I‘d like to think that everyone has at least one game that they can pick back up – whether it’s been tucked away for weeks, months or years – and jump straight back into, given the right occasion. For me, End Of Dragons was the sign that it was time for my Guild Wars 2 homecoming.
- READ MORE: ‘Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy’ interview: “When you surround yourself with the right people, the confidence kind of outweighs the pressure”
I last played the MMO around the release of Path Of Fire, but – as all games eventually do – it finally fell to the roadside after months of constant play.
Upon hearing that there were three new elite specialisations from End Of Dragons available to preview, I knew I was getting back in for one last Guild War.
Arena Net plans to dripfeed End Of Dragons specs over the course of multiple betas – for this first one, fans got to play the Necromancer’s Harbinger, Virtuoso for Mesmers and the Willbender for Guardian classes.
As my most-played character is a Mesmer, trying out the Virtuoso first was an easy choice. Instead of building an army of clones, the Virtuoso ditches cosmic trickery to pelt enemies with flying, psychic daggers. Yes – it’s as cool as it sounds. The new dagger main-hand works well with the existing Mesmer-friendly weapons, though I found particularly strong synergy with the dagger-sword combination.
In general, the Virtuoso is a little more forgiving than the other Mesmer specs, and I was able to start ramping up my DPS fairly soon after trying out the class. Positioning? Clone rotations? Nah, just throw telekinetic daggers as fast as you can and call it a day.
Rather than building up a set of clones to unleash with F1-F4 skills, the Virtuoso builds up a stack of blades which can be unleashed for a variety of creative effects. This ranges from standard DPS to condition based damage and a defensive, reflective shield. I had some trouble with the defensive F4 skill being inconsistent, though it’s still in early stages and I’d imagine kinks like that will be smoothed over before release. Likewise, the Virtuoso doesn’t feel as inherently powerful as the Chronomancer, but it brought enough fun – and still plenty of DPS – for me to legitimately not care.
The Virtuoso ended up being my most played specialisation during my time with the End Of Dragons preview, and for good reason – as someone returning to the game after a few years, it was a joy to jump in and play a simpler, chuck-daggers-at-people playstyle.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Harbinger, which brings another spooky shroud and, perhaps more importantly, pistols to the Necromancer class. After my first couple of Fractals, I’m thoroughly convinced that the pistol was always meant to be a tool for necromancy – I mean seriously, take a look at Tequatl’s Revolver Of The Sunless and tell me that doesn’t scream Necromancer.
The pistol skills add even more options for condition-based damage, DPS and general control to the Necromancer class. The utility skills are a little more plain, but – while they aren’t as dramatic as the Virtuoso and Willbender’s kits – they add some powerful status effects to cycle through in the form of elixirs. If you’ve ever wanted to fulfill a Dark Tower-style fantasy as a gunslinging herbalist, the Harbinger class is made – oddly specifically – for you.
The Harbinger’s new F1 skill allows Necromancers to become the Harbinger that the specialisation is named after. It’s a highly mobile take on the class, providing a separate hotbar of skills full of dashes, leaps and bursts of spooky-looking energy. It’s a complete 180 to the statbuffs and condition-based damage themes in the rest of the kit, and it’s incredibly fun to just flick the switch and become an angry ball of (literal) death.
My biggest issue with the Harbinger spec is that almost every skill adds blight – a negative condition that reduces your maximum health – which stacks to really significant levels. In its current iteration, blight feels like it’s a little too taxing to make Harbingers really click, so it’s something I’m hoping is looked at more before release.
Rounding off the new specialisations is the Willbender, which gives Guardian players a chance to gleefully dash around whilst dual-wielding swords. It’s a totally different experience to the standard Guardian fare and gives the class a level of fluidity it’s never had before – in general, it’s one of the most mobile and fast-paced kits I’ve ever played in Guild Wars 2.
The Willbender gives the existing DPS elements of the Guardian class a little more punch (which makes sense, given Arena Net has literally just doubled its sword-wielding capacity) and some much-needed speed buffs, meaning you’d be forgiven if you mistook your first glimpse of a Willbender for another class entirely.
Although I enjoyed my time as a Willbender overall, this was the only specialisation that I really struggled to get going. The new sword skills didn’t feel as powerful as the Necromancer’s pistol or Mesmer’s new dagger, and any slips in positioning felt very punishing. The new damage and mobility options are really exciting, and the dual-sword skillset absolutely nails the theme of the Willbender, but it’s a shame that this one beleaguered Willbender spent so much time being picked up from the floor.
Overall though, the first look at some of the End Of Dragons specialisations are incredibly promising for the upcoming expansion. While there’s still some issues that may need to be worked out in future previews, it feels like all three are worthy additions to their respective classes, and my expectations are now very high for the specialisations that are yet to be announced. Combined with what’s set to be a beautiful new area, I’d say that End Of Dragons is well worth keeping an eye on for any players looking for their own homecoming.
End Of Dragons will release as an expansion to Guild Wars 2 in February 2022. There will be further test betas available to play on September 25 and October 26.