Fight or Kite: Guild Wars 2’s Bladesworn, Catalyst, and Vindicator walk into an arena…

Examining the middle trio's PvP viability

    
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No, there’s no joke there. I just wanted to know if anyone actually saw this happen during the Guild Wars 2 beta test a couple of weeks ago. I certainly did my best to get some game time in with these different specializations, but it can be tough to really do each of them justice. We have three specs to test out with new skills and abilities that may just change the game. But I’ve never let fair and equal game time stop me from opining on a game’s latest and greatest. No, if anything I’ll go even harder on them.

So let’s do that in this week’s Fight or Kite: We’re going to look at the middle three End of Dragons elite specs and suss out their PvP viability.

The Warrior Bladesworn

The Warrior’s new spec, Bladesworn, is aiming to be a high DPS melee to mid-range fighter that makes heavy use of the ammo mechanic. The big change is flow replacing adrenaline but for the lay-Warrior, it’s the same general concept: let it build up and unleash stronger attacks on baddies.

The F1 skill brings up your gunsaber. It replaces your two weapons with five new skills. So in addition to the new off-hand pistol, we also have a whole new weapon with its own slew of unique skills. Swapping weapons will go back to your normal weapon set, which is kind of a limitation. It isn’t like you now have access to three weapon sets to swap to. Instead, once in combat, you can’t perform your typical weapon swap. You can swap between only one set of weapons and the gunsaber. The new skills offer a good amount of utility. In addition to acting as your swap weapon, each skill has “ammo” in that you can use them multiple times on shorter-than-usual cooldowns.

Bunglade.

These skills include range attacks, a projectile block, and a gap closer. Remember the new flow mechanic? Well, here is where you unload it. When your flow fills up, you can enter a Goku powerup stance where the longer you power up, the more effective you’ll be. While powering up, you also get another five new skills: These are the Dragon Slash skills. This includes an aegis, a short teleport, and three slightly different attack skills. The three attacks are similar, but I think the range is the main difference. You have a short, medium, and longer medium range with better damage for the closer in attack.

New utilities are called armaments, which borrow a card from the Virtuoso to go a new route rather than use existing utility types. None of the skills is particularly exciting; almost all use ammo, which when paired with the gunsaber and the elite armament (which reloads all ammo by one) syncs well.

The traits in general follow a set of logic where the top is a healing line, the middle is kind of a miscellaneous utility, and the bottom is DPS. It appears that the design goal here was to offer more of a goal for each tier rather than think linearly up the traits tree. First tier was for syncing with other warrior skills. Healing or swiftness increases flow in two cases, and the last trait seems to be an outlier in that it doesn’t increase flow, but swapping weapons will deal damage. Master tier rewards using the last ammo of a skill. Grandmaster traits all focus on the Dragon Slash.

I do like that there are multiple traits to choose depending on how you want to build your Warrior. There might be cases where you always want to land that Dragon Slash so you take Unyielding Dragon (unblockable) or maybe you’ve built so you have very high flow up-time, so you go with Daring Dragon (fewer flow points but quicker to reactive the Dragon Slash).

In practical PvP combat, powering-up is almost always going to be suicide. Even with the aegis and blink skills, it’s a risky proposition. One-on-one you might have a shot, maybe even two-on-one, but PvP tends to be such an explosion of skills and abilities that pulling it off is always going to be tough. I like the variability of the traits, and while they empower the specialization, there is room for working them into multiple builds.

The Elementalist Catalyst

The new unique element for the Catalyst is an F5 skill that summons a Jade Sphere. It’s kind of awkward to even use since it has its own very small bar above the skill that increases while you attack the enemy. It’s effects change depending on your current element attunement, which also provides a specific boon from the new elite skill.

Once again we have a new utility type: Augments. I guess we really are just throwing out the concept of adding the other types to the different classes. Not necessarily a bad thing. Keeps the developers from being bound by an arbitrary restriction, but I did like the concept of it. Made it feel like we were operating within a box we could understand. Without it, anything could be a utility type. It’s good and bad.

This was neat, but eh.

The way the Augments operate is kind of strange, though. There are four skills, so each one has a bonus effect if it’s used while the Jade Sphere is out and you’re in a specific attunement. So if you want to maximize this, you really have to be on top of yourself, otherwise it just isn’t going to be optimal use of the cooldowns. It’s just odd in that I don’t think any other utilities are so restrictive. At the same time, it kind of ensures no one is going to fully load-out in Augments, meaning they’ll mix and match with other utilities more than it being their primary loadout. I don’t love that the heal also needs to be cast with the water sphere to be fully effective. I’d perhaps slow down the bonus condition cleanse on it and just let it get that bonus pop if cast within range of any sphere.

We get access to the hammer now, but there are too many weapon skills for an Elementalist to talk about each in much detail. In general, they cover the gamut of skills you’d want. You still have blast finishers to buff yourself with too, which was always a trademark of the Elementalist rotation back when I played religiously.

The traits are really well-designed and definitely don’t silo you into a single role if you want to take up the Catalyst. The top row is focused on gaining auras, something Elementalists can usually put a lot of up with their combo fields. The middle row focuses on a unique empowerment that flat-out increases all stats. Finally, the bottom row encourages use of the Jade Sphere but doesn’t force you to play DPS or healing.

This was kind of neat, at least.

We have a mixed bag with the Catalyst. I like the design behind the traits, and I think there’s a lot players will be able to do with it. The hammer works fairly well in combat too since some of the skills are fully melee while others reach medium range.

What I don’t love is even with this spec, Elementalists are going to need to get their crazy rotations down pat. When played right, they are a nightmare to face and an avalanche to ride, but the amount of work involved in flipping attunements and casting the right utilities to make use of that attunement, all while doing your best to throw out combos – it’s just a lot. Best of luck to those to who enjoy the class, but it’s just way too much work for me to enjoy.

The Revenant Vindicator

So instead of just getting a single new legend, the Vindicator actually get two legends this time. While you use F1 to swap between your primary legends, the new Alliance one can be swapped among itself with F2. The strangest change here though is that the dodge has been replaced with a full fly-through-the-sky hang-on-to-your-hat smash attack. It’s a very cool-looking effect but also very weird when practically applied.

The new weapon is the greatsword with skills that remind me of the Reaper’s, which is a good thing. They have the ability to stack conditions, mostly vulnerability but also chill. It includes a gap closer which is always useful. The #4 skill holds a block and the damage output is increased by the more attacks it blocked. This could offer some skillful play in both utilizing it and also countering it.

The utility skills are quite different since you can switch between the two legends. Each skill has an effect depending on which legend you are in. After you use it, it automatically switches to the other legend’s version. If you want to use that skill 2x in a row you have to switch legends (F2). The skills are like two sides of a coin. One skill for example is either a leap to deal damage or evade backwards to grant allies boons. Again, the concept seems cool, but I tend to agree with what Colin said in last week’s Flameseeker Chronicles. “Having to manage which of my skills need to be red and which need to be blue at the right time so they’re off cooldown when I need them, on top of managing my energy bar, just seems like too much,” he wrote. I couldn’t agree more. It really is too much for too little reward.

The traits are hyper-focused on the new dodge mechanic, so if you don’t want to use that to its fullest, this trait line isn’t going to be any benefit for another build style, which is really a huge failing for any elite spec design. This one also follows the concept that a single tier has a theme. The first tier is kind of random; it mostly focuses on self boons and heals. The master tier is about endurance. Since your dodge uses up your whole endurance bar, these traits try to make up for that by giving you vigor or increased endurance. The Grandmaster tier is all about landing that jump attack. One is completely about healing, the middle is a mix, and the top is full damage and vulnerability.

So the concept on paper is kind of cool, but to play it effectively in PvP would be difficult. The greatsword skills offer conditions, but none of the traits really plays that up. The way the utility skills flip over make it very difficult to be in control at any time. As bad as the Willbender was designed, the Vindicator might give it a run for its money. Likely the traits need the most work, as they are simply too focused on the dodge mechanic, offering very little else to the spec. Some might say not to toss the baby out with the bathwater, but I think someone swapped the baby for a choya here, so let’s toss it all out.

Overall, I think these specs fall kind of flat from the PvP perspective – none of them brings anything amazing to the PvP table. The Warrior has some cool options, and the Elementalist might be effective if you don’t wear your keyboard out by slamming through rotations nonstop. The Vindicator doesn’t even make it to the table. It likely does a hyper leap and lands in the ditch behind the house. Let me know if any of you had a chance to try them out and if your thoughts lined up with mine!

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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