Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bad Bear Day : GW2

Rangers have a poor reputation in GW2. Wait, let me re-phrase that: Bearbows have a poor reputation. Bearbow is a handy neologism, coined to describe the kind of ranger who stands a hundred and fifty yards to the rear of his pet, plinking away with a longbow. The preferred pet for this is always a bear because, in a game that famously has no dedicated tank class, it so happens bears never got the memo. 

This works eminently well in solo play, as I discovered for myself all the way back in beta. In almost any other situation it ranges from sub-optimal (zergs, any very easy open group content) through lazy and likely to get you kicked from a group (dungeons, fractals) to content-breaking (anything that needs to be kited - Bears Don't Kite).

My charr ranger used to run with a Murellow in one pet slot and an Arctodus in the other. A murellow is a weird creature that looks like a malformed, hairless dog while an arctodus resembles a kind of cross between a badger and an aardvark, but despite their appearances they are both classed as bears. In fact, the arctodus is based on a real, if extinct, bear species otherwise known as the Short-Faced Bear.  The murellow appears to be an entirely imaginary, Tyrian invention, which is presumably how it came to be able to breathe a huge cloud of poisonous gas, the very reason I liked to trail one around with me.

Acceptable Use Of Bear (example) : Soloing Hearts
That was all very well when I was roaming the wilderness alone, just me and my bears, but it wouldn't do at all for World vs World, so at 80 I traded the pair of them in for a Lynx and a Wolf and swapped my shortbow for an Axe and Horn combo for good measure. I still use the longbow, but one bow does not a bearbow make.

Before the megaserver I don't really recall seeing all that many bearbows running around Yaks Bend but suddenly they're everywhere. The preferred bear appears to be the basic Brown. Fat, round, fuzzy and dim-looking, they hardly confer much in the way of dignity or distinction to their owners but they have the benefit of being very easy to find at low level and come with the highly useful "Shake It Off" ability, an AE condition-remover, although how useful this is when your bear is a hundred yards upwind I'm not sure.

Acceptable Pets (WvW) - Dog, Wolf, Asura.
On a rough head-count it often feels as though four out of every five bears is a Brown, with the remainder coming from a roughly even spread of Polar and Arctodus. Occasionally I spot a Murellow. I don't believe I have ever seen anyone using a Black Bear.

Then again, it's hard to concentrate on species identification, when your mind is reeling at the names some people give their bears. Pet-naming in GW2 is annoyingly implemented in just the same, half-finished, badly-thought-out way mini-pets used to be until the recent change. Pet names are only retained as long as you keep that pet in an active slot. As soon as you swap another in the name is lost.

If a ranger's pet has a name, then, it means one of two things: either the player values naming sufficiently highly to take the trouble to do it every time, even though it's fiddly and annoying (guilty as charged), or they rarely swap pets. Consequently a probable majority of pets go unnamed, meaning they show up as "Juvenile Brown Bear" or whatever kind of animal they might be. It's another annoying and badly-construed trope of GW2 that rangers can only tame "juvenile" animals and yet these juveniles never grow up.

The names players choose for pets in general and bears in particular appear to fall into a few distinct categories:

Pop Culture Broken Record

Cute Like Kittenz

Hey, It's Ironic, Yeah?


Occasionally someone will come up with something genuinely amusing, like this one, which alludes to the issue previously mentioned

or something that seems gnomic and surreal but which probably means something to someone, somewhere

and if imagination fails you can always fall back on smut and innuendo

Love them or loathe them bears are here to stay. As long as they tank like Velcro-wrapped battleship plate and bumble through starting areas begging for love no amount of naming and shaming will cull their ever-growing numbers. And anyway, would we really want to do that? You can tell a lot about a ranger by the company she chooses, after all.


  1. As a Ranger main, loved this post SOOOO MUCH. I rocked the Brown Bear so much when I was a noobie, mainly because it was my starting pet.

    I moved on to Devourers after my bears though, because they were better at distracting an enemy due to their burrow ability and their knockback. And their range keeps them alive and dry during bosses. CatDog for WvW and PvP, of course! But seriously save-a-name tool is so needed.

    Reading this post made me nostalgic about those massive Bearbow bot trains of yore.


    1. I felt so bad giving up my starter pet. It's in the questions sequence in character creation and they make a big thing about loyalty and then as soon as you see a better option your starter pet goes in the bag, never to be seen again. When I started my second ranger I decided he would stay faithful to his first pet, a pink Moa, and he's never swapped it out of the first pet slot yet.

      Mrs Bhagpuss uses all the pets. She swaps them in and out all the time. She likes devourers too, and also pigs and birds, none of which I ever use. In fact, come to think of it, Bears are pretty much the only pet she doesn't use.

      As for the Bearbow Bots - .

  2. I had a laugh that you managed to screen cap all those names, some great ones in there! :P

  3. Yes, the naming system is a FAIL, particularly since we can collect 'em all. Does tend to make me want to stick with fewer, just to avoid the hassle. Naming is one of those silly great options in gaming. It works great in Norrath but... why the heck can't we name our mounts, of all things?

    Funny, I've only realized lately, this posting magically corroborating it, the Bearbow phenomenon. Makes me want to re-load my bear, so there. Not as if it'll hurt our server in wvw lately... heh

    -- 7rlsy
    Beastgate, & Antonia Bayle

    1. On my recent return to the Norrath (EQ1 version) I noticed you can now re-name your mercenaries. You have to buy a potion in the cash shop to do it, but it's cheap and it seems like the sort of thing a cash shop should sell so I don't have a problem with that. It is curious they've never done either a free or paid-for option for mounts, especially since they are now such an obvious status item.

  4. Cough, I am new to GW2, i picked ranger cause i wanted to be an archer, and my pet is a bear. I see I was doing it wrong.
    But when i went to forums, the general feeling i got is that i should be playing with 2H sword, and i really hate to mellee, so bearbow it is, not that i do anything but solo :)

    1. Heh! You can't really do anything wrong in GW2, or at least not when you're leveling up or just generally roaming the world. Any set-up or style that you enjoy is as good as any other. It's only if you want to do dungeons and fractals that people start getting sniffy. In WvW, if you stick on the Commanders and follow instructions, no-one is going to pay much attention to anything you do, wear or use outside of that.

      My ranger used a 2-handed sword, and a 1-hander too, back in beta. Gave it up about level 20 or so. It's so long ago I'd literally forgotten it was an option. I must take another look and see what's supposed to be so good about it.

    2. The 2-hand sword has great mobility/defensive capabilities. I use it for WvW and general mucking around.

      1-hand sword has the highest DPS, and allows use of offhand.

      Rangers have a great selection of weapons though, and each has their uses. I use sword/dagger and Axe/Torch for sPvP, due to their dodges and damage. I use Longbow/GS for WvW, due to its range, AoE from LB and its mobility/defense from GS. I use Sword/Warhorn and GS for general PvE so I can move around fast. I use Longbow/SB for World Bosses.

      But honestly, GW2 being GW2, you can't go wrong. I find Ranger weapon variety interesting, but maybe some people don't. Do what feels the most "fun" for you.



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