Flameseeker Chronicles: Hands-on with Guild Wars 2’s Specter, Untamed, and Mechanist

    
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It seems like just yesterday that we were getting hyped for the Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons’ reveal stream. While we still have a few months to wait and likely a few more surprises in store for us before the expansion finally releases, the theorycrafting and character planning can begin because the third elite spec beta is going on now, with the final group of three specs!

I hope you like trench coats, because this time we’ve got the specs for the three medium armor classes: the Thief’s Specter, the Ranger’s Untamed, and the Engineer’s Mechanist. ArenaNet has truly saved the best for last with this beta, so let’s dive right in!

Specter

I’ve seen a few people confused about why a Thief would use a magical weapon like a scepter. I think these people forget that the Thieves aren’t just WoW Rogues; they’re practitioners of shadow magic. I guess it’s easy to write off shadowsteps and stealth as agility and trickery, but magic has always been a part of the Thief’s lore.

Support-focused elite specs aren’t anything new for Guild Wars 2, but Specter is unique in that it is a single-target-focused support spec. While most support specs heal and buff the whole party, the Specter tethers himself to a single ally and all of their attacks grant healing, barrier, and boons to that ally. Additionally, the attacks on its new scepter weapon can target a friendly player instead of an enemy to grant even more support.

As neat as it is to have something different, though, the question remains, who is this for? Guild Wars 2 isn’t like some other MMOs where you have a main healer healing the tank who’s soaking up most of the damage and an off healer responsible for everyone else. It’ll be great for open world duos; I’m already daydreaming about my wife and I playing Specter and Harbinger together, with the Harbinger going full glass cannon mode, sacrificing health for buffs and damage, while the Specter keeps the Harbinger alive with healing and barrier that come from dealing damage while tethered. But apart from that very specific situation, I don’t see why a fractal or strike/raid group would pick a Specter over any of the other support specs that provide similar buffs and heals to a whole party.

All of that said, I was impressed by how much uptime I could get on alacrity with four wells with the Traversing Darkness master trait slotted; I was able to get 100% alac uptime without even going all-in on concentration, and I could even maintain 25 stacks of might for myself or a targeted ally at the same time by weaving in the scepter 2 skill. Sure, there are several specs that can achieve this kind of thing now, but it was super easy as a Specter. It may never be the most meta support pick, but AoE alacrity should at least make it a viable alternative if you don’t have a support Renegade, Mirage, or Chronomancer handy.

Untamed

If you miss your classic Guild Wars bunny thumper, you will want to give the Ranger’s new hammer-wielding Untamed elite spec a try. The main mechanic of this spec is the unleashed buff, which gets passed back and forth between the Ranger and their pet when you press F5. This buff will augment your hammer skills, though sadly it has no other weapon or skill interactions. While not in unleashed form, the Untamed’s hammer is a master of crowd control, inflicting cripple, daze, immobilize, and knock down. In unleashed mode, the hammer skills lose their CC but gain more damage and a couple of them reward you for hitting your foes while they’re down.

The Ranger’s signature pets have always had three skills, but only one of them has been available for the Ranger to cast with F2, while the other two your pet casts automatically. This isn’t always ideal, since they might cast a CC while the target’s defiance bar is regenerating, and some pets didn’t see much use due to the potential for untimely and annoying knockbacks. The Untamed spec, however, gives the Ranger full control of all three abilities (at the cost of the Attack My Target and Return to Me commands, which I’m not sure see much use anyway).

While the unleashed status is off of you, it moves to your pet, who gains new skills that deal conditions to an area around the pet. Unlike regular pet skills, which are different from pet to pet, the skills your pet gains in unleashed mode are the same across all pets. That strikes me as both a blessing and a curse, because while it was cool that each pet had its own flavor, it also meant that some of my favorite pets weren’t that useful. This mitigates that a little, so even if it turns out the baby siege turtle isn’t very good, I can still main it because it’s awesome. Also worth noting is that the unleashed pet skills have no animation lock, so you can fire them off in quick succession, and unlike the hammer, your pet’s regular skills and unleashed skills do not share a cooldown.

Also, I’ve gotta say, I’m not a huge fan of the viney green stuff that appears on the Untamed when they are in Unleashed mode, though mercifully it goes away when not in combat. I wouldn’t be sad if the visuals for that got toned down a bit, but it’s not a dealbreaker or anything.

Mechanist

I know I’m not alone in wishing my Asura Engineer could become a true Golemancer. Non-player Asura have been summoning these magitech constructs since before Guild Wars 2 was even released, so it has always seemed a bit unfair that the closest we got was a mediocre racial skill.

It may not exactly be Scruffy or Mr. Sparkles, but the Mechanist’s jade mech is the closest we’re likely to come. The Mechanist sacrifices the Engineer’s usual toolbelt skills with F1-F3 buttons that command the mech to “Do somethin’,” from firing magitech laser beams to buffing allies near the mech, depending on what build choices you have made. Lest you think the Mechanist will simply make your Engi into a Ranger with a robot, there are a few differences. For instance, the mech must be summoned explicitly with the F4 skill, and if the mech dies, it disappears and its summon skill goes into a longish cooldown.

This is a magitech spec, so the Mechanist also gets a full set of signets. Like other classes’ signets, the Mechanist’s signets have a passive effect just for being on your bar, and can be activated at the cost of removing the passive buff during the cooldown. Unlike other signets, though, these signets actually activate effects around the mech, if it’s out. If not, it will activate around the Mechanist.

I love that switching traits on this elite spec allows the Mechanists to customize the weapon equipped by their mech, the skills in the mech’s toolbelt, and the stats that you share with the mech. That said, I do kind of wish there were some other cosmetic options available. Obviously, I would love to have the ability to turn it into an Asura-style golem, but, barring major model swaps like that, I wish we could at least dye its armor. Maybe in a future patch?

I ran into some bugs with the Mechanist at first. My mech would sometimes refuse to spawn while I was in combat, and the mace skills stopped working sometimes as well. Sometimes the mech would resummon itself when I got off of my mount, and sometimes I had to call it manually. I heard similar stories from other players about their pets with the Untamed. By the second night of beta those issues seemed to clear up, so hopefully those bugs are squashed for good.

Less disruptive but still frustrating was the pet AI, a pain that I know Rangers know all too well. While I was standing still fiddling with traits, the mech kept getting bored and wandering off to fight mobs that weren’t bothering it or even particularly close by. This was made worse by the fact that the Mechanist doesn’t have the benefit of the Ranger’s Return to Me command, and the passive mode toggle didn’t always work. I know pet AI in an MMO isn’t easy, especially when you have to account for dozens of them running around in an open world boss fight, for instance, but perhaps ArenaNet could take this opportunity to take another look at it, benefitting Mechanists and Rangers alike.

I said at the top that ArenaNet saved the best for last, and I meant it. While the first couple of betas left me unsure about some of the new specs, I can see myself playing all three of these. While I’m unsure about the group utility of a single-target healer or even a CC-heavy Ranger, I thought that all three of these specs were fun, and, at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, isn’t it?

Be sure to give these elite specs a try before the beta ends this Saturday, October 30th, and share your thoughts on them down in the comments!

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
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