Shiro Reigns After Brief Summer Info Drought

Last week we got a brief reprieve from the Heart of Thorns information drought in the form of a new legend reveal for the revenant profession and a cool “show all” episode of Points of Interest. Out of all the legends officially revealed so far, Shiro Tagachi is by far the highest profile. For those of you who are not familiar with the lore of the previous Guild Wars games, Shiro Tagachi was an accomplished mercenary (and an overall grumpy jerkface) who was eventually hired by Emperor Angsiyan to join his Imperial guard. At some point, Shiro was tricked into believing that the Emperor was going to off him during the Harvest Ceremony by a demon of Abaddon, disguised as an old fortune teller. Of course, the possibility of his death ate away at him, driving him to use forbidden magic and break Imperial law, which only furthered his self-torment.

Finally, the Harvest Ceremony arrived (watch the cinematic; it’s pretty) and Shiro, already crazed and paranoid, cut down the Emperor during the main ritual, absorbing his soul and the magic energy the Emperor had been granted from the goddess Dwayna. The ritualists alerted the attending armies below that something had gone wrong before they were cut down by the assassin. Shiro tore through the soldiers, leaving only the Kurzick and Luxon champions to oppose him. In a moment that I assume Shiro took to bask in his newfound power, another assassin by the name of Vizu joined the fight, crippling and disarming the ex-bodyguard, allowing St. Viktor and Archemorus to deliver the deathblow. Sadly, as Shiro wailed in defeat, he unleashed the Jade Winds, petrifying most life for miles around the Harvest Temple.

As a result, the Jade Sea turned into actual jade and the Echovald Forest became mostly petrified stone (which gave the Kurzicks some pretty awesome looking buildings if we’re looking for an upside). Afterwards, Shiro’s spirit was forced to join the celestial ministry as an envoy, a guide that ushers the souls of the dead to the underworld. Unsatisfied with his dead-end job as a soul taxi, Shiro began to manipulate the souls of the dead into an army to herald his return to the mortal world. Fortunately, he was stopped by Tyria’s heroes on several occasions, his final fate still unknown to this day.

While Jalis had been king of the dwarves and Ventari the keeper and tender of the Pale Tree, Shiro Tagachi is a figure of tremendous and terrible power with crazy weapon prowess to boot. He brought factions together and terrorized Cantha twice, nearly bringing the Dragon Empire to its knees.

So what does this all mean for the revenant? The Legendary Assassin Stance is all about damage and mobility. Shiro was fast and his skill with dual-wielding swords was unparalleled. Along with the Legendary Assassin Stance, the dual-sword weapon set was also revealed for the revenant. Rather than simply rehash what each skill does, I’m going to footnote some of my impressions of each. Starting with weapons skill #1, Preparation Thrust, the auto-attack chain skills focus on vulnerability application and finish with a delayed rift explosion. What I find neat is that the second chain skill, Brutal Blade, boomerangs out in a line, hitting multiple targets. It definitely continues that trend of linear, multi-target attack and movement skills for the revenant. Skill #2, Precision Strike runs similar to other radial projectile skills such as Binding Blade for the guardian greatsword or the thief elite, Dagger Storm. For the revenant, the skill hurls blade projectiles that damage and apply chill to a struck target. Chill is a pretty good condition, but its usefulness isn’t fully realized until it’s combined with a few other skills, something I’ll talk about a little later.

A fine display of the Unrelenting Assault skill by "Mistlock Brimsword".

A fine display of the Unrelenting Assault skill by “Mistlock Brimsword.”

Skill #3, Unrelenting Assault, for those who’ve kept up with the various Heart of Thorns trailers, is the skill Rytlock Brimstone uses with his sword to zip between several enemies at a time. The skill allows the user to shadowstep between targets or just between attacks of a single target, applying might for each time the user damages a foe. In many ways, Unrelenting Assault reminds me of one of Caithe’s dagger skills from the Seeds of Truth Living Story chapter that allowed the player to leap between and damage several nearby targets. Honestly, it’s a little sad because Legendary Assassin Stance paired with dual swords is basically what I imagined the thief would be like when it was first revealed (he said, crying through spoonfuls of tear-soaked ice cream).

Skill #4, Duelist’s Preparation, is basically the warrior Shield Stance chained to Riposte, damaging the target with a wave of mist energy. This is a nice “oh sh*t” button for the revenant because, despite its crazy DPS and mobility focus, sometimes it’s more convenient to block and dive right back in then it is to dodge and regroup . Skill #5, Grasping Shadow, is reminiscent of the ranger sword skill Hornet Sting, which allows a ranger to quickly stab its foe and roll back a decent distance. For the revenant, Grasping Shadow will do just that, except, instead of activating a second skill to lunge at the enemy, it pulls the enemy to the player as he steps back from combat, allowing the player to weed out single targets from a crowd. This skill, paired with skills 2 and 3, can make for a pretty sweet combo by chilling an opponent, pulling them away from everyone else, and then barraging them with multiple sword attacks. Toss on the Legendary Assassin Stance’s healing skill, Enchanted Daggers, (if your health is down) and skill #9, Impossible Odds, beforehand and the revenant will siphon life from the foe for each hit while buffed with quickness and speed buffs (in case your foes weren’t already dying fast enough). Granted, there’s energy use to keep in mind when throwing these combos together (Impossible Odds is especially taxing for your energy), but I’m excited all the same.

Assassin Stance skill #7, Phase Traversal,  and #8, Riposting Shadows, are both mobility focused. Phase Traversal allows the player to teleport to their target while making their next few attacks unblockable while Riposting Shadows, like Grasping Shadow, allows the player to teleport back a distance, but in this instance, the skill removes movement debilitating conditions and grants extra endurance. In that regard, it’s somewhat similar to the ranger skill Lightning Reflexes. Finally, you have the elite skill most appropriately titled as Jade Winds, which stuns and damages nearby opponents, encasing them in jade. Talk about a skill pulled straight out of the lore.

“Swoosh, swoosh, stab, *battle cry*.” You get it.

As far as traits go, each minor trait in the Devastation specialization is built around either applying or gaining certain benefits from attacking foes with vulnerability, something that meshes well with the sword’s auto-attack skill chain. Three major traits that I’d personally like to take for a spin are Rapid Lacerations, Jade Echo, and Assassin’s Annihilation. Rapid Lacerations ups skill speed with each stack, which sounds relatively useful, even for the basic auto-attack. The Jade Echo trait allows a revenant to cast Jade Winds when they’re put in the downed state. Of course, this makes it easier for allies to rush in and rally that player or for the downed player to finish-off an enemy and rally themselves. The other professions could benefit from traits like this and some do, but they don’t have quite the same “oomf” as dropping an elite skill when downed. Just imagine if mesmers could cast Time Warp when downed so that allies could rally them faster or they could attack their target faster with quicker skills and recharge times. It’d be great, no? Assassin’s Annihilation is an additional way (third way, actually) for a revenant to siphon health from an enemy. All it requires is that a player hit enemies from the side or behind, which, considering all of the mobility skills a revenant has access to, makes it sound awesome, especially when stacked with Enchanted Daggers and the Focused Siphoning minor trait.

Lots of people love lighting up their game screen with damage numbers and zipping in and out of combat in style, and it begs the questions: are the other legends as powerful and as appealing as Shiro? Some changes have have already been made since the last beta test weekend, but will they be enough? One worry was that the legends fill pretty rigid gameplay roles like the old tank, DPS, and healer trinity, which was partially addressed by allowing the revenant to swap weapons. Even with the weapon swap function, another issue with the revenant seems to be that the weapon sets have a built-in symbiosis with the legend they were released with, giving players little reason to mix weapon and legend combinations. In addition, Game Director Colin Johanson had mentioned in the previous Points of Interest episode that future challenging group content will require some players to focus their character’s roles, which will no doubt raise some questions about hybrid build viability for that content. For now, I’m not too worried. Given enough time, these issues will likely be addressed in the months ahead (or at least I can hope) after feedback from future beta tests. Until then, revel in the Shiro hype; I look forward to testing him out.

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