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