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Berserker: Grab Yer Torch an’ ‘it Things

I enjoy Guild Wars 2’s warrior profession a great deal. It is by no means my favorite profession, but every so often I get the urge to turn my brain off and hit things, a role which the warrior fills to perfection. As most of us are now aware, warriors will be gaining access to the berserker elite specialization with the release of the Heart of Thorns expansion, and from the looks of things, berserkers will be upholding the warriors’ oldest and noblest of traditions: hitting things. Luckily for us, however, developer Robert Gee gave us a lot more details in a blog post all about the berserker.

First of all, let’s take a look at what kinds of changes the berserker will be making to standard warrior gameplay should you choose to specialize as one. Once a player has activated the berserker trait line, they will gain access to both the torch as an offhand weapon and a new adrenaline functionality, as well as a set of brand new “rage” utility skills. Generally speaking, this is pretty standard fare when it comes to elite specializations. But, as we all know, in order to entice players to indulge in what it has to offer, an elite specialization must offer players of its respective profession something that they previously lacked, and not only that, but something they needed.

To a degree, the berserker achieves this relatively well. Currently, warriors aren’t fantastic at applying condition damage. With the addition of the torch, they will likely become much more adept at this, especially if the skill descriptions are anything to judge by. Being an offhand weapon, the torch will provide berserkers with two new skills to play with: Blaze Breaker and Flames of War. Blaze Breaker will result in the berserker slamming their torch into the ground and creating a sort of rock-flecked, flaming tsunami that will cripple and burn foes it hits. This will no doubt be accompanied by an impressive animation that will inevitably receive complaints and end up getting toned down. Oh well, we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

The second torch skill, Flames of War, will actually see the berserker in question light themselves on fire, which for some inexplicable reason cures them of conditions. It is unclear in the post whether berserkers will actually apply the burning condition to themselves in exchange for the removal of other conditions, or if the act of lighting one’s self ablaze will merely be featured in the skill animation. In any event, that isn’t what makes Flames of War an interesting skill. What makes this skill so potentially great is the fact that it will make the berserker in question into a mobile fire field! This opens up a lot of potential for cross profession combos and high level gameplay. Combos were something that the developers had originally intended to be a big deal in Guild Wars 2, but ended up being a bit of an afterthought to the average player. That’s a shame, too, because combos are extremely useful and can be used to easily overcome tough encounters when used properly. The idea of a character as a fire field is pretty cool and will no doubt open up a ton of great gameplay. Flames of War will also go boom and pump out a bunch of burns, but that sort of goes without saying, doesn’t it?

In addition to the torch and its formidable flames, specializing as a berserker will also change the way a warrior’s adrenaline bar functions. Once enough adrenaline is built up, a berserker can, well, go berserk, so to speak. Upon activating this mode, the berserker’s adrenaline bar will merge from the three tiered, 30 adrenaline bar into a single, unbroken bar of only 10 charges. Filling this bar will allow the berserker to utilize new “primal” burst abilities, which will have a shorter cooldown than the warrior’s current burst skills. However, the effects of these more spammable abilities will be lesser than those of their three tiered counterparts, because, you know, game balance. It is also important to note that for traits that are affected by adrenaline level, these primal burst skills will count as tier three bursts. In his blog post, Gee gave us a couple examples of these new abilities for the longbow and the mace:

The longbow primal burst skill, Scorched Earth, will leave a trail of fire in a straight line behind the arrow fired. At first glance, this isn’t nearly as useful as the normal burst skill for longbow: Combustive Shot. However, if we consider how spammable this ability will be, we could be talking about some serious burn stacking on a single target if not anything else.

The primal burst skill for the mace, Skull Grinder, serves a similar condition-oriented purpose, inflicting a short disabling effect (unspecified) and multiple conditions (unspecified) to the target.

All in all, I like this new adrenaline system a lot. It will provide the warrior with a plethora of new abilities to play with, and that means a plethora of possibilities! Who knows what type of game-breaking skullduggery the community might be able to pull off with all these new primal bursts at their fingertips!

Speaking of abilities at one’s fingertips, how about these new “rage” type utility skills? Before I launch into my analysis, I have to wonder why berserkers get an all new skill type for their utilities while reaper and tempest were left to share shouts. I mean, if new skill types are on the table, which until now I assumed they were not, why not create unique ones where they are due? In any event, I think the fact that warriors got a unique skill type for their new utility set could potentially indicate which specializations had more thought and time behind them, and which ones were more rushed.

In any event, rage skills are set to act similarly to the warrior’s physical skills, with the added bonus of granting extra adrenaline with their use. In his blog post, Gee tantalizingly waves Wild Blow under our noses, which will serve as a launch that will propel an enemy backward a great distance and cause them to knock back any additional enemies their flying body comes into contact with. In my opinion, that’s a pretty impressive bit of design work, as are a lot of the other things we’ve seen with the elite specializations. It really feels like ArenaNet has moved forward leaps and bounds in terms of their design ingenuity with their engine, and whenever we hear about skills like Wild Blow, it makes me giddy with excitement to see what other impressive and amazing bits of game design they have in store for us with Heart of Thorns!

Finally, Gee provides us with a minor teaser regarding the berserker trait line, detailing what each trait tier will focus on. The first tier of traits will focus on incentivizing the use of the new berserk mode and will provide several tools for enhancing that experience. The second tier will be centered around enhancing the results of conditions, no doubt featuring buffs for the torch and its skills. The final trait tier will offer support and healing that can be interwoven with the berserker’s playstyle. While I feel these concepts mesh relatively well, we’ll need to wait until tomorrow’s episode of PoI at noon Pacific time to find out whether these traits are functional or not. Don’t miss it!

I feel like people who have been wanting some decent condition damage options for their warriors will be very grateful for the berserker. In turn, if the primal burst skills and rage utilities turn out to be particularly thrill-inducing, I believe raw DPS purists will find uses for the berserker as well. In short, this was one of ArenaNet’s less revealing blog posts, but my overall feelings after reading it are that the berserker looks like a solid addition to the warrior arsenal. Now, what torch shall I choose…

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