Elite skills have played a large part in games for a long time. Whether it’s the Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy or the powerful skills available in SMITE, part of their beauty is the fact that they have a tactical use but also that when they do become available, they have always turned the tide of battle in your favour. It doesn’t mean that they’re an instant “I WIN!” button, but there’s no doubting their power. Before playing Ullr in SMITE I used to play Anubis. He’s a ranged class that has few outs and requires precise positioning. His Elite skill is called Death Gaze and while it might appear piddly, if you pair it with Grasping Hands and Mummify you were almost guaranteed to wipe out most of what was in front of you.
It’s over the last few days, then, that I’ve been thinking about the implementation of Elite skills in Guild Wars 2 and as someone who spent a great deal of time in Guild Wars, I’m still incredibly dissatisfied with what’s on offer here. When you were constructing your build in Guild Wars you’d tend to pick your Elite skill first and then revolve the rest of your skills around it. In contrast, Guild Wars 2’s Elite skill is not only an after thought on many builds but largely irrelevant. With the exception of a couple that I’ll discuss later most classes happily survive without and rarely miss their Elite even when it’s on cooldown.
The reality when it came to the game launching was that the vast majority of Elite skills are poor, largely ignorable and do little to change the way in which players or enemies react to them
When Elite skills were first announced for Guild Wars 2, Isiah Cartwright was quoted as saying Elite skills offer an “ace-up-your-sleeve-type of play” with the core element being to create a “moment of power.” John Peters stated that “Every single elite is either a big shapeshift, or summoning some crazy weapon, or summon a bundle. There are no elites that don’t change how you play in a very drastic way.” John Peters has also gone on to say that “In PvP, it creates a mind duel. Who is going to throw it first? Whoever throws it first, loses.”
The reality when it came to the game launching was that the vast majority of Elite skills are poor, largely ignorable and do little to change the way in which players or enemies react to them. Each class has 3 Elite skills and I would state that two thirds of those could be removed and no one would even bat an eyelid. Even the Elite skills which are “good” are still incredibly dull and are fire and forget spells that most players can too easily avoid.
If we take the Necromancer as an example, its three Elite skills are:
- Flesh Golem (Summon a flesh golem to attack foes with crippling claws.)
- Plague (Become a virulent cloud and inflict multiple conditions on foes you touch)
- Lich Form (Assume the form of a lich for a brief time.)
Of these three, the only powerful Elite is the Lich Form and that’s primarily because of the fact its auto attack (Deathly Claws) hits like a truck if you’re using Berserker gear. If you’re hit several times with this, regardless of class, it’s highly likely you’re going to die. The fact you turn into a giant Lich that looks awesome also solidifies that yes, this is an Elite skill. The problem however is that you’re slow, the size of a house and a single Corrupt Boon reduces you to a useless mess. Using Lich Form is often suicide and that, for an Elite skill, is bizarre.
Sadly, the remaining two aren’t much better. Flesh Golem should be removed from the game simply because its damage is pitiful, it dies to any amount of area effect and your control over it is limited to only asking it Charge. I also think for a hulking mass of bones and corruption it looks pretty poor. If you’re fortunate enough to ever see it Charge rather than get stuck on a stray Ant, its single Knockdown is negligible considering the cooldown. As for Plague Form, I was expecting a huge violent cloud of toxins. Instead we’re given a skill that has almost no animation besides the tiny buzz of Locusts and one that causes so little damage through Conditions I wouldn’t ever consider it an offensive Elite. What it is used for is to safe stomp and to Blind opposing players on a Capture Point: hardly worth the large cooldown.
I’m not suggesting every single Elite in the game is worthless because some are actually quite strong. Engineer Supply Crate, Renewed Focus, Entangle and Battle Standard spring to mind. The problem with even these is the fact that their impact is still so small. Having your Virtues recharged, or resurrecting downed players when using a Banner is hardly awe inspiring. Even the Moa has been tweaked and changed to the point where its Flee is so strong it’s actually hard to die when turned into the feathery bird. Unless facing an incredibly coordinated strike, you can simply retreat to safety before quickly returning unharmed. It might mean your Control Point is decapped but you’ve not given the opposition a free 5 points and nor are your team down to 4 men.
What I’d like to see is for every single Elite skill to be revisited and boosted in power. Many wouldn’t require a great deal of work and with only a few tweaks would become something to fear. I think that’s incredibly important, especially when in their current form I’d rather take a standard skill over many of the available Elites. To go into combat against another person and actually be worried about whether or not they have their Elite skill ready is something I sorely miss. The only class that I ever feel this from is the Engineer and its dreaded Supply Crate. To have that dropped on your head genuinely can turn the tide in the favour of the Engineer and that’s a good thing. In contrast I never face an Elementalist and think “Oh lord, I wonder if he’s got Tornado or Glyph of Elementals equipped.”
As one example of an Elite change and to use Plague Form, I see no reason why it has 3 separate skills to drip feed pitiful amounts of Conditions onto foes. What it should do is cast all conditions onto players you touch for its entire duration and it should tick rapidly. Players should want to avoid the cloud at all costs and do everything they can to keep it away from others. When you see a Necromancer running towards a Capture Point your instant reaction should be to ensure that if he does have Plague Form that it’s impact is minimized as quickly as possible.
Having now had my say on Elite skills and as is becoming customary with these articles, I’m giving away 1600 Gems for your thoughts. Just let me know in the comments below what you think of Guild Wars 2’s Elite skills and if you could change one, how you would do it. The winner will receive 1600 Gems and the Closing date is 31st December. Winners will be notified several days later via Disqus.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.