There's a concerning trend with pretty much every balance patch that has come out in the last few years, or longer. And it is that changes tend to only be made to abilities that already see high usage. Anything else that isn't already in the PvE meta, especially core profession skills, are completely ignored. So over the course of this game's life, the number of skills people actively use has shrunk, because anything that isn't used will never be reintroduced or reworked.
Other games thrive on previously-ignored skills suddenly being made viable. It gets people theorycrafting. Other games like Path of Exile, ESO and FFXIV get loads of mileage out of balance patches. GW2 gets virtually none, because balance patches never actually change how anyone plays the game. They just wind up playing the same meta build with slightly different effectiveness because everything else has fallen off the radar and continues to stay off the radar.
The upcoming balance patch notes said they took a look at the state of play across the entire game, yet this pattern continues. We still see:
Core spec elite skills being almost completely ignored.
Necromancer minions being ignored (obviously a huge part of the class's identity, yet not used often in PvE and so never reworked).
Engineer turrets being ignored (same deal as above, despite renegade skills working exactly the same way and being given balance attention).
Elementalist cantrips being ignored.
Countless other examples of skills that have received no PvE balance update in 2+ years (scrape the wiki, they're everywhere).
Entire core spec traitlines are ignored. This is especially true for core healing and boon support trait lines. As an example, thief and engineer have two core support specializations each, yet are not viable supports in PvE. Warrior has two core support specializations, but their support role is basically just banner bonuses. Something is off here. These professions should all be able to provide competitive boon support, but they're still balanced under GW2 launch standards where dedicated support roles didn't exist. Yes, "boon thief" exists. But it's definitely not dedicated.
If you look at the state of healing and support in general, you'll notice that any profession without a support elite spec has substantially weaker core spec support abilities. Their core abilities are simply weaker, giving fewer boons and with less heal scaling. Around HoT, the game entered a different phase where support became a dedicated role. Any profession that did not receive a support elite spec was given no core spec attention, and continues to receive none.
What's the deal here? Are there plans to look at unused skills in PvE and reintroduce them? Or are we only going to see balance patches for elite specs? Core skills and traits make up a huge portion of gameplay, and it's disappointing to constantly see them ignored. The build crafting in this game could be so much more interesting, but the vast majority of class abilities are given no attention.
Awhile back, the team stated that they wanted core builds to be competitive choices next to elite specs, and that was the best news in years. But now things have regressed again, unused skills will continue to be unused. Core profession abilities (which are the vast majority of skills and traits) are still virtually exempt from balance patches. Very disappointing, this game could be so much more interesting.
- Racial Specializations (with UI Mockups)
- Choosing a Class in Shadowlands – Wowhead Class Writer Opinions on Gameplay Updates and Strengths in the Pre-Patch
- “Elite Bonus” to Core Specializations (to make them special)
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