Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons Beta Impressions
Starting this week, anyone with a Guild Wars 2 account has access to try out three of the new elite specs that come with the End of the dragons expansion: Harbinger (Necromancer), Willbender (Guardian) and Virtuoso (Mesmer). Characters with these elite specs can be created using any of the three beta character creation slots added to each account. At creation, these beta characters are level 80, have all elite specs unlocked, and will have access to any masteries you’ve unlocked on your account. The test week will end on August 21st at 10:00 p.m. PDT (UTC -8).
I am delighted that ArenaNet has decided to do beta testing this way, as it allows anyone who wishes to participate the opportunity to do so. We can also test these specs in the content we are used to, which helps us understand how well these specs work in the content we already do. The only downside to beta testing is that I log out of one of these characters and then log back in. When I tried to reconnect to one of these beta characters, I found that my spec and equipped weapons were cleared and all beta character waypoints were cleared. It makes trying things on a few different days more painful than it should be. Clearing waypoints was the biggest issue because it made moving these characters to other areas much more painful. However, on Thursday afternoon it appears that this issue has been resolved which is of great help.
I spent most of my time playing with the Harbinger because I play a lot more with my Necromancer than my Mesmer or Guardian. My first impressions are that Harbinger is a lot of fun, but he lives on the edge of a knife, a style that I tend to enjoy a lot. Pistol skills feel great and pair well with the dagger I was casually given. I liked the ricochet effect on bullets when using a pistol skill, although it is less noticeable once a certain mob threshold is reached. The three pistol is also super useful as it is a stunner. I have found this particularly beneficial to use just before shrouding.
My favorite ability in the shroud is Vital Draw which creates a well and causes enemies to float in the well for three seconds. The float also seems to stack with other Harbingers because when we run with a friend we floated Mordrim Wolves for six seconds. Not only is it effective, but it’s also hilarious to use. I soon found myself running, checking out what everything looked like floating in the air. The tendrils were by far the strangest, however. Aside from Vital Draw, all of the other shroud abilities also seemed very effective to use. Devour Cut was another favorite because it reminded me of a skill I use a lot on my weaver. Devouring Cup launches the Harbinger at its enemy, explodes for damage, and applies torment when it hits its target. Besides being fun, it’s also a great connection.
What I like most about Harbinger is that it gives the impression that it is geared towards frequent dives in and out of the shroud. I usually play Reaper, and most of the time when I go to Shroud I want to stay there as long as possible. However, doing this on Harbinger would quickly result in death from the burn mechanic. Burning reduces maximum health but also increases damage. This creates the feeling of knife edge for this spec – balancing the downsides with the damage bonus flail gives as well. It is also the Harbinger area that seems to need the most work. Looks like there are a lot of penalties but not a lot of benefits right now.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention the essences at all. This is because for most of my time playing Harbinger I didn’t use them that much. When I used them, it didn’t seem like they did much, so it was mostly unnecessary. The stun-breaking elixir of ignorance is the only exception here; this one is useful and worth taking a few extra piles of rust. The rest were just very disappointing most of the time, and I quickly found myself not using them much at all, especially after accidentally stacking the burn way too high a few times. It’s a combination of the positive side of the burn that isn’t good enough to make it worth it, and the essences are just a little boring.
As someone who hardly ever plays Guardian, Willbender was also a lot of fun. It was powerful, and I rarely got to the point where I really felt in danger. In fact, playing it reminded me a lot of playing my Revenant, which I have kept double-sword since I started playing it. My favorite thing about the WIllbender is the care as it encourages skillful play. This will block the next attack and convert it to healing instead, even though the next attack would have killed me. However, the window for this is short, so I found that I had to time it well. If the timing was wrong, I would only get a tiny amount of healing. So it wasn’t a complete waste, but not as good as when used well.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to try Virtuoso yet, but I can’t wait to give it a try, especially since it removes clones as a mechanic, which is why I never stayed very a long time with my Mesmer. I enjoyed Willbender but certainly had the most fun on Harbinger. The core of what’s there feels solid, but it needs some balancing to make it more rewarding to stack the bane. I would also like to rework the essences a bit to make them more fun to use.
This was good enough for a first look, especially since it looks like the disconnect bug has been fixed. I can’t wait to check out the next three Elite specs and try them out next month. I hope the Elementalist or the Ranger is one of them.