With the first public beta weekend looming ever closer, loads of gamers are eagerly anticipating the chance to take their first crack at playing Guild Wars 2. Between now and then, we’ll be continuing our detailed previews of GW2’s core gameplay systems, including a series focused on the various types of “pets” found in the game, beginning with the ranger’s animal companions.
First, you should understand that I’m going to be using the term “pet” very loosely throughout this series, but at the end of the day the ranger is the only true “pet profession” in the game. However, I’m partially adopting the usage of “pet” based on the terminology used on the official wiki. In that entry, pets are described as:
“A pet is an NPC ally which is summoned or controlled by the player and takes an active role in combat, such as providing damage or providing interactive skills for the player.”
The other information found on that page is pretty straight forward and explains some of the core differences between things like minions, animal companions, turrets, and elementals. To be honest though, you’ll likely get more out of reading through the discussion page for the entry if for no other reason than sheer entertainment value. Any wiki entry that seriously analyzes a game system and compares it to Pokemon is pure entertainment gold:
“I'd have no problem with rangers becoming Pokemon trainers. I might do that as a mini-game with friends, at least.”
Rangers: The Pokemon Trainers of Tyria
The technical term for the pets used by rangers in GW2 is “animal companion”, one of the many naming conventions that have carried over from the original GW. Unlike the original, however, ranger pets in GW2 are a critical component to the ranger profession, and one that augments the weapon sets and skills you choose to equip.
I’m going to break down the following info on ranger pets into a few distinct chunks. The first will be more factual, and includes full video overviews of all currently available animal companions for the more hardcore number crunchers and theory-crafters out there.
From there we’ll look at how animal companions factor into combat, followed by some of the current issues with the system present in the previous beta events that we can hope to see improved heading into the public beta weekends.
Lions, and Moas, and Jellyfish! Oh My!
During character creation, each profession gets to make a unique choice following the other biography options. For some, this will be a choice between cosmetic armor options, such as the necromancer’s beginning head slot armor or the guardian’s choice between shoulder armor or helm. For the ranger, you’ll be able to decide which animal companion you’ll start the game with. Unlike most other professions, the ranger’s choices here will also factor in the race you’ve chosen for your character.
A unifying factor – regardless of which animal companion you choose – is that all of them will be classified as amphibious. That means it can stay with you either on land or in underwater regions, even if some of the options you’ll have here don’t seem like they could or should. For example, I probably wouldn’t normally classify a bear as amphibious, but that’s what mine was when I created my human ranger.
The three types of animal companions are:
- Terrestrial – These can only fight on land
- Amphibious – These can fight both on land and underwater
- Aquatic – These can only be used while underwater
For the most part these classifications make pretty obvious sense. I mean, I would personally love to take a landshark into Divinity’s Reach or see my jellyfish float alongside me in competitive PvP, but I can understand why neither will likely happen anytime soon.
To charm a new companion, you currently only need to walk (or swim) up to it, and use the F key to interact with it when prompted. From there you’ll have a total of 4 ‘active’ pet slots; 2 each for land and aquatic combat pets. So even if your bear can fight with you underwater, you’ll still need to have it slotted in one of our aquatic pet slots for it to remain active when you decide to go for a swim. Your first pet will be slotted in both when you start the game, but it’s something to be aware of as you start gaining levels and unlock new pets.
For the full details on each of the currently available pets, I’ve put together a video featuring the in-game details for each companion, added below for your viewing enjoyment.
Apologies for the slight stumpiness of the video in advance. While a version exists with the screen cropped to focus more fully on the animal companion UI, it unfortunately made the text a bit harder to read when viewed full screen. And since the purpose of the video is to allow you to analyze the data for each individual pet, it seemed a bit silly to make that data unreadable, hence the stumpy looking version you can view below.
Animal Companion Video Overview:
Constant Companions vs. Fire-and-Forget Pets
As much fun as it would be to explode your animal companions to do AoE damage like the necro’s minions, you won’t be doing so with the ranger. You have to admit, exploding pigs would be pretty cool though...
Instead, your pet is the ranger’s core profession-specific mechanic, and will be a permanent part of your toolset in combat.
There is currently a good variety of pets to choose from, but be aware that you’ll need to go out and find them first. Some will be pretty easy to locate in lower level zones, but you might not come across certain pets until you gain a few levels, or may be rare skins of standard pets that you’ll have to work a bit harder to obtain. For example, a few pet skins will only be unlocked via your Hall of Monuments progress for better or worse. I personally think the HoM rewards should have extended to other ‘pet’ skins, but then again that might just be because I want an undead asura minion on my necro.
Getting a feel for which pet you’ll want to pair with your weapon swaps does take a bit of time, and adds a touch more complexity to playing the profession well than many other profession-specific mechanics involve. Not a ton mind you, but enough to be worth mentioning.
Of course, you can easily just use them as “fire and forget” pets, but you probably won’t want to go that route. If nothing else, one of the first key mappings you’ll want to get used to after weapon swaps and dodging is toggling the active / passive combat state for your pet. Most of the time keeping it active is fine, but there are times when it won’t be optimal.
Dungeons are one example given the complexity of many encounters, but given the high amount of AoE damage types in-game, you’ll want to master pulling your pet out of them unless you want to spend time between each fight reviving your pet.
Animal companions also represent an interesting choice unique to rangers: which heal skill should you use? Heal as One may be optimal for topping off the health of both player and pet in a single skill, but at the end of the day your pet is an expendable resource that most players tended to let die rather than waste the cooldown on their healing skill when it wasn’t needed to heal their character.
Current Animal Companion Issues
The animal companion AI is decent enough, but is also one of the areas in GW2 that still needs some work before launch. Without constantly pulling your pet in and out of combat in PvP, for example, it will end up dead from AoE damage more often than not. You can see this in countless YouTube videos featuring PvP matches where melee pets will be scampering around with their pitiful “revive” icon constantly present.
As things stand currently, this is a bigger issue for melee pets, but one I hope to see addressed. If groups of mobs in GW1 could be reworked so that they’d run out of AoE damage, I don’t see why that same idea couldn’t be worked into GW2 for pet behavior. Necro minions suffer the same fate currently, but at least in their case it’s assumed they’re expendable or will be summoned frequently during combat. For a permanent pet like the ranger’s, however, it seems they should have at least a bit more intelligence than a walking corpse. You know, common sense stuff like “fire hurts” or “don’t hop up and down on those big spikes”.
The other funkiness with pets I noticed in the last betas was that the responsiveness of your pet entering combat when you did was hit or miss. In other words, most of the time my pet would begin attacking my target without prompting, but there were plenty of occasions when it would just sit at my feet and only bother to attack after the fight was basically over.
In some cases this seemed to be a display bug – the pet would actually be in combat, but its animations simply didn’t trigger for whatever reason. In either case, hopefully this will be fixed moving forward considering that animal companions are hard-wired into playing the ranger in GW2 as a profession-defining combat mechanic.
Want more details on ranger pets in GW2? Let us know in the comments, or join our active community over on the forums. And don’t forget, if you want short, direct answers to your burning GW2 questions we’ve also got a unique GW2 Answers feature you won’t find anywhere else.