Last Thursday, Karl McLain gave us the first (official) look at what thieves can expect for their elite specialization, the daredevil. The new additions to the thief’s gameplay includes the ability to wield a staff, and a new set of physical and dodge-based attacks.
The staff is a very appropriate addition to the thief’s arsenal, given the profession’s inspiration from classic assassin/ninja archetypes. I can only hope that this means that we will be getting more skins that resemble bo staffs, though the idea of a thief bouncing from foe to foe with an intricately decorated Zojja’s Spire is definitely amusing. The animations for wielding the staff I’ve seen so far look interesting enough, and definitely feel at home with the rest of the thief’s attack animations such as Heartseeker. They might not be as elaborate as other casting professions, but they fit the thief’s overall movement quite well.
That foe-bouncing mechanic is why I feel the daredevil will be one of the more exciting specializations to play in the upcoming Heart of Thorns release. The majority of the staff skills and traits that are being introduced involve leaps and Heartseeker-like moves. Jumping in and weakening or crippling opponents keeps them in place, giving the daredevil time to systematically take out the rest of the crowd. The slot 1 staff auto-attack changes if you’re stealthed, allowing for a knockdown. A lot of the traits also allow thieves to add more conditions such as weakness, crippling and slow to their attacks. Utilities like Bandit’s Defense also gives the daredevil a counter-like move when they are in melee range.
Should the daredevil misstep, there are plenty of new dodging enhancements. Primarily, the daredevil gets an extra dodge (bringing them to a total of three), which allows the specialization to take full advantage of all the new dodge-activated traits. The Lotus Training trait, for example, auto-attacks with daggers while dodging away, or the Evasive Empowerment trait gives a 10% damage increase on the next impact.
There’s also the option to use dodging as a means to remove cripples and chill effects to keep going without slowing down. (Though I find it odd that there is no means to remove fear, as Daredevil IS “the Man Without Fear.”) Condition removal is one of the largest things I find lacking in the current thief gameplay, and is certainly a welcome addition. The ability to remove conditions on its own makes the daredevil a more prominent threat in 1-on-1 PvP and as a roamer in WvW.
However, I think the one new addition that separates daredevil from all the other elite specializations would be the inclusion of finishers in its elite skill. We’ve seen finishers sneak into PvE back in Living World Season 1, with Scarlet’s toxic friends, and it definitely gave a satisfying end to a fight. This could be an indication that many more PvE enemies that need that special stomp await us in the depths of the jungle.
I am looking forward to the upcoming Beta Weekend to truly get a feel of how the daredevil handles. While I have been maining a thief since I started playing the game a little over two years ago, I have always had trouble with keeping upright and having enough initiative to get away when in trouble, despite using the meta build of the profession. I think the changes to endurance level, and the addition of traits that give more condition cleansing will help forge a new meta build for the profession. The amount of conditions in the traits could also allow for a viable condition-focused meta build, featuring blinding, crippling and knockdowns, as the daredevil jumps in and out of range, only to end with a finisher. It would be nice to have an alternative build for just running full berserker stats. Having the thief rely more on applying conditions, hitting hard, then slinking off to the shadows makes the class feel a little more immersive than just relying on all power all the time. That’s what will set the daredevil apart from the other elites like the berserker and dragonhunter. The daredevil elite specialization takes what it meant to be playing a thief and maximizes it to its fullest potential.
Overall, the daredevil not only improves some of the thief’s shortcomings in condition cleansing and advanced dodge mechanics, it also looks like it will be a fun departure from other professions as you jump from target to target Bruce Lee style. It’s unorthodox, but it’s effective.