Monday, April 30, 2012

Guild Wars 2 vs World of Warcraft: Pets

So I've prepurchased Guild Wars 2, and the first beta weekend has just come to a close.

Of course, the first class--er, excuse me, profession--I tried out was the Ranger.  I won't go into details about what I think about the game itself--there would be far too much to talk about--but I did get a chance to compare the GW2 Ranger pet system with that of the WoW Hunter one.

So, how does do they compare?


In WoW, you have a finite number of stable slots, and a "roster" of Active Pets you carry around with you.  There are also hundreds of pets to choose from, and in order to tame them, you have to go out into the world, find them and capture them (which can be challenging if it's a tough beast).

In Guild Wars 2, you have a "pet list."  This list is a panel that shows all the available pets; they start off grayed-out.  Only your starter pet is "lit up," and so it's the only pet that you can slot into the Active Pets interface.  As you roam the world, you will sometimes find Juvenile versions of those tameable beasts.  These are green-named (friendly) and you can interact with them (by pressing F in Melee range) to Charm them.  Once Charmed, the beast is unlocked forever; you never need to find another one.

Choosing which Unlocked pet to Actively slot.

Switching Pets

In WoW, you can switch between your five Active pets whenever you want.  To get to any of your other twenty, you must travel to a town and talk to a Stable Master to move pets from the Stable to your Active slots and vice versa.

In GW2, you can move Unlocked pets into your Active slots any time you're out of combat.  You can switch between your two Active pets while in combat, albeit with a short cooldown (the cooldown changes depending on your pet's HP level, so if you switch a very badly-hurt pet to save it, you won't be able to switch back for a time until it's recovered).


Regarding the Active Slots themselves: GW2 has four Active pet slots.  Two are "Terrestrial," two are "Amphibious."  The game automatically switches to your Aquatic pet slots when you're underwater.  Some pets are Terrestrial, like Wolves, so can only be used on land.  Some are Amphibious, and can thus be placed in either type of slot, for example Drakes and Polar Bears.  Some pets are Aquatic-only, for example Sharks. Available pets include Spiders, Devourers, Bears, Canines, Felines, Birds and more!

The Snow Leopard


Pet Abilities, Power & Management

World of Warcraft has a large amount of hunter-pet synergy.  There are a number of pet-based skills and customization, micromanagement options & multi-role-filling.  WoW pets are also very hardy. The pet controls are also very good, and macroable--you can recall your pet at will by hitting Follow (unless you have DoTs on the target, which makes a pet on Assist ignore you >.>), or position it in place for a screenshot.  The pet follows tight on your left side at all times in a proper obedience dog Heel position.

GW2 has a more fire-and-forget system.  There are no pet talents.  Each pet family, as in WoW, has a couple of general skills; each individual pet type within those families also has a unique skill.  For example, all canines have a similar skill set, but the Howl has a different effect for Alpine wolves (a Chill), Fern Hounds (a Regenerate) etc.  There are no real synergistic skills you can use, although the unique skills, as in WoW, can be activated at will--so you can use your Drakehound to root a warrior that's coming at you, for example. 

A Charr and her Jungle Stalker--sisters?

GW2 pets are also a very noticeably amount squishier, with DPS pets unlikely to survive two or more mobs.  GW2 has no dedicated tank classes--only control--so there are no tank pets, either.  A good Ranger will need a great deal of micromanagement (in the form of pet recalls and kiting) to keep the pet alive.  At end-game the pets do seem sturdier, but as the Beta was limited to level 20 or so, I couldn't compare in PvE.  In PvP at max level, they are great--survivable and very potent damage-dealers--but at low levels, most of the combat focus is on keeping the pet alive, even with the limited heals available.

Another issue with the GW2 pet system is that ALL pets seem to have a mechanic that spikes their threat dramatically, or even taunts--and this includes DPS pets sent onto a world boss which already has dozens of players pounding it.  This is likely a bug, or just a design flaw, and will hopefully be fixed by release; but as it stands, all of the big world events feature ten or more "downed" pets limping around after their Ranger masters.  My hope is that all aggro generation will simply be removed from DPS pets before game launch.

You can switch pets when your pet is downed (or about to be), but this incurs a cooldown; sometimes the second pet is also down before the cooldown is up, and your options are to run, kite or try and revive the pet while being whaled on.

Lastly, the GW2 pets seem to follow in different positions; some heel, some charge ahead.  This is a serious problem when moving about the world--on occasion (and I'm sure this is a bug, and will hopefully be fixed by release), I would stop moving, but my pet would carry on for a good twenty yards, coming to a stop in a group of enemy mobs.  All of these complaints, though--about squishy pets, and so on--will hopefully be addressed and rectified before launch.

The Hunter/Ranger-Pet Connection

So for those of us who like to feel that the pet is an important part of their character's life, how do the games stack up?

In WoW, the loyalty system (sadly, in my opinion) is long-gone; the time of feeding the pet and monitoring Pet Happiness is past.  The pet is a tool, for the most part--a highly-customizable tool, and a cute one, but a tool nonetheless.  But you can name your pet, and we give them personalities in our imaginations, and the aesthetics of the art and models lends them a great deal of charm.

Brown Bear

In GW2, the pets are unlocked, and the "pet card" lists where the pet was Charmed.  You can name your pet (Beta Bug: pet names are forgotten when the pet's cycled, whoops!), and you can use the "special" skill.  You can toggle Fight/Passive to try and call the pet back, and you can keybind "send pet" (although that's about it; the GW2 keybind mechanics seem severely flawed right now).  That, however, is all the micromanagement you can do, aside from using a heal.

In the end, I think the "connection" is about the same.  Calling a pet from an invisible stable feels much the same as calling it from an Active Pets panel.  The only personalization in either game is naming the pet.  The only real difference, in the end, is that GW2 has far fewer pets to choose from (around forty)--but that number will surely go up down the road.

Art Styles

WoW's art style is obviously very, very stylized.  The devs were smart; they knew that graphics become outdated quickly.  They designed WoW's beasts, along with everything else, to be blocky, unrealistic and have a sort of cartoonish feel.  Had they aimed for realism, the game would have been aesthetically unappealing to new players after maybe two years.

Outdated but still artistic: the very old WoW hyena model.

GW2 has a strange aesthetic overall; it's almost like a western RPG (think LotrO) with a tiny dash of JRPG (in the form of flared skirts and large eyes--thankfully there's not too much of this... I'm not a fan of the overrepresented Anime style, personally) and a sort of watercolor-on-homemade-paper look. I can't describe this last one very well, you will just have to see it for yourself; but the terrain has an almost brushstroke feel in places, and the lines are soft, but well-defined, and everything has a colorful bloom.  The atmospheres of different areas are heavily affected by this; dark and spooky areas are full of floating "sheets" of fog, and bright areas have almost panels of flashy trees.  At times, it is almost like moving through a pop-up book. 

Hyper-realistic but still stylistic, the GW2 Hyena--mange and all.

 This translates to pets by making them highly realistic, and for the most part very anatomically correct and well-modeled, but also stylized in a smooth-textured (not furry), brushstroked and high-bloom sense.  There are still errors--for example, one of the bear's jaws is extremely undershot (likely a bug, again), and the eyes of Alpine Wolves aren't visible through their squint--but overall the pets are very, very good-looking.  The animations are also extremely smooth and realistic; the bears have a rolling, lumbering gallop; the Moas have a hawkstrider-esque ostrich run, etc.  My only complaint is with the cat heads, which have far too much vertical movement in motion.

Final Thoughts
All in all, there are more similarities than differences between the two games' pet systems.  You have to go out and find your pet, they can be defeated, revived and named, they have unique and family-shared skills, and they have a small list of stances and commands.  I think that hunters moving to GW2 from WoW won't have much trouble at all with the GW2 system.  In the end, the pet system won't have an impact for most pet fans choosing between the two games; decisions will likely come down to other aspects, like end-game, PvP, graphics and so on.  Each game has its pros and cons, but I can't see the pets being a decisive factor either way--they're great in both games!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Buffs & Debuffs - A Hunter's View

So in Mists of Pandaria (WoW's upcoming expansion), the buffs/debuffs system is being completely reworked.  Currently, a good hunter chooses which pet to bring to the PvE table based on what buffs are missing from his or her group.  However, current buffs are being consolidated and some old buffs entirely removed, so the pets will be entirely different come MoP.

Hunters will have two of the new buffs & one debuff, regardless of spec.  All hunters will provide their party or raid with 10% extra Attack Power (melee and ranged), as well as 5% additional crit.  We will also have the ability to provide (through our shot Widow Venom, most likely) a Mortal Strike debuff.  This last may be annoying to apply, but chances are it won't be needed much in a PvE setting regardless.

Bleed debuffs will be removed from the game, as will the agility & strength buff.
  Bleed classes will likely simply have the +bleed incorporated into their bleed spec.

Many pets will likely see their buffs/debuffs entirely changed.  Cats, Wolves, Devilsaurs, Spirit Beasts, Hydras, Rhinos and Hyenas have buffs/debuffs which will be removed from the game or directly provided by the hunter.

Hunters will have the ability to choose their pet's spec regardless of family.  So providing Blessing of Kings from a Shale Spider no longer requires the hunter to DPS with a tank pet, and providing 10% stamina will no longer necessitate raiding with a Cunning Silithid.

What does this mean for us?  It means that we will provide two of the most powerful DPS buffs in the game simply by turning up.  It also means that we can choose any third buff in the game to provide to our party or raid, without losing DPS by having to pull out a non-Ferocity pet!  Thus a hunter bringing along a Mastery pet (potentially a Wolf or Cat) will bring three extremely powerful buffs to a single raid or dungeon.  It also means that for solo play, hunters will continue to be very self-sufficient--we will have two powerful damage buffs as well as our choice of Blessing of Kings (Shale Spider) or Stamina (Silithid) for BM, or Mastery or Haste, and so on, while just out questing or soloing old content (or new, for that matter!).

Remember that the buffs & debuffs not currently given by our pets will likely become available once the cats, wolves and so on are given their new skills.  For example, it's more than likely that the new +5% Mastery raid buff and the 10% haste (to melee/ranged) buff will be given to the more popular pets. 

Raptors dancing for joy at the news, or something.

The List of MoP Buffs & Debuffs:

5% Agi/Str/Int, 10% Stamina, 10% Melee/Ranged AP, 10% Spell Power, 10% Melee/Ranged Haste, 5% Spell Haste, 5% Crit, 5 Mastery (not sure if % or rating), -12% Armor Debuff, +4% Physical Damage Taken Debuff, +8% Spell Damage Taken Debuff, -10% Physical Damage Done Debuff, -30% Casting Speed Debuff, & -25% Healing Taken Debuff.

Final Speculation/wish list:  I'm hoping that the Devilsaurs, at least, get a Fear.  I'd love to see the Wolves get it too.  But then again, I'm a PvPer at heart, and the idea of the Devils' old Terrifying Roar or a Wolf giving a Terrifying Howl just appeals to me!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Devilsaur: The King of Pets

My hunter & her devilsaur "Dragon" at the Barrens-Durotar border.
Devilsaurs are Exotic ferocity pets modelled after the real-life Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Wild devilsaurs are exceptionally large--in fact, some of the rares used to be tied for the largest model in-game.  In order to tame these massive monsters, you must be a Beast Mastery-specced hunter with the level 69 talent "Beast Mastery."

Tracking a wild Devilsaur
Exotic pets are "upgraded" versions of non-exotics, in this case wolves.  Devilsaurs share the wolf's ability to buff your raid with a 5% crit increase.  This buff is only auto-cast in combat, but you can manually use the ability--called Terrifying Roar--if you so desire.  The Devilsaur's Exotic skill is called Monstrous Bite, and is a Mortal Strike effect which reduces healing taken by your target.  This skill has an 8-second cooldown with a 7 second duration by default, but with the Longevity hunter talent, the cooldown is dropped to 5.6 seconds--meaning your enemy will always have an automatically-applied MS effect on them.
Getting closer...

PvP    This MS effect can be very useful in PvP, although Devilsaurs are focused on pure damage rather than any defensive utility.  If you are fairly well-geared and don't feel the need for the Roar of Sacrifice ability that Cunning pets can give you, or the heal from a Spirit Beast or roots or snares from other pets, try bringing a Devilsaur along.  It means that you have a large, loud pet which is easily trackable in a fight (so if it gets feared etc. you can easily see where it goes, rather than having to look around for it), and which keeps an MS on your target at all times--removing the need for you to apply Widow's Venom.  Alternatively, you can use Widow's Venom on a different target, effectively keeping two targets Mortal Striked without any extra focus cost from you.  Devilsaurs, as Ferocity pets, also do a very large amount of damage, and have the added bonus of being huge and somewhat intimidating to some players in PvP.  On the downside, a lot of enemy players tend to attack the Devilsaur, as it is an obvious target compared to smaller pets.

There he is: an Ironhide Devilsaur

PvE    Use a Devilsaur to replace a Wolf when the 5% crit buff is needed, if you like.  Be aware, though, that some raiders may find a Devilsaur's size or loud roars intrusive.  If you're facing a dungeon or raid boss which heals itself, you can use the Devilsaur to spare yourself (or other players) the necessity of using Mortal Strikes.  In PvE, as in PvP, the Devilsaur is an easy pet to track through even the most chaotic fight.

Location And Looks    Devilsaurs can be mainly be found in jungle areas.  This means that Un'goro Crater--which is home to myriad "throwback" type beasts, including dinosaurs--is your best bet for most colors.  These colors can include a black-blue, a white/pink-purple ("albino"), and a brown-orange all with varying colors of stripes, eyes and underbellies.  There is also a unique bright green devilsaur named King Krush wandering alone through the Northrend's Sholazar Basin.  If you just want a Devilsaur, and you don't care about the color, you can always find the orange-brown quest mob "Devilsaur Queen" in the south of Un'goro (a bit west of the Slithering Scar), standing on a ledge against the crater wall.   For more, check out Petopia's Devilsaur page here.

King Krush stalking the wilds of Sholazar Basin

Random Facts

* Devilsaurs have very detailed skins considering they are vanilla mobs, possibly because they were originally designed to be so large.  There is a delicate, almost gilded-looking tracing of color--usually golden, but varying by the devilsaur's color--visible between the scales.  Their eyes, which also vary in color, glow in the dark.

Devilsaurs have detailed skins, and yes, they will blend.  In.

* There are no untameable Devilsaurs, so if you find yourself having trouble making one your own, check to make sure it is the same level as you (or lower), and that you've got the level 69 BM talent "Beast Mastery."

* Rare and elite devilsaurs are given the title of King, or Queen, along with a (usually misspelled) name.  Ungoro's royal pair are King Mosh and the Devilsaur Queen; Sholazar has King Krush, and Drak'theron Keep (a Zul'Drak troll dungeon) has King Dred.

King Mosh, king of Un'goro Crater.

* Devilsaurs used to be infamously deadly.  In vanilla WoW through Wrath of the Lich King, players levelling in Un'goro would often be ambushed by the "ninjasaurs," who made quick work of them with knock-ups and fears along with heavy damage.  Different types of devilsaurs had different abilities, too.

* King Mosh was extremely powerful for his level, sometimes killing players up to level 70; he had over fifty thousand HP (compare this to the several thousand hit-point player health pools of vanilla WoW).  King Krush, the rare introduced in WotLK, was an extremely powerful elite who was very difficult--if not impossible--for most players to solo-tame.  He feared frequently, had a large HP pool and did astonishing damage, making a friendly priest (for Fear Ward) or even a "disposable" Core Hound (for Bloodlust and Bestial Wrath, until BW ceased making players immune to fear), along with haste potions & food buffs, almost necessary.  Devilsaurs were "tamed" in Cataclysm, and are now much more mundane--they are still quite large, but most are no longer elite or even particularly dangerous.

My other devilsaur, Valak, is apparently camera-shy.
* The old class quests to the Sunken Temple dungeon had a notoriously difficult leg for Druid players, who had to run up and stab a Devilsaur in the leg in order to test a pacifying toxin.  Devilsaurs used to be a higher level than the level ~50 Sunken Temple dungeongoers, meaning that the technique of Hibernating the creatures in order to "stab" them would often result in a spell resist and a dead Druid.

* Some vanilla armor types could only be created with the use of "devilsaur leather," skinned from the Un'goro monsters.

Check out the following vid to see Devilsaurs in motion--skip to ~30 seconds to see the hilarity that is swimming Devilsaurs.