New and different in Guild Wars 2 is Underwater Combat. All characters start life with a miraculous Aqua Breather item in the appropriate slot which makes all inhabitants of Tyria amphibious! Its actually a bit of a stat-holding placebo designed to trick the nervous fish-people of Tyria into using their previously untested gills – try going deep and then unsloting the breather; nothing happens! All a bit creepy! Many of the zones contain large expanses of deep water, often with important hearts, vistas and events going on in them, and of course fighting.
The texture of underwater combat is quite different to the usual land-based shenanigans, and requires a slightly different, three-dimensional mindset which many players can find tricky. Without the ground as a familiar distance and perspective cue it can be tricky to judge ranges, particularly with point-blank melee-based underwater weapons, and of course, enemies can come at you from all directions, not just the horizontal.
While beneath the waves, the Mesmer gets access to the Trident and Spear, but not the Harpoon Gun. Since you have two swappable underwater weapon slots, there is no actual choice to make here; equip one of each in the appropriate boxes. The two weapons serve quite different purposes and offer two different skill bars.
The Trident is the Ranged Weapon of the pair and mostly concerns itself with debuffs and limited crowd control.
The auto attack slot #1 is Sirens Call, which shoots purple musical notes at the target doing okay-ish damage at full (1200) range. It’s a bounce type projectile similar to GS: Mirror Blade and Staff: Winds of Chaos; the projectile will try to bounce off allies, buffing them as it does so. Traits and shorter distance help with more bounces. Fairly mediocre, but as an auto-attack, quite hands off, and positioning is very easy here.
Slot #2 is Ineptitude, which is very straight forward; push button, cause blindness. When blinded, the enemy will miss with their next attack. It also does a decent hit of damage, so fairly useful.
Spinning Revenge, #3, summons a Clone onto the target and buffs nearby allies with Retaliation, a decent if short-lived damage reflection buff. As a Clone, it is perfectly suitable for shattering as needed. The ability is a Whirl Finisher, but in my experience, creating Combo: Fields underwater is a lot trickier and more rarely accomplished than on land, so don’t worry too much about creating zorbs or causing Confusions.
#4 is Illusionary Whaler, a surprisingly weak Phantasm who starts firing a harpoon-gun (which we ourselves are unable to use!) at the target. The damage dealt is really very low for a Phantasm, but it does stack up Bleeding as well. Unlike most Phantasms, you can probably quite happily shatter this one, and will likely cause more damage doing so than letting it live out is short ineffectual life. Of far greater disappointment is the fact that the Phantasm looks like the Mesmer, and not Cthulhu, as the icon would have us believe! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
The best Trident skill is #5, Illusion of Drowning. A sort of underwater Root, it summons a purple anchor and chain which will not only stop the enemy moving, but will also drag them down to the seabed. It causes respectable damage and has a usefully short cooldown; against big bad Veteran and Champion fishes, it’ll light up several times during the fight. Very powerful, and similar effects exist in other class underwater bars, allowing a rotation of sinkage to be maintained with minimal coordination. Keeping the very large Megalodons locked down with these skills makes the fight a lot more controlled and easier to manage position-wise.
The Spear is a largely Melee Weapon and is more focused around damage and mobility.
Slot #1 is a straight-forward attack-chain; Stab, Jab, Evasive Strike. The last hit makes you evade, showing the typical Mesmer melee survival method at work, but the basic damage is the thing here. The chain produces a satisfyingly high base DPS, which is only improved upon by the other slot skills. Feels pretty gutsy too. The tricky part of Spear is the near point-blank range of the attacks – you really do need to be right next to the enemies, and facing the right direction; not always as easy as it sounds in dense clouds of bubbles, piranhas, magma blobs, and floating turrets.
Slot 2 is the real winner for me; Feigned Surge. This makes you hold the spear out in front of you and then surge forward at high speed for a short distance, severely damaging anything in your path. Then hitting the flip-skill, Feign, will teleport you back to the start location, and create a Clone where you were, which immediately joins the fight. Feigning is not mandatory and sometimes, letting the flip-skill expire is the smart move, leaving you in place at the end of the dash. Note that this is ‘forward’ not ‘toward the target’, so it is quite possible to entirely miss the enemy if you are not lined up correctly to begin with. Using the #1 attack chain for a round or two first will usually ensure correct alignment.
Illusionary Mariner in #3 is our Phantasm here. It summons a spear-wielding you which goes to town on the target with a highly damaging flurry of stabs while evading the target itself. Very powerful and a much better choice than the iWhaler. Aim to keep one in play as often as possible and avoid shattering it if you can.
Slot #4 is Slipstream. This creates a linear effect in front of you. Allies passing through it get a sudden speed burst, much like Focus: Temporal Curtain. Unlike the Curtain, this is not a buff effect to your own speed, but instead it just propels you forward quite quickly. It also pushes enemies away. I find it very tricky to use well because underwater, it becomes a line rather than a wall, making it quite tricky to hit correctly. It also brings you to a momentary full stop when the burst ends, before allowing you to swim onward, making it awkward to use as a travel aid.
Lastly is #5, Vortex. This creates a large and highly spectacular purple whirlpool in front of you, which sucks all nearby enemies into the middle of it. It does a bit of damage and is a Combo Field: Ethereal too. This works very well with the point-blank nature of the basic #1 attack chain, and also neatly concentrates lots of enemies for a merciless dash with #2. Thumbs up all round!
Underwater combat isn’t my favourite thing, it has to be said, but I definitely get on better with the Spear than the Trident. The Trident has its uses though; large underwater events where the melee front line is too confusing already, but also for smaller fights where I swap to Trident just for the anchor, before getting back to the spearwork.
A quick look at Shattering next, then we’re done and I’ll probably start posting about Other Games again!