Interview: meet Guild Wars 2's acrobatic Ranger

Tom Francis

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Subscription-free MMO Guild Wars 2 has just announced its third confirmed class: the Ranger. I spoke to lead designer Eric Flannum about the profession a few weeks ago, so we've been sitting on some exciting details about her (or him) until the grand reveal. She's still a primarily ranged class with a pet and traps, but the way she moves in combat, and the way her pets evolve, is very different. Eric's answers paint a great picture of how weapon and class choice combine to create very specific play styles. In Guild Wars 2, the same sword can serve completely different purposes in the hands of different professions.

Before shotguns.

PC Gamer: So what's the Ranger class all about?

Eric Flannum: The Ranger is nature based, primarily a ranged attacker. Rangers are special because all Rangers have a pet. In your biography you will get to choose between three different pets that you can start with, and that varies between race. Then you can have up to three pets, and you go to a pet management screen to pull out any of the three that you want - provided that you're not in combat. And so what we wanted to do is encourage Rangers to have up to three pets that they nurture and adventure with, and those three pets can be very different, purpose-wise.

So I can have maybe a bear who is good at tanking, or a snow leopard who's a good damage pet, and then maybe a Moa bird who's a good support pet, depending on the situation I'm in. So say I'm grouped with a bunch of Warriors and I really don't need a bear to tank, I can pull out my snow leopard. If I wanted some support I could pull out the Moa. And so Rangers are designed to have those choices with their pets, where the pets fulfill very specific roles.

The pets automatically level to the level of the Ranger, so you don't actually have to level pets. So if you get to level 50 and you want to go get a new type of pet, you don't have to spend a bunch of time levelling that pet. The pet's going to basically be effective.

The pets do have a thing that we call Evolution Levels. We had that concept in Guild Wars 1, but it's a little bit different in Guild Wars 2. In Guild Wars 2 Evolution Levels give the pet extra bonuses. One of the things you can do is the pet has a certain number of skill slots, and you unlock those skill slots as you go. Then you can slot skills into those slots for the pet. So like I said, the Moa bird is a support pet that has a bunch of squawks that do different things, and you can choose which of those things you want to slot. As your pet evolves you can slot more of them.

The Ranger is primarily a ranged character but he's also very effective with melee. So you can use a greatsword, sword and dagger, sword and warhorn - all of these things. So you can build a Ranger who switches between ranged and melee, or you can build a solely melee ranger, or you can build just a pure ranged Ranger.

You won't get away with a scarf like that on Fashion Hawk turf, Baz.

PC Gamer: What ranged weapons can he use?

Eric Flannum: The Ranger can use a longbow and shortbow, which are very different. Longbow, as the name implies, is a stationary, slow, long ranged weapon, and a shortbow is a very quick skirmishing weapon. Rangers can also use axes which for them are a ranged weapon, so Ranger axe skills tend to be just all about throwing axes - that's kind of a short range weapon for them.

Warhorn also has a little bit of range on it. The warhorn is a little different, in that most other professions that use a warhorn use it solely for buffing. The ranger can use it to call in temporary animals to attack things. My personal favourite skill in the game is a warhorn skill that summons in three hawks that dive in and start ripping at the target.

PC Gamer: If the Ranger is using a melee weapon, how are their skills different from a Warrior using the same weapon?

Eric Flannum: That's a good question. So let's take sword: With a one handed sword, the first skill the Warrior gets is a combo that causes a lot of bleeding and has a big hit at the end - it's a three part combo. One of the things we have is combination skills, where you hit the skill and it changes to be skill 2, then skill 3, and then cycles back to skill 1. So the Warrior has two bleeding skills and a big finishing skill in his first skill slot.

His second skill slot is Flurry which is an area-of-effect skill: you hold it down and it does a rapid series of hits. And his third one is Savage Leap, which is a movement skill where he leaps at his foe. So the Warrior with the sword is all about causing bleeding and chasing down targets that are trying to run from him.

The Ranger, on the other hand, is very, very mobile with a sword – a lot of the Ranger's attacks with swords move him in some way. So his three part combo with the sword is; he has a basic attack, and then he has a kick as the next part which kicks the opponent away from him, and then his third one is a follow-up leap attack. His second skill is called Hornet Sting, where he attacks the opponent and then rolls back. And his third one is Serpent Strike, in which he rolls around to the back of an opponent and then poisons them with Serpent Strike.

So the thing you'll get with a Ranger attacking with a sword is a lot of movement, and you can use that movement to really good effect. In fact one of the really cool combos you can do with Ranger is: say you've got a sword and a shortbow. You can use your combo up to the second attack, where you kick the guy away from you, and then not do the third part. But instead use skill number 2, Hornet Sting, which will cause you to roll backwards - so you've just created a ton of distance between yourself and the guy you're fighting. You can then immediately swap to the shortbow and use a cripple on them, and try to kite them with the bow.

So that's the difference.

Serpent Sting: stab them with a goddamn snake.

PC Gamer: So it's pretty acrobatic?

Eric Flannum: Yeah, so the Ranger's a lot more acrobatic with his melee weapon.

The purpose of this shot seems to be to demonstrate the human's corset technology.

PC Gamer: Does the Ranger have any kind of special mechanic in the way that the Warrior has adrenaline?

Eric Flannum: The pet is basically the Ranger's mechanic. The Ranger can control the pet in combat, give it orders, set its stances, all of that. And we thought that was enough for the Ranger to have to manage in combat. He didn't really need another special mechanic.

PC Gamer: What level of control do you have over the pet? Do you specifically tell them which targets to attack?

Eric Flannum: Yeah you can tell them which targets to attack, you can control their basic AI stance, you can have them come follow you, you can tell them to stay in a spot; basically the kind of level of control that you saw Rangers having over pets in Guild Wars 1.

PC Gamer: Do you teach them new powers as they level up?

Eric Flannum: Yeah, and the pets get stronger as they gain Evolution Levels yeah.

Aaaaaaaaaah! Oh, it's an Asura Ranger. Aaaaaaaaaah!

PC Gamer: What kind of new abilities can they gain?

Eric Flannum: The Snow Leopard can gain stealth, and the ability to stun guys when it attacks from the rear, and things like that.

PC Gamer: And how do you get new pets?

Eric Flannum: We have spawned around the world what we call... you can tell it's a pet that you can charm if it's a 'juvenile' animal. So like you'll go around and see a juvenile grizzly bear, you know that if it's juvenile you're a Ranger, you can go up and get a context sensitive reaction to it where you can charm it. All you have to have is an empty pet slot for the pet and find a juvenile animal, and you can charm it.

PC Gamer: Cool. It annoyed me in World of Warcraft that as a Hunter, I couldn't tell if I could charm something except by going online and looking it up on Petopia .

Eric Flannum: Yeah, so look out for juvenile animals in the world and then you know what you can charm.

Nice of the Kilrathi to show up.

PC Gamer: Could you give me any examples of utility skills for the Ranger?

Eric Flannum: A lot of the Ranger's utility skills have to do with the pet; things that buff the pet. One of the skills rezzes the pet almost instantly. Traps, a lot of traps, so things that you saw in Guild Wars 1: Spike Trap, Dust Trap, that kind of stuff. Spirits, which the Ranger had in Guild Wars 1 also, which are temporary Nature Spirits that can get put in the area and then have an effect on an area.

One of the things we've tried to do, when we've taken a profession like the Ranger and moved them over from the first game, we've tried to maintain as much of the flavour and feel of that profession as we can. And so you'll see a lot of the same sorts of things that Rangers had available to them in Guild Wars 1 so, you know, traps and spirits and things like that. In the cases of some of our future professions that we haven't talked about yet – in cases where we felt the profession was just too different - we would actually rename the profession to something else. So you'll see some professions that we'll announce later on that are similar to something that we had in Guild Wars but aren't quite the same.

PC Gamer: Eric, thanks very much.

Our full preview of Guild Wars 2 is in the current issue of PC Gamer UK , on sale now from our online shop with free postage. We also have interviews online about the Guild Wars 2 death and healing systems, the Warrior class and the Traits system . And finally, the official site has clips of some of these skills in action.

Eric's allusion to new classes that evolved from old ones is intriguing - I just hope the Necromancer makes it back in some form. I can't live without Corpse Explosion.

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