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How do I get good at this game's combat?


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My total playtime with this game is very, very sporadic over the last 10 years but I did manage to recently level a character to 80 in Tyria. Haven't touched any expansion content. But I still feel like I'm really not good at the game. There's tons of conditions and boons and buffs and this and that. Moment to moment open-world Tyria combat isn't deep or meaningful enough (imo) to develop a feel for class rotations or what trait abilities and builds are good. Everything just kind of falls over no matter what buttons you press but on the flipside nothing particularly stands out as impactful from a damage/ability perspective. There is not much need for weapon swapping so that's something that I need to practice.

What about defensive stats or capabilities? My observation on taking damage in this game is you just seem to kind of just get chunked with minimal to no visual feedback and there can be decent visual clutter that makes it sometimes indistinguishable as to what specifically did damage unless you're standing in a big, obvious AoE. The other issue is I want to play a support-oriented class. I think I boosted a Revenant to 80 but following build guides for this game at this point in my game skill is like reading a foreign language.

Any tips/suggestions?

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, Dopamine.5236 said:

Haven't touched any expansion content. But I still feel like I'm really not good at the game. There's tons of conditions and boons and buffs and this and that. Moment to moment open-world Tyria combat isn't deep or meaningful enough (imo) to develop a feel for class rotations or what trait abilities and builds are good

Touch expansion content, get especs, maybe try out builds on a training golem in special forces training area, play fractals/strikes/raids/wvw/pvp. All you wrote seems to be rather vague, basically you have sporadic playtime and say that nothing matters because you only play core content and everything dies easly anyways? If I understood that correctly then... what are you trying to improve at/for? I'd say you should play harder content and then ask for more specific advice. Even mentioning  what exactly you don't understand from the guides should help with receiving better, detailed answers.

Edited by Sobx.1758
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I completely relate, I have been playing for a long time and I still find learning this game's combat confusing to observe and learn. The game doesn't hold your hand, give you clear feedback or explain in tutorials exactly what skills or buffs do, it's down to you to figure it out from nothing, especially if you boosted your character it can be particularly overwhelming. Builds like the ones listed on Metabattle or Snowcrows assume you're already very knowledgeable in the class and list the skills to use but don't explain why or take you through it slowly - there's just a huge amount of information/buttons to press listed and you get lost and overwhelmed reading it.

The only things that have semi-worked for me are to read through each skill and trait in the game tooltips to understand and memorise what they do, then simplify builds listed on those sites to start with, so I can learn the basics and slowly introduce new skills to my rotation, much like how Laranity does in her easy build guide videos (unfortunately she doesn't seem do to many of these but the way she breaks down the process is great):

Regarding boons and conditions, it's definitely very confusing the way this game presents them as tiny, almost indistinguishable icons that are constantly moving around on the condition/buff bar and hard to keep track of. It doesn't really get easier, but my general advice would be to memorise only the conditions and buffs that actually matter a lot and try to ignore the useless ones so your brain doesn't get lost trying to keep track of them all. For example alacrity, quickness, stability and aegis are some important buffs that come to mind, whereas buffs like vigor, swiftness, resolution and protection are generally not that important so don't waste brain power on them if you don't need to.

The most important thing is to start off small/slow and make sure you take the time to actually read and understand your skills and the synergies they have with each other (don't just press skills 1, 3, 3, 2, 5 etc without knowing what they do because Metabattle told you to, as you won't understand what's truly going on in the battle and you won't be able to adapt and throw in different skills depending on the situation which is especially important for support roles). Once you have done this, start practicing on the training golem in the Lion's Arch Aerodrome as you'll have a lot more opportunity to get into the rotation rather than some random mobs that instantly die in the open world, and without the pressure of a real group boss situation. Also, try to stick to focusing on learning one build at a time and commit to that rather than jumping around different builds or characters (I am guilty of this) and try to play regularly to keep practicing and keep what you've learned fresh in your mind so it becomes muscle memory.

The combat is really rough honestly, I'm not going to sugar coat it because I feel like I'm one of the few people that totally gets what you're talking about. But once you take the time to really learn a build it can be very rewarding and the game's combat is very dynamic and interesting once you feel like you're more in control of what you're doing. I just wish there were better learning tools in this game.

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#1 advice I always give people who think boons are confusing/think combat has no depth: read all your tooltips. 

Reading your tooltips for weapons, active abilities, and passive abilities you're already interested in equipping will be a natural way to achieve @Ember.8510's sensible advice

14 minutes ago, Ember.8510 said:

but my general advice would be to memorise only the conditions and buffs that actually matter a lot and try to ignore the useless ones so your brain doesn't get lost trying to keep track of them all.

Let's say you really like mainhand axe for ranger. Mousing over the autoattack will tell you that autoattacks give you the might boon, and the tooltip itself will tell you what might does. Let's say then you really like the effect might provides, then you can start mousing over more passives, actives, and weapon skills (all of which are available to look at in your Hero panel) and finding things that either give you more might, or do things like extend/duplicate the might stacks that you already have. Conditions work the same way, in terms of tooltip information.

My #2 piece of advice is to get the 3rd-party arcdps addon. While addons are of course not officially supported, arc is about as close as you can get to an officially endorsed one (Anet once said in writing that they have no issue with Arc/what it does). It's not a super involved process (literally just dropping a single .dll file into your game directory). arcdps does have a lot of functions you're probably not interested in, but the big headline feature is the dps meter/breakdown. This should address your inability to see which abilities actually hit hard, and to see what effect changes in build, playstyle, etc. are actually doing. As it stands now, you're just guessing (and badly, because the core open world doesn't give you much to guess from).

I'll also second @Sobx.1758  's advice about trying harder content. You don't even have to leave core Tyria for this; Every single story mode dungeon and the vast majority of explorable mode dungeons are soloable (I solo 16ish of them on a near daily basis), and packed with plenty of threatening enemies.

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Hi friend and welcome to 80. The biggest tip I can give is for you to use Mukluk Labs. He has great new player guides, some build stuff and a guide on all the boons and conditions. 

For Revenant specifically I'd check out Hardstuck Revenant Builds. See the ones that say "LI" next to them. These are lower intensity and a good starting point to play around with skills. Don't worry about changing your gear to match yet, the Celestial boosted gear should be good enough to start you off.  The Open world builds are another good starting point as they use the boosted gear. I do agree with you that guides can be a big overwhelming to read which is why I use someone like Mukluk to stream or make videos on the guides, so I get more of a visual component to them. He has recently been trying out all the supports in game and rating his "new" player experience with them since he hasn't played them before.

Otherwise, general game advice.

1) Boons are overpowered. Get into groups and share boons with friends. They increase your output by a lot. Even if you are bad at the game the difference between boons and no boons is huge. I'll add in here Sigils and Relics are also huge. Learning how to use them properly can increase your output drastically.

2) Keep moving. 90% of attacks can be avoided. Not just dodging but strafing around a target can significantly reduce how much you take. Boons again play a big role here as Agis blocks attacks and Stability "blocks" crowd control abilities. 

3) Collect a second set of gear. Celestial is a great set but, as you said, your damage doesn't feel impactful. If you swap to a berserker set you become squishier but hit much harder. I play a lot of Condition (Viper geared) classes. But when I swap to something like Reaper in full Berserker I FEEL it. Try playing around with gear and weapons to see what satisfies you. 

4) Rotations. While guides may have optimal button presses the overall idea is simple. Just read your abilities. Learn how they hit, what damage type they do, or what the radius is. You may end up wrong vs the guides but figuring out why they changed the ability is great knowledge. An example of mine is Purging Flames on Guardian. I didn't take it on a power Willbender I was building because I thought the burning wouldn't matter. However, guides I was looking at recommended it. Turns out it hits 6 times which can trigger other traits and increase my power damage. Learning that made me look at other abilities on my other characters in a new light.

Hope this helps somewhat. Feel free to add me in game if I can be of more assistance. There is a lot that can be learned. Between the community, guide sites, and the Wiki you have a lot of resources available. Hopefully we can get you to a place you feel comfortable and excited to be in game! Have fun!

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Totally different recommendation from me:
(And I personally do not play raids, harder strikes or fractals above T3.)

Try to slowly get used to it. Makes no sense to use a pro-build from certain websites that is intended to be played by "do x k dps or kick" elitist groups. Especially if you are (still) struggling at open world stuff and maybe mainly want to focus on that. You can have a lot of fun in most parts of the game without playing pro builds from such websites. And it might be easier to find your "own style" instead of trying the builds that require a lot of "keyboard acrobatics".

Genereally I'd say trying some different stuff from cour profession's traits/skills (and weapons) while starting with a more sturdy stats combination (more toughness ... like stuss like Soldier's gear with power and toughness) is the best thing to learn. Maybe playing a bit core in the core maps and the e-specs in the maps of the expansion they came with. (Personally I leveled my 2 fully unlocked chars - world completion everywhere - that way. Playing the e-specs not early but only starting with the expension's maps they got released with until I hit the next set of maps/expansion when playing content in release order.)

Move away towards more power/precision (or other offensive stats) when you feel more comfortable using your additional skills to be able to stay alive. I remember how holo felt annoying as engineer when I played scrapper before it and holo felt a lot more squishy. (And scrapper also needed me to get used to it cause it was more melee than the ranged weapons I preferred on core.) But with the shield and movement skills I got used to it more and more ... being able to stay alive even with less defensive stats.

I would not focus on support ... unless you are really already good and want to play group-content (like fractals, raids and stuff) ... and that at a higher/more professional level. In Open World the chars are supposed to be able to do everything. And the role stuff (support, dps, etc.) is somethign players made up to optimize in the group-oriented game modes with the 5 or 10-man groups.

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Posted (edited)

Sometimes it doesn't click until you find a profession/elite/weapon combo that works for you. I couldn't tell you what most of my skills do after 12 years or most rotations, but on Catalyst and Weaver, things just clicked. Even if I can't get my head round more fundamental things or some of the new weapons (ele pistol is just a mystery to me, staff warrior just seems too weird and mesmer rifle suffers from too much ground targeting)

ALso helps to get into higher content, even if slowly. I got better once I did strikes and fractals T2. Because I had to.

I've largely plateaued now and I doubt I will get much better and that's fine. There's too much talk of metas, rotations, 40k dps etc etc. and not enough talk of just enjoying yourself. 

Edited by Randulf.7614
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10 hours ago, Luthan.5236 said:

Makes no sense to use a pro-build from certain websites that is intended to be played by "do x k dps or kick" elitist groups. Especially if you are (still) struggling at open world stuff and maybe mainly want to focus on that. You can have a lot of fun in most parts of the game without playing pro builds from such websites. And it might be easier to find your "own style" instead of trying the builds that require a lot of "keyboard acrobatics".

The habit of players to categorize build guides as extremes is dangerous. Both the "do the benchmark or kick" elitist extreme and the "guides are only for pros" casual extreme are equally harmful. The best use of build guides is to use them, as their name suggests, as guides!

While they do typically show the highest potential damage of a given spec it should be seen more as a goal. Same with all the gear it shows. That's a goal. It all depends on your starting point. Have the gear, great then learn the skill. Missing the gear? Okay theory craft replacements until you can get set up. Don't have either? Then start with the basics. What is the guide trying to teach you? This part can be a bit complex for newer players who may not know the jargon or, like me, are more visual learners. Still, that's what streamers or the forums here are for. Let us filter it down for you so you can grow and learn more about a game you enjoy.

I'm not trying to say anything you said is wrong either. That was your experience and what helped you, as I laid out my experiences as well in the previous post. This is just a topic in games that is misguided. Guides are not the just for the gate keepers and learning/improving your skill in game isn't something only elites can do. To be fair I also believe that people should be able to set whatever benchmarks they want for THEIR group. It's your time, your hobby, set it was you will just be clear about it. Same with if you are new. Just be honest that you are here to learn. If you can't find groups then join a guild, discord or make your own to meet your personal goals. 

I also understand social anxiety and not wanting to be the "problem".  For anyone who is trying to learn and break into group content please feel free to send me an in-game mail. I don't play every day, but I'll gladly show you the ropes. My typical time is 10pm EST on NA. But like I said it's not every day and can be spotty with me being on call. Still, I am here to help at least get your foot in the door, so you are having the fun you want with your game time. The hardest part is stepping into the group. It took me until EoD to try strikes. Growing up with WoW scared me, ha. I'm just trying to pay forward the kindness others showed me that got me into my favorite game mode.

Happy Gaming!

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Lots of sensible advice already.

I would just reiterate that guides are useful. They vary in how much they explain why you should use these skills so look around for other guides if the first one you find doesn't explain much. Using ArcDPS and/or the special forces training golem really helps with understanding when you are doing good damage and when you aren't. But don't worry about what Snowcrows says the max DPS is, I feel like I can hold my own in virtually all non CM content in GW2 but it's rare that I can get over 75% of the Snowcrows benchmark even against the golem, and with a new build it's likely to be 50% or less (not helped by the fact that most players, me included, are not full ascended in our gear and likely also have some Celestial trinkets etc which are not maximum DPS).

Lastly as someone said, if you feel like you aren't hitting hard and hence combat feels a bit underwhelming or disappointing then it might be worth trying out a full power build in another equipment tab. Condi damage seems to be often be easier to benchmark higher with but power damage is so much more satisfying in open world. Once you get decent at a power build, particularly if it has some area of effect attacks, you can just murder mobs in seconds.

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If you want to get really good at the combat and deeply learn how boons, conditions and defensive skills work, you should enter the pvp lobby and ask people (best people with your class) if they want to duel you. 

The combat is really starting to kick in against other people, cc, blinds, immobilize, poison, confusion, etc..  Show how they work. The combat was designed and developed for pvp and it shows that you can outplay with skill and knowledge almost everything, what the enemy is throwing at you. 

The open world of gw2 gets harder in hot areas, but the only content in pve that is challange you with the whole Combat are HT CM and Cerus CM, both the hardest strikes in the game. 

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ANother tip - the upcoming Gauntlet in the Festival of the Four Winds will help teach you a lot about skill usage. It was better back in the day when power creep didn't reduce the impact, but it's still relevant enough to learn something in many of the fights - esp if you utilise handicaps

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Play the game. Play what you like. Play more. Than play some more. And some more. Yes, more.

And than start looking into builds.

Because if you do it the other way. You learn nothing. You probably are looking at the wrong build for the content you play. You dont understand a build and wont know how to use it. The build will become bad and you will do everything wrong again and gain nothing. You might not like to play it.

Play the game with what you like. Things will become natural to you,  you wont think what to press. You will be able to use more skills suddenly and start understanding traits. And than you can start getting good.

Play pvp if its something you like. 

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