We’re getting our first hands-on experience with End of Dragons right now with the first Elite Specialization beta and well…I’m having so much fun I was up until 3 in the morning the first night. On a work night. In this beta, we got to try out Virtuoso, Harbinger, and Willbender, the new elite specializations for Mesmer, Necromancer, and Guardian, in that order. I wanted to share my first impressions of these specializations. If you’re reading this after August 21st please keep in mind that everything I’ve said is subject to change before the release of the expansion in February.
The Virtuoso is both the biggest surprise of the beta and the greatest joy. My first experience with it was taking control of the Temple of Grenth in Cursed Shores and I could not be happier that I randomly picked that zone at that time when a commander was active and the pre-events were just starting. It was the wave after wave of enemies that helped me fall in love. And I will absolutely admit that’s what it is, love.
When I first saw an ArenaNet dev playing Virtuoso with the static golems I was afraid I would hate it. I’ve always struggled with Mesmers and seeing Virtuoso in that way made me worry this would be another Mirage, in that I don’t see the appeal and I don’t have one. I suppose this is the point where I admit that I have 30 characters in GW2 and every expansion I end up creating a few more because the playstyle for the new elite spec doesn’t fit anyone I already have. Yes, I am a roleplayer. How did you guess?
I was surprised by how fantastic Virtuoso is. It’s so fantastic in fact that I just know in my heart it will be getting a nerf. It’s too good. It hits hard and it is gorgeous to look at. I’ve found myself stopping to watch an animation play out several times now. I know that won’t last, eventually, it will become normal just as all the others have with time. But for now, Virtuoso is gorgeous and new and it honestly feels like a piece of art in motion.
I’ve seen some complain that it is adding to the visual noise of the game, and I will fully admit that is true. I also fully admit that I don’t care. Yes, world bosses and other popular events are just a sea of bright colors and annoying sounds. But…those events are rare unless you’re on a train intentionally going around to all of them. For most of the game it’s you and maybe one or two friends out in the open world where it is entirely ok to be flashy. Mesmers especially should be flashy and fancy.
I will be waiting of course to see how the other elite specializations play out, but right now, I think I might be playing the End of Dragons story on a Virtuoso and that is not something I expected to say.
Harbinger is the first elite spec that has made me say “I need a new character.” And I do. It doesn’t fit any of the Necromancers that I already have with the exception of my Reaper but she’s perfect and I won’t be changing her. I think there will be a lot of people who struggle with Harbinger though. You have to acknowledge and be comfortable with the fact that the entire point of the spec is to get into shroud. Shroud is where Harbinger’s strengths are and where it is the most fun.
But that creates a bit of an issue for people who are playing Fashion Wars. I’ve already seen more than a few comments about it and while I understand their issues I don’t really think anything should be changed. There’s still plenty of time when you aren’t in shroud or covered in the green cloud of blight for you to enjoy your fashion. Are you likely to go out and buy a gem store skin? Well…aside from the pistol that has been datamined…I’d say no, not likely.
Back to the class though…
Harbinger is an absolute beast and as a result, I expect it to be getting a nerf as well. It’s a little bit too fun and until I rolled up my Virtuoso I thought Harbinger would be my spec of choice for the expansion. It’s so much fun that I honestly wish Shroud were just the standard mode for the spec. But of course, if that were the case we wouldn’t get our little pistols and I do REALLY enjoy the pistol.
Where it falls down is the elixirs. Aside from the Elite I just can’t get behind them. Sure, the little buffs are nice…but they don’t really seem to do enough to make them worth keeping. They feel like a less good version of Signets. They’re basically Engineer elixirs. But maybe you aren’t supposed to take them all. Maybe you’re supposed to pick one or two and fill in the rest with other things. Right now I’m thinking of taking all the Spectral utilities and keeping the elixir elite for when I absolutely need to mess something up. I will also add that I’m not at all a fan of the icon art for the elixirs. They don’t fit with the fantasy style of the character or the game. I’m hoping that they’re temporary.
Willbender, oh Willbender…where did you go wrong? I love my Guardians, I really REALLY do. They’re easily my second favorite after Elementalists. So I was optimistic when I heard Willbender would be changing how Guardians work. I love the idea of experimenting like that with something I so adore. But Willbender just…doesn’t connect for me. I tried it both in WvW and in PvE and the results were the same…downed state for life. Willbender doesn’t have any survivability. I saw it put well on a comment on Reddit. Willbender isn’t a glass cannon, it’s just glass.
The jumping in and out of combat just hasn’t connected for me. It’s more frustrating than fun and I can’t escape fast enough to survive in WvW. Maybe it is as many have said, a build for PvP. If that’s the case, that’s perfectly fine! I have no problem with a spec made specifically for PvP, but I’d like it if ArenaNet came out and said as much. Willbender has made me wonder what sort of enemies we’ll be facing in End of Dragons. Maybe it works better there?
Another place where Willbender falls down is the heal. The heal is ok…so long as you know you’re going to be hit. But one of the first times I wanted to use the heal, doing the Faren escort in Verdant Brink I could not keep the aggro. Not being able to keep the aggro was good in that I wasn’t taking more damage, but it was also frustrating in that I couldn’t really do anything to get my extremely low health back up. If I make a Willbender, and right now that is a big if, I won’t be using the heal.
All in all, I feel like either I’m missing something about Willbender or Willbender is missing the mark and I’ve seen from the comments online that I’m not alone in feeling this. I do hope that ArenaNet looks at the feedback from this beta and makes some significant changes to the specialization or at least explains what it’s for and why it is the way it is. There’s a lot of potential there but for right now, if I want to play the way I think they were going for I’ll get on my Daredevil instead and have a lot more fun.