Last weekend going to PAX East one of the most anticipated titles for me was Guild Wars 2. Being a player of the original Guild Wars there were certain things that I was expecting from the original to transfer over into Guild Wars 2, some of them glorious like epic adventures with a diverse party of friends all working together through varied landscapes and locales. While others made me cringe, like the thought of Prince Rurik, an NPC ally, running off to get himself killed again which meant the restart of the mission. But after the time we spent listening to the developers talk passionately about their ambitious project for the second installment of the Guild Wars series my troubles were laid to rest; they do a great job of explaining how the questing has changed dramatically and how the game play will be something that MMO’s have never seen before, you can brush up on that here. That however is for a different discussion, the main focus now is the ‘officially’ announced Thief profession for Guild Wars 2.
On the show floor at PAX there were stations set up for Guild Wars 2 all weekend. Luckily we didn’t have to wait in the giant mess of people they called a line to play. As well as the sit in we had in the link above we also had the opportunity to go to a meet and greet with ArenaNet that allowed us an hour of play, free goodies, and all the questions we could ask about the game. With all of this time to play throughout the weekend I had to get my hands on the Thief. When the expansion called Factions came out for the original Guild Wars there was an assassin profession added to the game. This profession could use skills chained together like combos to do massive damage, but on the reverse the assassin could almost be killed in one hit by a powerful enemy. I was initially excited to play as the assassin when it was first announced for Guild Wars but it fell short for me. Understandably I had doubts about wanting to play as a thief in Guild Wars 2 after my experience with the assassin but that is where I made my first mistake. This is a perfect example of why you can’t judge a book by its cover because although the thief may look like the assassin, it has a unique play style that was rewarding to play as. In a nutshell the thief has access to abilities that allow him or her to quickly get into combat for critical strikes and then quickly fade away again to be forgotten by the enemy. During the demo I had access to two daggers and two pistols that could be interchanged at will to provide different effects(the thief can also dual wield other weapons that weren’t available in the demo like a long sword in the main hand and a pistol in the off hand or vice versa). For example, in Guild Wars 2 your first five skill slots are determined by the weapons you currently have equipped and in particular for the thief the third skill slot is determined by the combination of both weapons they have equipped. So if there is a pistol equipped in the main hand and a dagger equipped in the off hand there will be a different skill occupying the third skill slot as opposed to a dagger main hand and a pistol off hand. This made for an interesting, fast paced and diverse play style because with two pistols you could use the Unload skill which would empty both pistols on a single target, and then quickly switch to dual daggers which gives you the dual skill Leaping Death Blossom which had the thief jumping the air flipping and slashing daggers at multiple foes. The most effective aspect of a thief however is movement. The thief has the ability to run into combat, deal some devastating blows and then disappear before the enemy even has time to react. In a team oriented environment like Guild Wars 2 this class will be very effective at getting enemies attention with all the damage they do, and then confusing them with the use of stealth and evade skills. With ArenaNet’s addition of the ability to dodge and heavy emphasis on movement and positioning during combat instead of your standard MMO push a skill button and watch it happen formula, the thief turned out to be a formidable adversary.
With the player assuming full control of their character’s movements during combat and while using skills, the game play gets another layer of tactics and depth added to it. Players now have the ability to roll out of the way of attacks and actually dodge incoming projectiles and magic attacks instead of a behind the scenes dice roll of stats that determines a hit or miss. With freedom of movement in and out of combat, the stealth skills provided by the thief essentially allowing them to become invisible, and the multiple interchangeable weapons all with dual weilding capabilities the thief is going to be a class with an untold amount of diversity and effectiveness all depending on the player behind the keyboard. With five other professions announced and two still unknown the thief very well may be the class that I adventure across the lands of Guild Wars 2 with for the first time. The diversity and fast paced guerilla play style of the thief is hard to turn down especially when you think of it terms of the bigger picture like playing with a party of friends with multiple professions the thief can be crafted to play multiple rolls, not to mention the fact that I cannot turn down the opportunity to dual wield a pistol and sword. The video below showcases a short developer walkthrough of the thief that shows some of the profession’s abilities in action as well as explaning new mechanics to the game like the revive feature, there is also some footage of our own playtime with the profession. The release date for Guild Wars 2 is still “When it’s done” and that is straight from the developers, but things are looking up for a possible public beta test of the game this year so stay optimistic.