This Scrying Pool is all about the new content and elite specs available during last weekend's Beta Weekend Event.
The Scrying Pool is a Guild Wars 2 column where I simply ask what if? Nothing is off the table as I dive into possible features and future content, looking at what currently exists in Guild Wars 2 before I answer my own what if question with how I think the feature and content could be implemented.
This past weekend hosted the 2nd of three Beta Weekend Events (BWE) for the Heart of Thorns expansion which comes out October 23rd. I jumped in and played a bit of the new PvP game mode Stronghold, the new area of PvE available in this beta and the recently revealed elite specializations Herald, Berserker and Daredevil. This article of the Scrying Pool will be my thoughts on the beta content.
Stronghold continues to be amazing and has definitely become my favorite PvP game mode for Guild Wars 2. While I have thought that Stronghold has been solid since our first look at the game mode back in February, I really like that they are continuing to add polish. The latest and greatest thing that was added is a pop-up notification whenever a mist hero is summoned. This is something that I have long wanted, as previously it felt a little too easy to miss when a hero was summoned and by which team it was summoned. The colored notification makes this easy and even states which of the heroes the other team summoned.
This BWE also opened up a different area of the PvE test area. While the area is still part of the first map—Verdant Brink—the western part of the map that was in this test is quite different from the eastern section that was available in previous betas. The environment brings in a lot more of the verticality that they mentioned the jungle having, but even so we are only seeing one of the three major levels of the forest as we are still on the forest floor.
This part of the map really brought the usefulness of the new gliding and jumping mushrooms. The previous area gave a hint of how useful they would be, but all of the verticality and the need for gliders to get many of the mastery points makes them almost essential. I like that there was a bit of this progression built into the map. The eastern area that we saw before will be the players’ first experience in the jungle, when gliding and mushrooms will still be locked from use. By the time they reach this western area, however, it is likely they will have these systems unlocked and ready to use.
There is a bit of a problem with this verticality that comes into view when looking at the world map. While there is a lot of verticality, the map doesn’t properly show this. It is very easy to teleport to a waypoint thinking you can run or glide over to your destination, only to find the waypoint is at a much lower elevation and the destination will require a much longer and roundabout path than initially expected. I’m not too sure how they can fix this, but maybe it doesn’t need to be fixed as it puts more focus on looking out into the world and not just your X,Y coordinates.
Looking out into the world brings the thing I loved most with this PvE area. There was a lot of room to explore around the map with lots of little things to find. Even searching for mastery points was extremely fun to do as you explored around the map. The events on the map were a lot of fun, though a few could use a few tweaks such as the excessively long event to collect ammo in the northern event chain and the wyvern in the southern chain that never had a glimpse of a chance to take off into the skies.
This BWE was the first chance for players to check out the elite specializations for the Warrior, Thief and Revenant with the Berserker, Daredevil and Herald respective specs. Overall I liked each of these elite specs. I like the trend that ArenaNet is taking by making these elite specs still feel part of the base class they are expanding while still giving some more play to the profession with them. Berserker is all about smashing and going berserk on top of the target, Daredevil is a more evasive thief and Herald brings another form of support to the mostly support profession.
The Berserker brings its Berserk mode which hosts the new Primal Burst skills. These alternate versions of the normal burst skills were a mixed bag with some of them feeling really good, such as the sword and mace, while others such as the longbow’s primal burst feeling like more of a downgrade. Really, it was just the longbow and axe that needs another look at the primal burst skills. Longbow’s feels like a direct downgrade while axe’s is a little better but so situational that it is a downgrade in most instances.
The other thing I didn’t like about the primal burst skills is the cooldown. I feel like berserker should be going crazy with a bunch of attacks and getting all the skills off. There is a trait that reduces the cooldown enough to reset the cooldown on all primal burst skills, but triggers on a death which won’t happen too often in the 15 seconds that berserk is active. Combine this with the high level content not going to have tons of things dying makes the trait and cooldown reduction not incredibly useful.
I found that I could naturally build up adrenaline to get off another burst skill long before the cooldown on the primal burst was done. I’d like to see the cooldowns reduced from 5 seconds to around 3.5 seconds and balanced to this new cooldown if necessary. Having these long cooldowns puts less emphasis on the berserker’s new utility skills that feature adrenaline gain as one of their draws as the adrenaline gain from them is a little wasted while waiting on the cooldown.
While playing I did find that weapon swapping was really useful, as I could swap over to use the other primal burst skill while the first was on cooldown. This additionally fit into the idea I had of berserker firing off its skills like a madman. This brings to the first of a couple traits that I would like to see changed.
Bloody Roar is a grandmaster trait for berserker that will Taunt and Bleed nearby enemies. This trait feels like crap between its incredibly short range only affecting those in or very near melee range and the very short duration Taunt. I’d like to see this trait change to Bloody Rage. This new trait would bleed enemies that are hit by primal burst attacks as well as reset the cooldown on weapon swapping whenever a primal burst is used. A problem with warriors is the almost required dependence on a trait that reduces weapon swap cooldowns. This trait would be another alternative to that and would fit better into the quick attacking berserk mode. Moving the bleeds onto the primal burst skills would also give a bigger choice between this skill and the King of Fires trait that focuses on burning.
The other trait that I would like to see changed is Last Blaze. The trait says that whenever you use a rage skill you set nearby foes on fire. I like this functionality, but this is also the only trait that affects rage skills with no option to reduce cooldowns on the new utility type. In addition to the current functionality, I’d like to see this trait reduce cooldowns on rage skills by a few seconds whenever a primal burst skill is used. I think a base cooldown reduction would be too good on some of these already low cooldown skills. Having rage cooldowns reduced when using primal burst skills I think would help with the going berserk idea and help build up adrenaline to continue using the primal burst skills by being able to use the rage skills more often.
Last comment on Berserker: I like the heal and think it fits really well with what the Berserker is doing. It actually felt more useful than the Healing Signet passive. Though that is in PvE. Mileage will vary in PvP and probably won’t be useful in WvW.