If you know me then you probably know that I’ve been playing a good amount of League of Legends (LoL) lately. It’s a fun game with a certain visceral playstyle that I hope is mirrored in Guild Wars 2.
When playing LoL, it’s not necessary to constantly monitor your skills. You have four character skills (unique to and constant for that character) and two summoner skills (global across all characters which can be changed before a match is begun). Movement is click-to-move and attack, so Q W E R F and G are re-mapped to be your skill buttons. This took some getting used to.
Because there are only six skills to worry about, memorizing them and their effects is relatively easy. There is a health, mana, and experience bar on the bottom of the screen as well as a target box on the top, but these are wholly unnecessary. You, your teammates’ and all enemy units have their health and mana displayed above their head. This is a true Head’s Up Display. I don’t need to look at extraneous bars elsewhere on the screen to monitor the damage I’m doing or the damage I’m taking. It’s right there in front of me. I don’t have to look at a casting indicator to see what the enemy is doing, the skill effect makes it quite obvious.
Area of Effect skills have colored rings to denote friendly or hostile skills. We know Guild Wars 2 is also doing this and it’s a simple and supremely effective tactic. The skill particles and animation conveys the skill’s effect while the border color conveys its friendliness.
All that information is great and very important to an active combat style, but it’s not the most important comparison I’m drawing between LoL and GW2. What I’m talking about is battlefield control, and that’s where my lovely clockwork lady comes in.
Meet Orianna. She’s a bit of an odd duck. All of her skills revolve around her ‘pet’ ball. With her first skill, Command: Attack, she throws the ball. It does a decreasing amount of damage to everything it hits along the way to its destination. So if your goal is to harass and bully some enemy players that are hiding behind a line of creeps (weak NPC trash mobs) you’ll need to execute some flanking maneuvers, or throw the ball twice, once to get through the creeps and again to slam into an enemy champion.
Her second skill, Command: Dissonance, creates an electrical field in an area around the ball’s current location. This field does a middling amount of damage, but more importantly it slows foes and speeds up allies. ArenaNet is making heavy use with this type of mechanic in Guild Wars 2. Look at Ray of Judgement for example. It lances out lightning that bounces between friend and foe alike. When it strikes a foe it causes damage, when it strikes an ally there is a small amount of healing done. Giving a skill multiple effects based on the target adds depth and more utility than most skills. With Command: Dissonance I can use it to kill a mob of creeps, I can use it to slow enemy champions, helping my team net a kill, or I can use it as a speed boost to either chase or get back into the action after a death. It’s an extremely useful skill.
Orianna’s third skill, Command: Protect, has similar utility to her second. The ball flies from wherever it is and attaches to a friendly target. While in transit the ball does damage similar to that from Command: Attack. It forms a protective barrier around the ally (or Orianna herself), absorbing a small amount of damage, but it also generates a weak static field and does damage to any enemy nearby. From one skill we get damage in a line, damage in an area, and protection.
Her fourth (ultimate) skill isn’t worth mentioning in the context of this post. It basically creates a vortex and sucks enemies in and does damage. There is no effect on allies.
So that’s how the ball works in black and white, but once you bring it into an active combat environment multiple nuances of color start appearing. Orianna’s ball cannot be killed, targeted, or attacked, but Orianna can and she can be very fragile. The ball offers extreme range but even more it offers the opportunity to control the battlefield.
Early in a game farming creep kills is paramount to generating experience and gold. Orianna’s ball is used to harass the enemy champions and keep them away from the line of skirmishing creeps, thereby starving them of experience and gold. Doing this I’m not using the ball at all for attacking creeps, I’m taking pot shots at the enemy champions, throwing the ball into the bushes, and generally being as annoying as possible.
Later in game comes the team fights. Gigantic melees where it’s almost impossible to know for sure where exactly the ball happens to be sitting. In these situations the ball is in its prime. Movement here is key. Throw the ball beyond the attacking champions, damaging along the way. Command: Protect to the melee ally that is running in, once again doing damage along the way. When battle is joined cast Dissonance, doing damage, slowing the enemy, and speeding allies.
Very rarely do I lead in killing blows, but Orianna is a fantastic support character. Playing her requires one to be hyper aware of the battlefield: where are your allies, where are the enemies, who is low on health and will casting Protect also net you some damage?
This all compares directly to combat in Guild Wars 2. When I started playing League of Legends I watched a tutorial video. If it weren’t for the commentator pausing and pointing out specific things I would have been completely lost. There are so many creatures on the screen and so many different effects going off that for the uninitiated it looks completely chaotic and unmanageable. Do these complaints sound familiar? They should. Remember this video:
When discussing this gem I heard a lot of concern about how chaotic everything looked. The skills going off demanded our attention and since we aren’t familiar enough with the gameplay it all looks like so much noise. This leaves me feeling hopeful. I had a similar reaction when I started playing LoL and now I revel in the fast-paced combat. Between the spare User Interface, the descriptive skill effects, and Orianna’s control the battlefield playstyle I feel like I’m in pre-Guild Wars 2 boot camp.
What have you been playing lately that you feel could be preparing you for combat in Guild Wars 2?