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Thieving Thoughts

Channel your inner ninja with a thief!

Thieves in Guild Wars 2 are masters of stealth and trickery in order to defeat their enemies. This is an incredibly fun class and, ironically, is one that neither of us have max leveled yet even though we enjoy them. Don’t click that back button yet, veteran thieves; some of what we have to say may be helpful (and you may even be able to help us in turn!). For full disclosure, San’s current highest thief is nearly 40 and Star’s is only 17. This is a class that does things that continue to expand on our play styles, which made learning it somewhat challenging in the past. With melee and mid-range capabilities, players who like playing long-range classes may find adapting to thieves strange at first.

With the NPE slowing the number of weapon skills available at a time, we found we were able to re-discover, or correct our understanding, of skills better than we had in the past. The change to the default heal skill (now Signet of Malice instead of Hide in Shadows) also lends some sustainability to these early levels.

The starting dagger shows off the class’s melee skills and works well to teach about initiative, one of the thief’s unique game mechanics. The slower pace of NPE allows a person new to thieves to explore various attack combinations and learn the role initiative plays in the timing of attacks. Thieves also have a number of weapons that they can wield in their main hand, a stark change from the engineer of our last exploration. At level 5, a thief’s stealing ability unlocks. Taking a variety of items from enemies adds a new layer of complexity and opens up interesting possibilities and strategies to explore. Many of these items, like the pistol skills, provide condition damage or crowd control. The addition of the offhand weapon at level 7 increases the thief’s versatility. New players may be surprised that different weapon combinations change the number 3 weapon skill; an interesting touch that can only be found on thieves. As veteran players still relatively new to thieves, the pacing of weapon skill acquisition felt just right. However, the opening of utility skills after level 13 seemed incredibly sluggish in comparison.

Getting these new utility skills, though, serves only to expand the class’s capabilities and increase the fun factor. For example, the skill Roll for Initiative refills the initiative bar, allowing more attacks. Other utilities add further condition damage, such as Caltrops and Spider Venom. There are also several trap skills to help slow enemies down or stealth, allowing the thief that extra second to strike from the shadows!

Underwater stealth action

Catch me if you can!

For Star the teen levels were spent learning the finer points of underwater combat, something she had rarely explored with other characters finding that the skills provided her much needed maneuverability. This was the first time Star had spent a large amount of time underwater, gaining a number of levels fighting in the waters near Caledon Forest. On dry land, the thief’s skills allow the player to shadowstep, teleporting back and forth throughout combat.

San, on the other hand, found herself noticing more of the changes made to Wayfarer Foothills, her favorite starter map, since her thief was able to roll most enemies with minimal damage sustained, even after switching heal skills. Of the changes to Wayfarer, the removal of many of the juvenile animals to the southern portion of the map is less intrusive, while the removal of the dredge renown heart in Molensk/Outcast’s Cleft leaves the zone without a purpose despite the fact that the heart’s infrastructure is still present. This removal, like that of the Trading Post agent from Snowlord’s Gate, leaves a visible void which is jarring when first encountered, making us wonder at the thinking of leaving evidence of a previous iteration visible in the world since these changes have not been connected with the Living Story.

San enjoyed this leveling test so much she forgot weapon swapping opened at 15 and continued with her double dagger, dagger/pistol options until her thief received her level 16 rewards after completing a champion group event.

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Whee!

The joy of the thief character may stem from their acrobatic fighting style, shadowstepping backward and forward, using extra abilities granted by stealing from others, and donning stealth mode to avoid enemies. They are also good at supporting groups not only from their ability to strike fast and escape through shadowsteps, but from their mid-range shortbow skills that create poison and explosive AoE fields for a team.

Personal Story Notes
One area we haven’t discussed in our previous posts is the personal story. The new chapter blocks, matching the style of the new Living Story releases, has hit a sore point with many veteran players for how it locks a player into experiencing the personal story not when the player chooses to but when the Story Journal’s structure dictates. San is in that camp since she’s a fan of lore and story and feels the Personal Story chapters break immersion since the story steps only become available every 10 levels. The chapter breaks also keep a player from testing their own skill if they want to throw an alt into a higher level step. Granted, with the change to when primary attributes are earned, this change is partially understandable but it still doesn’t address the immersion factor.

For Star, finishing the first chapter and starting the next ten levels felt fast. However, by level 15 the stretch between the end of the first chapter and the beginning of the second felt unnecessarily drawn out.  As a solution, she moved beyond the starter map, through Lion’s Arch and into other low level zones, expanding the world until the next chapter without fear of running into overpowered enemies.  This also provides more skill points and events in order to continue leveling.

Conclusions
Overall, we both felt thieves are less squishy than before, but note that the stat slump problem still exists. We feel that players can combat this by adding crafted armor and weapons to their leveling. Though we have not done this in our test runs, our experience also tells us that experimenting with weapon sigils and armor runes could help as well.

~ San & Star

Next time, we lay waste with warriors!

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Exploring Engineers

Like to make things go BOOM? Try an Engineer!

Engineers, the gadget and gizmo heavy profession, go through the early levels without starting to experience any of its cool factor until level 13. On a class that’s built to rely on its utility slot skills, early life with pistol, rifle, and shield weapon sets that are more defensive than offensive means kiting and dodging are a must, and the newly built engineer will be forced into a defensive, condition-damage heavy build. For new players who aren’t used to these mechanics, this is a class where they can get a lot of practice early on before using their slot skills. San didn’t find this as limiting as Star since she ran her max level engi with elixir builds until he was into his 70s while Star’s max-level engineer relied heavily on turrets and kits from early on.

Even so, relying on defensive weapons felt limiting to both of us and we feel veterans may find this frustrating unless they’re good at endurance and health management. We also wondered if new players would stick with the class since they won’t hit the fun zone of this profession until the teen levels. Perhaps not knowing and being surprised won’t bother new players or players new to the class. By level 10, though, we both felt that engineers running personal story steps could do with at least one utility skill either for greater survivability or better offensive power.

In order to combat the lack of utility skills and the stat slump, players may want to coddle their engineers, attaining a higher level than necessary before starting story steps or moving to higher level areas. A recommendation often seen in map chat these days is to level in all of the level 1-15 starter maps first.

Star felt that young engineers would be well-served by opening a turret, a kit, and a gadget as soon as possible in order to maximize their versatility and relieve the monotony induced by the engineer’s limited weapon-based skills. Once utility slots open, amassing skill points in order to open more options becomes more important than the skills provided by weapons. This includes underwater skills. Even though the fifth water skill opened at level 23, Star had already developed the habit of switching to grenades or bombs when underwater and used those instead of the harpoon gun. San feels the engineer harpoon gun skills are fun and more offensive than the land weapon skills so moved into a mix of harpoon gun, turrets, an elixir and gadget while underwater. (In reality, we just like to hear the BOOM sounds.)

gw461At level 17, San broke the NPE with a bug she thought had been fixed in a patch: she equipped a kit and suddenly unlocked the last slot skill and the elite skill slot. On checking to see whether selected slot skills would disappear when unequipping the kit, she selected two skills which did not disappear, and suddenly had a full land-based build at level 17 (underwater the elite was still locked).

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Full build minus the still locked F4 skill which opened at level 19.

Star also noticed this glitch but didn’t try equipping more skills. It’s worth noting, however, that this bug will likely be fixed if it hasn’t been already.

Conclusions
One aspect of our study is to explore the stat slump and stat burst. As part of this, Star noted that her engineer’s health stat was affected by a near-constant buff. At nearly every level, through level 23, this buff remained, even when he stood naked in Blazeridge Steppes. However, at levels 16 and 17, and only for these levels, this buff disappeared. The only thing that might have been providing a passive buff was the healing skill which is odd since the default heal skill is Elixir H which has no noted passive health regeneration. It is also possible that this was caused by the profession-based vitality boost, though we don’t claim to be sure (see gallery of screencaps below).

In our opinion, Engineers are a slow build to greatness and their reliance on utility skills for weapon functionality has been greatly limited by the NPE. However, players willing to put in the effort to level them and collect skill points won’t be disappointed. The slow opening of function skills may allow a player new to the class to experiment and learn how to incorporate these extra skills into their strategy. In a way, this slow start acts as a balance to the later awesomeness of this class. Whether or not it is worth waiting for will depend on the individual player.

~San & Star

Next time, we plunder with thieves!