Editorials

Berserker Elite Rekindles the Flame

During the most recent beta weekend, I revisited the warrior profession to test out its new elite specialization, the berserker. Although warrior was one of the first professions I tried in Guild Wars 2, as my game evolved, I turned away from the warrior and focused on the more magically-inclined classes of engineer, necromancer, and mesmer. As my love of rangers grew, my warriors slipped further away, buried beneath other characters, never reaching the first page of the character select screen. When the elite specialization was announced, I was unfazed. Yet, it reminded me of my initial love of the profession so I was very interested in taking the berserker out.

Coztic Hylek greet the Pact travelers

Beginning in the Silverwastes and working through the beta story, it seemed that the berserker elite meshed well with the normal warrior. In order to experience the new elite fully, I exchanged the default build that ArenaNet had provided with one that featured all the rage utilities. Working through the Silverwastes’ event chain allowed me the opportunity to learn the berserker mechanics and experiment with various weapon combinations prior to hitting the Verdant Brink.

Burning! Burning! Burning!

The berserker’s inner rage builds as they fight, filling the normal three-stage adrenaline bar. Once full, a player has a choice of two attacks, either the normal burst skill or a special berserker attack, which is triggered with the F2. I found both attacks useful, depending on the situation and I think this mechanic improves the versatility of the warrior profession. The F1 skill works as expected with a normal warrior while the F2 skill will unleash the burning rage that fills the berserker. This second skill changes the adrenaline bar to a single stage that fills and drains quickly. Yet, it allows for the F2 skill to be triggered repeatedly, depending on how fast you recharge your adrenaline gauge. In my sessions, I was able to trigger it up to three times before it went on cooldown and flipped back to the F1 skill. My only complaint with the mechanics of this system involved actually physically choosing to engage the F2 skill. It would be nice if it were possible to set the F2 option as primary, instead of it automatically being deselected after the rage ends. (Even if that would mean waiting longer for the F2 and having to toggle back to the F1 if you wanted an attack while the primal rage skill was on cooldown.)

Lava Girl enters the Jungle

As the warrior changes their weapons, the elite burst skills change as well. I experimented with greatsword, longbow, and rifle in the two-handed category and axe, sword, and torch as single-handed weapons. Although the torch offers wonderful condition damage and cleansing – the theme of many elites – I found myself abandoning the berserker’s token weapon in favor of greatsword and longbow. The torch certainly has potential but did not fit my normal playstyle as my current warriors all use greatsword as a primary weapon and rifle for ranged attacks.

Channeling Your Rage

The berserker’s utility skills all help to build adrenaline, the fuel for the fire within the raging warrior. Of them, my favorites were Wild Blow and Shattering Blow. I found Sundering Leap to be less useful, given my build. As I was running greatsword, which has its own distance closers, the ability to leap to an enemy – even though it helped to build adrenaline – was unnecessary in my PvE game. Another utility I didn’t use much was Outrage. Although its stun-break is quite useful, I simply didn’t have much call for it. The only time I found myself stunned and wishing to use a stun breaker was while fighting Coztic Hylek, who are adept at stunning… I think it was a special brand of poison. Naturally, your experience with these skills and the warrior profession may vary.

Utility skills add to the berserker’s rage

These skills all lend themselves well to the main focus of maintaining a steady supply of adrenaline and the berserker’s rage-based heal skill blends well with this same motif. The skill, Blood Reckoning, heals the character based on the damage he or she has dealt. Because of this, the berserker is rewarded for continuing to fight. My first instinct is actually to stand my ground and fight to the bitter end (one reason I’m so terrible with thieves), which, if I’m honest, grows out of the fact that I am very bad at dodging. Over the last couple years, I have gotten better at moving away from a battle, kiting enemies and, yes, even dodging out of big red circles on the ground. However, when playing berserker with this particular heal skill, you will regain more life if you stick it out and continue wailing on people to the bitter end.

Rampage to the bitter end!

Although berserkers epitomize the warrior’s role of front-line power, and the elite doesn’t change this, it may be their new versatility that has rekindled my interest in the warrior profession. One of the reasons I drifted away from the warrior was because it felt to me as if there was only one way to play: equip a greatsword and wail on things! Now, as I said, warriors are one of my first loves and there are few things more satisfying than wailing on things with a giant stick. However, the berserker has the potential to satisfy an inner urge to hit things as well as provide much-needed AoE damage in the chaotic battles of Verdant Brink. The quick recharge on the enraged adrenaline gauge helps with this as does the ability to choose between two burst skills and a plethora of weapons.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by the berserker elite specialization and I am looking forward to dusting off my level 80 warrior and unleashing all that pent-up rage against the jungle.

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