This post is more or less a direct continuation of Part III, so I’m gonna jump right into it and finish talking about undead minions.
This new minion looks identical to a Shade, an enemy you can fight in Godslost Swamp and anywhere else there are portals to the Underworld. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I think it’s cool that the necromancer is able to summon and command a monster which is otherwise openly hostile. It’s a neat way of connecting the class’ powers to the world.
The Shadow Fiend has a melee attack where it sweeps its dark form at a foe in an uppercut. It’s certainly the most durable minion available in the necromancer’s utility skills. With Centaurs and even an Ettin beating on it, it can still emerge from battle with your support. The Shadow’s sequence skill is Haunt, which causes it to teleport to your target and Blind it. In addition to keeping the Shadow focused on your target (#MinionMasterProblems,) this is a great way to disrupt a powerful attack and it has a mere 20 second cooldown. If you don’t have Deathly Swarm in your weapon skills, you could use Haunt to support your Bone Minions as they get in position for you to blow them up. I look forward to using the Shadow Fiend more and exploring how to improve it with traits.
I don’t want to think about what this thing is made of but I can’t resist–it looks like the flesh and ribcage of a human and a smaller animal were fused together with the limbs of a devourer‘s carapace.
Like the Bone Fiend you may know from Guild Wars, it is a ranged attacker. It flings pairs of projectiles from its twin stingers at a steady pace. The attacks can serve as combo projectiles. The other skill in the Fiend’s skill sequence is Rigor Mortis, which you can activate to temporarily Immobilize the Fiend but cause its attacks to Immobilize on hit.
That all sounds dandy, but in practice the Bone Fiend leaves a lot to be desired. It has more health than a Bone Minion so it can take a little abuse, but in the event it dies it has a 30-second cooldown. As a Guild Wars minion master I was used to having an army of 5-10 Fiends at a time (and even more if you go back far enough,) so having only one and having to wait 30 seconds to spawn a new one is a dramatic change. It doesn’t have nearly as noticeable an effect on the battlefield as the Bone Minions or Shadow Fiend.
Worst of all, Rigor Mortis has a 50-second cooldown and the duration of Immobility that it applies to foes is negligible. Rigor Mortis is a pretty good example of the UI providing too little information about how a skill works–it’s much harder to figure out if something is worth using if there aren’t any numbers. Experimentally it was very easy to tell that the Bone Minions were effective (because boom!) but the Bone Fiend didn’t give me the same satisfaction. I never had a moment of “hah, gotcha!” where the Fiend snagged an enemy at a dramatic moment–it was way more reliable to immobilize or cripple enemies with my weapon skills.
I mentioned that the Fiend’s attacks can act as combo finishers but since you can’t control its position, it was all but impossible to set up combos unless it happened to be standing inside a friendly combo field. I suppose Rigor Mortis serves a secondary purpose of locking the Fiend in place for just such a purpose, but with a duration of just ~5 seconds it’s not worth it. Unless I hear of Bone Fiend being buffed or reworked I would avoid it for now. Our time in the beta is limited so skill points are better spent elsewhere, at least on the first pass.
Given my complaints with the Bone Fiend it sounds like the Flesh Wurm would be perfect for setting up combos between being immobile and having a sequence skill which causes it to explode (combo blast) and poison foes. I did not get around to unlocking Flesh Wurm myself during the previous betas but it sounds like it’s bugged in the current build and weirdly follows you around with no movement animation. Either ArenaNet is in the process of reworking Flesh Wurm to be a mobile ally (it would actually be very cool if it tunneled behind you and only took a fixed position during battle) or if it’s just a bug and they need to patch it not to move around. Either way, I’ll certainly try and play around with it during BWE2 and report back.