One of the central aspects of this game is the combat. You fight various monsters and players with differing strategies and make tactical decisions like when to attack or to retreat. At least you should do this. The game should promote and maybe even enforce this to prevent players from gaming the system.
So what makes great combat?
Choices matter. Pressing 4 or pressing 9 should make a difference. The last thing you want in a game with dynamic combat is button mashing. It should have a controlled for the player readable combat flow giving the player an opportunity to react. Character customization via stats should influence the play style of the character and should always be notable. Trait choices should enhance the character in a meaningful way.
Fairness. The player should never feel cheated by the game because it used unfair tactics against him. In a fight the player should have the ability to fight back. Nothing should be able to kill a character if the player can’t react to it. Also should the player be able to interfere with the enemies battle plan to make for an engaging combat experience. This also means that there should be combat in the first place. This is the reason for this thread: the “disengaging combat” of Guild Wars 2.
So the basics for an enjoyable combat experience is the existence of combat in the first place. This is where the problem lies in my opinion. It seems like we have mostly a high mobility and burst meta now. The “combat” interactions we have too often consist of 3 types of gameplay:
1) Burst. Not going in your favor? Retreat and retry.
2) Fight. Not going in your favor? Retreat and retry.
3) Fight while offering next to no counter play. Not going in your favor? Retreat and retry.
Let’s take a look again what makes great combat, shall we?
1) The ability to fight back often doesn’t exists in this scenario. You have mainly 2 choices: Negate the burst attempt and wait for the next one or die. Character customization often doesn’t matter because it feels like 1000 toughness or vitality (double the base value) won’t make a difference. You go 100-0 in seconds anyway.
2) Here you at least have the opportunity to fight the enemy. As long as you are in the disadvantage, once you get the upper hand the enemy just escapes and tries again until he is victorious. This is just exhausting and robs you of any feeling of pride and accomplishment you got by outplaying the enemy.
3) You just feel cheated. Choices don’t matter. All you do doesn’t do anything anyway. You could go afk and it would make no difference.
None of this interactions is enjoyable. But all have one thing in common: the disengaging. Mobility is important in a dynamic combat but it should never invalidate the combat and it’s outcome but this is the situation we have now. So what could be done?
1) Remove all mobility. Welcome back to 2000s static MMOs.
2) Nerf all mobility in the game. This wouldn’t fix the problem (Who would prevent the chaining of mobility to achieve the same effect? It would only shift more towards style 1 & 3) unless you go completely go over board and we are back in the realm of option number 1.
3) Leave it as it is. Just powercreep all defences. We had plenty of this in the past years and I think many players agree with the fact that we had enough powercreep.
4) Specialize mobility. What do I mean with this? Simple. The problem we now have comes from the fact that all mobility in this game is too flexible. Back in 2013 there was a movement skill with the same problem: Ride the lightning. Some may remember the treatment. They doubled the cooldown and it only gets halved if you hit a target. This skill has now a more clear identity. It should be used as an engage skill but can be used as a disengage skill. I would take this a whole step further. All movement skills (with the exeption of teleports) gain roughly double the cooldown (just an example) and a damage portion. If the damage portion hits a target the cooldown halved. For thieves this means higher initiative costs and refund on hit to prevent mobility spam. Teleports get an assigned purpose and are treated equally should they serve for engage. If you want to go even further you could even add a penalty for missing some mobility skills (like preventing the use of other mobility skills) to prevent chaining of mobility skill. This still enables mobility in combat but allows for counter play and makes it harder to just reset again and again. Both things which make great combat: counterplay and well, the existence of combat in the first place.
NOTE: Yes, I'm aware of the other problems of combat in GW2 like the damage, boons and conditions, balance of strength utility skills/elite, traits etc. Please keep the discussion focused on mobility as the topic of balance is far too complex for one post/discussion and I would like to discuss the problems one at a time. Thank you.