Underwater mode is a gameplay mode applied when players dive below the surface of water. Upon entering this mode, characters automatically switch their standard headgear to their breathing apparatus and use a separate set of aquatic weapons accompanied by their profession's underwater skills. While underwater, players may explore and engage in combat as usual without any underwater movement penalty or breath restrictions. Underwater mode may be bypassed by swimming along the surface of the water, though the player will have no land or underwater skills while in this state.
The underwater environment is layered; players can swim on the surface of water to avoid hostile attention, while towards the bottom the creatures are generally aggressive or more numerous. Most of the underwater events occur deeper in water.
Access to aquatic weapons and underwater combat is unlocked at level 8.
Each character is automatically provided an Aqua Breather upon character creation, although as the breathing apparatus replaces currently equipped headgear for all intents and purposes, players will need to find and purchase better breathing apparatus or suffer reduction of any defense and other attribute increases provided by their standard headgear. Each character is also provided with a harpoon gun, spear, or trident, and are able to find better equipment as usual. All other equipment besides terrestrial weapon sets and headgear will function normally.
Underwater combat occurs much in the same manner as land-based combat except with greater vertical movement. A variety of skills capitalize on the increased directional component of underwater movement by affecting enemies with effects like sinking or floating or damaging foes in a vertical area of effect.
However, some features and skills cannot be used during underwater mode, while some skills are altered in their functionality. For example, rangers can only use amphibious or aquatic animal companions underwater. Skills which are entirely unavailable while underwater will feature icon in their skill tooltip. There is a separate utility skill bar for underwater, which needs to be reset when travelling underwater.
- Drowning state
When a character's health is depleted, the character enters a drowning state that functions similarly to players being downed. While drowning, players will have access to four drowning skills that can be used in an attempt to rally. However, in addition to the options of killing a foe or being revived by an ally, players may recover by swimming to the surface and achieving full drowning health at which a character re-enters a normal state with 25% health. If the player is attacked while treading water, the health recovery will stop and the player will lose health as in the downed state until one of these things happens: an ally revives him; a foe sinks or pulls him back underwater, in which case he will regain movement and access to the drowning skills; a foe with whom he was in combat dies; or the player himself dies.
Because of the vulnerability of the 'treading water' state, it may be safer to stay underwater and recover using the drowning skills because players can continue moving while drowned and even while using Bandage to recover on the move.
A character's skill bar changes when swimming and when entering underwater mode. While on the surface of a body of water, no skills are available but is still vulnerable to attack. Upon going underwater, a new skill bar is brought up as the character's aquatic weapon is automatically equipped. Each weapon provides profession-specific skills for use in underwater. Players can also set different healing, utility, and elite skills for underwater combat. Skills which can't be used underwater display icon in their skill tooltip.
The utility and elite skills available underwater for each profession are listed below:
- Elementalist skills
- Engineer skills
- Guardian skills
- Mesmer skills
- Necromancer skills
- Ranger skills
- Revenant skills
- Thief skills
- Warrior skills
- While everyone has a breathing apparatus equipped by default, they are not necessary for breathing.
- When the player leaves the water the view is temporarily covered with droplets of water.
- As a player goes deeper in the water the edges of the screen change to give a sense of less visibility and haze.
- In semi-shallow water, players can switch the camera from underwater mode to terrestrial mode without losing their aquatic skills.