Guild Wars 2 retains the hotbar skill-slot system of Guild Wars, but offers the player less direct control over what skills go in.
There are 10 slots to fill, wrote Flannum on the official Guild Wars 2 website. The first five, however, are filled for you, depending on your profession and the weapons in your hands.
A Warrior with a shield may use defenseive abilities while a Warrior with a greatsword will make a mess. Similarly, a Warrior with a sword will behave differently to another profession using the same weapon. And as most professions can choose two sets of weapons (perhaps a ranged accompaniment), there are lots of possibilities.
The next five skill slots are filled from a pool of skills collected as players explore Guild Wars 2. But each hotbar slot has a requirement: one requires a healing ability, for example, while another requires an elite "ultra-powerful" skill. The latter skills are supposed to be used sparingly.
"An Elementalist can call upon the power of the wind to shapeshift into a tornado that knocks enemies around and inflicts heavy damage," said Flannum, describing an elite skill, "while a Warrior might choose to harness the power of Destruction, to make all of his blows inflict area-of-effect damage."
Whatever the ability, be it big or small, ArenaNet wants players to see an animation that is visually striking and descriptive. This the developer hopes will negate the need for waffly skill descriptions.
"We want combat in Guild Wars 2 to really be visually appealing. We want you to be able to identify the skills being used at a glance and also have a good idea of what that skill is doing," said Flannum in a blog post on the official game site.
"Even a simple skill like fireball explodes in such a way that you can clearly see the area that they will affect. Beyond your typical fireballs and lightning bolts, you'll see skills that create giant crushing stone hands, turn their users into massive tornadoes, and summon flocks of vicious birds of prey."
The first profession to be discussed by Flannum is the Elementalist. These are the show-boat wizards of the land that use the elemental powers of Fire, Air, Water and Earth.
Elementalists need to attune separately to elements, and are given bonuses when doing so. Attuning to Fire opens area spells like burning the ground or raining down fire, and any who touch the caster will bescorched. Attuning to Air opens high-powered single-target spells, and strikes those around the caster with lightning.
Attuning to Water, meanwhile, sacrifices damage for movement-impairing spells and continuously heals allies near to the caster. And attuning to Earth bestows defensive spells such as turning flesh to stone and continually protects the caster.
Elementalist spells include Glyphs (buffs), Signets (buffs that can be activated), conjurations and area spells.
Our Guild Wars 2 gallery has pictures of the Elementalist in action.
Guild Wars 2 is expected to be released in 2011.