Like many of the fans this past weekend, I brazenly walked into the gaming lab on Friday determined to play every single profession at least once. Needless to say, that sure as heck didn’t happen. While I dabbled with the thief and engineer at most 20 minutes each, when it came down to the dungeon run I found myself lured to an age-old favorite; the necromancer.
After taking a small while to check out my skills and come up with a “build” of sorts, it was time to get down and dirty with the undead. A current minion master fan, I selected three to take with me: the blood fiend, bone fiend, and bone minions. Ghost armor and well of suffering rounded out my last five skills. The weapons of choice were scepter/focus, occasional dagger/dagger, and staff.
Getting the hang of the minions was actually a bit tough; the mentality to simply summon and forget is hard to shake. In fact, minions in GW2 are extremely different than GW and require some thinking and strategy. Given that their destruction has great utility, it was a shame I didn’t make more use of them. By the end of my time with the necro (technical difficulties forced me to switch computers / instances), I was finally getting the hang of using the minions as more than just extra damage but actually taking advantage of their toggle skills. Putrid explosion for AoE (normally when a group of mobs are low on health) and rigor mortis to hold off on an enemy if I was getting mauled in the face.
I ended up relying on my bone fiend when my team wound up being bottle-necked into some massive enemy AoE that caused our first wipe early on. I found myself summoning and saccing him over and over again for his rather generous health return, combined with mark of blood and life-siphon to try and keep myself alive. It worked for a while; I ended up being the last man standing for a good minute before finally getting overwhelmed. It was an interesting and desperate set of tactics that, if nothing else, proved that the necro can stand on her own two feet with some effort.
It’s interesting to note that efficient use of weapon swapping will become one of those tactics that put some players ahead. It randomly became second nature for me. Once I had gotten used to the ten skills based on my two sets, I was almost instinctively going back and forth between them as one set was on cooldown or I needed to make use of another’s specific skills. For example, when opening a fight against a group of mobs, I’d have my staff and its heavy control / ground-AOE based skills (chilblains and reaper’s mark) to lay down the law on groups. Switching to daggers gave me more utility; if I was taking damage I would use necrotic bite, life siphon, and mark of blood to heal myself and my comrades. In boss fights I’d use the scepter’s de-buffing and conditions to weaken our foe, switch to something with more damage, and so on.
As players get used to the fights, groups, and tactics, it will really come down swapping skills and weapon sets to get the most out of the encounters. It’s obviously a boon when you have access to 5/10 additional skills in the heat of battle (you don’t need to be out of combat to swap). Knowing what you’re facing and choosing accordingly is key. It’s more than just having your build set-up and ready to go for the entire run. Good players will be switching madly whenever out of combat. That’s the beauty of how Guild Wars 2’s fighting works and why I think Anet may have struck the head on avoiding the meta-serpent, at least when it comes to PvE. It just seems impossible to imagine one specific set of skills and weapons being *the* way to go, especially if all dungeons are as varied in mob types, groups, and bosses as Catacombs was.
I want to point out another very important set of factors, here; communication and situational awareness. Yes. I’m talking about “don’t stand in the fire” mentality, and yes, I know I’ve mentioned it before. But I can’t stress it enough. Players -need- to talk to each other. One too many times I’d post a friendly mark that heals allies and they’d walk out of it. Or we’d be damaging separate targets, standing in enemy AoE, not killing the right mob, breaking other people’s control, not standing behind shields and auras, etc. There needs to be organization and communication if players expect to complete dungeons successfully, especially in explorable mode.
The run was fun, albeit challenging. We wiped a few times, although I gather throwing a bunch of players into mid-level content with little-to-no experience with the game might contribute to that. I wager by level 30 most will have learned more about their profession organically, and will learn dungeon strategies with time and practice as expected.
This seems to be a hot-topic around, so I thought I’d put my thoughts on it as well. There’s not much more I can add to the technicality of it other than… yeah. UW combat is actually really, really fun.
The guys at Anet stress use of the Z-axis, and there’s a lot of reason for that. With movement and positioning being such a key component in the game overall, having that extra dimension while submerged is really something in the heat of a good fight. I was particularly fond of “rolling” underwater, which brings you a little deeper and diagonal from your original position, making it a good escape move (unless, of course, up is what you’re aiming for). The fact that your skills adapt to work with this is pretty savvy as well. My favorite necro skill foul current darts you forward and leaves a cloud of poisonous ink behind you. It looks awesome and is tactically useful.
I particularly enjoy the subtle things that kind of make it so engaging. The way your bar animates when you’re swimming and then submerged, and how upon resurfacing your screen is “splattered” with water droplets. How as you swim through underwater plant-life, they actually move and give way to your character’s body. It’s all small detail but it makes it all the more engaging and a pleasure to look at.
The swimming animations thus far have been enjoyable as well; realistic and not clunky. Even my minions doggy-paddled their way to havoc-wreaking. It was grotesquely adorable (the sort of motherly love only my fellow minion masters could possibly understand). There’s a lot to discover underwater, as well. Hidden caverns of quaggan, deep-sea monsters, angry pirates. Anything you’d expect from the great depths below.
Overall, the necro plays as you would expect it to. While all the skills and a few of the mechanics are new and certainly the novelty will take some getting used to, it still feels so much like what it should. Reaper of souls, master of the undead, life draining, condition-spreading goodness.
Bring on the chaos.
About the author: Izari’s one of those obsessive fan types who’s been playing Guild Wars since the first beta weekend in 2004. She’s been blogging about video games for almost six years and is thrilled to have fellow fans to write for and with about the game. She can be found on twitter and really likes coconuts.
Top image from Gamers.at.