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State of the Game—November 6, 2006

Night Falls Upon PvP

By Christian Brellisford

Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


Nightfall is upon us, and upon PvP, bringing with it a bevy of changes and improvements. Two new classes debut in Nightfall: the spear throwing Paragon and the scythe wielding Dervish. Both come with lots of skills, enriching the already diverse pool of skills and opening interesting synergistic possibilities with existing professions. Additionally, existing professions gained a number of new skills of their own and underwent extensive balancing.

Also falling into Guild Wars with Nightfall are Elonian-themed guild halls, functionality improvements to PvP character creation, additions to Observer Mode, and the ability to save your character's skill and equipment setup with Templates. The functionality improvements apply retroactively to prior Guild Wars chapters, meaning that even players without Nightfall reap some benefits, which hopefully, will increase or help maintain the overall PvP player base.


The New Professions

Avatar of Grenth
Avatar of Grenth
Avatar of GrenthAvatar of Grenth [Elite]
dervish/Mysticism - Form
Energy: 15
Activation: 2
Duration: 10..45
Recharge: 30
Form. For 10..45 seconds, whenever you use an attack Skill, you also remove 1 Enchantment from your target, and your attacks deal cold damage. This Skill is disabled for 120 seconds.

As with Factions, Nightfall has shaken up the GvG metagame yet again. The new classes provide teams with different options for melee combat and support. Because Dervishes use a scythe with area of effect attacks, they do heavy damage to teams that do not employ proper positioning. Besides merely striking multiple opponents with basic scythe attacks, all Dervish attack skills and associated damage or Condition bonuses also strike in an area. Though Dervishes lack armor when compared to their Warrior counterparts, Dervishes gain survivability with their primary attribute, which gives them Health when Enchantments expire. Many Dervish Enchantment spells, like Heart of Holy Flame or Dust Cloak, work in conjunction with normal attacks to deal extra damage and inflict Conditions. But the most unique thing about the Dervish are Forms. Forms allow Dervishes to transform into an avatar of one of the five Gods and gain powerful abilities, including immunity to Conditions and movement speed boosts, amongst others.

The Paragon is the new ranged class in Nightfall. Paragons attack from a distance by throwing spears, and their attack skills are comparable to Ranger and Warrior skills. Unlike Warriors or Rangers, however, the Paragon supports and strengthens the team with Chants and Shouts. These vocalizations can have defensive or offensive properties and complement the Paragon's primary attribute, Leadership, which gives them free Energy for every ally (including themselves) affected by one of their Chants or Shouts.

Anthem of Flame
Anthem of Flame
Anthem of FlameAnthem of Flame
paragon/Leadership - Chant
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 10
Recharge: 10
Chant. For 10 seconds, the next attack Skill used by each party member within earshot also causes Burning for 1..3 seconds.

Anthem of Flame has quickly become a common skill for Paragons to use. Besides being unlocked by default for PvP-only characters, a lot of teams have Rangers or Warriors who constantly use attack skills, which makes it easy to use while adding extra Conditions. Despite this Anthem's effectiveness, the developing Paragon builds aren't always offensive. Skills like Cautery Signet, Mending Refrain, and Ballad of Restoration can provide solid team-wide support.


 

The Metagame

We are already seeing new trends arise in the GvG landscape because Nightfall has introduced plenty of useful skills that people are incorporating into their builds.

Elementalist flag runners who previously used Windborne Speed or Armor of Mist are now using Storm Djinn's Haste to give them more speed at the cost of Energy loss over time. Fire Elementalists have also started to emerge, due in part to Searing Flames, which deals high damage and also has one of the highest Burning durations in the game. And there were many Fire Magic balance changes made to existing skills that have increased their damage and usefulness.

The Mesmer also received some new skills that are starting to see action. Ether Phantom is quickly becoming a staple on a lot of Mesmer Skill Bars and Web of Disruption causes serious havoc for characters who like to cast a lot of spells. The new Necromancer Curses combined with some rebalanced old ones could trigger a resurgence of Hex-heavy builds.

Nightfall brings some new ideas to the ever-popular Warrior too. The skill "You're All Alone!" has great potential for split style builds. And the elite Headbutt might see some use in combination with the skill Plague Touch.

And Monks have even more healing options at their disposal. Considering the recent nerf to traditional Monk favorites such as using Mesmer skills for Energy management, some of these new options will probably see a lot of use. Healer's Boon, for example, is another maintained Enchantment like the long-popular Divine Boon. But Healer's Boon specifically affects Healing Prayers only, so we could start seeing more pure healing Monks.

Functionality improvements have also affected the metagame. First, there is now a morale boost timer on screen that players can display to show when their next morale boost will be coming. This is a great tool for flag runners who previously had to memorize and keep track of flag capture times. Using this timer, teams can coordinate their position based on impending morale boosts and flag runner movements. Body-blocking will become even more important and effective when you know for sure that you are a mere 10 seconds from a boost. It is much harder to block a runner for 30 seconds than for 10, so some teams may not even bother with a full block until they are closer to a boost.

Second, armor swapping during a PvP battle has been disabled. This means that teams who previously brought extra armor sets on their characters cannot use them. While this may sound like a minor tweak, to the top teams it is actually a major change. Armor swapping allowed for extra armor or Health as well as head-piece swapping for extra attribute bonuses on certain spells. Now teams enter with one set of gear and are forced to use that gear for the whole match.

Overall, Nightfall and general Guild Wars game balances delivered so much that it will take time for guilds to realize the potential effect on everything. But PvP right now is exciting and fresh as people explore the different options with the new skills and classes.


Functionality Improvements

The development team has heard our cries. The game has a whole new interface element introduced to allow PvP characters to create any type of item with any type of modifiers, as long as you have them unlocked.

Once a player has created a default PvP character they can access the new screen in the inventory window by clicking on "PvP Equipment," or by pressing the default key "J". This screen gives you the option of crafting weapons and armor and the ability to equip them immediately for fast-paced creation. The new Insignias allow for certain items to be created for PvP-only characters where previously they had to be found through the PvE portion of the game.

Nightfall has also brought us the new Templates system. A feature that was highly requested, Templates allow players to save their skill layout and item setup. To manage your Templates click the disc icon on your inventory screen and skill screen. They save to your hard drive in the form of a text file which you can access through the game when you load different Templates. You can even share these with other players. Templates mean teams will spend less time gathering and milling about, waiting for people to create characters, and spend more time playing. And that can only be a good thing.

Guilds also now have more learning tools available to them if they aren't part of the top 100. You can now watch your own guild's matches regardless of your rank. They will show up in the Observer menu and have the same 15 minute delay that regular matches have. These will allow lower ranked guilds the chance to watch their matches and try to improve. For tips on learning through Observer Mode check out this previous article.


Christian Brellisford is a college student currently studying video game design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in hopes of pursuing a career in the field. A gamer since an early age, Christian has been involved with Guild Wars since the E3 for Everyone Event in 2004, and currently leads the Spirits of War guild. You can find him in game under the name Saidin Writer.