It’s been an exciting few weeks in the world of Guild Wars 2. First, the last beta weekend allowed players to finally go hands on with the remaining two races – the dastardly genius Asura, and the new plants on the block, the Sylvari. Most importantly however, the finished game will be released on 28th August this year!
Before I go in depth on the Asura and the Sylvari, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to have a look at the final four professions that I didn’t cover last time: Necromancer, Guardian, Mesmer and Ranger.
Weapons – Staff, axe, dagger, scepter, focus, warhorn
Gimmick – Summons minions, becomes an avatar of Death
Stand out skills – Slash foes with ghostly claws, summon swarms of insects, throw a scythe that bounces between allies and foes, and literally become a plague.
Back in style, this profession has returned from the original Guild Wars with quite a few changes. The Necromancer used to focus on hexes and life-stealing, things that have been either downplayed or removed completely from this version of the game. Instead they spread conditions throughout the battlefield as easily as a scythe through butter, and summon ghastly beasts from beyond the grave.
When it comes to weapons, the Necromancer has access to a small number of them, but they may not behave in the way you might expect. Equip an axe and you can slash foes with ghostly claws from a distance, but with a focus in your offhand you can also throw an ethereal scythe between foes. Daggers deal close slashing damage but can steal health or unleash a swarm of blinding insects. Scepters can summon spectral hands from below the ground that cripple foes they manage to catch, and a warhorn will let you summon locusts or unleash a wail of doom that dazes any enemy unlucky enough to hear it. Staves are primarily used for leaving Marks on the ground that activate when triggered by foes, inflicting conditions like fear or chill on enemies, or granting regeneration to allies.
In addition to condition spreading, the Necromancer is a master of the dead, summoning multiple types of undead creatures to use in various wicked ways. Blood fiends steal health on each attack, bone fiends and flesh wurms attack from a distance, bone minions come out in pairs, shadow fiends can inflict blind and flesh golems deal huge amounts of damage. Each of these can be exploited in additional ways to grant greater effects, like spreading disease or immobilizing foes. They also serve another use, keeping enemies away from the Necromancer.
Strangely, while the Necromancer is a master of death they seem to cling to life a lot longer than many of the other classes. They can assume two separate spectral forms, Death Shroud and Lich Form (each with its own skills and health), to stave off death almost completely. Add these forms to the army of minions that can be employed and you have a profession that will not go down easily.
The rest of the Necromancer’s utility skills are varied. Like all other classes there are signets that grant boons like increased movement speed or power while passive, but can be activated for greater effects such as multiple revives or life stealing. Special Wells can be placed on the ground as well, affecting any foes that cross into them with conditions, while also buffing allies. My personal favourite Necromancer skill is Spectral Walk, which lets you disappear into the shadows while leaving a trail behind you. This can be used to sneak away from a large battle or to kite enemies away from the rest of your team.
Overall, the changes that have been made to the Necromancer are fantastic. It is a class that can be tailored to a few different styles of play which is important to keep the game feeling fresh during those long nights. The way in which old skills have been revamped is impressive – wells and minions are now both equally great ways to play, plus the addition of marks and spectral forms add a few different tactics to the Necromancer’s belt.
Weapons – Mace, scepter, sword, focus, shield, torch, greatsword, hammer, staff
Gimmick – Calls upon virtues to add boons in battle, has more healing skills than other classes
Stand out skills – Create a shield of energy around your allies, produce lines of light that enemies cannot cross, summon ethereal weapons to aid you in battle, and read from ancient tomes to grant incredibly powerful spells.
The Guardian is a new addition to the roster this time around, but don’t let the name fool you – this profession is certainly not just for defending. Although they may seem like the class that has taken over the role of Monk from the original Guild Wars, Guardians certainly pack a lot more firepower. They are dedicated fighters who can call upon various virtues to help them fight enemies or protect their allies. These virtues, while normally passive, can be activated in order to give a decisive boost during battles.
The Guardian has quite a large number of weapons to choose from, even without being able to use items like the pistol, rifle or bows. With a greatsword you can spin in a circle and hit foes from any angle. The hammer allows you to smash foes into the distance. A staff has powerful abilities that can hinder enemies or boon allies. Equip a mace with a focus and you can create a shield to block attacks, followed by smashing a mystic symbol into the ground that grants regeneration. The old faithful combo of sword and shield is as powerful as ever, enabling you to teleport to enemies and fashion a dome around you that absorbs projectiles. Finally, with a scepter and torch equipped you can immobilize an enemy with chains and burn them with magical flames.
Guardians are the only profession than can utilize virtues, powerful skills than grant bonuses in combat. The first virtue, Justice, gives the wielder a chance to land a burning attack. The second virtue, Courage, blocks an attack every 40 seconds. The third and final virtue, Resolve, regenerates health. Although these virtues are normally passive, they can be activated to spread their effects to nearby allies at the cost of having to wait for them to recharge before using their abilities again. A clever Guardian knows how to use these abilities to turn the tide of battle; activate the virtue of Courage before a boss uses their most powerful skill and your party will survive to fight another day.
The utility skills that the Guardian has access are as interesting as they are varied. There are a whole heap of spells that affect the area around you, stacking boons on allies, dealing conditions to enemies, or even making some pretty impressive energy bubbles that push foes away and protect your party. The most interesting skills are possibly the spirit weapons that can be summoned; the Bow of Truth, Hammer of Wisdom, Shield of the Avenger and Sword of Justice. Each of these spirits can be conjured to aid you in battle, to defend you against damage, distract enemies away or maybe even heal some conditions. They each have a powerful attack that can be activated, the drawback being the destruction of the weapon. Facing down a Guardian with a few of these helping him out is no easy feat.
There aren’t an awful lot of elite skills available for the Guardian, but for what they lack in numbers they more than make up for in effectiveness. The first, Renewed Focus, recharges all virtues immediately. This may seem underpowered but in battle it is incredibly effective. The amount of fire damage, health regeneration, and defense added during two quick virtue activations is more than enough to completely change the tide of battle, which could be useful when you come up against a tough mob of foes. Tome of Wrath, the second elite skill, locks the Guardian in place and swaps their standard skill bar with a brand new one filled to the brim with powerful offensive spells. Finally, Tome of Courage replaces the Guardians skill bar with incredibly effective healing and defensive spells, things that are certainly needed more in the higher level areas.
It’s always tough to introduce a new profession into a well established stable, but the Guardian does so much right it would be hard to argue against their inclusion. Taking the best parts of a Warrior, throwing in a dash of Priest, and topping it all off with a slice of Monk creates a class that is as much at home in the middle of the fight as it is at the back keeping its allies alive.
Weapons – Sword, scepter, focus, pistol, sword, torch, staff, greatsword
Gimmick – Creates multiple clones on the battlefield to confuse foes
Stand out skills – Turn your greatsword into a beam-rifle, make you and all allies disappear, create portals to teleport back and forth on the front line, and transform an enemy into a moa bird.
The final profession to be unveiled by the good people over at ArenaNet was the Mesmer, a fan favorite returning from the original game. Previously the Mesmer dealt in confusion and deception, interrupting enemy skills, stealing spells and generally making everyone afraid to move, lest they be struck down by a hidden hex. However, now the world of Tyria has moved on and so have the skills of the Mesmer. No longer happy to hide in the shadows, this profession now focuses on theatricality and trickery to gain the advantage in battle.
Although thought to generally be a caster class, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Mesmer that doesn’t have a greatsword equipped. Turning their blade into a far reaching beam of energy that does more damage the further they are away is something that is far too cool to be passed over. It can also create berserker clones that whirl into enemies, crippling them. That isn’t to say that staffs aren’t impressive either, because they allow the user to cast chaos storms on the battlefield or teleport away, leaving clones in their place. Dual-wielding swords is impressive looking, and in addition to being awesome it unlocks clones who leap into battle, even letting the Mesmer swap place with them at will, immobilizing nearby ne’er-do-wells. My favorite offhand is the torch, which equips a skill called The Prestige, making the Mesmer disappear in a puff of smoke (which blinds), only to reappear a few seconds later burning nearby foes.
The most important part of the Mesmer skill set are clones. Unable to stand toe to toe with heavyweights like the Warrior, Mesmers create illusions that look just like them in order to sow confusion amongst enemies. These clones can shoot guns, swing swords, teleport or even create clones of themselves, making it progressively harder and harder to keep your eye on the real target. And just when the enemy thinks they may be able to strike back, these clones can be sacrificed, shattering into foes and spreading conditions like wild fire.
Another Mesmer-specific way of fighting is the use of Mantras, skills that have a long cast time but whose effect can be activated instantly during battle. For instance, a Mesmer can pre-cast Mantra of Stability before battle, charging a fast casting spell that will grant stability immediately, so that if they come across an opponent that tries to knock them over, the spell can be used without delay to cancel out the effect. It may sound confusing, but it’s all part of the Mesmer way of thinking. Pre-cast a few Mantras before battle and unleash them in quick succession to surprise your enemies.
As the last profession to be announced the Mesmer had a lot to live up to, but it certainly delivered. ArenaNet have gone above and beyond to improve this profession for Guild Wars 2, making it a deadlier and more fun way to play than ever before. Plus, those masks they wear really creep me out…
Weapons – Greatsword, longbow, shortbow, sword, axe, warhorn, torch, dagger
Gimmick – A large number of animal companions and an affinity with nature
Stand out skills – Rain down hundreds of arrows, throw axes, summon hawks, have a shark as a pet, and fill traps with snakes.
I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to playing the Ranger. As the generic ‘guy/gal with a bow’ class, I thought it would just be more of the same, especially since I played one for quite a long time in the original Guild Wars. Thankfully I could not have been more wrong, as the Ranger in Guild Wars 2 is definitely one of my favorites of the bunch.
No longer happy so simply wield bows and arrows, the Ranger has returned with an arsenal full of deadly weaponry to lay siege to enemy lines. With a greatsword you channel your inner animal spirit, leaping forward like an eagle or mauling like a bear. The longbow is a great choice for those who want to stand back, as skills like Barrage can be used to shoot (what seems like) hundreds of arrows into a target area. Swords and daggers can be used to become acrobatic, rolling around enemies to stab them in the back before poisoning them. Instead of hacking foes with axes, the Ranger throws them instead, using deadly accuracy to hit an entire crowd. Torches can be useful, allowing you to burn the ground around you or set fire to anyone unlucky to get in your way. Shortbows, while not having the power or distance of the longbow, have the ability to poison or bleed instead. However my personal favorite was the warhorn, which grants a large number of boons to nearby allies while also calling in a cast of hawks that swarm enemies.
These weapons pale in comparison to the Ranger’s greatest asset – their pets. As the only profession with the ability to charm animals, Rangers are lucky enough to have a large number of animal companions that can join them on their adventures. There are twelve different families of pets, with each family containing a different number of species. These include birds, boars, canines, moas, spiders, bears, devourers, drakes, felines, armored fish, jellyfish, and even the elusive shark. With almost 50 different pets, there will certainly be enough to keep collectors happy. Players will even be able to equip two pets at any time, swapping back and forth between them at will (with cool down timers of course).
As Rangers are one with nature, they have a few extra tricks up their sleeves when it comes to battles. They can summon various different spirits to grant bonuses to allies in the area, for instance a stone spirit can grant extra protection while a storm spirit gives the gift of swiftness. Each spirit also comes with an extra offensive spell to protect them from foes, and at later levels they can even follow the Ranger to some degree.
Finishing off the impressive spread of skills available to the Ranger are traps, area of effect skills that trigger when an enemy is unlucky enough to trample on them. There are traps that burn, chill and cripple, even traps filled with poisonous snakes. I pity the fool who walks into the combination of all four. Also, not a trap per se, but Rangers can entangle foes in roots becoming immobilized until they are destroyed.
There is a ridiculous amount of fun to be had with the Ranger, and while it was the profession I was looking forward to the least, it ended up being the one I played the most. This says a lot about the design decisions of the developers, it’s always great to have something familiar tweaked to make it even more fun than before. Also, who wouldn’t want to have a pet flamingo?
So that’s it! All eight professions have been detailed and are ready for public consumption come 28th August (or 25th if you pre-ordered). I previously thought that by playing every class it would make my decision on who to choose easier, but instead it has made it even harder! I guess I’ll just have to play them all. Who will you choose?