Looking to channel your inner Legolas? Ranger might be for you then!
Life for a PVE ranger begins with a longbow and a pet which you choose on character creation. You’ll have one skill at first but will then open the second fun and vulnerability inflicting skill (Rapid Fire) on getting to level 2. You won’t, however, be able to control your pet yet — that ability unlocks at level 5. Veteran rangers, may find the inability to see anything related to your pet for these first five levels disconcerting. For new rangers, if you were getting used to seeing only three weapon skills plus your heal skill, it might surprise you on turning 5 to be able to order you pet to fight (F1), call it back (F3), or even swap to a new pet (F4). You can also keep track of your pet’s health now which is very useful. However, most of the starter maps don’t seem to have juvenile animals anymore which is a little odd since you’ve unlocked pet swapping already. The early loss of pet management creates other oddities as well, including the odd choice of the default heal skill being Heal as One when you cannot see your pet’s health in order to judge if it needs to be healed.
If you’re hankering for a new pet so that you’re not left with a useless dead one in the middle of a fight, you’ll want to take yourself off to the norn starter map, Wayfarer Foothills, where you can find Juvenile Ravens up near the raven shrine (the first heart outside of the norn city, Hoelbrak). Juvenile Snow Leopards and Polar Bears are also available in Hoelbrak. Another handy pet to have is a Juvenile Fern Hound which you can find in the Sylvari home city, The Grove. You won’t unlock this pet’s helpful health regenerating howl until level 13 though; this is a great support skill when playing with other players. Though the “List of Pet Locations” on the wiki is being updated to reflect changes brought about by the September Feature Pack, new players may still find bookmarking this page useful in order to locate animals in Lion’s Arch, Divinity’s Reach, and The Black Citadel as well. For those with the option to visit the Hall of Monuments, you may also find a Juvenile White Raven, Juvenile Black Moa, Juvenile Black Widow Spider, or Juvenile Rainbow Jellyfish, depending on your Guild Wars 1 reward level. It should be mentioned that even though pet management was locked, Star was able to charm a second and third pet before level five. For a new player, this might be quite bewildering as the first pet will simply be replaced by the new pet, who then might be swapped out again if the ranger goes swimming – all with little to no explanation. Luckily, reaching level five is fairly effortless in all starting areas.
As you work your way to level 10, you’ll probably get some other weapons to drop that you can use: sword, dagger, warhorn, torch. You can also use axe and shortbow but these might not drop right away (San didn’t get a shortbow until level 13 as a level reward, and never got an axe to drop even after reaching level 23 while Star, whose RNG for weapon drops may be a bit better, had several weapons to choose from before level 7). Having melee and shorter range weapons drop is convenient, but you won’t really get to experiment fully with them until both off-hand weapon skills unlock (levels 7 and 10). Still, give sword a try and axe (these can be purchased from a weaponsmith vendor or crafted by adopting the Weaponsmith crafting discipline). Rangers are not all about their bow use and have some good condition damage on these melee and half range weapons.
Veterans and returning players will likely find the lack of off-hand skills jarring at first, especially if you don’t like longbow’s generally slower rate of fire or prefer sword and axe weapon combinations. Since weapon swapping now unlocks at level 15 as well, choosing your primary weapon set between levels 10 and 15 will require some thought and adjustment based on your normal play style. As veterans, we found that before level 10 and between levels that give stat boosts, we sometimes had to make range adjustments, switching to the longbow and its greater range for survivability. Gaining skill points before level 13 and the first utility skill unlock is another advantage available to veteran players. This was helpful since it allowed us to decide whether to swap out Heal as One for Healing Spring with its health regen. Being able to do so aided an early character’s survivability during the stat slumps, which can become tricky if you’re downed and find that downed skill 3 (Lick My Wounds) is still locked.Beyond level ten and its first personal story chapter, the lack of traps, spirits, survival skills, and signets may hamper a veteran player’s ranger’s development, delaying strategic builds until later levels. Between levels 10 and 20, rangers may find themselves relying heavily on their melee weapons and pet tanks until utility skills and skill points begin to unlock. Shortbows, with their greater rate of fire, can be invaluable as can sword/torch (for burning) or sword/warhorn (for damage and boons). Once utility skills become available, the versatility of the ranger class begins to shine. Outside of battle, players will be able to adjust their utility skills, even when they only have one, allowing them to bring a trap, spirit, signet or survival skill to the next challenge as needs be. Star found that by limiting the number of utility skills possible, she spent more time exploring how each skill worked with her ranger’s weapons, pet, and her personal play style. The lack of a special pet attack (F2) early on must also be blended with the subtle strategies of the ranger class after it opens.
The lack of pet management at the beginning and the more difficult search for pets should not deter people from trying or returning to this class. The ranger remains an important strategic addition to any Guild Wars 2 group though it is a class often misunderstood and underappreciated in certain situations. We recognize that we have a biased affinity for rangers since we main this profession, but having the experience that we do with all of the classes, we know it’s a profession that can be deadly when played well.
While the new leveling experience has changes which affect ranger primarily in the lack of pet management early on, the limited skills force a player to pay attention to the available skills, their functionality, and how they might better promote a character’s success and survivability. New and experienced players, for example, might find that boons that aid survival might be more beneficial early on before all skills are unlocked. As we found, this may promote experimentation and greater exploration of this class’s intricacies and versatility if a player likes to experiment beyond the meta builds promoted in the community.
The NPE experience feels like it has slowed down the leveling process, despite the fact that levels are gained more quickly. This “slowing” allows the veteran player to experience the world anew, noticing NPCs they never met before, catching snippets of conversation that may have been missed in previous leveling experiences. While new players won’t know what renown hearts have been changed, veterans may miss being able to interact with golems in Metrica Province or feeding cows in Queensdale. These small changes have affected how players interact with NPC Tyrians, but they can still learn about the rivalries and political factions that underpin each culture and race by talking with NPCs or listening to their conversations. Overall, the lore is still there and players can explore the world as quickly or as slowly as they wish while experimenting with their characters.
— San & Star
Next time, we tinker with Engineers!