My love of rangers is no secret, and neither is my opinion that the essence of what I liked about them has been removed from the class in Guild Wars 2. In various other MMOs I’ve played, I usually try the equivalent ranger class (followed by their cleric class) and after trying to mentally dice up how the ranger can be sorted out, I’ve noticed something common to nearly all incarnations of bow wielders. They are plagued by imbalance and lack the epic feeling of their counterparts.
The original Guild Wars ranger isn’t a stranger to this. Nature rituals were to blame for a horrible meta in the early days of the game, then there was the bunny thumper causing havoc everywhere. Disrupting Shot was catapulted to the skill hall of fame, being picked by The Last Pride [EviL] to be made into a skill pin. Over the years, the nerf bat has chipped away at various aspects of the ranger so that the profession has relatively few teeth left in its mouth and little benefit to the team as a whole. Even playing solo in PvE, its hard to see the impact you have on a battle – mesmers interrupt better, necromancers apply conditions better and various classes deal more damage.
Rift has to be applauded for the flexible nature of its class construction, but it feels like the rogue gets a lot more sweeping changes than other classes. This could be related to Trion’s insistence on rolling out updates like it’s the morning newspaper but my rogue’s roles (which I tend to play as a Marksman) seem to get reset a lot more than my cleric’s do indicating significant changes were made. It’s a bit of a mystery really. The bow-wielding NPC rogues hit hard, but when I’m the one aiming the arrow it feels like my character is throwing a pebble. Maybe I’m a bad ranger, but the repeated skill changes make me think that maybe it’s not entirely my fault.
Age of Conan’s take on the class was enjoyable, but was lacking variety and the feeling of epicness, due in part to the overpowered nature of the class at the release of the game. Finishing moves are a big deal in that game and while my husband’s Bear Shaman was ripping off heads and smashing skulls, my Ranger was limited to crouching down with my bow and shooting my killer blow. Fierce…
Overall it feels like a very hard class concept to action. And looking at the the variety of concepts above, is it much wonder? Warriors, mages and clerics don’t change much from MMO to MMO, but that fourth archetype does. Perhaps it’s a symptom of being the fourth wheel in the holy trinity, trying desperately to be the Swiss army knife for all situations that ultimately it fails in all of them.
Oddly the incarnation I enjoyed the most was found in Aion. Rangers were given silences, stuns, poisons, stealth and traps to play with. I maintain that traps are pretty useless in a PvP(vE) world and never used them in my gameplay. Still, I felt like I was doing something in a team. If someone needed killing, I could combo a damaging chain. If we overaggroed, I could provide another stun or silence. If we needed to pressure a team, I could spread poison or unleash a range of shots. There were no pets, but you could shapeshift into various animal forms if you had enough DP. I really enjoyed playing Aion’s ranger, it’s just a shame about server balance and a number of other game problems that drove me away. Also those few months of alpha & beta I burnt out on the game.
I think part of the reason that I’m looking forward to Guild Wars 2 as much is because I like the concept of being able to switch up my gameplay as the situation requires it. Clearly it is possible to achieve but, if anything’s to be said for classes that do this in other games, it feels like a very very tall order to execute 8 times over.
If you’re expecting a great revelation or arrogant claim to have a solution, prepare to be disappointed. I don’t have one. It’s hard enough getting a group of rangers to define the class itself, let alone work out how to execute the profession.
So, who’s up for a bit of amateur game design? If you’ve noticed any patterns or have any insight, drop your thoughts below please!