Playing a ranger is a known quantity in most MMOs. You can expect to wear Medium armor, have the help of an animal companion and shoot things with a bow. You can call yourself a ranger or a hunter or a scout but in the end it comes to much the same thing.
Ranger isn't my favorite class but I've played more than a few. Usually I'll test drive new MMO with whatever passes for the bog-standard Warrior but I was apprehensive about some of the things I'd read about GW2's "action combat" so I went with a class that could stand off a ways and see what was going on.
I've been throwing my thoughts about this onto various threads in my brief spells out of game over the weekend, particularly at Hardcore Casual and Kill Ten Rats, where some lively exchanges took place. It does seem that my experience of combat has been at variance to what others have found.
Gina on the comments to my First Impressions piece described her frustration withthe difficulty of combat and I've seen advice all over the place about the need to bind Dodge keys, weapon swap, learn combos, circle strafe, never stop moving - any number of things supposedly essential if you aren't going to spend most of your time looking at a black and white world from a very low perspective.
This is variously reported as happening at level five, or ten or maybe it's not until after level 20. I was trying to get as high as I could to find the point where the unavoidable action gameplay kicked in but I didn't manage to find it in the time available. Be warned that I only managed to get to a shade short of 19th and that I can only speak from the perspective of a Charr ranger. Other classes and races may have a much harder time of it than I did. Check KTR for a picture of how different things are for melee classes, for example.
Soloing a Charr ranger is, if you want it to be, identical to soloing a ranger in any other MMO. You wander about the countryside looking for prey. When you see something you fancy you make sure he doesn't have more friends than you can handle, send your pet in to grab agro and plink away with your bow. If your target comes off the pet and runs at you you backpedal and keep firing, having of course ensured that there's nothing behind you which will object to being barged into by a ranger in reverse gear.
Do this correctly and you won't even get hit before the mob dies. I found it as straightforward to do in GW2 as anywhere. Mostly, though, I didn't even need to take all that trouble. Usually all I did was plink the mob to get its attention, let it come to me and tank it while the pet chewed away from behind. Fancy kiting tactics only came into play on mobs more than two levels above me and even then not always.
I moved to the level 15 - 25 areas when I dinged 13 and roamed around leveling up on mobs between 2 and four levels higher than me for most of Sunday. I successfully joined in lots of events, some alone or with one other wandering woodsman, some with lots of people. I only trained up Longbow until a good Shortbow dropped when I was 17 so there was little weapon-swapping. I wore gear I made myself runed with runes I made myself.
I had an absolutely wonderful time playing exactly as I am used to playing. I didn't have to adjust any more than I did moving from, say, EQ2 to Rift. Less than when learning to play Fallen Earth and far, far less than DCUO.
I would contend that this is a Good Thing. Not because I plan on stubbornly insisting on playing GW2 as though it was EQ. I will learn all the new techniques and tricks - I'm looking forward to it. No, the good thing is that I can learn them after I'm comfortable with who my character is and what his place is in the world. The time to learn new mechanics is once I'm settled in, not right at the very start. If other classes don't have this leeway, I know now that I can come to them once I am comfortably established with a character and class that I understand and can play effectively enough for my own purposes.
I would encourage anyone who found the whole action combat hype too daunting to make a Charr ranger next beta, take up leatherworking and go hunt drakes until you have enough leather for a full suit of crafted, runed armor and enough action points to buy Troll Unguent and Signet of the Wild. which together will let your pet tank pretty much anything you're likely to want to solo. Make sure you don't pull any mob that "reflects projectiles", stand back and plink plink plink ! It's a classic and classics never go out of style.