First of all, thanks to everyone who stopped by and left suggestions, thoughts and feedback on possible Ranger builds I could look at! The response I got only reinforced the idea that there are so many different options to try, which is a heartening thing.
Also my apologies to anyone who left a comment that was eaten by WordPress. I went though the spam box and approved the ones I found. I don’t know what’s been up with WordPress.com lately, but it’s been bad on sending stuff to Spam. If that happens again, just send a tweet or contact me.
So the discussion continues about GW2, returning/new player difficulty, and the GW2 preview weekend. Seemed that GamingSF had a similar experience to me in trying out an unfamiliar job and thinking a demo weekend would be a safe place to do it.
All this leads into what I really want to report on: I rolled a Ranger!
Rolling a Ranger
So I had exactly two open character slots and two level 80 boosts to use on my account. Seeing I already have one of every class (except Revenant) and duplicates of a few classes (I used to pick up character slots whenever they went on sale), it didn’t bother me to roll a second Ranger.
Why didn’t I just use my first Ranger? Good question.
First, I just wasn’t feeling her character design. Second, she’s already in her low 60’s, and it just seems like a waste to boost on a character less than 20 levels from cap. I wanted to experiment while the discussion was still HoT (pun intended). And I decided I wanted a Charr ranger because it’s been a while since I’ve played a Charr, whom I love.
So I rolled Fletch Wayrunner (because he runs away, right?). At first, I made the Charr a female. But then, when I went back in to fine tune with a makeover kit, I gravitated to rolling my first male Charr. I’ve wanted a male in the past, but never found a look that I liked. There’s a lot more customization options now days, so…
I ended up with this flighty doof who looks perpetually scared of everything. Even his pet.
Trying the Level 80 Boost
I want to give ANet kudos on how the level 80 boost system works. You use it like any item in your inventory, but it’s not an instant consumable. Instead, it drops your character in front of a Level 80 Guide in the Silverwastes. There, you can trial the new class boost as long as you like, as long as you don’t leave the zone. Upon leaving, you get the choice to retain the boost and consume the item, or not.
Now, the Silverwastes wasn’t one of my favorite zones in the past because of all the Mordrem, and because it felt overly busy the little bit of time I spent there. But, I decided the whole idea was to see how Ranger fared vs Mordrem, so I went for it.
The boost gave my character a default build and full exotic gear. Checking it out, it looks like Rangers start in all Soldier’s stats with Ranger runes.
That was good enough for me, so I took my Ranger out and did some events. Things went well, and I spent about 20 minutes trialing it before I pulled the trigger and made the boost permanent.
The Ranged Experience
Once that was done, I took Fletch directly into the HoT storyline and hit the jungle. The great thing was that doing events in the Verdant Brink was part of the daily. So, perfect timing, I jumped in and out of story and events all night long.
During that, I gained enough experience to unlock the Exalted Markings mastery, which had been blocking my story progress on Zznaf since last week. I was just too busy with other things to sit down and grind out the experience needed, but now that block has been removed! Allowing masteries to be earned across the account is the best idea ever!
Since I already had a glider and the bouncing mushrooms, life was a lot easier for Fletch in the jungle. I got him all the way up through The Jungle Provides, where you helped the Itzel protect their tree-home.
I can pretty much confirm that after a few hours playing Ranger, and not even an optimal build, surviving in HoT is much, much more leisurely and less complicated than a melee class. As long as I was aware of my surroundings and didn’t get pounced from behind, my pet soaked most the damage and quickly taunted anything that roamed my way.
I played with the longbow I was given from the boost, and because I had no points to put towards Druid yet, I ran with the Beastmaster build that Jeromai suggested. I’ll look into expanding the build and switching out gear stats later, but for now, I’m having no problem.
Choosing a Different Path
I also discovered that the path you choose in the story can significantly lower the game’s difficulty. For example, in The Jungle Provides, you have the choice to defend the Itzel within the village or to go into the jungle and take out the enemy before they get to the village.
The first time, I defended from within the village. Doing that, I had to take on this boss enemy (Stavemaster Adryn) who could one-shot you with huge beams of energy. This quickly slaughtered all the NPC backup I had and took me out time and time again. There was no time to rez my companions, so it turned into a frustrating solo death and revive endeavor. Somehow, mostly through learning to read the boss’ cues and dodge his attacks, I managed to whittle him down, but the fight took a LONG time.
It was pretty awful.
I wasn’t looking forward to doing that quest again, understandably, and decided to try the other option. I was shocked when not only did I not have to fight Stavemaster Adryn in the other option (which I fully expected), but there wasn’t even a boss at all! Just waves of normal Mordrem, and nothing difficult about it.
What the heck?
Why make one path face a legendary boss and the other a simple “defeat the trash waves and hold waypoints” mechanic? Here I was dreading that all story instances were going to have terrible bosses in them from now on (I didn’t know the difference).
So, Bhagpuss was right. Ranged gameplay is significantly easier than melee in HoT. In fact, it was so leisurely, I started to miss the excitement of my Reaper (haha – can’t please me, huh?). While I didn’t put out as much damage, even without Druid and with the gear that the game just handed me, I never died, and rarely felt threatened thanks to my pet.
I even went off and tamed one of those Fire Wyverns, which are sub-optimal from what I’ve read. But I don’t care. It got the job done and the fire thing looked cool. I’m never going to take Fletch into Fractals or Raids, and as long as I can wander the open world, I’m content.
But confirming this also shows there’s a disparity for endgame melee players in GW2, especially those new to HoT or are returning, like me. Suddenly you get dumped into this world where even the normal mobs all have mechanics, and these mechanics hit melee the hardest.
While I won’t say that you can’t melee in GW2, I will say that as a casual-kinda-midcore rusty-returning player, I found ranged a breeze in comparison. Heck, I had little to no experience with Ranger at all. I just picked it up, used some of the feedback and suggestions I read, and was romping HoT with so much less stress than the Necro I’ve played quite a bit in the past (yes, Reaver is new to me, though).
I like Fletch a lot, and I like the relaxed playstyle. But, with PoF so close to launch, coming in with a brand new character who is even MORE behind than the one I was working on in terms of story and world completion is a daunting thing.
I think that I’ll keep pushing through on HoT story with Zznaf for now, but with a better understanding that play style and story choices really do effect everything in GW2. I’m looking forward to coming back to Fletch in the future, though, and trying different things with him. If anything, this has opened my eyes to Ranger, which is a class I didn’t play much before.
Thanks so much to everyone for thoughts, feedback and guidance! Hopefully this experiment helps a bit with the conversation we’ve been having in the GW2 gaming community. 🙂