Unlike other MMOGs where your skills underwater remain the same as those on land, underwater combat in Guild Wars 2 is a different kind of fish (sorry). When you submerge into water your character will automatically use breathing apparatus (or rebreathers) so you won’t have to surface to breath. As a result you can stay under water indefinitely. Your skill set will also change based on whether your character is using a harpoon gun, spear or a trident. Both the harpoon gun and trident tend to offer ranged underwater skills, while the spear is the on land equivalent of a melee weapon. Also unlike other MMOGs, you don’t suffer any movement penalties while underwater, meaning you travel at the same speed as if you were on the surface. It should also be noted that you can also dodge while under water although instead of rolling, this will make you swim quickly in the direction you are facing and still allows you to avoid damage.
There are considered to be three layers to underwater environments. At the surface, there are relatively few enemies so if you do need to get from point A to point B without fear of being attacked this is where you should stay. Towards the middle of underwater environments you’ll find a scattering of enemies, but with a little finesse you can also travel at that level with relative safety. At the bottom is where most underwater events occur and as a result, these areas tend to be littered with aggressive enemies that will quickly turn on you.
As several last notes, you're are more likely to obtain rebreathers (as an armour upgrade) in underwater combat rather than on land. In addition (and this for many professions is a big deal) many skills from 7 to 9 on your combat bar actually have variances underwater or won't work at all. The Engineer in particular struggles in this area as many of their skills simply don't work, such as turrets or the flamethrower. We will however be covering this aspect in a lot more detail in a separate guide, in a couple of days.
Kill the Quaggan!
Underwater combat functions in many respects, as if you were on land. However, there is a much greater emphasis on the use of the z-axis, with you able to fight enemies below you and above you. Many beginners can find underwater combat a little disorientating and confusing at first, with enemies coming from all directions but with a little practice you’ll quickly get the hang on it. The best method to approach this is to fight on the middle layer where there are fewer enemies, just until you are a little more comfortable.
While you are underwater, there are also two additional effects some of your skills might cause; the first is sinking and the second floating. Sinking causes enemies to fall away from the surface and this can be incredibly useful in a PvP environment (such as in World versus World) to stop players escaping out of the water. The second, floating, causes enemies or opposing players to rise to the surface. Tactically this can be brilliant for moving enemies or opposing players away from your team mates. Unfortunately, sinking or floating skills are few and far between with the Elementalist the only profession capable of causing floating (with the exception of the Guardian and Engineer, who can cause it when drowning) and only the Guardian, Elementalist, Necromancer and Mesmer are capable of causing sinking (with the exception of the Engineer, who can also cause it when drowning).
Help I’m Drowning!
Similarly to on land, your character can be downed when your health reaches zero but this is replaced with a state called drowning. When drowning, you will have access to four skills that you can use to rally. The major difference however between downed versus drowning is that players can recover by swimming to the surface. When your drowning health becomes full, you with then rally with 25% health. You should be aware however that you can still be finished off while drowning so quickly making your way to the surface or fighting back with your drowning skills is your best hope.
I'll be producing more guides in the coming days exploring underwater combat in more depth as well as guides specific to reviving fallen allies, both on land and underwater, complete with neat tips and tricks.
You can contact the author of this post by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Twitter @PersistentWorld