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Guild Wars 2’s main departure from ‘regular’ MMO combat

GW2’s main departure from ‘regular’ MMO combat is the shift towards reactive counters. The dodge is incredibly important for every class, and the rest of the combat is clearly built around it – key abilities have long cast times and obvious animations because they are supposed to be dodgable on reaction. PvE content works the same way with mobs having clear tells and reactive dodging being a requirement.

In this sense, it nudges slightly into the domain of TERA. Except it isn’t TERA, and the technology behind GW2 will never be able to do this type of solid reactive combat as well as TERA’s engine does. What it lacks is the tight link between the visuals of an attack, and what that attack actually does in game terms.

In TERA damage is modelled in a fashion similar to fighting games, with moving ‘hitboxes’ for individual attacks that closely match the size and shape of the weapon animation. When you’re standing infront of a 20 foot monster who swings a big scythe down at you, and the weapon lands 2 foot to the side of you because you were strafing, that attack does not hit you. Because the damage is modelled by a hitbox that extends out along the length of the weapon and only connects with things that are actually in the path of the attack.

In GW2 however, i can’t count the number of times i’ve been standing a good distance behind a humanoid sized mob who swings a hammer towards someone else – which proceeds to knock me over and take away half of my life despite me being 10 times the mob’s reach away in the opposite direction. If we’re supposed to react to the visuals of an attack and dodge out of the way of it, it doesn’t help when there is no natural correlation between what you’re looking at and what is actually happening.

For people who haven’t experienced anything outside of standard MMO combat, you might feel that it’s normal for you to constantly take damage in a group fight from things that you can’t actually see connecting. To expect to lose health all the time and to browse through combat logs in order to see what you actually died to in a messy battle. But in TERA, you don’t need to do that, you know what’s hitting you because you can see it physically connecting with your player model, everything that deals damage to you is very clearly shown in a way that’s instinctively obvious.

This is why everyone comments that TERA combat ‘feels’ so good, because you have a connection to the fight with doesn’t exist in other systems. When you hit something, you are actually hitting it. When something hits you, it is actually hitting you, in the face with a big axe that very clearly connects with your player model. The dodging and blocking feels so very different in the two games because TERA manages to trigger a natural reactive response. When you see an attack actually coming towards your character and the visuals clearly show how it threatens you, trying to dodge is an instinct.

Using dodge against a little hammer swing 10 meters away from you because you know from experience that it hits everything within a 15 meter radius of the mob in all directions just doesn’t feel the same.