And we continue from Part 1!
Guardians are the first of the less stereotypical fantasy archetypes in Guild Wars 2, combining traits from the monk, ritualist and paragon from the first game. The vaguely paladin-esque result is a nigh unkillable wall of party support and fiery wrath.
The centerfold material for the guardian is her Virtues. Every guardian gets three virtues which convey a passive benefit to her. Virtue of Justice causes every fifth swing of her weapon to light her target on fire. Virtue of Courage grants her Aegis, which allows her to completely ignore the next attack against her, every 40 seconds. Virtue of Resolve gradually regenerates her health.
This alone makes her a force to be reckoned with, but there’s more. She can activate these virtues to sacrifice that passive benefit in favor of benefiting any friendly character within shouting distance. Virtue of Justice makes the next attack of her and her allies inflict burning. Virtue of Courage gives everyone (including her) the Aegis buff. Virtue of Resolve restores a portion of everyone’s health.
In many cases, the guardian also tends to drop little healing clouds, circles of regeneration and assorted buffs around the battlefield, just as a byproduct of swinging her weapons. And to ensure they keep doing it, there’s also a few survivability tools in her back pocket, such as abilities to block attacks and blind her enemies.
TL;DR: Solo. Group. Guardian has it covered. Top tier durability and support.
Following in step with the guardian’s “will not die” theme, necromancer’s defy the “squishy clothy” conventions we were taught in RPG school.
There’s an RPG school? What is he talking about? Is this like that dream where you signed up for a class and then forgot about it, so you go to the final exam hoping nobody notices you were missing? I hate that dream.
The key mechanic of the necromancer is a resource called Life Force. Life Force is gained whenever an enemy is killed in the presence of the necromancer. Several of his attacks also generate it.
With sufficient Life Force, he can activate his Death Shroud. In this form, his skills are replaced by four skills specific to Death Shroud. His Life Force then gradually ticks down. Any damage he takes will come out of his Life Force, rather than his health. If he runs out of Life Force, the Death Shroud ends.
The whole interface is very much like when your character is downed and dying, except the necromancer is up and kicking butt. I mention this because that is thematic awesomeness right there.
When it comes down to it, this means necromancers have a second health bar enemies have to chew through before taking him down. They are the bane of burst damage dealers.
I also found necromancer weapon skills interesting and varied, given their limited options. Lay trap-like marks with the (wickedly scythe-looking) staff, tear it up in melee and steal health with daggers, rend through armor at mid-range with the axe or rain sustained bleed conditions at a range with the scepter.
TL;DR: Caster stereotype be damned, necromancers are comfortable anywhere on the battlefield and will take considerable effort to take down.
If complete disregard for fantasy archetypes is your goal, then you can do no better than the engineer. Up until now, I’ve completely ignored much of what makes up these professions. Things like utility skills and traits could easily balloon these articles to zeppelin-sized proportions. But for Engineers, I have to make an exception. Their only weapons are rifle, pistol and shield, and, like the elementalist, they can’t even swap between them. Even his class-specific mechanic ties into those other five non-weapon skills. So, we’ll dabble very lightly for his sake.
The other five skill slots: The five skills after your weapon-specific skills are yours to choose freely from a pool decided by your profession (and a few from your race). The first is dedicated to your choice of self-heal, the next three are utilities that can do just about anything, and the last is the “elite”. The elite is just a really powerful utility with a long cooldown, and is unimportant for this discussion.
The engineer has four more “toolbelt” slots. Their effect is decided by your choice of healing and utility skills. If you pick the healing elixir as your healing skill, your first toolbelt slot lets you hurl a healing elixir, giving a random buff to everyone in the slash radius. If you pick “Rocket Boots” (which launches you backwards, damaging anything caught in the exhaust) as one of your utility skills, the associated toolbelt slot becomes “Rocket Kick” (which does an explosive kick, burning enemies in front of you). These all have their own, separate cooldowns, meaning Engineers basically get 4 more utility skills than everyone else.
This leads into the engineer’s hallmark mechanic: kits. A kit is a utility skill that, when used, replaces your five weapon slots with all new attacks. Using a Grenade Kit gives you 5 types of grenades to lob, with a variety of conditions to inflict. Activate the Elixir Gun Kit to equip the Elixer Gun, with a plethora of chemical attacks that weaken enemies and aid allies. Click the Flame Thrower Kit to leave enemies with a warm, crispy feeling. There’s even a Med Kit that lets you leave health kits lying around on the ground.
Kits too have associated toolbelt utility skills. Just by having Grenade Kit on your skill bar, you can periodically unleash a barrage of grenades over an area. You need not have the Grenade Kit activated to do so. Having an Elixer Gun Kit in reserve lets you emit a fragrant, health-regenerating mist. Do you have a flame thrower in your back pocket? Hit its toolbelt button and your next three attacks from any weapon will light people on fire.
TL;DR: ”Utility” describes the very foundation of engineer design. They also have debuffing conditions and party support in a volume and variety that should keep any fight interesting.
I put mesmer off to last, because she is honestly a little hard to quantify. Thematically, she is a caster profession that presides over the more cerebral domains: domination, inspiration and illusion. Though predominantly a ranged character, her weapons carry a certain swashbuckling panache, adding blades and pistols to her repertoire. The two-handed greatsword deserves special mention for being a purely long-range weapon in her hands. Its primary attack, Spacial Surge, even does less damage the closer her opponent gets.
The mechanic unique to the mesmer is her illusionary clones. Certain attacks of hers will spawn an identical looking copy. These copies deal minimal damage and typically go down in a single hit. Their use is centered on four abilities called shatters. When used, all clones will sacrifice themselves to inflict the shatter’s effect: direct damage, confusion, daze or distortion. Confusion causes enemies to take damage when they attack, daze prevents enemies from attacking and distortion puts the mesmer in an illusionary state that evades all attacks. The more clones sacrificed, up to the maximum of three, the more pronounced the effect.
Most weapon sets and a couple utility skills can also summon a phantasm. Phantasms count as clones in most ways, but have a ghostly appearance and are about on par with a pet in terms of power. That is to say, they are actually useful. Unlike a pet, they have no intelligence to speak of. They will simply act out the same, single ability on your target until they die, the target dies or they are sacrificed in a shatter.
TL;DR will not be seen tonight. In its place, please enjoy this small ramble.
Small Ramble: Mesmers, more than any other profession, exist in a very significant state of “not done yet”. Much of this revolves around the clones and shatters. Clones usually die in a single hit. They also do almost no damage. In fact, last beta weekend, my clones were dealing zero damage. Lots of little zeroes popping up everywhere. It was quite disheartening. They do still function as distractions. The GW2 aggro mechanics will quite happily slay a creature that is completely incapable of harming it just as often as it will attack you. This buys precious seconds, but their obvious intent seems to be shatter ammo.
Shatters are all sorts of broke. When you activate a shatter, all of your clones charge your current target and fall apart in a flurry of purple butterflies. It’s difficult to say when in this process the intended effect happens, because it often seems not to happen at all. I’m not certain if they aren’t reaching the target or if they even have to. When the shatter does happen, the effect is minimal. The damage is low and the effects only last a few seconds. The confusion, for example, is usually over before the enemy even attacks. You feel you should be getting more, when your ammunition for an attack keels over to a strong breeze.
Also annoying is that phantasms, those guys who actually kind of pull their weight, also sacrifice themselves to fuel shatters. So the effect gained by shattering a phantasm is generally less useful than the phantasm you just nixed.
Mesmers need work. But, I’m excited to see what emerges from the other side of beta-land.
I could have gone into a lot more detail. For the limited skill bar size and customization–a common gripe from those coming from other MMORPGs–there is a surprising level of depth. Though there is a wide range in how you can choose to play your character, they are not homogenized, samey-feeling professions. There’s a lot to explore, and after release, I may do so. Because class guides are fun.
We’ll have to wait and see.