*Sorry about the version that came out before as I mistakenly published when it wasn’t ready as Google reader apparently keeps it regardless of whether you delete the original. Well the good bit about that though is if you had a read of it you kind understand my thinking now and the structure of how I go about writing these pieces. Anywho here is the for realsies version now… enjoy*
When I read Anets initial blog on the underwater environments and combat I was very impressed with the concept they had in mind to make underwater just as breathtaking and fun to do as the on land stuff. It was a very big statement as most developers really do not spend that much time developing this sort of combat, it is an after thought (even worse than PvP most times) with no attention to detail in the environment, just bland never ending ocean floors textures.. boring boring boring.. and the combat is rather average as well.
And now that the I have been playing more and traversing the lands I love the underwater areas, they are everything that was promised and far more. There are many amazing structures, great underwater races, and a perfectly detailed environment. I love how the underwater flora has a swaying motion about it, reacting to the currents of the oceans. It also feels like it should and has a very weighty but fluid sort of movement movement involved. And I just want to say that there are entirely too few underwater vistas to soak up the rich setting.
It is funny writing this now as Jeromai of Why I game recently had nothing but a glowing report regarding underwater environments and combat but i do not. Even though I thoroughly enjoy most locations I am really starting to dislike it, maybe even getting close to hating underwater combat which is a shame. Most of my issues are connected to my pvp based play but that doesn’t stop the terrible mood extending over to the world of PvE.
The Whining Part
I am not aware how well the conversion goes for other classes but for the Necro underwater damage is very minimal compared to its dry land counterpart… And we really don’t have superb damage anyway. The Trident has terrible damage and even the spear is weak with only one ability having decent damage. Both weapons also have a very different approach to damage with one being condition based and the other physical meaning you will always be sub par on one of them thus switching around is rather pointless. There is a thread on the main forums so I know I am not alone in this regard and maybe it is far better for other classes, but it is disheartening nonetheless.
I think it is in part due to there being less weapon set types as you just don’t get that diversity. I have heard it is better as a ele or engi since you have a plethora of skills regardless but I can’t help getting the overwhelming feeling during my play that combat is very underwhelming… A sentiment reflected by my guildies as well. The playstlye the ignorant keep complaint about, that minimal rotation and spam cooldowns style, it is alive and well underwater.
Our main mechanic Death Shroud also seems a lot weaker underwater. Plague blast has a longer cast and does less damage which makes no sense at all, the number 2 ability is an aoe ability like locust swarm except lasting a very minimal time and also has abysmal damage. The fear only works on a single plane straight ahead or towards your target and can get multiple enemies although it easy is to miss and avoid and then you are missing out on life transfer, the absolute best part of Death Shroud and it is replaced by something completely incomparable.
It also doesn’t help that a large number of utilities and elites become unusable underwater. At the moment for pve and WvW I usually run a well build as the burst damage is great allowing me to aoe packs of mobs and keep players and siege off the doors but those are apparently not allowed.. there goes our decent burst damage. Epidemic isn’t as useful since you can’t stack as many conditions, grasping hands is buggy as is and you have enough gap closers anyway, and corrupt boon is very situational and mainly a PvP skill. We are forced to either use pets with inherent terrible UI (although they’re good against mobs) or signets which really aren’t that great either. And then we have only a single Elite available, Plague form and too bad if you aren’t running a condition spec as your damage will be rather appalling and you lose all utility and the range of skills you usually have. They have so much complexity involved in their system with traiting, weapons, skills, and gear stats but once underwater these plans seem to just get abandoned. On a whole the Necromancer class seems very poorly thought out and implemented with odd traits, weird placement of them, and many many bugs on some of our primary abilities.. Underwater is just the epitamy of our issues.
When traiting your character the usual mindset is to build based on you usual playstyle, as I did with wells. It is a remarkably diverse system but there isn’t much in the way of underwater options. You try to work towards your weapons and utilities with these traits but the better ones aren’t even available, there should at least be some purely underwater utilities as a compromise. Even if there was switching between builds is overly cumbersome to do and really isn’t a system conducive to adaptability. Resetting skills, taking time to find a trainer, huge gearing stat changes to take into account the new playstyle. I’m not one to worry too much about the optimal spec but this is beyond ridiculous, it would be much better if you had a seperate underwater build that switches over just like your weapons and utilities. At the moment it is just better to avoid the annoyances.
The mobs underseas are your usual fare as well (sometimes hitting harder) which you wouldn’t think would be too bad but when you have far less damage and utility it makes it almost a war of attrition. It really does take far too long and as such I will often go out if my way to avoid any mobs underwater. The absolutely worse time underwater ever was in Bloodtide Coast, there was an event underwater of attacking inquest machines to release the prisoners. There was a handful if people attending but even then it took far too long to kill the objectives with Asura inquest spawning just as fast as we could kill them. This one event took absolutely forever to complete and it was after this I came to realise that these events and combat in general have been scaled to take into account a full range of skills and damage that just isn’t available.
Whining About PvP
The main issue with underwater combat is that damage is no where near comparable to on land, everything feels weaker and when attacking another it seems to take an exorbitant amount of time as they have large health pools and healing which remains unchanged. As discussed before this is in part due to your optimal specs traiting taking into account the majority of time you spend on land. I don’t think any build would translate well between the two right now, being a jack of all trades type build with all its inherent weaknesses. Once underwater it seems some of the two main features of our arsenal, support and control are no where as functional and then the damage is sub par as well. All this adds up to skill spam and less diversity making it a slow boring rather uncomplicated affair and not suited to a PvP environment.
While a melee weapon can be far better during PvE as you can pretty much strafe around a monster while taking minimal damage in PvP I would not advise it as the closer you are to a pack the more of a target you are.. especially in WvW. The extra axis also makes it to a lot harder to maneuver, target and hit your enemy as they will be constantly moving unlike their AI counterpart and any sort of control mechanic will set you back even further and due to the limited utilities and skills you may not have as many gap closers. It is just way too easy to keep your distance from another person and the damage from the melee option doesn’t make up for the fact. A ranged option is just far superior as you can keep pressure on them, it is also a better tool when using the extra axis as you can attack from varying directions without your enemy realising.
The finishing mechanic underwater is also not well thought out for PvP, while I have no problems with the downed mechanic it is very annoying when underwater. Since there is no finishing mechanic you are left spending far too much time whittling down the enemies second health pool and spending this amount of time in sPvP means you are can not be anywhere else to contribute to your team but are stuck dpsing down someone. Since the minute you breach water as well you are able to start healing regardless of how long ago you were attacked (no cooldown like on land) you are able to make the fight last even longer and each time you breach the surface you also get a small invulnerability. This is also where it is quite terrible being melee as you need to position yourself perfectly to damage your opponent so as to finish them off. If you breach the surface you are no longer able to attack and the have to dive and position yourself once again all the while they are healing up. There just needs to be a finishing mechanic whether your underwater or on the surface otherwise the whole thing just feels half-baked.
Underwater monsters in PvP just exacerbate the situation and the Mechanic of Raid on the Capricorn has to be the worst. I think it is a nearly uniformed opinion that everyone hates the sharks, the are numerous and do stupid amounts of damage… I hate them soooo much. This one mechanic alone can be the deciding factor in a match as it is very easily defended by a single person against a group, any ole Defensive spec could sit there while the sharks rip them apart which is appalling. What is rather funny though is that the mechanic I can understand from PvE wherein monsters don’t attack you on the surface of the water makes no sense when it becomes a PvP mechanic such as this, you are suddenly invulnerable invalidating the mechanic of controlling the water. In my opinion I do not mind the sharks too much but there damage should be scaled way down but they should have a sense of control about them, maybe adding a cripple or chill to their attacks every now and then whether the are underwater or on the surface. Also there health should be a little less to make killing them a valid option when assaulting the point. PvE elements should never interfere with the flow of PvP but rather to enhance or support and I think those changes would do the trick.
And one other rant point about mobs.. can we please cull the amount of Krait in WvV.. my god they are everywhere. and have far too much control which is funny as the amount of damage and control they have is similar to what I would like the sharks to be
They have done an amazing job creating a different and equal amazing world that feels entirely distinct and apart from the environment on land, even the combat while a little buggy and requiring a lot more balance is enjoyable enough when participating in PvE. But once combat starts against your fellow player the system completely falls apart and it is very easy to spot the inherent flaws in the system. There is also way less thought that has gone into the underwater PvP combat and environments, the map and mechanics of Capricorn being no where near as well thought out as the others. The large lake in WvW also feels like a wasteland in comparison to any other environment as it lakes any sort of grand structures and beautiful flora that everywhere else has, it just lacks detail and makes you want to just swim over and past rather than exploring. Combat is slow, painful and boring in PvP (for pve as well for me) and needs a lot of work to bring up to par with anything on land. I don’t like being this negative as I am generally a positive person but it is just plain bad and reflects poorly on a generally very polished experience.