Heart of Thorns Beta: The Hype is Real

Tuesday’s Heart of Thorns beta finally gave me the chance to get my hands on the revenant, a class whose Master of the Mists lore I found fascinating from the start, but whose mechanics – especially that of the Mallyx (or Legendary Demon) stance and its conditions – immediately made me covet it.  After all the hype about the revenant and the promised verticality the expansion is supposed to be bringing, my expectations on login were pretty high.


Goth necro girl turned revenant = conditions love.

rev-e-nant: a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

In case you were wondering (and hadn’t googled), revenants are those who were supposed dead and have returned.  Because of this, it felt thematically fitting to create my revenant girl as a copy of my main necromancer, who is built, and has a lot of success, as a condi necro.  On creation in the beta, the revenant already has its hammer equipped which is convenient given the swarms of mordrem you have to fight to get out of the Silverwastes and into Verdant Brink and the start of the opening Living World story sequence.  As a ranged option, with four of its five skills having a range of 1,200, this is a nice weapon to keep enemies away from you, especially when paired with Vengeful Hammers when you’re in the Jalis (or Legendary Dwarf) stance.  The swirling hammers around you put out unblockable damage that can help you survive and begin taking out multiple foes around you and your target.  Having watched  demo and stress test gameplay footage, it seemed like Vengeful Hammers dealt higher damage in this beta.  This is very welcome and I hope Heart of Thorns ships with a damage output similar to what we got to see on Tuesday as this skill is one I found incredibly handy.

Being on the hammer weapon itself, though ranged and with some crowd control, which I usually enjoy, felt weak.  This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the all Celestial gear and Superior Runes of the Dolyak left the revenant underpowered, with a power stat of 1,387 as you can see here.  Still, I gave the hammer a chance as I tried to get a feel for its various skills.  These offer the revenant several cool looking options, especially Phase Smash and Drop the Hammer, but their damage return, ranging between the mid-200s to under 500, was unrewarding. When I found myself repeatedly using Field of the Mists just when I didn’t need it, I decided it was time to see what the mace/axe combination could do.

Could a new weapon combination bring back sunny play?

This mid- and melee-range option felt a lot more satisfying both because of the higher damage output (I saw numbers in the 800-1000 range) and because jumping into the fray on a heavy armor class just felt right.  This allowed me to focus, too, on getting a better feel for the Legendary Stances that are this profession’s unique mechanic.  In the Jalis stance, I found it effective to lay down the “stability road” – Inspiring Reinforcement – to help myself and players around me while then using the mace’s number 3 skill, Echoing Eruption, to leap and close the gap and then wreak havoc with skills 1 and 2,  – Misery Swipe and its auto-attack chain, and Searing Fissure.

In the Mallyx stance, gameplay became much more natural for me as I used the greater range of the axe skills, Temporal Rift, to finish off foes if I’d positioned myself correctly, and Frigid Blitz as another way to jump into the fight quickly thanks to its shadowstep.  Both of these weapons paired well with my playstyle so that I could use Mallyx’s Banish Enchantment in combination with the mace’s auto-attack to deal out both direct and condition damage.  When I started pairing this with Pain Absorbtion (which also grants resistance), my familiarity with the necromancer’s ability to absorb outside conditions to benefit how I could sustain myself in a fight, and also transfer out more condition and direct damage, helped tremendously.  And when I needed another way to close the gap into a mob or support players around me, Unyielding Anguish was a winner with its CC and condition damage.  Naturally, all the self-applied conditions involved may make players not used to condition management wary, especially as it ticks down your mobility when you’re also trying to mitigate incoming damage.  The answer for a condi necro is Consume Conditions which increases your healing based on the number of conditions on you; for a revenant using Mallyx, this is Empowering Misery.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you can also swap back to the other equipped Legendary Stance and use the second heal skill provided it’s not on cooldown; a nice way to counter the Self-Weakness Empowering Misery applies if you need a break from the condition management.

Revenant Beta Traits

Default trait settings.

The defaulted traits chosen by ArenaNet also seemed to maximize both the effectiveness of the Mallyx stance and the unfamiliarity of players to the class.  The boons, damage and heal increases these gave suited me well since I was focused more on getting my skill combinations right by reading the fight rather than the tooltips.  Not having to think about trait choices as well through my two play sessions was helpful; I know this will change given more time with the revenant.  For now, I didn’t feel hampered by these traits.

(Dis)Orientation Day

Getting to know the revenant and a new map is probably not for the faint of heart.  If you caught our beta streams on Tuesday, one of the things Valiant, Kent, Star and I commented on was how disorienting Verdant Brink feels.

It’s a map with a lot of nooks and crannies that twist up, down, and around making it very easy to get lost.  In this sense, it felt very much like the Maguuma Jungle zones from Guild Wars Prophecies with the difference that there are many more ways to get lost now; this made trying to remember which paths I’d already taken, or how to get back to areas a challenge for me.  The upside to this, however, is how much there is to explore just in the section of the map that was available.

Here’s where my expectations on verticality were truly met.  This map, with its three levels of root, floor, and canopy is immense – and I’m not even certain I found much of anything of the root areas.  I did find hidden caves with those strange mushroom soldiers and eye paintings resembling peacock tail feathers.

Glyph paintings connected to the Itzel and Nuhoch.

As these same eye glyphs can be seen in the Itzel and Nuhoch tree house village in the north of the map, I suspect they’re connected with their worship of the goddess, Ameyalli.  Verdant Brink is a feast for the eyes tempting even those not fond of exploring to just let themselves get lost.  That said, you’ll want to make sure to unlock the Glider Basics line of the Gliding mastery as soon as possible.  There are plenty of places to fall off ledges, cliffs, and narrow bridges (as happened to all of us in the streams), so having flying power is helpful!  Not only that, there are many places where you cannot jump, and being able to fly up or down to  a location (and hopefully not to your death!) is invaluable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the beta and getting a preview of the new profession and map.  My only real concern right now is how grindy completing the first mastery line training felt.  Valiant mentioned on stream that this felt like a slower unlock time than in the previous HoT demo version.  If that’s the case, this first tier, at least, might need to be readjusted further.  Moreover, I was expecting some sort of animation or sound similar to the ‘level up’ completion notification to let me know when this was done.  That never happened  which meant I probably ran around for some time before I realized I had access to my wings ten minutes before the final beta session ended.  Still, I’m quite impressed by what I’ve seen of Heart of Thorns so far and can’t wait for the next beta!

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