Hello again, friends, and welcome back to Choose My Adventure. As you may or may not have noticed, CMA took a little hiatus last week on account of my having some computer issues that ultimately ended up requiring me to reformat. But now I’m back with a fresh, clean hard drive, and not one but two weekends’ worth of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns playtime to talk about.
But before we get down to that, here’s a recap of the last column’s voting results: While the gender vote was a close contest, with female eking out a victory by a slim 12 out of 274 votes, the polls for my character’s class and race were considerably more decisive. The race vote went to Sylvari with a commanding 41% of the vote (the next-closest contestant, Asura, had only 19%), and as predicted, the class vote was little more than a formality, with a sound majority of you voting to see the newly added Revenant class in action. Well, I did as I was told, and I’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s jump in.
To start things off, let’s talk about the Revenant itself. Over the course of the weekend, I spent my time achieving 100% completion of the Caledon Forest zone (the starting zone for Sylvari characters) and reached level 17 in the process. Throughout my journeys, I experimented with many– all but one, in fact — of the Revenant’s weapon combinations, and I’ve definitely got my favorites (and least favorites). But before we get to that, I wanna talk a little bit about the Revenant’s build progression because it is, I think, somewhat unique among the other GW2 classes.
If you’re familiar with Guild Wars 2, you already know most of this and can skip on down; if you don’t, though, here’s how skills and progression normally work: Each character has 10 skill slots. The skills in the first five slots are determined by the weapon(s) that the character is currently wielding. That is to say, a character equipped with a hammer is going to have a different set of abilities than a character of the same class wielding a staff. The Revenant is no different in that regard.
However, the last five skills are another matter entirely. The sixth skill slot is reserved for a healing skill, while slots seven, eight, and nine can all be filled with so-called “utility” skills, which are class-specific (and often class-defining) or race-specific abilities. The tenth and final slot is reserved for elite skills, which are skills so badass that a given character can only equip one at a time.
When it comes to character progression for most classes — that is, the ones that aren’t the Revenant — unlocking new abilities works like this: When a character reaches major level milestones (or completes certain other tasks), that character gains a certain number of hero points, which can then be invested in one of that character’s class-specific skill lines. Investing points in a given line unlocks new healing, utility, or elite skills, depending on the specific skill line in question. The character can then equip unlocked abilities from any skill line, mixing abilities from different lines as desired.
The Revenant works similarly insofar as the investing hero points in different skill lines is concerned, but there’s a unique catch regarding how those abilities are utilized. You may recall that I mentioned in the previous column that the Revenant’s class-specific “gimmick” is the ability to invoke the power of various legendary figures from throughout Tyria’s history. Well, each of the Revenant’s skill lines is associated with one of those legendary figures. The first ability in each line is that legend’s “stance,” which simply allows the Revenant to invoke that legend, but seems to have no mechanical effect on its own.
After you unlock a given legend’s stance, however, further point investments in that legend’s line will unlock a healing skill, three utility skills, and an elite skill, in that order. Unlike other characters, the Revenant is not able to equip abilities from multiple different lines; instead, each legend’s healing, utility, and elite abilities can be used only when the Revenant has invoked that legend by activating its associated stance, and the Revenant can have only two different stances equipped at any given time (swapping stances is performed via hotkey — F1 by default).
So essentially, a Revenant’s healing, utility, and elite abilities are swapped much in the same way that weapon skills are swapped. When you switch between weapon sets, it replaces all of the first five abilities on your hotbar. Likewise, when you swap stances, it changes all of the last five abilities on your hotbar. This may seem a bit limiting at first, and in a way it is, at least until you manage to make a significant hero point investment in two different skill lines in order to unlock a significant portion of the skills from those lines. But I have to say, once I managed to do so, the mechanic really grew on me.
Each legend’s skill line focuses on a different playstyle. The Centaur Ventari’s skill line, for example, contains abilities largely focused on healing, buffing, and protecting allies, while the skill line associated with the legendary Assassin Shiro Tagachi puts a heavy emphasis on dealing massive damage to enemies while nimbly evading their attacks. I still haven’t progressed far enough that I can say with any degree of confidence whether or not this system provides more or less flexibility or power than the system used by the other classes, but my initial impression is that it doesn’t really make a huge difference either way. During my time as a Revenant so far, I’ve felt like I’m just as powerful (or in some cases, powerless) and flexible (or inflexible) as I am on characters of other classes. The Revenant’s system doesn’t strike me as inherently better or worse, just different.
Let’s talk a bit about the playstyles of the different weapon combinations available to the Revenant. Throughout my playtime this weekend, I tooled around with as many different weapons as I could get my hands on — specifically staves, hammers, maces, swords, and axes — and each one evoked a polar reaction from me; that is to say, I either absolutely loved a given weapon (or combination of weapons) or I loathed it so hard I wished I could will it out of existence.
In the early portions of the game, I got my hands on a mace and an axe, and although I began using the combination — mace in the mainhand, axe in the offhand — simply because I didn’t really have any other options at the time, it ended up being my favorite of the bunch. The mace’s three weapon skills provide an ample amount of damage by way of inflicting torment (a DoT effect that deals increased damage while its target is moving) and poison debuffs, and its Searing Fissure and Echoing Eruption abilities make for a solid, simple combination: By landing the leaping attack of Echoing Eruption in the AoE field created by Searing Fissure, I was able grant the might buff to myself and any allies in the area, which is a nice plus. The axe, meanwhile, provided me with some much-needed ranged attack options, including a nifty shadowstep for closing the distance between far-away enemies.
I was also a pretty big fan of the two-handed hammer, primarily because of the ability that let me leap to a target area for a fierce ground-pound attack then immediately teleport back to my initial location, but something about it just lacked the raw satisfaction that’s supposed to accompany bashing something over the head with a huge sledgehammer. But my award for least favorite weapon has to go to the staff; not only did most of its abilities seem to be lackluster at best, but I also lost count of the number of times the charge attack from Surge of the Mists ended up causing me to fall lemming-like to my demise.
At any rate, this is already running a bit long, so allow me to wrap things up so we can move on to the voting. As mentioned, most of my weekend was spent simply leveling up by way of renown hearts, public events, and zone map completion (among other things), and I’ve got a great deal to say about my experiences with those things, too, but I’ll have mercy on you and save those until next week. For now, it’s time for me to move on from the Sylvari starter zone of Caledon Forest and into the great, wild unknown.
Thanks to Guild Wars 2‘s level scaling mechanics, there’s nothing stopping you from sending me to a zone that’s below my level (since I’ll be scaled down to the appropriate level), but it’s still, as far as I understand it, more efficient to adventure in level-appropriate zones. That being said, if you feel like sending me to a zone below my level (which, at this point, would mean the other races’ starting zones), by all means feel free to do so.
It’s also probably worth noting that, as you may recall, I said earlier that my character is currently level 17, which she is. However, I logged onto one of my other characters for giggles and discovered that I had a birthday present waiting in my mailbox, and contained within was a scroll that can instantly boost a single character to level 30. I wish I had discovered this sooner, but alas, I’m an idiot. The upshot of this, however, is that I can go ahead and skip to any zone within that level range. As such, the poll is essentially a list of all zones suitable for characters level 30 or lower. Go wild.
CMA: Where should I go next? [Ideal level range indicated in brackets for reference]
- Metrica Province (Asura starting zone) [1-15] (4%, 5 Votes)
- Plains of Ashford (Charr starting zone) [1-15] (2%, 2 Votes)
- Wayfarer Foothills (Norn starting zone) [1-15] (6%, 7 Votes)
- Queensdale (Human starting zone) [1-15] (4%, 5 Votes)
- Brisban Wildlands [15-25] (17%, 20 Votes)
- Diessa Plateau [15-25] (3%, 4 Votes)
- Kessex Hills [15-25] (5%, 6 Votes)
- Snowden Drifts [15-25] (13%, 16 Votes)
- Gendarran Fields [25-35] (5%, 6 Votes)
- Lornar's Pass [25-40] (13%, 15 Votes)
- Fields of Ruin [30-40] (28%, 33 Votes)
Total Voters: 119
And of course, there’s the customary “what should I do?” question. Being in the iron grip of finals, I’m up to my eyeballs in papers to write and research to procras–I mean do, so there’s no telling what I’ll have time to do in-game this weekend. So my question to you is this: Which single activity would you like me to ensure I go out of my way to do this weekend so that I can report back about it next week?
With my unexpectedly fortuitous ascent to level 30, I gain access to my very first dungeon, Ascalonian Catacombs, so that’s one option. Alternatively, we have ye olde PvP. In Guild Wars 2, this comes in two flavors: Structured PvP and World vs. World. Structured PvP consists of, as the name implies, structured PvP battlegrounds where players are divided into two teams and thrown into objective-based matches. World vs. World, on the other hand, pits the entire populations of three different servers against one another on a sprawling, persistent battlefield that focuses on territory control and siege warfare. If you’re more story-oriented, you can always send me off to complete more of my Personal Story questline, or perhaps you might be interested to assign me the herculean task of completing the public event “meta-event” in whichever zone you decide to send me to.
CMA: What should I do with my precious time?
- Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon (27%, 31 Votes)
- Structured PvP (13%, 15 Votes)
- World vs. World PvP (18%, 21 Votes)
- Personal Story questline (21%, 24 Votes)
- Zone meta-event (22%, 25 Votes)
Total Voters: 116
The options are… Well, not limitless, exactly, but I think there are still more than enough! Whatever your choice may be, make sure to cast your votes by Friday, November 20th, at 11:59 p.m. EST. And as always, be sure to check in next week (for real, this time) to vote on my next adventure. Until then, friends.