Guild wars 2 Weapon Swapping and Hotbars

One of the more unique design elements of Guild Wars 2 is the way skills are set up in the game. There have been countless blogs and articles describing the skill system and how it relates your Hotbar layout, but it also one of the biggest misconceptions about the game. So let’s clear it up now. People who’ve played games like Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, RIFT and Star Wars: The Old Republic are used to looking at multiple hotbars full of skills and abilities that do a large variety of things. In Guild Wars 2 this is greatly reduced and you don’t have to be a master pianist to manipulate your character.

Weapon Swapping and Skill Availability
Now that we’ve covered keybinds, let’s discuss what effect Weapon Swapping has on the skills classes have available at any given time. Before we get to class specific instances, lets take a look at the basic principals that rule every profession with the exception of the Engineer and Elementalist. We already know that everyone gets one elite skill, three utility skills and one heal skill. With Weapon Swapping, you will also have access to ten different weapon skills. So, ignoring for the moment profession skills, everyone has access to 15 different abilities at any given time. This gives the player a larger variety of skills to use at any given time. The one limiting factor is the cooldown of Weapon Swap. While it is short, it does prevent a player from switching weapons back and forth, so weapon swapping during combat will require decent timing in any combat scenario.

Key Binds and Hotbars
In GW2 the basic layout consists of five weapon skills, one heal skill, three utility skills, one elite skill. These slots are universal across all eight professions. Where things differ is how your profession skills are mapped to your Function Keys, F1 through F4. For example, a Mesmer has four “shatter” abilities tied to their F1 through F4 keys that manipulate their illusions. A Necromancer, on the other hand, uses only the F1 key to swap in and out of their Death Shroud.

When you factor in profession skills and your basic keys, you now possess 11 to 14 possible keybinds that you will have to manipulate. However, there is one more key you have to remember: Weapon Swapping! The ~ key operates as your weapon swap key. If you’re not familiar with how this works, every profession, except the Engineer and Elementalist, has the ability to equip two sets of weapons on their character sheet. When you swap your weapon sets, the weapon skills on your hotbar are instantly swapped out for your new set and places the weapon swap key on cooldown.

Special Note: The Elementalist’s profession skills gives them the ability to swap between all four attunements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Each attunement gives the Elementalist five separate abilities for the weapon set they are wielding. So in essence, the Elementalist gets twenty skills per weapon set. In the case of the Engineer, they also only can equip one weapon set. However, Engineers place “kits” in their utility skill slots. When these skills are slotted, it places special abilities in their F1-F4 class slots. When activating the utility skill slot, it replaces your weapons skill slots instantly (like swapping weapons) giving you access to five new weapon skills.

With all that being said, each player will only have to maintain 12 to 15 keybinds. This is an amazing reduction from many AAA MMORPG games where you end up key mapping 1-5 and ~, Alt/Ctrl/Shift 1-5 and ~, R, F, Z, C, Q, E F1-F14 etc. In a game that will have a huge focus on competitive PVP, the less keys that you have to memorize, the better. And unless you’re a hardcore, pro-player, the less keys you have to be aware of, the more you can keep your mind focused on the game at hand. This usually leads to a better play experience! Gone are the days of have five rows of hotbars cluttering up your screen.