In GW2 everyone's her own healer and everyone else's patch healer at the same time. Healing is your job, my job, no-one's job. It works well enough and I've certainly become used to it but it's never been ideal.
Consequently I felt that one of the more welcome additions brought to the game by the Heart of Thorns expansion was the introduction of the closest thing GW2 has ever had to a dedicated healer - the Druid. Druid is the Elite Specialization for the Ranger class. Rangers might seem an odd choice for the healing role but, as Zubon pointed out way back when, the Ranger started out as a good match for the then-favored "main" healing class, a Staff Elementalist in Water attunement.
|Don't turn your back on me Rytlock. I'm tougher than I look. What do you mean, "You'd have to be?"|
With the coming of HoT all that changed. The Druid was designed primarily as a support class, with the bulk of that support coming in the form of healing. On top of that, the rules were changed so that healing players during combat gave the healer credit towards whatever rewards might be on offer. True, you do still have to do some nominal damage as well in order to be recognized but some of the healing skills come with damage built in so that's simple enough.
|Amazing how the arrows don't go right through.|
In fact,three rangers: one a Charr, my first GW2 character, another, on my third account, a Sylvari, and in-between those two there's my Asura. A year or so ago, on a whim, I re-specced and re-geared the Asuran Ranger for pure survivability. He's all toughness, vitality and, most especially, healing power. His passive and reactive regeneration is so high that in most PvE fights his health barely appears to drop at all.
That made him the ideal candidate. Over the weekend I tuned him still further in that direction, put a staff in his hands and sent him out to learn how to Druid. It was a happy experience.
In open world PvE he is virtually indestructible. Packs of mini-raptors, hordes of mordrem, whole temples of risen minions of Zhaitan throw themselves against his healing and bounce. It makes traveling a breeze.
|Hi, King Adelbern! Look, he's waving!|
Roaming, something I have rarely managed to bring off with anything even remotely comparable to success before, he is a total nuisance. He may not be able to kill other players - the downside of the healing build is DPS like a wet dishcloth - but boy, can he hold a ring.
When he turns up, a simple camp capture for a couple of invaders turns into a long-drawn out war of attrition as he dodges and rolls and throws out heal after heal that not only keep him and his pet alive but revitalize all and any of the camp guards that are still standing.
The longer the fight goes on, the higher the chance another player on my side will turn up to assist, and once that happens the tide just turns. Having a heal generator on tap frees up whoever has found the fight to blaze away while, as everyone knows, you have to kill the healer first and that was already problematic when the healer was alone.
|This guy seriously doesn't know when he's beaten.|
So, I spent a good few hours over the last few days doing that. So much in MMO gaming - gaming in general - comes down to muscle memory and being able to act without thinking. I am nowhere near being "good" at playing a druid yet but I'm beginning to pass the point where I have to think about everything as it happens. When instinct can take over performance will improve.
Off the back of this positive experience I had the bright idea, late last night, to see how the Druid would go in a dungeon. In all the time I've played GW2 I've done just one of the original dungeons and that but a single time. That was the final Zhaitan fight at Arah on Story mode, way back in 2012.
I've done around a dozen fractals and all the temporary Living Story and holiday dungeons but the regular ones, never. I thought I'd start at the beginning so I went to the entrance of Ascalon Catacombs in Plains of Ashford, knocked on the door and went in. Alone.
Rytlock Brimstone wasn't impressed. He thought I needed to bring some help if I was coming with him to find Eir Stegalkin. Apparently a three foot tall Asura wearing a child's cat hat and waving something that looks like a sapling he just uprooted doesn't equate to a full warband in the eyes of a great soldier like Rytlock.
|Twenty-six silver? You're kidding, right?|
Other than that, none of the fights even came close. I was never downed. Rytlock, Eir and her wolf, Garm, fell over many times but I quickly learned that if you just run back a few dozen yards they pop back up at full health as though nothing ever happened.
The dungeon was gorgeous, insofar as a decaying, ghost-ridden crypt can be. The mechanics weren't too annoying. Difficulty felt almost identical to Advaned Solo in EQ2. Rewards were poor but it was interesting to follow another part of the story, even though it's more like history by now.
|Rytlock's stormed off in a huff. Again. Everyone feels bad. Even the pets.|
It opens up the prospect of doing more dungeons solo and of duoing them with Mrs Bhagpuss, who has already expressed an interest in running Twilight Arbor for tokens to buy the Nightmare Court armor. Researching that I found the beautifully designed guides at GWDungeon.net, a resource I didn't even know existed. I anticipate making considerable use of all their hard work.
I am not a fan of running dungeons over and over. I have always thought it a poor mechanic and a wrong-headed direction for designers to take. I do like a good dungeon, though - solo, duo or full group. It would be good to see them all and what's more, if I've been through a dungeon at my own pace solo or duo I'll be much more likely to take a run with a group. Even if you don't know the ropes it's nice to at least feel you know where the ropes are.
It's also made me more interested to play around with the other Elite Specializations and also experiment with builds. Who knows, I might even make some effort to put a character into full Ascended.
If I do, it'll be the Druid.