Me, Myself and Shiro: Revenant Beta Impressions

Since the previous beta test, the revenant had received a lot of changes before being made available again to players in the first official Beta Weekend Event. Like probably everyone with an interest in the profession, I was eager to see how these changes had allowed the revenant to mature.

By serendipity, I happened to go for the same Jalis/Shiro arrangement that seemed to be the most popular during the weekend. Simply put, this is probably because both legends reward power: Mallyx is, after all, condition-based, and Ventari largely appeared only when people thought such support was needed. With the option to bring two weaponsets now available, I again did what probably the majority of rev testers did: hammer on one swap to have a ranged attack, sword on the other in order to try the new thing.

On the whole, I found the mainhand sword to be a fairly comfortable weapon. The offhand sword, however, I found rather challenging to use effectively in a PvE environment: there were few situations where I really wanted to Grasping Shadow a single opponent back with me (a trick which I expect will lead to many an assassination in PvP) while Duelist’s Preparation could be difficult to trigger for Shackling Wave against the slow attacks typically encountered in a PvE environment. After some time – again, like many players – I switched to the offhand axe instead, and found that much more suitable for PvE: Frigid Blitz provides an alternative to the more expensive and generally less impressive (but cooldown-free) Phase Traversal, while Temporal Rift can set enemies up for the line attack of Brutal Blade or bring foes together for additional effect from Rift Slash.

The axe offhand proved more comfortable to use, at least in PvE, than the sword.

The axe offhand proved more comfortable to use, at least in PvE, than the sword.

However, it’s the Shiro legend that’s the main draw. Previously, the revenant did have a bit of an issue where it didn’t entirely feel as if the legends could be used together – Jalis and Ventari could work well, but generally it often felt like you were better just focusing on one. Shiro, though, feels like a legend that can complement or be complemented by all of them. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re relying more on straight damage or condition damage, Impossible Odds will let you increase the pain either way, and an escape skill that’s also a stunbreak and snare removal is always useful to have on your bar. Phase Traversal can be a bit situational, as can Jade Winds – but the area control effect provided by Jade Winds is one where it can certainly be said that when it’s useful, it’s really useful. One experience I particularly remember was an event involving Husks that can only be damaged once their defiance bar was broken: A couple of Shiro revenants were capable of taking them out in pretty short order, and making it hard for anything else to speed past as well.

The one legend that I’m not sure Shiro would combine well with, fittingly enough, is Ventari. Enchanted Daggers, while a good skill as long as you activate it at the right time, does have the disadvantage of having most of its healing delayed, meaning it might not help save you if you’re on the verge of death. The fast heals of Empowering Misery and Soothing Stone can serve you well here as a backup, but Ventari, while good at sustained healing, is also lacking in the ability to self-heal by a lot on short notice. While players who plan ahead can probably make the combination work, I suspect that for many it will be safer to avoid that particular mix.

Ventari offers good party support, but is probably not the best choice when you need to give yourself a big chunk of extra durability RIGHT NOW!!!

However, I’ll have to admit I never actually got to trying Shiro out with Mallyx or Ventari. Simply put, I was having too much fun combining with Jalis. Reading the above, one might be forgiven for thinking I was just running Jalis for the emergency heal, and while I did invoke him for that reason at times, Jalis also felt like he offered a lot of contingency options, particularly for group play. Inspiring Reinforcement provides for a source of stability when you need it (although it appears to have been substantially nerfed for the next BWE), and the Rite of the Great Dwarf allowed for some protection of allies when, for whatever reason (possibly because you’d just drained Shiro), Jade Winds wasn’t going to help. Last, and certainly not least, Vengeful Hammers gave a build that was otherwise relatively lacking in area effects a means of laying the smackdown on multiple enemies at once – although one issue to watch out for is that Vengeful Hammers never seemed to survive an activation of Unrelenting Assault. Possibly because tracking the hammers while the revenant teleports around is just too difficult, or possibly because the hammers inevitably hit an obstacle and were lost in the process.

This last, however, appears to be a synergy that will be gone in the next build – Vengeful Hammers is having its damage significantly reduced to make it more of a ‘tanking’ skill. I’m a little ambivalent about this – while ArenaNet is looking to give Jalis a ‘tanky’ feel, I think it is good to give the legends options that allow them to act outside their intended role. During the BWE, I felt that there was a often a good flow of switching between Jalis and Shiro even when you mostly wanted damage – with the change, I could see this turning into Jalis only being invoked when the player needs to amplify their ability to withstand hits while Shiro is the go-to in order to inflict damage. On the other hand, that in itself could generate an interesting flow of legend-swapping in more difficult battles, where the player goes to Jalis when they’re knocked down in health and need to recover a bit and back to Shiro when their health is back up and the feel ready to go back on the offensive – while the lower focus on power-based damage may make Jalis/Mallyx a better fit.

Shiro Tagachi. All of the mobility and deadliness of a well-played thief. None of the cowardly hiding.

Overall, the feel of playing the Shiro legend was very much like playing a thief without stealth – or in other words, dare, I say it, a Guild Wars 1 assassin. If you have the hammer out, you have plenty of tools to hang back and pressure the enemy while employing Riposting Shadows to pull away whenever they got too close. With melee weapons, you have the ability to jump in, dish out some real pain, and get out again… as long as you remain mindful of your energy.

Regarding the profession as a whole, I think the BWE has shown that it is shaping up nicely. Before, it was incomplete, and it felt like it. Now… underwater skills excepted, of course – it feels like the fundamentals are down (although I do think it could use an alternative ranged weapon), and we can start to get a feel on how it’s likely to play out in the game. And thus far, its playstyle is proving to be an interesting one – having the ability to swap between both weapons and legends gives it some of the feel of the elementalist and engineer in flowing from one set of skills to another as the situation demands. However, while good elementalist and engineer play tends to be focused on combos, the energy-limited gameplay of the revenant makes it feel more like it rewards choosing the right skill for the situation, rather than the ability to press a lot of buttons quickly and in the right order. This gives it a more relaxed playstyle while still having the feel of greater in-combat adaptability of the elementalist and engineer.

Of course, while this is all very well, the past week has brought the reveal of the final pieces of the Revenant puzzle: the implementation of underwater skills and the unveiling of the Glint-oriented specialisation, the Herald. Next up, we will put the Herald under the microscope and look at what it may mean for the Revenant.

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