[GW2] Front Loaded

The thief profession is starting to get pieced together as fans act like archaeologists piecing together what was once whole from fragments offered by GDC ’11 videos. The thief seems pretty well understood being a very mobile, very dangerous, and very squishy class in Guild Wars 2. It can steal skills from enemies, go into a Predator-mode stealth, shadow-step (warp), and so on. It’s a pretty cool profession that seems a little more complex than the other 5 released professions. It has one mechanic though that breaks the rules. It’s weapon skills have the costs front-loaded, which amplifies the risk for each weapon skill activation. But, that seems to be what the thief is all about, the Master of Risk.

Only one other profession seems to break the rules, when the necromancer goes into Death Shroud instead of a downed state. The thief also walks its own route for its weapon skills. The weapon skills rely on the new resource called initiative. A thief gets 10 dots of initiative, and its weapon skills cost energy and 0-7 dots of initiative. That way the cost of each weapon skill is fully front-loaded, and the beneficial trade off is that there is then no recharge (a back-loaded cost) to the weapon skills.

The thief still has a backloaded cost, but the pool of initiative dots are spread across all 5 weapon skills instead of having a backloaded cost for each skill, such as recharge. This pool of initiative will refresh at approximately 1 dot every second. As the backloaded cost is less pressing for each skill, skilled thieves will be able to chain together dangerous successions of skills between weapons skills with initiative cost and those without.

The Guild Wars 2 warrior profession took the old skill chain, similar to a Guild Wars assassin’s skill chain, which required a set succession of skills. The thief got the grown-up version because the skill successions can be amended on the fly and the best skill chains will require a rhythm to balance initiative costs. So while using Backstab (3 initiative) to leap in on an enemy, Twisting Fang (0 initiative), and then attacking and stealthing with Cloak and Dagger (6 initiative) is going to be a pretty easy combo to understand, it also will leave the thief with unused initiative. Better thieves might throw out a Dancing Dagger, mid-combo, to help with crowd control during consecutive Twisting Fangs. The best thieves are going to live on the razor’s edge having a sustained skill barrage with going as close to zero initiative as possible.

A lot of people are concerned with thief being a step-from-stealth, “alpha strike” monster, feared and hated by all across MMO-dom. Will the front-loaded costs help to balance the thief with its impressive abilities? It’s going to be interesting to see that answer. One thing is apparent though, a thief left at zero initiative after trying to take down an enemy is going to be in trouble if that enemy is still standing.

There are two professions left, and after the base four the professions seem to be getting more complicated. Many believe we have the mesmer and “engineer” left, and the mesmer is arguable one of the most complex classes in the original Guild Wars. It’s going to be interesting to see if they further increase the bar for skilled play.

the final gunshot was an exclamation mark

10 thoughts on “[GW2] Front Loaded”

  1. My knee-jerk initial assessment is that the Thief will in fact be very hard to balance, at least in PvP. I think we’re going to see a lot of alpha-strike-from-stealth scenarios, because burst damage is just better.

    Not that that’s terrible, mind. WoW’s Rogue worked the same way, and it was always one of the most skillful classes. The real balance issues there came from stunlocks, not alpha-strikes.

    The real factor that will determine if Thief players try to maintain a small reserve of initiative, is how vital their utility weapon skills are. If they have lots of weapon skills that apply daze, stun, knockdown, etc, then I imagine they’ll avoid alpha strike tactics in order to always have that control trump card up their sleeve.

    On the other hand, if the choice is “do a ton or damage in one packet”, or keep a few pips of initiative for some movement or personal utility skill, I think the dodge-roll and their non-weapon skills will give them enough outs that they can safely say “I’m going to just do as much damage as possible”.

    Obviously this is just my hunch, I imagine my opinion on this will change as I learn more.

    1. yah I don’t really think this will be a problem for people who played pvp against assassins using shadowform before the many nerfs, there is always a way around such things, plus the stealth seems more like anti aggro than anything else. as well as A-net despite a lot of nerfs that I’m not all happy about, is fairly well in pvp/pve balancing

  2. Honestly, I’m not sure it will be able to work in the one-chain-one-kill like in other games or GW1. The assassin was like this but it was such a glass jaw profession it could be shattered if unaware. In GW2, the Thief has medium armor, not light like the assassin. This might also mean they have balanced damage the same way, but decreased instead since they theoretically would have more time before being downed, thus wouldn’t need to do all their damage all at once. It also sounds like lots of diving in and out of battle will be necessary for the GW2 Thief, instead of having as many skills that “blocked” large amounts of attacks.

    1. In fact, assassins in GW1 are wearing medium class armor (70) like dervishes and rangers. What makes assassins so prone to go down quickly in PvP in GW1 is not their lack of armor but rather the fact that assassins become priority targets as soon as they show up in the fight. The danger they represent is their weakness in the end.

      1. Good point. It is going to be very interesting if thieves even become the priority target seeing as they can really flit around the battlefield. Frustrating target.

  3. I’m hoping that the hoo-hah of last week won’t somewhat dampen the excitement over the thief release, I know the Guardian was the most anticipated reveal for a long while and I hope this new class will get its due.

    I’m reserving my judgement (and my blog posts) till Thursday when we’ve seen the entire reveal, but the thief looks like good fun. Almost interesting enough to draw me away from the ranger (yes please dual pistols) – but as I’ve said before, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the final adventurer.

    I really can’t wait to see where they go with the Mesmer – as you say, its one of the more complex GW1 professions (and so, I believe, closer to the style of GW2 than any other profession – even in its original design) and I its going to be very interesting to see the “hook” they give it.

  4. Small correction up-front: we’ve seen 6 pip skills now, and a single 7 pip one – so 0-7 is the probable range, unless something trumps Head Shot… and it’s a gaming law that nothing trumps a head shot. ^_^

    I find the mobility aspect of the thief infinitely more appealing than that of the GW1 assassin, where you had to give up slots for dedicated skills & (more importantly) faff around trying to target an appropriate ally to actually retreat.
    I’m loving all the skills which are big hits in their own right, yet also incorporate an advance/retreat/stealth manuever – much more elegant.

    Quite agree with you on the increasing complexity of reveals, though that’s not necessarily deliberate; Anet always say they release professions as they finalize them, and the more complicated a profession is to play the harder it must be to design & balance.

    ‘Alpha striking’ is ferocious, but I think the response has been a little short on memory…

    a] Warrior is packed with “closers” (as Anet dubbed them at the time) that propel them forwards, and their shutdown/closer Shield Bash (charge forward + stun) is technically a more devastating advance than any of the thief leaps seen so far.

    b] THERE ARE NO RED DOTS ON THE MINIMAP (upper case just about justified ^_^) = someone standing behind a broad tree or /kneel-ing behind a low wall is as invisible to opponents as a Stealthed thief.
    Unless there are PvP maps designed like gladatorial arenas, players are going to have to expect their human opponents to strike from any possible angle regardless of profession.

    Purely going by the effects & numbers seen, I’ll guess the dark horse aspect of the thief is going to be their dazing capabilities – little attention for those…

    Factor 1] There are no vanilla interrupts in GW2, so the interrupts built into dazing, stunning & knocks are the surrogates – of those, dazing is the mildest and hence the lowest cost.

    Factor 2] Thief attack don’t have recharge times, instead using the initiative system that ensures they’re never more than 5-7 seconds away from their strongest skills – if they can avoid the necessity to spend initiative elsewhere.

    Factor 3] Thieves enjoy a 7 pip medium range dazing off hand pistol attack (Head Shot), and a 6 pip dazing main hand sword attack (Pistol Whip) while wielding said off hand pistol.

    Factor 4] Bullets are very hard to dodge, since they move almost faster than the eye can see!

    Add them together and you have a profession who can reliably open fights at range with an interrupt that disables the foe’s skills for X seconds, can use the same skill again 4 seconds later, then again & again with 7 second intervals.
    Deduct 1 second from each wait if willing & able to get in close.

    Against a tough monster, boss or hapless PvP opponent, that degree of shutdown is both terrifying and way beyond the other professions revealed so far; any profession can deal damage well, but the thief standing back from the damage dealer with their pistol held high could prove the more decisive combatant.

Comments are closed.