about healing? Well, first of all, stop calling it that: "Don't belittle the SUPPORT role by calling it heal. Healing is the least dynamic kind of support there is. It is reactive instead of proactive. Healing is for when you are already losing. In Guild Wars 2 we prefer that you support your allies before they take a beating." Think of the support role as a combined prot monk, paragon, and warder with a six-pack of Red Bull. The support roles will have damage increases, AoE heals (ground-targeted healing rain, specifically), armor buffs, and so much more. It's going to be a fascinating, coveted position with huge potential.

Finally, you have control. That's your tank, but... not. It's better. "From controlling movement to controlling damage, there are tons of exciting dynamic scenarios that control can set up. You can use a stun to save an ally or to finish off a fleeing enemy. Immobilize that warrior to get away from them, or use it on an elementalist to close in on them. [...] There are a lot of different levels of control, from a simple cripple, to an immobilize, to a knockdown. Each one has its place. The more devastating control effects are, the more infrequently they need to occur, and their duration needs to be shorter."

As always, it looks like ArenaNet thought this through very carefully, looked at what does and does not work, then set out to impress the heck out of us. Check out the full story on this newest update on the Guild Wars 2 site.

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