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Guardian Preview: Hands on with Guild Wars 2’s walking bastion


Guild Wars 2 is a game without the Holy Trinity of Tank, Healer and DPS. Which is why when I say that the Guardian feels like a support class, you shouldn’t instantly try and slot it into one of those roles. They’re not the healer. They’re not the tank. They’re not the DPS. They’re just more about helping the team directly than the other classes. They’re the ones who keep everyone else fighting and fighting hard.

They’re also the ones who create huge great forcefields and laugh at everyone trying to either get through them, or get anything else through it. Arrows melt, fireballs fizzle, and the Necromancer’s grasping hand of death fumbles into nothingness. The Guardian is all about making the battlefield a place that’s dominated by your team, and an ever shrinking box of available space for the other team.
Every class has some kind of central mechanic mapped to their F keys, giving you a hint as to exactly how you should be playing them, and it’s telling that the Guardian gets three different team buffs, focusing on health, defense and offense, each granting a temporary boon to everyone around you, while giving you a permanent buff when they’re not being activated. It’s why the Guardian feels so team-oriented, and why so many of the class’s skills are more about making it easier to kill someone, rather than just straight up killing them.
If you play the Guardian with a staff and the right utilities, you get that ‘You shall not pass!’ moment with Line of Warding, a placed skill that doesn’t allow any enemies past its line. You can pull in all the conditions (debuffs) from your nearby allies with Matyr, before swapping them into buffs with Contemplation of Purity. Not only does that help your team by getting rid of nasty burns, poisons, slows and the like, but it turn you into a temporary powerhouse, buffed up the wazoo.
Wall of Reflection is the skill that blocks off all projectiles, invaluable when you’re sieging keeps in World vs World, or even just having a spot of bother with some archers in PvE. Throw down Line of Warding on the same spot, and nothing is coming through. You can push forward with your team, slap down both of those, and suddenly you’ve got a reinforced front, able to properly lay down some heavy fire while they can’t even retaliate. Although, granted, it only lasts for ten seconds or so.
Switch to a two handed hammer and you go from general buffer and area denier into AoE nut, every third strike hitting everyone around you, and your second skill, Mighty Blow, doing the same. You can even lock down everyone in a line with Zealot’s Embrace, and trap anyone within melee range in a small circle with you by casting Ring of Warding.
Both one and two handed swords mostly target a single foe, letting you blink or leap to them, while giving you the protection you need to stay alive. One handed swords can protect you from ranged attacks with Zealot’s Defense, while also throwing out a bunch of projectiles of your own, while Greatswords have Symbol of Wrath, a small circle that’s stabbed into the ground at your feet to damage anyone silly enough to get close to the armoured guy with a massive sword.

With the mace being more about blocks and heals, and the scepter giving you some good ranged damage and even some AoE, you might be forgiven in starting to think that the Guardian doesn’t actually lay down all that much in terms of raw power. To an extent, the Guardian isn’t that damage dealer, and if they were, they’d be called a Warrior. But they’re also not the Paladin, some weird mix between a healer and a tank. That’s not what Guild Wars 2 is about, and thankfully, that’s not the Guardian.
Instead, the Guardian is about creating the environment where massive amounts of damage are dealt. They canbe the ones doing the damage, but more often than not you’re just making sure that your thieves, rangers, Elementalists and Warriors are laying down the hurt while you soak up what was meant for them. The Guardian is halfway between a lot of Guild Wars 2’s classes, but somehow manages to come out unique despite of it.
They’re the mages with the big hammers and heavy armour. They’re the warriors who have a little bit of magic up their sleeves. They’re the ones who, when you put a hammer in their hands, do a massive uppercut, sending their opponents flying and then call that move ‘Banish’. You put a torch in their hands, and they set themselves on fire and call it ‘Zealot’s Flame’. They’re Warriors with a little crazy. They’re Elementalists with a little sane.
And that’s more than enough reason to not write the Guardian off entirely, as I was dangerously close to doing. I’ve never liked Paladins because they always seem like a halfway house, even if they can turn undead just as well as a Cleric or Priest, and just about tank as well was a Warrior. The problem is they just seem lacklustre, Lawful Good types who don’t have all that much character. Which is a problem that the Guardian, thankfully, doesn’t share. There’s enough personality in the crazy zealot to seep into all of their skills, creating a class that’s fun to play, but is also thematically consistent with what you’re trying to get across.
These are the crusaders, and that righteous fury, however misplaced, should show up somewhere. And with the Guardian, it shows up everywhere. No one ability is just a straight up attack. Everything has a little something extra. You want a little something extra, don’t you?