Ghosts of the Past: A Look At The Revenant

Since the mesmer was announced as the eighth profession, players have consistently asked for two professions to be reintroduced from Guild Wars 1 – the ritualist, and the dervish.

Unfortunately, each had a problem hindering their addition to the sequel. While the ritualist, as shown by the number of nonhuman ritualists in Eye of the North, could fit into any race (everyone has ancestors… well, except the sylvari), the mechanics and general playstyle of the ritualist has been replaced by the engineer. This is not surprising, as engineer classes from games like Team Fortress were original inspiration for the ritualist. As Tyria lacked the technological development for the profession to emerge at that time, the ritualist came about as ArenaNet’s solution to marrying an engineer-like playstyle to a magical theme.

Many of the diehard ritualist fans recognise this. For them, it’s not the playstyle that they fell in love with so much as the concept – of being a medium between the spirit world and the land of the living, calling on allies from among the spirits of the departed to aid them in their quests. Because of this, many such players have raised the possibility of recycling the ritualist theme, even with a totally different playstyle.

The Ritualist and Dervish both have elements that complicate their possible introduction as GW2 professions.

The Ritualist and Dervish both have elements that complicate their possible introduction as GW2 professions.

Meanwhile, the dervish has the opposite problem. It is possibly the one profession in Guild Wars 1 that had a playstyle that was not represented among the existing professions, but which realistically could be implemented without breaking Guild Wars 2’s no-trinity philosophy (sorry, monk lovers!). However, of the professions, it is probably the one whose lore was most intimately linked with the Five Gods then worshiped by humanity. Again, this is reflected in-game: there are few sapient creatures with the dervish profession that are not in some way connected to the Gods, and ArenaNet was careful to give avatar skills only to humans and other servants of the gods.

Combining the playstyle of the dervish with the lore of the ritualist, replacing the avatars of the gods with the spirits of departed heroes, is a clear and commonly proposed solution to these problems. Images of Rytlock wearing a ritualist-style blindfold only added fuel to the fire. With the unveiling of the revenant, it appears that ArenaNet has agreed with this analysis – and effectively covered the third most common proposal of a ‘death knight’-type profession as well.

I thought I told you to GO AWAY!!!

So, what do we know about the revenant?

Well, not a lot. It did only just get revealed this weekend, after all. As a heavy profession, there’s a good chance that it will be a melee-oriented profession rather than a more standoff character. However, what we do know is that at least one of its key features is being able to call upon the spirits of past heroes in order to grant itself new abilities.

While different to the classic “spirit turret” behaviour of ritualists, there is a precedent for this. One of the less commonly used ritualist mechanics was in the summoning of urns, ostensibly containing the remains of legendary figures of the past, which lend power to the ritualist. This urn could grant a buff to the ritualist, produce some effect when dropped, and in some cases both, but it came at a price. Since the urn had to be held in the ritualist’s hands, not only could only one urn be conjured at a time, but the ritualist would have to forego their basic weapons and any bonuses they received from them in the meantime.

Rytlock calls upon the power of a dragon spirit – presumed to be that of Glint.

The effect these urns typically had on a character’s behaviour was usually fairly small – you gave up your auto-attack and whatever benefits you gained from your weapon set in exchange for some other bonus that was – hopefully – worth the trade. Indications are, however, that the invocations of the revenant will be somewhat more sophisticated, granting the revenant skills appropriate to the spirit being channelled. This makes the revenant look like it may be a kind of quasi-shapeshifter profession with similar behaviour to the engineer and elementalist – foregoing a conventional weapon swap in exchange for access to alternate means of using additional skills.

So, how would this work? The spirits are implied to be something that characters can collect, which would seem to rule out a copy of the elementalist system of having four fixed choices through the F1-F4 keys. Besides, it would be boring if every revenant invoked the same four spirits every time. A utility skill based system, on the other hand, might be stepping on the engineer’s territory. Besides, simply unlocking a skill when you happen to have the points is not the most exciting method of putting together a collection.

After exploring the world to find more pets, rangers can choose which ones they would like to have available through this handy interface.

After exploring the world to find more pets, rangers can choose which ones they would like to have available through this handy interface.

One suggestion I’ve seen is to use a system similar to that used for ranger pets. While starting with one or more spirits available to their culture (similar to how ranger starting pets are influenced by race), revenants might then be able to go out into the world visiting various sites of significance to the heroes of the past, thus adding those spirits to their potential repertoire – which can then be slotted in to be used via the function keys. While at first glance this might seem to be strictly better than the elementalist system – as the player would have more customisation – this could be balanced by imposing additional limits (for instance, it may only be possible to retain any given spirit for a certain uptime, requiring a revenant to remain in default mode much of the time, essentially making the channels behave somewhat like mini-elites).

Beyond this, we currently have little to go on regarding the abilities that a revenant might have when not channelling. We do see a moment in the trailer where Rytlock is fighting with what appears to be a kind of combat staff – possibly indicating a brand-new weapon, or simply an unusual skin or usage for an existing one. Later, we see him perform a move where he appears to disappear – possibly partially entering the Mists – before dashing around striking a group of nearby Mordrem. Both of these manoeuvres are associated with a grey-white trail, distinct from the teals that have been associated with ritualists in the past. However, the invocation towards the end of the trailer shows ritualist teals, so while this may indicate that the profession is associated with a different shade to its predecessor, it may simply be a case of the profession having more than one colour associated with its effects, similar to how necromancers have both green and red effects.

Rytlock cloaks himself in the power of the Mists to strike down three Mordrem in succession.

Thus far, we have only seen melee attacks from the revenant, however, this remains a small sample size. While it is plausible that the revenant may only have melee attacks unless invoking a spirit, this seems unlikely. While for now we can only guess at the specifics, it is likely that a review over the offensive spells used by ritualists in the past could generate plenty of inspiration for effects that could be employed by the revenants of the future. A signature skill of the ritualist that we can probably expect to return is Spirit Rift, which in Guild Wars 2 terms would be a ground-targeted skill that inflicts damage and vulnerability to targets that remain in the area after a few seconds in a burst of ethereal lightning. In addition to the energy of the Mists being pulled into the physical realm where it manifests as ghostly lightning, the revenant might also have skills that represent temporary short-lived summons of weaker spirits, remaining just long enough to perform an attack before slipping back into the Mists.

So, will the revenant prove to be a worthy inheritor of the lore of the ritualist, a good spiritual successor to the playstyle of the dervish, and a suitable reinterpretation of the death knight concept? Time – and ArenaNet’s promised “deep dives” – will be the judge.

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