This edition of Fight or Kite is our third and likely final installment in the Guild Wars 2 elite specialization PvP beta series. This was ArenaNet’s last chance to wow and amaze us with End of Dragons’ class updates. Truth be told though, these are the three classes I am literally the least excited about. It isn’t their fault, honestly, but when I think of them I think, “These are real professions I could have.”
Let’s see if these specializations can shine a new light on these classes!
Ranger’s Untamed is unleashed
The primary modification that the Untamed brings to the Ranger is the Unleashed mechanic. Either you are unleashed or your pet is. If your pet is, you gain access to its attacks, which before were mostly AI controlled. If you are unleashed, you’ll gain access to some modified skills on your hammer (which we’ll talk about more later).
F1 skills on the Ranger typically allow you to instruct your pet to attack the target or peel off. Now, when you are unleashed, the pet will have three unique skills that are the same regardless of pet choice. Each one offers a different condition in addition to a nice utility, such as removing boons and blocking projectiles. On top of that, you also have an F5 skill that swaps the Unleashed buff between you and the pet.
On the utility side of things, we’ve got cantrips. Now that’s a familiar skill type. We’ve seen those on both Elementalists and more recently on the Deadeye. Glad to see someone was taking notes in class when designing this new spec! With these new skills, we have something I really like to see: utility! That’s right, we have utility skills with actual, factual utilities. I’m not as familiar with the Ranger, but I don’t believe we’ve ever had a teleport skill available. Those are always useful for navigating and dropping in on your opponents in PvP. Especially useful in maps like the tower where you can pop in from below.
In addition to a teleport, we have a skill with a knockdown, a condition cleanse (sort of), and a trap. Totally useful in all kinds of different combat situations and most importantly, not hyper-focused on a single stat or build. The elite skill is very tanky, which is going to be very handy if you intend on unloading and actually landing some of those slow-swinging hammer skills. The heal is unique and quite interesting. Rather than offer a direct heal itself, it’ll drain a percentage of your pet’s health and send it to you. I suspect that if your pet is in dire straits, you’ll be hard-pressed to find this too helpful, although it does have the crazy benefit of preventing lethal damage for 3 seconds.
The hammer skills are impressive. They do damage but have a significant amount of utility to them too. Depending on whether you are unleashed or not, you’ll either have a fair amount of crowd control, or you’ll have increased damage and even boon striping.
Now, as interesting and useful as I find the skills, the traits feel a bit boring. In the Untamed spec we are themed horizontally across tiers. The top line adds bonuses for disabling foes, the middle is for passing the unleashed power (and healing in the Grandmaster), and the bottom encourages active use of the pet’s not unleashed skills. What I do love is that these are also readily useful for other builds and will largely sync with the other specs as well. While they provide some benefit to the spec’s unique abilities, they also provide benefits for other weapons and skills. Although I am a bit disappointed that none of the traits reduces the cooldowns on hammer or cantrips directly, there is a Grandmaster trait that can effectively reduce them.
I wish I had more time to play this spec because it actually felt really good in practical use. I still got my butt handed to me in combat, but I was able to turn some of the fights around too. I think with more practice and muscle memory, there’s some fun to be had here at least. If Guild Wars 2 actually had any meaningful PvP, then you might enjoy playing it too.
Thief’s Specter is unique
While ArenaNet’s stated goal with all the new specs was to change the way they play, I think the Specter is the biggest change of all. The unique class mechanic here changes your normal steal into a method of generating shadow power for your shroud transformation. So for the first time we have a class other than the Necromancer with a shroud, which is a pretty cool idea. On the downside, while the Necromancer shroud looks awesome, the Specter’s just covers your character in black paint – weak. In addition, the class is heavy on the single-target healing, which is really odd for GW2, but perhaps it’ll play well. Now, the shroud skills themselves are not particularly exciting – lots of conditions being dropped while simultaneously pumping up your allies with some heals and boons.
The new utilities are wells (another existing type brought into use). Personally, I really like wells. I don’t know why; I just do. In the Specter’s version, each one of them provides us with a shadowstep. In PvP maps, mobility is extremely important (not that Thieves ever had an issue with mobility, though). We have a well for basically all the uses you’d like. We have a boon-making well, an impairment-condition well, a damaging-condition well, and a direct-damaging well. Last, the elite well pulls in and does some damage, so that’ll run similar to the gravity well or the Dragonhunter’s elite trap.
Wells don’t provide any additional utilities, such as knockdowns or condition cleansing, however. So while being kitted out with full wells is likely not a good maneuver, you do have a well for basically any build design you’re after.
The scepter is another completely unique mechanic. You are able to target your own allies and smash shadows to provide barriers for them along with might and swiftness. At the same time, if you were to target an enemy with it, it’ll drop some conditions. I’m not sure but I don’t think there are any other skills in GW2 that function quite like that.
For these traits, we have a common theme per tier as opposed to a theme across the tiers. First tier traits are all about direct healing power and the shroud. The middle tier is about generating and using the shadow force (your shroud’s HP), and the Grandmaster tier is about conditions and some support. So while you’ll be healing a lot as a Specter, we might be able to make some moves with conditions as well. Overall, a C+ for the Specter’s traits. It’s passing, but you won’t be hanging it on the fridge.
In combat, it has potential. I actually enjoyed the way the scepter played. The wells cast time is pretty slow, which I did not enjoy. I’ve never been much of a support player myself, so there’s not going to be a lot of room for this spec for me. However, if someone comes up with a nice condition based-build, I’d give it a whirl.
Engineer’s Mechanist rewrites the whole class
Like the Thief’s Specter, the Engineer is getting access to a mechanic that has been locked behind a single class up to this point too. However, instead of getting a shroud, we have a new pet class, except it’s not an animal; it’s a robot.
The robot has three active abilities, but when it’s summoned, it smashes the ground for damage, so I’m counting it as four skills. The three active skills are customized by which traits you choose. So this is actually a completely new mechanic from any other class in the game.
Basically, each tier of the traitline sets your F1, F2, and F3 skills. The traits are themed up the line, similar to the Untamed discussed above. So if you run the top line, you’ll have mostly condition-related skills. The middle line leans toward support by providing boons. The bottom line is primarily for direct damage. I’m overall a fan of the whole concept of these traits. And even though they are hyper focused on the mech, they offer the player the ability to customize, so if you want to be supportive, you can. If you want to deal damage, you can. It’s a good concept.
The utilities are all signets. Signets in GW2 provide passive buffs in addition to activation for a bigger effect. I like them in theory, but usually they don’t make it into my builds. They tend to be designed in a way where the passive is so weak it doesn’t even matter, and the active, while good, is usually not as good as if I’d brought a different skill along. The cooldowns are usually brutal too.
The signets here, however, have some solid active utility effects, including a projectile block, stunbreak, and even a damaging field. Signets for the Mechanist might have an additional advantage too in that they all have an effect that is either mimicked on your mech or is more powerful. That’s not something any other class’s version of a signet can do and may actually be pretty powerful. Finally, the elite skill reduces signet cooldowns and shoots a giant friggin’ laser, which is not unlike a Death Star’s.
The weapon is a mace, so you get only three skills here. As the mace typically works, it offers some supportive moves in addition to its damage. Here we have some barrier mixed in with confusion damage. Interestingly, the 3 skill is a ranged rocket punch, which is always allowed.
I wish that I’d had enough time to test drive this one in combat, as I think it would’ve been fun. Certainly the class itself was designed with considerable thought. I know from fighting a few of them that they weren’t pushovers, though of course I was also on a beta character, so we were all probably pretty bad.
Hopefully you enjoyed this deep-dive into each class. I know I came out of it very impressed with these classes, moreso than I was with the previous elite specs. The Untamed definitely came away with my vote for favorite – not just of this bunch but of the whole lot of nine. Were any of you able to dive in and test drive these specs? If so, which one came away as your winner?