Control is the core component to Guild Wars 2 combat. Making the enemy go where you want them to go and do what you want them to do is the only way to successfully engage in a sortie and come back alive. In other MMOGs, control (or kiting) involves a wizard running around, flailing their arms screaming as vicious orcs chase them, waiting to bash their skulls in, and failure to get that distance condemns our arm flailing hero or heroine to a corpse walk. In GW2, it’s a bit different.
Kiting vs. Control vs. Tanking
The first thing to understand is that the holy trinity (tanks, healers, and damage dealers) does not exist in GW2. Instead, each profession is reliant on itself for healing, damage mitigation, and to contribute to damage output. For instance, an elementalist can switch to Earth attunement for damage mitigation, while the guardian can switch to a shield and sword to block incoming damage. Likewise, both can switch to heavy damage or heavy support, and most of these roles are built into every build to begin with.
GW2 doesn’t believe in static combat; so much so that any profession can be downed by any monster if they do not properly utilize their abilities. There is no “auto attack and AFK” in GW2. Even the guardian, which gets constant regeneration, can’t out regen constant incoming damage, especially from two or more enemies. You have to control the enemy, either by gaining distance and/or mitigating damage in order to successfully complete a round of combat.
Many abilities that snare, prevent movement, stun, etc. are AoE based, making controlling large groups of enemies an effective battle strategy.
There isn’t much of a difference between squishy and hearty professions, either. The difference is that a hearty profession will mitigate the damage while a squishy profession will avoid it. Both processes work towards the same end goal; it’s just two different types of playstyles. Squishy doesn’t correlate to profession either, necromancers can be built up to be very “hearty” and they are a scholar profession.
Damage mitigation comes from blocking and using skills to shield, not passive “blocking”, while avoidance doesn’t come from passive “dodging” but dodging yourself, placing wards, AoEs, snares, and other movement controlling and limiting affects to control where the enemy is at. There is also no taunting; instead aggro is determined by who is closest to the enemy.
There are several ways to control movement in GW2. The biggest ones are Chilled, Cripple, and Immobilize. Cripple is a 50% movement speed condition, Chilled is a 66% movement speed reduction, and Immobilize prevents movement and dodging. Applying any of these conditions on the enemy will make them move slower than the base character speed, effectively giving you distance.
Unsteady Ground, while not in the best location above, is a great example of a snare that can be activated while moving and affect multiple foes.
Wards, a guardian exclusive, can control where enemies move to by placing barriers on the ground. This works in PvE by funneling enemies away lower health players and towards players who can deal with the aggression and in PvP by preventing enemies from walking through choke points or forcing them to either wait or take a more dangerous route (closer to siege weapons for instance).
Area of effect skills can control enemies in PvP and PvE. In PvE, enemies will avoid any area of effect skill while in PvP, players will naturally want to avoid walking into passive damage. So placing any area of effect skill can make enemies move to avoid it.
There are also several control abilities, like Fear, Push, Launch, Pull, Knockdown, and Stun. Fear causes enemies to flee away from you, giving you distance and preventing damage. Push and Launch can force an enemy away, while Pull can draw either you or the enemy toward each other, dragging you closer to them or dragging them closer to danger (and interrupting them). Stun causes an enemy to be locked down for a short duration and Knockdown is effectively the same thing.
Damage mitigation is important and thankfully there is a large swath of ways to handle incoming damage. There is no dedicated healers in GW2 and there are no effective targeted heals, making dedicated support builds act more in a debuff/buff capacity than a healing capacity. So controlling damage is important and the responsibility of everyone in a group. There is a large swath of abilities that lower incoming damage and another swath of abilities that mitigate it.
This earlier screenshot is a reality in GW2, many enemy attacks can be blocked or shielded by using the skill at the right time - there are also tutorials scattered throughout the world that help you practice activating shields at the right time.
A vast array of conditions like Blind and Weakness reduce incoming damage while conditions like Retaliation, Reflect, and Confusion can make players decide if they want to hit you and take damage or skip out. Then there is the abilities that block incoming damage, like Counter Blow that blocks the next incoming attack.
The best way to control damage, of course, is to keep moving. Projectiles can be blocked by line of sight or location, AoEs can be avoided by moving out of them, and a lot of abilities require you to be standing in a specific area for them to connect. Moving is the best way to avoid damage.
Examples of Control
A lot of guides preach playstyles and mechanics, but don’t give real world examples. In helping an associate locate skill points, we came to one that involved a legion of skale along with three fiery phoenixes. After they quickly defeated him (a lowbie for the area), they all came after me. If I stood still with my elementalist and tried to “tank” them, I would die. No matter what profession I would be, this would remain true.
To claim victory for the event, I had to circle strafe and keep the enemy snared (using Frozen Ground and Unsteady Ground), healing myself, and controlling their movement by laying down AoE’s (enemies do not like walking into AoE’s), and using dodge at critical moments to avoid damage and regain distance. Again, had I stood there, I would have been done in, even being 10 levels over the content (thanks to the dynamic level adjustment mechanic). True, this isn’t every battle (and involved me soloing a more group oriented event), but it’s a great example of how GW2 lets you do what you want as long as you’re willing to understand its mechanics.
So, ultimately, GW2 isn’t a “set it and forget it” MMO. You have to be interactive in combat, or face being downed. It’s something that may catch some players, as they walk up to an enemy and fully expect to stand still and tank the enemy. It also doesn’t punish players by forcing them to work every fight - nor do players have to bring abilities that aren't fun, many of the control abilities are built into most weapons and come default. The system is very fluid and makes each combat session fun and exciting.
What do you think about GW2’s approach to combat? Would you rather bash your head into an enemy over and over to level up or do you like the more interactive combat system? Let us know in the comments section below.