Weekend Complexity and Simplicity

The new GW2 Path of Fire elite specs are on show on this weekend preview, but only in PvP and WvW.

I suspect they want to test out how they stress test perform versus players, hence the limitation, as quite a LOT of the elite specs play around with boons and conditions – the giving and taking away of them – which is often used in more rapidfire fashion against players rather than mobs.

I guess I’m just not -that- sort of Bartle Explorer, in that I can’t really scrutinize a list of skills and traits and then sit back and revel in build planning.

If pushed into it (aka I want or need to learn more deeply about a particular aspect,) then yeah, I could probably sit there and analyze things slowly and trace synergies slooowly until I grok what’s happening in a specific build, and then do it all over again for another build, until I finally “get it” just enough to be more confident tweaking those kinds of builds on my own for a particular effect.

But bottom line, it’s not the first thing I would do in a game, nor is it something that makes me as deliriously happy as wandering somewhere beautiful and awe-inspiring and then deciding to poke my head into where few would likely go -and- see something cool and secret at the end of that exploration.

So I’m not feeling super keen to stick around a long time in this demo, especially when you add on the fact that skills are likely to get tweaked and balanced yet again once this deluge of players has stress tested and sufficiently broken everything (or tried their very best to.)

I can only learn so much and so fast.

And I prefer to invest my time only when stuff is not likely to change too much, -and- when  I’m going to need it to play whatever content I want to play.

My primary take homes from very quick trials of the elite specs, beating on low to no opposition PvP NPCs:

  • Quite a number feel like different classes altogether
  • Nearly all of them have an enormous number of new skills / interactions / mechanics to learn
  • The level of complexity to play and master these specs is going to be pretty high skill threshold

I guess this is exciting for some people, and certainly I personally don’t mind the long term prospect of having 8-9 more completely different playstyles to play and learn over the next… oh, 3-5 years…

…but to be honest, in my current “old dog” mindset, the prospect of having to learn too many new tricks is a little scary and intimidating, and not a little depressing right now.

I suppose over the next few months of Path of Fire, if I just take one or two elite specs at a time slowly, unlocking and testing them slowly in PvE, it really shouldn’t be a problem to learn and get used to them.

But the overwhelm of getting thrown 9 elite specs on a platter, without slow unlocks, and the “here, you figure out how it’s going to interact best with 2 out of 5 core traitlines you’ll also need to take, plus which core or new PoF utilities would best serve you, and oh, look at all your new F1-F5 skills, and new UI representing new mechanics…”

…I dunno, some people like the overwhelm, and I personally do not.


On paper, they certainly look interesting. Take the ranger Soulbeast elite spec, for instance. You get a stabby dagger that has three of its own skills. There is a whole string of heal and utility and elite skills that comes with the Soulbeast spec.

On top of that, you can merge with your pet, and when you merge, you get three pet/you skills to fire off with your F1-F3 keys (which I have changed to shift modifiers long ago, because easier to reach) and you get a stat bonus that depends on the type of pet you’ve chosen.

This changes from pet to pet, depending on what families they are in (cat, bear, spider, etc.) and whether they are classified as a supportive, tough, ferocious, deadly type, etc. That is a LOT of reading of the pet window, and new categories and classifications to keep in mind.

Is it something I want to do right now?


Maybe at some point in the far future, when Path of Fire is out, and I have no other game I want to play besides GW2, and when I feel like learning the ranger class in a more in-depth fashion. (That’s quite a lot of conditionals there, mind you.)


The necromancer Scourge is also interesting. It brings back shades of the GW1 Ritualist in my mind, as you summon static soul shades in a particular area. That seems very turret-engi-like in terms of being able to contest a point rather well.

The lifeforce second health bar seems to have mutated somewhat into a sort of mana/resource bar for using the soul shades’ specialized skills that seem to have a lot of support and utility and control for a group.

It also seems to have a ton of conditions coming out of all its orifices – which is about as deep and complex an analysis as I am capable of giving right now.

The guardian Firebrand is another one of those condition monsters. I’m kinda half-looking forward to learning this one, because I do sort of main a guardian in the open world. It seems to be capable of outputting a phenomenal amount of burning. I love fire.

The half that has me a little intimidated is the more channeled cast healer/support playstyle. Guardian tomes are back, replacing the normal virtue F1-F3s. One tome produces a shitload of burning, another tome has a lot of healing (presumably if you spec correctly, you can be a main healer – I’m thinking staff, and probably gear with no damage worth speaking of), and the last tome has a lot of utility, which might be very welcome in WvW.

It’s an interesting hybrid, to be sure. If I wanted to dip an itty bitty toe into an off-healer playstyle, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot in the open world with a Firebrand.

No doubt, there will be a more specialized primary healer meta build down the line that someone will concoct because they love primary healing, and that I’m not likely to touch in group content. (I’m a simple person, I’d rather do straight up dps and/or offensive support. I’d bring the Dragonhunter spec and do that.)

One random thing comes to mind though. It will be interesting to see if down the road, these hybrids end up breaking the holy trinity mindset even further.

City of Heroes taught us that lesson rather well. (City of Villains helped even more.) You don’t need a tank, healer, dps if your class can do a little bit of each all at once. Just stack 8 of them and go hog wild, defender or corruptor team style. Your little heal doesn’t work so well? Here, take 8 little heals all together! Then everyone can have fun doing dps, and also debuffing enemies and offensively buffing each other.

Maybe people won’t need a primary magi druid any more, and the druid can go condi druid. Still can heal (but just less) and can do more condition damage. Then add on a Firebrand, who can also heal now and then, but also can burn all the things. Half-half role splits. Personally, I would like that. (Even if the role specialists are busy puking in horror right now.)

We’ll see. What is meta always keep shifting.


Some people dislike the mesmer Mirage and the revenant Renegade for not being enough of a total class change of an elite spec.

I don’t play mesmers, so I find it hard to comment, beyond observing that having so many utility skills that give a short evade that a well played mirage is probably going to be an annoying pain in the butt to fight against. Might make it easier to tank too, if someone else takes over the chronomancer quickness and alacrity duties.

I have to say that I found it almost a relief to test out Renegade. Something that -wasn’t- a complete disorienting change, and just an add-on. Some fun ranger-like bow attacks, a limited number of skills to learn – simple, manageable, and then I’ll have more brain power later on to figure out how Kalla Scorchrazor would best synergize with the other multiple aspects that a revenant can call on, and what traitlines would be best.

I think it’s important for GW2 to give choices in playstyle. Some people like playing the piano on elementalists and engineers.

I… can’t manage that.

I like simple. I’ll hit things with a sword, thanks. Or a stick. Or my head.

I’m happy to have a few relatively effective specs/builds that are mostly autoattacking to fall back on, if I absolutely suck and just need something simple to operate.

I’ll push the envelope playing something with moderate but easy-to-remember rotations to manage like the old condi ranger (push all the buttons that have conditions on them, weapon swap, push more condition buttons, rinse and repeat), the present condi ps (push buttons and weapon swap in a preset manner that try to maximize conditions/damage/efficient adrenaline generation, go into berserk mode and fire off as many F1s as you can in that time, rinse and repeat) and my new experimental dragonhunter whose meta is now in ascendance (push all the buttons that do a heckload of spike damage, just very fucking quickly because by god, does he attack FAST with quickness on him.)

A lot of the elite specs of Path of Exile all look like they’re going to be at least that moderate difficulty to play and probably higher if you really want to do well with them. *sigh*

The thief Deadeye seems more middle of the road difficulty. It’s not as straightforward Killshot/Gunflame sniper cancerous as I first thought it was going to be. In the hands of someone who has the pattern and timing down though, it’s going to be extreme evil.

Basically the thief has to troll a little with some bullets first, building up Malice stacks over time with a Mark F1 skill that replaces Steal.

I couldn’t find the Malice stacks at first, looking for them on the opposing enemies’ status bar, then my own, and then eventually finding some unlabeled fiery red dots right on top of my own health globe.

Once I knew they were there, things got slightly easier. Once they’re built up sufficiently, the thief wants to kneel with skill 5 (this limits mobility considerably, but they can still dodge roll around, fire off evades and blinks to juke opponents), quickly hit skill 4 (which is the sniper shot that will destroy a target with a 5 digit number if Malice is maxed), and then quickly hit skill 5 again to unkneel and be more mobile again.

Basically, if the deadeye goes invisible from far away after some time in combat, that’s probably a good time to dodge or block. There’s a whole mindgame of playing with stealth and being unpredictable, because the deadeye’s elite is a short stealth using the ammo mechanic that can be cast twice in quick or long succession as desired.

A deadeye has ridiculous range when kneeling though. 1500. Very long range. A well played deadeye will be a master of positioning and evading and movement.

You can give a deadeye some difficulty by getting up all close and personal with them… but then I guess you also have to take into account whatever he’s got on weapon swap, which could very well be a very lethal melee combat weapon combination. Most likely, stuns and controls and a lot of area cleave or forced reveals that disrupt their pattern is what will end up countering them.

It’s certainly very thiefy a mechanic. Winning the mindgame = a stomp of a win. Get countered and you’re likely to squish.


Holosmith also seemed middle of the road-ish to understand.

Some new sword skills, the standard assortment of new heal/utility/elite skills, the standard assortment of a twist of F1-F4 skills based on what utility skills are equipped…

Plus a final ability that I completely forget what is actually called, but what I like to think of as “Activate Star Wars mode.”

You get a lightsaber sword effect to swing around and do very lightshow animations with 5 new special skills – presumably they’re doing good damage and additional things over your normal sword swinging.

While in this opposite variant of a berserk mode, you build up heat, instead of losing steam and eventually falling out of berserk. If you hit the red part of the mechanic bar, you take damage as you overheat. So presumably the goal is to keep an eye on the mechanic resource bar and drop out of Star Wars mode just a bit before overheating, and let it cool down over time, before voluntarily becoming a jedi knight again.

Not -too- difficult to comprehend, but will take a moderate amount of time to learn all the skills and get the timing right for heat management.

I don’t have much to say about warrior Spellbreaker and elementalist Weaver.

I tried the Spellbreaker. The dual daggers seemed fun and did quite a decent amount of damage. It certainly seems built around doing horrible things to boons – aka taking most of them away, plus quite a lot of “tanky”-like counterplay in terms of negating magic effects.

Since the golems have no boons worth speaking of whatsoever, it’s really hard to tell how effective Spellbreakers will be, from just reading their skill effects, and I have zero interest in trying to learn them now, just to PvP with them, just to see how effective they are. On paper, a class that specializes in boon stripping should be quite interesting, but I guess this would depend on just how fast those boons can come back on again versus players, and what types of PvE mobs would be susceptible to being boon stripped.

As for the Weaver, well, it’s an elementalist. What can I say. I haven’t even learned the basic elementalist at a confident level yet.

Now you add on elemental attuning that combines elements and produces a different skill per earth-air, fire-air, fire-water, earth-water hybrid…. and the only way I’m going to learn this is when a whole bunch of theorycrafters sit down and do the work and write out a “do it in this order for the most damage” rotation.

That, or I make an elementalist my main from now till Path of Fire and learn basic ele and tempest in Heart of Thorns zones, and then play Weaver in the Path of Fire zones to learn it that way piecemeal too.

Which is also a nice idea in theory, but there’s this other little game that says “fuck that.”


“Slow patient learning, pffft. Try to survive this breach instead.”


“And when you manage that, enjoy the lootsplosion because you deserve it.”