Here is the third and final part of my Beta Weekend Event 1 (BWE1) impressions. Part 1, focusing on Verdant Brink, can be found here. Part 2, detailing my thoughts on the revenant, is here. This article will focus on my thoughts of the necromancer’s elite specialisation, the reaper, as well as my experiences in stronghold, playing as a D/D elementalist.
The necromancer is my favourite profession in Guild Wars 2. I love the whole theme around it, and although it is often shunned in all areas of the game, it is my go-to profession to play. Why? Because I find it fun. As in, really really fun. I love playing a power necro with wells, I love seeing lots of numbers pop up when running with the revamped blood magic, I love the sustain and attrition of the profession.
And I love the reaper. The reaper is the elite specialisation of the necromancer, and it was playable for the first time during BWE1. When you choose this specialisation, you can wield a greatsword and use shouts, and your F1 Death Shroud becomes Reaper’s Shroud instead. I played around with a zerker build in Verdant Brink, and tried out the new skills available.
Being able to wield a greatsword with my necromancer is cool. The theme behind a reaper’s greatsword is big windup, big payoff. All the greatsword attacks are slow to cast, but if they hit, they bring the pain. I really like the weighty feel behind each attack, and it’s very satisfying to land big hits. The animations are fantastic too.
However, that’s one of the main issues with the greatsword… it is just too slow. It may hit hard, but that depends on whether you actually connect the attack or not. I feel I do more damage whilst rapidly attacking with my dagger than by using the greatsword, at least at the start of the fight. Once the foes is under 50% health, then you can use greatsword skill 2 – Gravedigger – to really decimate your foe. This does massive damage to foes, and recharges in 1 second if they are under 50% health. The cast time of 1 and a quarter seconds is painful to witness though.
Concerning cast times, the auto attack chain needs to be sped up. It was very rare for me to go through all three attacks of the chain. I would often hit once, use another skill, hit once, use another skill, etc. It was cool seeing the chill effect on your greatsword when you did eventually reach the third strike of the auto attack chain, but that happened so rarely, it was almost a surprise when I did see it. There just didn’t seem to be much point in executing the full chain. Perhaps change it to be similar in effect to the warrior’s axe auto attack, where you want to stay attacking till the final hit, as that gives the biggest DPS boost.
Another issue with the greatsword, besides overly long cast times, was skill 4, Nightfall. Why oh why does this root you in place when casting it? The necromancer is already the slowest profession in the game, and doesn’t need a skill to slow them down even more. It was clunky to use, breaks up the flow of combat, and just seems unneeded. Skill 5, Grasping Darkness, is an odd skill as well. I couldn’t consistently aim it accurately, and it often felt very hit or miss as to whether it would go in the direction I wanted it to.
Thematically, the greatsword is a great. It has the “slow, relentless, powerful monster” aspect to it. It is currently too slow though, so either the cast times need to be shortened, or the damage needs to be increased a lot more to compensate. If it isn’t, I fear the greatsword will only be seen rarely in PvE, and never in PvP or WvW.
When choosing the reaper elite specialisation, your F1 Death Shroud becomes Reaper’s Shroud instead, which contains much more melee-focused versions of skills. The look is phenomenal: you transform into a glowing green and black death monster with a HUGE scythe, striking fear into all who look upon you. I like the original Death Shroud animations, but the Reaper’s Shroud ones just take it to the next level, it’s so impressive.
It’s also incredibly fun to play. The animations on the skill 1 auto attack chain are beautiful, using your scythe to cleave all foes around you. It hits hard, is pretty rapid (unlike the greatsword auto attack chain), and can be traited to be incredibly damaging, for both power and condition builds.
Skill 2 – Death’s Charge – launches you forward in a scythe-spinning-copter-like way, and is a great gap closer. It’s fantastic to finally have a dash on the necro, and the projectile destroying aspect of it, coupled with the blindness at the end, gives reapers some more survivability against ranged opponents.
I am so happy that skill 3 – Infusing Terror – gives reapers access to pulsing stability, another thing sorely missing from their arsenal of skills. If you detonate it just before it expires, you also inflict fear on foes around you, which, coupled with the reaper’s minor traits, inflicts chill as well.
Then we come onto skill 4, Soul Spiral, otherwise known as spin-to-win. A whirl attack that does large damage and inflicts copious amounts of poison? Yes please. Like all the skills, this one looks awesome, and is satisfying to use.
Skill 5 – Executioner’s Scythe – has a long cast time, but stuns an opponent, deals big damage, chills them, and leaves an ice field, perfect to combo in for more chill. I like it, but it seems a bit backwards as a skill. It deals more damage the lower the health of the target, so you want to really save it for the end of a fight (it currently has a 30 second cooldown on it), but it’s also good to use at the start, for the initial stun and ice field to combo in (with skill 2 and 4). If you start off with it, you’re dealing less damage, but gaining more chill with the combo fields. If you leave it for near the end of a fight, you miss out on lots of chill and the stun, but gain more damage. I tended to use it at the start, but I feel this skill could be reworked slightly to be more optimal.
Overall, I’m a big fan of Reaper’s Shroud. The cleave is awesome, the big hits are nice, and the synergy between the skills is great, with the combo field and finishers. It gives the option for lots of chill, another important aspect of the reaper. Like the greatsword, Reaper’s Shroud is fantastic, fitting in with the relentlessly pursuing monster theme.
I found the reaper’s specialisation line to be useful for all necromancer builds, even if you don’t use a greatsword or shouts. Many of the traits revolve around chilling your foe, which is great as chilled enemies deal less damage to you, and chill can be further traited to deal damage or spread chill to nearby foes. I found Soul Eater (greatsword attacks steal health) a bit pointless, due to how slow the greatsword attacks, and Reaper’s Onslaught could do with a buff too.
One of my surprise favourite traits is Blighter’s Boon, as it is so powerful in sustaining yourself in combat. It gives you Life Force when you gain a boon, or health if you’re in Reaper’s Shroud. If you’re traited into the Spite specialisation line, then you gain might so rapidly when attacking, that it’s possible to tank pretty much anything, whilst dealing great damage. Your health replenishes whilst in Reaper’s Shroud, and your Life Force replenishes when attacking with your normal weapons. It’s a win-win trait, especially in parties with boon sharing capabilities. I love it!
Shouts on the reaper are odd, and I think they need more fine tuning to be effective. They all deal damage when cast (including the heal), but the main issue with them, like with everything about the reaper, is the cast time. They are simply too long, which, coupled with their high recharge rate, makes them less than appealing. They can be traited to have a reduced cooldown for each foe you hit, but that’s too situational to be reliable; it might work in PvE, perhaps in WvW zerg fights, but no where else in the game. Skills shouldn’t have to require multiple traits to work effectively.
The heal shout, “Your soul is mine!”, is good when fighting groups of foes, as it deals damage and builds up Life Force, so synergises well with going into Reaper’s Shroud and doing more healing via Blighter’s Boon, but the initial heal is rather pitiful. The short(ish) cooldown is nice, but I have a feeling I’ll still take Consume Conditions or Signet of Vampirism instead.
“Rise!” is awful, and needs to be completely changed. “You are all weaklings!” is nice for some stability and might and causing weakness, increasing your damage and reducing the damage you take. “Suffer!” is a nice chill and condition transfer, but too unreliable in removing conditions. “Nothing can save you!” removes a couple of boons from your foe and makes your attacks unblockable for a short period of time, something necros couldn’t do before. The elite “Chilled to the bone!” I actually really enjoyed. It’s a powerful aoe stun that inflicts huge amounts of chill and gives you a bit of stability, but it suffers from a stupendously high cooldown and a ridiculously long cast time.
All these shouts either need to be more effective at what they do, have their cooldown lowered, or their cast time reduced. Again, like the greatsword and Reaper’s Shroud, the look and feel of shouts on a necro is great. As it stands though, I feel there are better skills for a necromancer to use.
Overall, I really love the reaper, and find it fantastic fun to play in PvE. It’s effective with both power and condition builds (dhuumfire is beastly on a reaper), and will undoubtedly become a mainstay specialisation for my necro. I like how it gives you added choice in how to build your necromancer, which is what elite specialisations should do. For a power necro, do you go spite, soul reaping, and reaper? Or take blood magic instead of one of those lines for more party support and sustain? Same with conditionmancers; reaper provides an alternative way to build your character. Even if you don’t use greatsword or shouts, I found that reaper is still worthwhile taking as an elite specialisation, mainly due to how amazing and fun Reaper’s Shroud is.
I’ll mention stronghold briefly here. I’ve written a few of my thoughts about the mode from the previous beta, so this is more an addendum to that post. First up, I still really enjoy the mode, and D/D elementalists are as effective here as in Conquest. Not a great deal has changed since last time, but there have been a few additions. When a hero is summoned, a message pops up in the middle of the screen, saying which hero was summoned, along with which team summoned it, which is very useful. Defending your gates and running supply is still a requirement, and supply is tactical now, with only 4 supply at most being available in the middle of the map.
Concerning heroes, Turai still seems the best for random play, as he’s the toughest and most likely to reach the enemy gates / lord room in one piece. I found Nika underpowered; she dies too quickly, so really needs support, and her stealth ability doesn’t hide the archer or doorbreaker NPC icons on the minimap, so you can still see where they are. I guess it’s more useful to stealth your own team, rather than the NPCs, so you can advance with Nika and burst down players coming to stop her.
I really love the trebuchet. I like that it kills NPCs quickly (2 hits to kill the archers and doorbreakers), and can also be used to prevent enemy players channelling the mist essence hero spawns, as it removes stability first then knocks down players it hits. As a tip: just tap 2 to hit enemies outside your front gate; hold down 2 till half way to shoot the trebuchet at the mist essence hero spawn near the enemy base; and charge it up to full power to hit the hero spawn near your base spawn entrance.
Some bugs I encountered during some of the matches:
I did notice that it felt a bit buggy getting on and off the trebuchet. If you were attacked whilst on the trebuchet, to get off it, you often had to press F multiple times, as pressing it once would often do nothing. If you wanted to quickly hop back on it to fire down in front of your gate, this often wouldn’t work fast enough either. Sometimes, if you spawned a hero, it would just stand around at your entrance and do nothing (not sure what caused this). In one match, the timer hit zero whilst we were ahead on points, and I was fighting the enemy lord with all the other team defending, so the match entered overtime. I left the lord room to get out of combat, but the match didn’t end with us winning on points, so instead, we all as a team had to enter and kill the enemy lord. These are all beta issues though, and I have confidence they will be fixed in time for release.
End of Part 3
Thus concludes my (lengthy) feedback of the first Beta Weekend Event! Thank you all for reading.
Did you try out the reaper? What did you think of the necromancer’s elite specialisation? Did you play Stronghold? Are you excited for this game mode to go live? Let me know in the comments below!