Coming to the recent Heart of Thorns beta weekend event, I had my heart set on the reaper specialization as the one I would play most. The other three core elite specializations simply didn’t provide buoyancy to my personal flotilla the way the reaper did. However, after playing the reaper for twenty minutes and realizing all of said buoyancy was unfortunately not present in said flotilla, I dejectedly moved on to half-heartedly testing the other available core elite specializations with some of our other staff, which resulted in many shenanigans. To my astonishment, it was the tempest that reinflated my proverbial raft and whisked me down a river of exciting and intriguing gameplay.
That isn’t to say that the tempest is perfect, far from it. Overall, however, I feel like the tempest is the easiest elite specialization to integrate into pre-existing builds and playstyles, making it very appealing to people like myself who are very fond of their current playstyles and have little desire to change them too drastically. This is due, in part, to the main criticism I aimed at the tempest in my original article when it was announced. My complaint was that the tempest, while featuring several new buttons to press and skills to use for elementalists, didn’t really achieve much that elementalists weren’t already achieving in spades. I can now say with relative certainty that this is absolutely true. The tempest doesn’t turn the elementalist profession on its head, nor does it broaden its horizons all that much. Now, that can be a bad thing or a good thing depending on what type of player you are, but let’s explore why players like myself will find it to be rather marvelous.
First of all, let’s go over what I enjoyed the most about the tempest: overloads! The new overload system is pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Sure, Overload Earth may be all pomp and circumstance with little to contribute to an actual combat scenario, but I found the rest of the overloads to be quite spectacular. Overload Air is great for players (like myself) who like cranking out vast amounts of damage, as is Overload Fire, though to a slightly lesser extent. Conversely, Overload Water acts as a rather powerful heal, both for yourself and your party members, and I found that it got me out of many a tight spot. And, to be perfectly fair, Overload Earth has an absolutely superlative skill animation and is a boatload of fun to use. The immobilize at the end is nice as well, but right now I feel like there isn’t enough to the ride-around segment of the skill’s arsenal to make it worth the increased cooldown on earth attunement. I’m an attunement swapper, and if I’m going to sacrifice that attunement cooldown, there had better be a pretty good reason, which I felt like the fire, water, and air overloads provided, but that earth did not.
Which brings me to my next point. Many people have fretted that the increased attunement cooldown that results from the activation of an overload would be the bane of their existence, therefore rendering the tempest all but useless. I had this fear myself, but after playing the specialization, I can safely say that my fears were all for naught. For starters, there is a trait in the tempest line, Harmonious Conduit, that reduces this extra attunement recharge. This trait is a must have for attunement swappers who want to go the tempest route, especially those who utilize all four attunements regularly. Furthermore, each overload has a casting time of 2-5 seconds, which ensures that a good chunk of that extra recharge time will be spent being useful rather than spamming auto attack.
Overloads are not all the tempest brings to the table, however. Specializing as a tempest will also grant elementalists the ability to use warhorn in their offhand slot, and it isn’t half bad. It’s nothing to write home about, but it definitely has some useful abilities, particularly for support oriented characters. If you’re like me and you like using your elementalist to devastate foes with “dat deeps,” you might want to stick with your dagger for most encounters though. The warhorn’s strongest skillset, in my opinion, is in the water attunement, where it grants the player two substantial heals, both of which are moving fields. Its air skills are also excellent, as Cyclone hits relatively hard and Lightning Orb is positively devastating if aimed properly. However, the fire and earth skills are underwhelming at best, though earth attunement’s Sand Squall does provide excellent protection and boon support. Again, warhorn is mostly a weapon for those who favor the support role, and overall it features a well designed and relatively useful skillset.
Next we have the tempest’s new set of utility shouts. This is where I felt the specialization really under-delivered. That isn’t to say the shouts are useless, merely that I wouldn’t slot them over the utilities I currently slot on my elementalist. They have decent enough skill effects, but there are simply better utilities out there for the most part. I would, however, highly recommend the air shout, “Eye of the Storm!,” as it provides both super speed and a stun break, both of which are highly sought after effects. I would also recommend the heal, “Wash the Pain Away!,” as it provides a very substantial heal to allies as well as the caster. On the whole, I definitely see people slotting those two shouts regularly.
But what about the other shouts? Well, it isn’t that they’re bad, they simply cater to a specific playstyle. The other three non-elite shouts all grant an aura when cast (in addition to other effects), which sync up rather well with a couple traits from the tempest line that provide buffs to auras and their users. Auras are relatively helpful in a group scenario, and should a support-minded player choose to fully utilize them, these shouts will likely see significant use. However, for players who prefer a more offensive approach, there are better options.
Now, let’s take just a minute to discuss the elite shout, “Rebound!” To put it bluntly, this elite is terrible. That isn’t to say it’s a terrible skill, because it isn’t, and used in the right scenario it has the potential to be phenomenal. However, it’s a terrible elite skill. I slotted it for a while, finding it to be utterly useless both in a solo environment and with a party. While it does fit with the tempest’s support theme, I feel that 25% cooldown reduction is too insignificant to warrant the elite slot with a 60 second cooldown. This is a skill that will only be useful in a meticulously planned environment, and I can’t see players slotting it regularly outside of PvP, where I admit this skill’s implications become much more influential. However, I am, to use the technical term, a “nub” in the realm of PvP, and in PvE, I only see this skill being quickly slotted for certain boss encounters, after which it will be immediately changed out for Fiery Greatsword. It will have its place in PvE, but that place will be small and remote.
With all of this information in mind, you can begin to see why I believe the tempest is so easy to integrate into current builds. Its biggest asset, the attunement overloads, can be integrated into an existing build with only a change in trait lines, requiring little in the way of definitive change and providing a good source of extra support and DPS. The shouts require a bit more commitment, but are less useful, and the warhorn need only be slotted if one’s playstyle is already inclined in the support direction, in which case your playstyle will likely be bolstered. What I see many elementalists doing come Heart of Thorns is traiting into tempest for the overloads and leaving everything else about their build unchanged. There will also be those who wish to fully utilize the “auramancer” playstyle, but since support isn’t as popular a playstyle, I think this choice will be less popular, even if it is quite viable. At the end of the day, the tempest provides the player with some new toys without taking them out of their comfort zone and plopping them in the middle of a foreign country, and believe me when I say these toys pack a serious punch!