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Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire's Soulbeast Specialization Was The Hardest To Make Work

With the PVP and WvW demo happening this weekend, we talk to one of their designers about the Elite Specializations.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

Earlier this month, ArenaNet surprised everyone with the announcement of Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, the second expansion for its massively multiplayer online (MMO) title. Path of Fire sends the heroes of Tyria into the region of Elona hunting the god of war and fire. More importantly, the expansion offers up new maps, mounts for the first time in the series, and new Elite Specializations for every Profession.

The Elite Specializations move each profession into different directions, offering new playstyles. The Deadeye gives Thieves a chance to deal heavy damage from long range via a rifle, while the Weaver is an Elementalist who uses swords in melee range while switching between elemental attunements to improve their skills. It's all about new ideas for the Professions and more variety.

This weekend will offer players a chance to try all of the Elite Specializations in player-vs-player (PVP) and World-vs-world (WvW) modes. The demo will be available in-game from today until Sunday, August 20. Ahead of the demo, we spoke briefly with Skills Team game designer Robert Gee about some of the ideas behind Elite Specializations.

USgamer: With Heart of Thorns, newer Elite Specializations felt like the latest shiny thing for the existing Guild Wars 2 Professions. How do you design new avenues for these professions that feel meaningful, while not making existing specializations (say Dragonhunter vs. Firebrand) feel second class?

Skills Team designer Robert Gee: With Path of Fire specializations we took a harder look at providing meaningful tradeoffs to some of the new abilities gained in the specializations. The Deadeye, for example, does not have access to their most powerful rifle attack unless they kneel first, meaning there is a clear sacrifice of mobility for damage. This means that even though Deadeye can do superior ranged damage, a player might still need to switch to a different specialization for a fight that demands more mobility.

Players will always gravitate towards the newest toy, but we hope that by having these types of tradeoffs in the class, there are reasons to choose one over the other once the shininess wears off.

USgamer: What was the hardest of the Path of Fire elite specialization to make work from concept to execution?

Gee: Probably the Ranger's Soulbeast. Merging with your pet required programmers to develop new tech as well as a lot of work to get the effects when merging to look right. There were also many pet skills that had to be translated to player skills for use in Beastmode. Conceptually it was pretty simple as "petless ranger," but because Ranger is so fundamentally tied both in skills and traits to their pet, executing on this ended up touching a huge number of other areas of the class.

USgamer: Are there any of the Elite Specializations that you have an eye on already for WvW and PVP?

Gee: Internally, there are some we've identified as potentially having a significant impact on battlefield tactics. The Deadeye could really shake things up in large scale combat, since it can be hard to identify the person who is singling you out in a large mob, and the Spellbreaker [for Warriors] offers a new interesting tool in its elite skill, which can deny boons to a large area of play. We're interested in seeing how that changes the playstyle of large groups in WvW since boon stacking is a widely used combat strategy.

USgamer: Speaking of the Dragonhunter, that specialization felt like it was a bandaid to some holes in the base Guardian class. Has there been thought given to a rebuild or remix of some of the core class ideas alongside these new elite specializations?

Gee: Specializations are, at their core, a way for players to explore a different way to play their chosen profession. Dragonhunter is an exploration of the Guardian as a long range fighter using the Guardian's themes of light and protection. We wouldn't redesign the core Guardian class to be better at ranged combat because that would defeat the purpose of having the Dragonhunter specialization.

With that said, we have done some rebalancing to the core specializations along with these new specializations in order to make sure the core specializations keep up with our evolving gameplay standards, but our goal isn't to heavily overhaul the core of any class.

USgamer: I assume you've been watching the forums and larger Guild Wars 2 community. Is there any current theorycrafting about the new specializations that you find outright wrong or that you want to clarify?

Gee: There's been a lot of theorycrafting and discussion around the new elite specializations already, and we're excited to see what players come up with when they get their hands on the elite specializations during the PvP and WvW demo this coming weekend (August 18-20).

Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire will launch on PC on September 22, 2017.

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About the Author
Mike Williams avatar

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor, USgamer

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.