Well, the word is out. Come Heart of Thorns, Guild Wars 2 players finally be able to become Dragonborn. Er, I mean dragonhunters, yes. Dragonhunters.
Earlier this week, ArenaNet tweeted some interesting concept art for the then-upcoming elite guardian specialization: dragonhunter. The image in question (seen below) was very promising. We had known for some time that the longbow would be the new weapon type for this specialization due to some careful trailer analysis. The wings, however, were a whole new feature, and it reminded many of us, myself included, of the paragon class from Guild Wars: Nightfall. The paragon was an interesting and relatively useful profession that utilized different types of shouts and chants to provide support for enemies during battle, and would have made a lot of sense for the guardian as an elite specialization, as the guardian is partially based off of the paragon. However, ArenaNet has opted to come at us out of left field this time around, which may not have been the best decision.
Instead of the paragon, we are getting the dragonhunter: a bow wielding, trap setting not-ranger. Today, a blog post by Karl McLain introducing the dragonhunter was released on the Guild Wars 2 website, and while a lot of what the specialization has to offer looks promising, it could not have been more clear to me that ArenaNet didn’t really know what to do here. The specialization as a whole comes off as very slapdash and doesn’t feel like it melds well with the guardian as a class. However, as I already said, what they have managed to come up with does seem like it will work, despite perhaps not being the most ideal choice.
The first section of the blog post goes over how the specialization will change the way a dragonhunter’s Virtues work. This, in my opinion, is the specialization’s strongest area and one that I think works very well thematically with the guardian. Personally, I think these Virtue changes should just flat out replace the old Virtues on all guardians, but I suppose the dragonhunter has to have at least something going for it.
First of all, Virtue of Justice, formerly a simple passive and on-activation burn, will now become Spear of Justice, a magical spear that must be thrown. McLain goes on to say that this spear will pierce foes in the line of fire, and that it will tether them. I will assume that by “tether” he means that foes hit by this spear will be immobilized, though he does not specify duration. On top of this, tethered foes will have a pulsing burn applied to them for an unspecified duration. All in all, that is a lot of extra functionality for a skill that was, in all honesty, quite forgettable. Out of the three virtues, Virtue of Justice was easily the weakest and most under utilized, and this added crowd control aspect will almost certainly endear it to a large number of players.Wings of Resolve
Next up is Virtue of Resolve. My personal favorite of the three Virtues, this Virtue essentially functions as a small extra heal for normal guardians, affecting both the caster and nearby party members. It’s a nice addition to the guardian’s vast arsenal of “oh, crap!” buttons. Now, at first glance, the changes coming to this Virtue for those who decide to become dragonhunters might not seem so great. Rather than an instant activation AoE heal, this Virtue will now function as a leap that heals on impact. It should be noted that McLain is unclear as to whether this ability will be ground targeted or not. However, the video footage of the skill in action suggests that this skill will lack ground targeting and simply propel the dragonhunter forward, much like the guardian’s greatsword ability Leap of Faith, or the ranger’s Swoop, wings and all. I like this change, as leaps provide excellent tactical mobility and increase the versatility of one’s positioning, and the healing effect remains intact. Again, the changes serve to elevate the skill beyond its original implementation, while simultaneously preserving its intended effect. I just wish that could be said for the dragonhunter specialization in general.
Finally, we come to Virtue of Courage. For the average guardian, this Virtue functions as an instant activation, party-wide block. It’s a good tool for avoiding singular attacks that deal large amounts of damage, and is often used in boss fights to mitigate otherwise devastating attacks. Additionally, it’s passive effect applies aegis to the player every 40 seconds. Shield of Courage, the dragonhunter’s version of this Virtue, will conjure a large shield in front of the caster, enabling them to shield themselves and allies from attacks from the front, but leaving them vulnerable to attacks from other directions. McLain states in the post that the skill will have “excellent control through positioning,” which means that the shield will move with the dragonhunter and remain in front of them no matter what direction they face. This also means that the shield will have a duration, which is what makes it potentially superior to the original virtue’s aegis, which ends after one block. I have a feeling this one will take some getting used to, though on the whole I would say that it is more powerful than the original Virtue of Courage due to the sustained duration, which allows for the deflection of multi-hit attacks.Shield of Courage
Also noted in the post is that passive effects for Virtues will remain present and unchanged regardless of specialization, and that traits that affect Virtues will continue to function normally. This actually opens up a lot of synchronization between the dragonhunter and preexisting guardian traits, as traits that affect virtues could provide a lot of interesting new functionality with these new virtue effects.
The remainder of McLain’s post is where I start to get the impression that ArenaNet really did not know what they wanted to do with the guardian elite specialization. The dragonhunter will gain access to the longbow, which will fire large Zeus-style light projectiles at a “ferocious velocity.” This terminology intrigues me, for if the flight speed of the projectiles fired from the bow is actually naturally faster than arrows fired from other bow-wielding classes, that could actually provide a very strong incentive to specialize as a dragonhunter. Apart from this, however, the bow doesn’t really grab me. The deployable symbol is nice, I’ll give it that, but it’s no different that the guardian’s Symbol of Swiftness on the staff mechanically. Deflecting Shot also sounds good, in theory, but I’m skeptical of how useful it will actually be. It doesn’t help that when describing Deflecting Shot’s effects, McLain employs a frightening lack of detail:
“If your enemy is using a projectile attack and is attacking your allies, you can fire your Deflecting Shot in its path and, with the right timing, destroy all of your enemy’s projectiles along the way.”
Exactly how good does my timing need to be? Will the arrow leave a trail of deflective magic, or do I literally have to place my arrow in the exact path of the projectile I’m trying to block? I would like to assume there is a fair amount of leeway with the skill, or else the vast majority of the playerbase, myself included, wouldn’t be able to achieve anything with it. Who does ArenaNet think I am, Robin Hood?Deflecting Shot.
While McLain makes no written mention of it in the blog post, the trailer below does show the dragonhunter using a reskinned, roided up version of the ranger’s Barrage, now complete with phat immobilizes and sick lights. This I actually don’t have a problem with as it looks like a very powerful ability and will likely be boatloads of fun to use. Smiley face.
Oh yeah, there’s also traps, because, well, reasons. They manage to barely claim relevance here because the name “dragonhunter” (emphasis on hunter) would imply that guardians of this particular ilk, well, hunt dragons, and hunting equals traps, right?
I suppose I can cut them a little more slack here in that in the role of a guardian, which is obviously guarding, I can see how traps would come in handy. They just feel very tacked on, like ArenaNet couldn’t think of anything else, or had to scrap an idea late in development and come up with a hurried replacement.
Since granting certain professions abilities from other professions seems to be the name of the game with elite specializations, I feel like the guardian would have been much better suited to the elementalist’s Auras or the warrior’s Stances. These may not have provided such an abrupt and opaque shift in gameplay, but they would definitely meld better with the class and provide a more logical and fitting gameplay experience.
Overall, we really have to wait and see what May 8th’s episode of Ready Up has to reveal about the dragonhunter to make a proper call. This might not be the case if the blog post wasn’t so vague in so many places about the specifics of certain abilities, but unfortunately there just is not a lot of solid, complete information there. What I can say is, as of right now, I’ll probably be sticking with my scepter.