And I swung it again. Hey I swung it again! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
During the April 27th beta weekend and this week’s stress test, I predominantly played a human female necromancer and reached Level 20. I spent all of that time doing PvE renown hearts and dynamic events while attempting to find a top that didn’t expose my character’s back and midriff (I had only temporary success with that last past, but that’s a separate article.) I was originally going to write one long-form post of my PvE impressions, but when I got up to 600 words about the axe, main-hand dagger, and warhorn alone, I decided making a series of posts is more reasonable for you to read and me to write.
When I created my character my starting weapon wasn’t a ranged magic weapon like a staff or scepter, but an axe. This suited my interests perfectly—when I learned that the necromancer could wield daggers and axes back in the day they were the weapons I was most curious about. It’s in keeping with ArenaNet’s no-trinity, role-switching design that the necro can get up close and dish out melee damage. I always felt useless at melee range as a GW1 necromancer, even with the wide array of touch skills at my disposal, because of caster squishiness. As you’ll soon see, I felt no such impotence in GW2.
I took my axe and ran up to the first group of enemies and started swinging—the basic axe attack has you slash at your enemy with green spectral claws at a steady pace, inflicting vulnerability with each hit. It has a distinct “one, two; one, two” slashing sound effect with the dirty, sinister-ish aesthetics of the necromancer in mind. The inflicted vulnerability pairs well with the second skill where you spin and levitate your axe in front of you for rapid hits. If you have a build that takes advantage of critical hits, you’re definitely going to want an axe for the sheer volume of quick hits these two skills deal out. The third skill is Unholy Feast—a favorite of mine from GW1—which cripples enemies in an AoE around you and grants you damage reflection with each hit. The axe skills all have a range of 600, compared to the typical melee range of 130, so you could cripple a melee enemy with Unholy Feast and stand just out of their range and hack away as they try to catch up or flee.
The first offhand item I found was a warhorn, which is ideal for a close-range necro. It lets you summon a locust swarm which gives you 10 seconds of swiftness (I’m not sure whether the “I could outrun a centaur!” sound bite is maddening or endearing) and cripples enemies in melee range, which is perfect for chasing down a fleeing enemy, getting away from danger yourself, or just getting across the map a little faster. The other skill, Wail of Doom, blows a green cone of energy in front of you which dazes enemies. This is a good interrupt/control skill but it doesn’t feel particularly “doomy.” It makes the same sound effect as Locust Swarm and the warrior’s warhorn skills. It would be cool of Wail of Doom’s sound effect was actually a disembodied shriek of terror. But I won’t dispute the skill’s effectiveness–it really comes into its own with the dagger.
The main-hand dagger is a “true” melee weapon with primary slash attack of only 130 range. I didn’t like this as much because it’s slower than the axe attack and doesn’t cause conditions, but does grant extra Life Force. If you find yourself in a tight spot against a melee enemy, look no further than Dark Pact to immobilize them for several seconds. Combine this with the warhorn’s Wail of Doom and you can shut down your foe completely for a couple of seconds—dazed and immobilized. Together these two effects do all the work of a short stun, but cannot actually be stun-broken. Use your foe’s moment of weakness to cast the dagger’s other skill, Life Siphon, to heal yourself at their expense from out of melee range.
When I found myself near death (and I remembered I could do so) I would pop Death Shroud, the necro’s unique class ability. As you kill things and use certain skills, you fill up a Life Force meter which you use to fuel Death Shroud. When you activate it your character is covered by a shadowy black aura and your screen is tinted murky green (I should really have taken a screenshot of this.) Your UI is replaced by just your Life Force meter, which substitutes for your health and slowly depletes on its own, and four Death Shroud skills. These include a basic ranged attack, a ranged snare which teleports you to the target on hit, a Fear-inducing spell, and an AoE life drain ability. You can hit F1 again at any time to return to your normal form.
I’m certain that Death Shroud can be used more effectively than as a panic button, but it is an effective way to avoid getting downed. I think skilled necromancers will be able to withstand serious punishment since they effectively have a second health bar. As for the skills, the ranged attack does more damage the fuller your Life Force meter is, which encourages usage where you pop into death shroud, cast a few skills, and then pop out again.
That’s all for today, but there’s plenty more to come. Next time, I’ll finish talking about the weapons, followed by a final post about the utility/minion skills and underwater skills. I probably won’t be talking about the elite skills until launch—along with the personal storylines, I wanna leave myself some fresh experiences for launch!