I will be blunt: I played the Classic World of Warcraft stress test and it IS going to be used in this explanation. If comparing two games in the exact same genre or the thought of WoW offends you, move along.
NOW THEN, ON TO THE MAIN POINT. The PvP in Guild Wars 2 is flawed. No sane individual with any understanding of the game will argue that point. The pro scene is dead, win trading is rampant and the Guild Wars 2 dev team is doing everything in their power to pretend that PvP doesn't exist. The point I want to focus on is far more fundamental than these issues, though. I wasn't able to notice it at first, but coming back from the WoW stress test has given me a fresh pair of eyes and now I can't un-see the fundamental issue Guild Wars 2 has: Abilities simply do too many things at once. What do I mean by this? Let me give a few examples from WoW for a moment: Shadow Word: Pain, Frost Bolt, and Garrote. For those of you that don't know what these do, I'll explain:
-) Shadow Word: Pain is a targetted Damage over Time effect that has no cooldown, low mana cost and can be cast instantly. It does no initial damage and cannot stack with itself. It's a fairly weak ability that has a VERY simple task: Damage. Over. Time.
-) Frost Bolt is a spell that has a roughly 1.5 second cast time for a small amount of damage and slows. The slow is dependent on the rank of the spell, which also increases the damage and mana cost. Damage and a slow, but has a sizable cast time.
-) Garrote is an ability that silences the target for 2 seconds (In Guild Wars 2 it would be a Daze) and does damage over time, but can only be used from stealth. Stealth cannot be regained during combat without using another ability with a 3-minute cooldown. Stealth slows you by 50% and taking ANY damage causes you to lose stealth.
Why am I wasting your time with these abilities from another game with a much, much slower combat system? It's rather simple: These abilities don't do much, and that's the entire point. WoW gives you a long list of spells to make your character with, and you won't use all of them. You have to choose what you want your character to be good at, and that specialization comes with a cost and a glaring weakness for that set of skills you chose. Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, can't seem to simplify any buttons on their action bars to save its own life. The most BASIC of abilities in the game have special properties tied to them. Necromancer's Staff 1, the simplest of their abilities, do the following: It can hit up to 5 targets, pierces through all enemies, has a 20% chance to be a physical projectile combo finisher, gives the caster 4% life force and has the ability to be traited to do EVEN MORE THINGS. In WoW, when a rogue hits someone with a dagger, the attack does nothing but cause your weapon's damage to the target. Plain and simple delivery of damage. GW2's Thief's Dagger 1? The first attack is a double strike, followed by an attack that regains endurance, followed by an attack that causes poison. A simple auto-attack applies a debuff, regains energy and hits 4 times with 3 attacks. Starting to see my point? Abilities are overloaded to an absurd degree in GW2, and nowhere is this more so than within the Elite Specializations. Let's pick on Holosmith: Corona Burst, a single button, does ALL of the following: "Strike nearby foes and begin to store up energy, gaining boons and heat each pulse. After charging, the energy explodes, inflicting conditions on nearby foes." In other words, it's an AoE attack that grants two stacks of might, causes 8 out of 25 total possible vulnerability stacks, hits multiple times over 5 pulses, counts as an explosion and is affected by three traits. If these traits are taken, this ability furthermore grants stability, shields, can cause additional vulnerability and has a chance to cripple and bleed the target. All of this on a single push of a button. This bloating is hardly limited to Holosmith. You can argue that all these effects are a "necessary evil" due to the limitations of the 10 button system that Guild Wars 2 has in place. You're entitled to that opinion, but let me explain why this limitation makes no sense:
-) While WoW can have the ability to have 40+ button slots onscreen simultaneously, the vast majority of them aren't even used for combat. A plethora of abilities are not used in combat and would be better off considered as novelty item-like effects. On average, the characters in WoW use around 16 buttons.
-) Guild Wars 2 has weapon swapping, special stances, kits, stealth-exclusive abilities, etc. While there can only be 10 abilities on screen at once, any good engineer can happily show you the 40+ buttons they can have on-demand with their kits. PvP is a symptom of a deeper problem. These "Meta Builds" that people run are practically the only viable ways to play their classes. When one out of the five players trying to kill you has 7 different ways to stunlock your character across 4 buttons, you need to have immediate access to multiple stun breakers and mass stability. When anyone running a condition build can do your healthbar over time with the press of two buttons, you need to have access to mass condition cleanse. Classes without access to either of these have to abuse long evasion/invulnerability times to avoid being obliterated. PoF has done little more than pour oil onto this fire of a problem by bloating what each elite can do. Deadeye Thief, for example, can mash 4 on their rifle and remove a stack of debuffs in less than a second. They still need to run Precision Signet (Removes 3 stacks of conditions immediately at the press of a button from themselves and allies) to avoid exploding when a condi class so much as looks at them.
In summary: I'm all for fast-paced combat, but the reaction time expected of the average player in PvP is just unreasonable. I've watched players in platinum-ranked games, who by all accounts are far better than me, die to being clipped by some random ability they had no way of reacting to and exploding in less than a second. You can call me bad all you want, but I feel like abilities need to have a large amount of what they do stripped down and slowed down. At least in PvP.