Editorials

Avatars of Legend: A Second Look At The Revenant

In my initial analysis of the revenant, I talked about how it seemed like a combination of ritualist lore with the dervish’s playstyle, thus allowing elements of both professions to return when it was unlikely that either could be individually. However, at the time I was mostly limited to discussing the former due to the lack of details about the revenant’s playstyle. Now, however, we have a little more meat to digest in that respect.

Let’s look at some of the new information and consider how it fits.

The Energy Mechanic:

70c76Mallyx-Slotted

In the later stages of Guild Wars 2’s development, I was doing a reasonably good job of predicting in the Guru forums what some of the then-unannounced professions might look like. I will now, however, go on the record and admit that I didn’t see the return of GW1-style energy management, complete with maintained enchantments (sorry, “upkeep skills”), coming.

In hindsight, however, it does make a certain amount of sense, albeit with a twist. The dervish was always about maintaining a balance between enchantments and powerful attacks… however, in Guild Wars 1, this tended to be a decision made between builds. Some enchantments were clearly intended to be stripped to boost your attacks, while others generated powerful enough effects that you wanted to maximise their uptime. Unless a player was particularly careful about how they juggled their enchantments, the two were not really compatible.

The energy mechanic, including the return of maintained effects, turns this on its head. Like the dervish, interactions between long-term buffs and immediate-effect skills will likely be a big feature of the revenant. However, the distinction is that where most professions are happy to simply spam their skills whenever they are off recharge, and it is advantageous to do so, the revenant has to choose between them.

Revenants need to balance their energy usage between sustained effects and direct attacks.

More generally, while the legends are being touted as being the key feature of the revenant, it is possible that the energy mechanic will have much more of an impact on how the revenant plays differently compared to other professions. On most bars of existing professions, utilities tend to fall into two groups – contingencies activated in response to a particular circumstance, or summons and buffs for when you need that extra edge.

While most revenant skills do still have recharges, the energy mechanic appears to mean that (apart from healing skills) these cooldowns are significantly shorter than we’d see for similar skills on existing professions, as they are also balanced by energy costs. This means that many of the legend skills have short enough recharges – or no recharge at all – that they can essentially be regarded as additional weapon skills rather than traditional utility skills. The closest analogy in Guild Wars 2 currently would be the thief’s initiative system, except that the revenant effectively has nine weapon skills at any one time and no traditional utility skills.

Area Attacks:

While it’s probably too early to draw many conclusions from the skills we have seen so far, another similarity appears to be growing: those skills we do see place a high importance on positioning.

Temporal Rift pulls enemies into a line, setting them up for powerful attacks.

Temporal Rift pulls enemies into a line, setting them up for powerful attacks.

One of the salient features of the dervish was that it placed a higher importance on positioning than many other GW1 professions. The scythe was the first weapon in the franchise to inherently show the property now referred to as ‘cleaving’ – the ability to hit multiple targets in melee, as long as they fit within an arc in front of the attacker. (Some skills, such as Star Burst and the original Hundred Blades, achieved a similar effect through centering an area attack on a melee target.) Combined with the generous allocation of point-blank area effects, a dervish that paid close attention to positioning could significantly boost its effectiveness.

Such considerations are now part of the gameplay in every Guild Wars 2 profession. However, the skills that have thus been revealed for the revenant indicate further emphasis on positioning – many of the skills we saw in the Points of Interest demonstration emphasised catching (and keeping) enemies lined up so you can affect several of them with directional skills. Meanwhile, the “vengeful hammers” skill associated with the legend of Jalis, and the condition transfer mechanic of Mallyx, echo one of the core traits of the dervish – you don’t want too many of your team clumping around them, because they WILL punish you for it.

Many of these are mechanics that we have seen before, but putting them all in one package does seem indicative of the direction the revenant seems to be going.

Avatars:

'Sup

‘Sup

’Nuff said.

Seriously, though, this may well be why the idea of restoring the energy bar and the idea of upkeep was called back from the Mists in the first place.

Transformation skills have thus far had a problematic history in the Guild Wars franchise. When the dervish was released, avatar builds passed through cycles of being overpowered and then underpowered depending on whether the avatar was active, which were not always fun to play against – or fun to play with, either. Later revamps turned avatars into a weaker buff that was effectively permanent with sufficient investment in Mysticism, making them more useful as something to base a build around. However, it somewhat defeated the purpose of transforming if you could remain in a single form indefinitely (as long as you refresh it every minute or so).

In Guild Wars 2, many transformation skills still have the problems original dervish avatars did… if anything, even more so. To put it bluntly, they tend to either be too weak to be worth giving up your regular skills (especially since many disable the all-important heal and other survival skills at the back end of the bar), have too short a duration for most players to actually learn how to make good use of them, or in some unfortunate cases, both.

Most existing transformation skills are eschewed by players.

The upkeep mechanic, on the other hand, offers a solution to this problem. Instead of offering the choice between being underpowered when active or too short-lived, the upkeep mechanic allows a player to use a powerful transformation for as long as they can afford to: however, this comes at a price. The longer they remain in a particular form, the less energy they have available to put toward other uses.

An additional tweak is presented which, I think, represents a significant improvement over the dervish from the shapeshifting point of view. The dervish only allowed two forms – the base form and an avatar – in a single build. Ideally, any dervish would want to be in avatar form permanently if that was practical. From the (admittedly small) set we’ve seen, however, it seems that every revenant legend may have a form skill associated with it in the elite slot, whether it transforms an entire party (Jalis) or just the revenant (Mallyx). Including the base form, this gives the revenant three (arguably four, if you count the distinction between channelling legends) forms to switch between, giving more of a true feeling of having to choose between forms over the original dervish’s ideal of remaining in avatar form as permanently as possible.

A Spiritual Successor?

So with all this, could the revenant be a successor to the dervish’s playstyle?

While only time and experience can say for sure, I think the signs discussed above are pointing in that direction. Obviously, these themes are implemented quite differently in the adaptation of those ideas to Guild Wars 2’s philosophies and new technologies, but the same is true of the returning professions: the Guild Wars 2 warrior also has many differences to its predecessor even though they retain the same general style. Nevertheless, the key features of the dervish playstyle – a focus on position-dependent area attacks and a resource management system that requires the player to make tradeoffs between spikes and sustained effects – are present, making this, at the very least, a much closer match than any existing profession.

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