So, the Guild Wars 2 beta weekend was a thing that happened. I was lucky enough to play a fairly large chunk of it before ArenaNet cruelly pulled the plug, but I have returned from my time in Tyria with many tales for you weary travellers.
Yesterday I went through my experiences with three of the five available races: Human, Norn and Charr. Now it’s time to first look at the serious stuff, the professions. This time I will be looking at the Elementalist, Warrior, Thief and Engineer.
Weapons – Staff, sceptre, dagger, focus
Gimmick – The ability to switch between air, fire, water and earth at will
Stand Out Skills – Call down a meteor shower, summon a cloud of healing rain, conjure a lightning hammer, and physically transform into a tornado.
The Elementalist was a big profession in the original Guild Wars, so it was obvious they were going to return for the sequel. It was a fan favorite, allowing people to mix and match skills from the four elements to disintegrate, or incinerate, any enemy.
They have a varied arsenal, allowing them to wield quite a few deadly weapons. For everyone out there who fancies themselves the next Gandalf, you can use a two-handed staff. These allow long distance spells but are quite slow as a disadvantage. In your main hand, you can wield a dagger that allows for close range spells, or a scepter which can shoot those fireballs a little bit further. You can also hold a dagger or focus item in your offhand to add a few more skills to your arsenal.
The amount of skills the Elementalist has access to is simply incredible. Your spells will change depending on the weapon you are holding; a two-handed weapon dictates your first five skills, or if you choose to dual wield, your main-hand will decide the first three skills and the off-hand will change the final two. The real bonus for Elementalists is that they can switch between the four elements (Fire, Water, Earth and Air) at will, changing their entire moveset. This means that you can plug away at a dragon with a lightning whip, change your attunement to fire, and then send a fiery phoenix his way. Plus, you can finish off by calling down a gentle healing rain by switching to the water attunement.
The utility skills are slightly different. Signets will grant small perks like an increased running speed if left passive, or deal conditions if they are cast. Glyph of Lesser Elementals allows you to summon creatures based on your attunement. Mist Form turns you into an invulnerable vapor for a small period of time, while Lightning Flash will teleport you to a targeted area. The most exciting spells however, are the conjurations. One for each of the elements, these spells summon an elemental weapon for you and another party member to fight with for a finite number of uses. My favorite was the lava axe, which allowed me to hurl myself at an enemy and then roll away, leaving a trail of fire in my wake. Oh yeah, these weapons change your spell selection completely as well.
I decided to stick with a water-magic build, mainly because there were so many others using fire magic. It allowed me to keep my distance, while also sending some healing spells towards my weaker allies. The best thing about this profession is the diversity it allows, you can be the person on the frontline or you can stand at the back and make sure everyone stays alive.
Overall, the Elementalist is a really fun class to play. You may find yourself overwhelmed at first with the sheer number of spells available, but you catch on pretty quickly. It is diverse enough to allow multiple ways to play and strong enough to allow you to travel by yourself. It is definitely one of the most fun ‘mage’ classes I have ever played. Did I mention you can turn into a tornado?
Weapons – Sword, hammer, greatsword, axe, mace, warhorn, rifle, longbow, shield
Gimmick – Master of melee, big guy in the middle of a fight
Stand out skills – Shoot fire arrows, throw a greatsword boomerang, smack an enemy in the face with your rifle butt, and turn into a fist-fighting juggernaut.
Another familiar face from Guild Wars, the Warrior is your standard “hit ‘em until they die” character. This time around they’ve become weapon masters, proficient in nine separate apparatus that can smash their enemies’ heads in.
As they have access to quite a lot of weapons they are also privy to a large number of skills. The weapons returning from the original game (sword, hammer, axe, longbow and shield) have seen quite a few upgrades in their long absence. Swords are as versatile as ever, allowing you to inflict conditions like bleeding or cripple, and letting you leap at your foe. While holding an axe in your offhand you can become a moving death machine, spinning in circles to strike everyone around you. Hammers do a great job of crowd control, knocking groups to the ground or sending them flying in one hit. The longbow has the added bonus of distance, as well as fire or exploding arrows. The last returning weapon, the shield, was surprisingly lackluster. It was only used to either push a foe back or block incoming damage. With the originality apparent in so many other weapons, I really expected something more exciting from it.
The new weapons (mace, greatsword, warhorn and rifle) are wonderful new additions to the arsenal. The mace seems to focus on conditions like weakness and daze, leaving enemies open for more attacks. The greatsword has one of the more impressive abilities in the game, Bladetrail, which throws your weapon at a foe and returns it, crippling anything in its path. The warhorn adds boons to a party such as swiftness and vigor, while removing conditions and weakening nearby enemies. Finally, the rifle adds some much needed firepower to the Warrior’s skill set, shooting bullets that can cripple or bleed, even letting the player smash a foe in the face with their rifle butt.
As far as utility skills go, the Warrior has access to quite a few profession specific abilities. They can use signets to increase their defense, attack or precision. Stances and shouts are there to boost certain abilities for yourself or an entire party. I found the most interesting of the utility slots to be the banners which could be placed on the battlefield. These removable items add large boons to a party and can be held or transported by any ally. I can see these definitely being useful during those more difficult boss events.
As you can probably tell, the Warrior is the profession to choose if you like being on the frontlines of the battlefield. With the addition of the longbow and rifle items however, standing at the back is now a legitimate tactical position. What is great about this class is its survivability. While the Elementalist and the Mesmer are being torn apart, the Warrior and his heavy armor can hold the line until the rest of the party is safe.
Weapons – Shortbow, dagger, pistol, sword
Gimmick – Stealth ability, shadow-stepping, item stealing
Stand Out Skills – Shoot and arrow and appear where it lands, call in other thieves to help you out, create a wall of smoke, and pistol whip foes.
The Thief may seem recognizable to anyone that has played as an Assassin in Guild Wars Factions, but thankfully this class has evolved in many ways. Thieves are the masters of the art of stealth. They can cloak themselves in shadows to disappear, set deadly traps for their enemies and even steal items from foes to use against them.
When it comes to weapons, the Thief is blessed with the use of a shortbow, daggers, pistols or a sword. This list may initially seem small, but Thieves have special abilities that change depending on the combination of weapons they hold. For example, when holding a sword in the main hand and a pistol in the offhand, you can use the skill Pistol Whip. If you swap the weapon in the offhand to a dagger, the skill will change to Flanking Strike, which rolls you behind a foe and stabs them in the back. The shortbow is a two-handed weapon that focuses on directed attacks from afar, such as cluster bombs or poison clouds. It also has a particularly amazing skill that will shadow-step (teleport) you to a target area, blinding enemies in the process.
Like many other classes, the Thief has access to a number of signets as utility skills, ranging from speed boosts to increased precision. There are a number of skills that focus on the Thief’s ability to become invisible, such as Shadow Refuge which cloaks the user and surrounding allies. Smoke Screen creates a barrier that blocks all projectiles and blinds foes, even allowing allies to shoot through it. This adds a combo ability to their attacks and it also looks really cool. There are tricks like pulling your foe towards you with a Scorpion Wire, traps that poison when triggered, and venom which can be applied to your weapons to inflict conditions.
The Thief’s most impressive skill however, is the steal ability. By using the F1 key, players will shadow-step to a target and ‘steal’ something from them. This will vary from enemy to enemy, but I managed to steal feathers that caused blindness, a sack of venom that exploded, a sharp tooth for stabbing, and some gunk that inflicted a random condition. The one drawback I saw with using this ability was how open it leaves the player. You teleport right into an enemy’s face, so you’re almost forced to use your stolen item immediately before you’ve even checked what it does. A simple second of invulnerability would work a charm there, but hey, it’s called a beta for a reason.
If you want to play with an opponent’s mind, this is the profession for you. You won’t be the best armored in Tyria, so you’ll have to use your brain to figure out the battles you can’t win. Or you can just jump right into the middle of the action, deal some serious damage and disappear straight out of there. I would like to see a bigger focus on the stealth ability, as I think it is underused, but I can understand not wanting to create a simple Rogue clone. Overall I was very impressed, since during my time playing as a Thief I felt like a genuine ‘bad ass’. There is a real charm to disappearing and teleporting at will, while also dealing some serious damage with a shortbow.
Weapons – Rifle, pistol, shield
Gimmick – Creates turrets and uses gadgets
Stand Out Skills – Flamethrower, rocket turret, elixir gun, rocket boots and grenade satchel.
Finally, a brand new profession! ArenaNet really pulled a surprise out of the bag with this one, because the Engineer is not only original, but extremely fun to play. An expert in all types of gadgets, you will likely not find yourself holding the same weapon for too long with this profession.
Proficient in use of the rifle, Engineers can Jump Shot themselves into the midst of a battle before overcharging their gun and blowing themselves and enemies away. Their pistol gives access to poisonous darts, electric shots and a blowtorch. The shield is magnetically charged and can be thrown or used to reflect projectiles. While this initial list may seem like a very small selection of weapons, when you have a look at the rest of the engineer’s skills you begin to understand why.
To say the Engineer’s utility skills are diverse is an understatement. They have access to various different ‘kits’ which completely change their five attack skills. These include the ability to lay down mines, equip a gun that shoots elixirs, become a grenadier, or even turn into a field medic. The most wonderful of the weapon kits, however, is the flamethrower. This beautiful piece of weaponry has one of the most brilliant combo attacks I have ever seen in a game like this. With a clever use of the skills available, you can lay down a wall of napalm in front of you, pull an enemy through the flames with a backdraft, and then shoot them right back through with an air blast. Perfect.
Turrets also play a large part of the Engineers battle tactics. The turrets currently available are: Rifle, rocket, healing, flame, net, thumper, and mortar. These are immobile weapons that will boost your battle presence significantly, and can also be detonated for AoE damage. Only one of each type of turret can be deployed at a time, but each of them can be ‘overcharged’ for additional effects.
As if all this wasn’t enough, elixirs can be used by the Engineer or tossed at party members to grant boons or remove conditions. One particularly interesting elixir shrinks the user, allowing them to avoid attacks and remove the stunned condition. As a bonus, and possibly because the Engineer is some kind of mad scientist, they can use some of the elite skills from other classes: The Tornado skill from the Elementalists, the Rampage skill from the Warrior, and the Plague skill of the Necromancer.
The Engineer is a complicated and fun addition to the roster of professions for Guild Wars 2. It is great to see this kind of originality when most games would have probably just added a class that specialized in guns. The various kits, turrets, gadgets and elixirs really make this class stand out from the rest and I look forward to getting some more hands on time with it.
Again, I have barely scratched the surface of the wealth of content available in Guild Wars 2. I scarcely mentioned healing spells or underwater combat, I haven’t spoken about traits, and I didn’t even detail the skill changes that happen when you get downed. But don’t worry, I’ll cover these things, and the remaining four professions (Mesmer, Ranger, Guardian and Necromancer) during the next beta weekend! See you then!