I love underwater combat in Guild Wars 2. I think at times I'm the only one. When Guild Wars 2 first launched there was a real fanfare behind aqua breathers, the depth of content under the surface and the fact we had 360 degree control over our movement (all linked together with unique skill sets).
Where we now find ourselves however is the vast majority of players denouncing underwater combat and avoiding it at all costs. Evidence enough of this is the removal of the water in World versus World. I haven't known a time where players haven't complained about it being anything other than an obstruction and hindrance. I think that's a shame and although much of these complaints are unfounded, ArenaNet still have a responsibility to support and improve this specific part of the game despite them taking little time and effort to do so.
Underwater combat has huge potential, not only from a visual standpoint but also one of exploration and combat. Free movement in a 360 degree radius is a ripe opportunity for exciting encounters and puzzles. The best we have however is a Fractal that the majority of players despise due to its poor end boss and slow pacing. For me, under water combat and its issues are easily addressed. Overcoming player perception of it though, will be the hardest obstacle. I've never heard a single person happy about delving into the deep blue and yet they can never tell me why they don't like it. Responses are always very washy (no pun intended).
I think one of the reasons why people don't enjoy underwater combat is the fact that there is so little good content that contains it and as a result, too little exposure to the skills you need to use and how you generally navigate. As a result of this, players feel uncomfortable when they dip their toes in the water and have little desire to return as a consequence.
The second major reason is the fact that there's no sense of progression underwater. The vast majority of all players are still using the same Aquabreather that they had at level 1 as they do at 80. Compounded by the fact that ArenaNet have pretty much disregarded this item doesn't instil confidence that this area of the game has longevity or is at the top of the developers lists of improvements.
As for a third reason (I believe there are actually four) it is likely the pacing of the underwater content and the fact that it feels sluggish despite the speed replicating that as when on land. There's no sense of splitting through the ocean at break-neck speeds with little in the way of on screen effects or feedback.
Lastly, it has to be the fact that it plays so little part in all of Guild Wars 2 (yet is so widely used in games such as World of Warcraft) but also that the skill sets under the water seem to lack the punch of that on land. Many of the skills feel relatively weak, incohesive and in need of improvement. No one wants to feel powerful on land but weaker the moment they submerge.
So what can ArenaNet do? Besides addressing the above (gear progression, skill improvements, greater speed and tactile feedback) they need to also make it a cornerstone of the game as it was once planned. Implementing a water based dungeon would go a long way to improve this though I understand that Honor of the Waves leaves much to be desired. But, if they do implement improvements to much of the above, it would alleviate many issues facing this aspect of the game.
On that basis, what do you think happened with underwater combat to make it so loathed by players and so neglected by ArenaNet?