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At the recent Guild Wars 2 preview event, we were able to test out a number of general mechanics, but what about the professions? At launch, the game will ship with the Guardian, Warrior, Engineer, Ranger, Thief, Elementalist, Mesmer and Necromancer classes.

Although I did try out quite a few professions, the Necromancer is the one I spent most of my time with. So without further ado, onto the my discussion about the paranormal, undead, and various other terrifying creatures that go bump in the digital night.

The basic draw of the Necromancer is that he performs a DPS role, but unlike most of the other Warlock derivatives in other MMOs, he can also utilize support and healing functions (mostly self healing at early levels). Rather than the Ranger’s “companion pets”, the Necromancer can summon “minions”, which are more fleeting in nature, and perform concise roles than a general “pet” function. Additionally, Necros can toggle their Death Shroud ability to enter a shadow state, granting them new abilities.

One thing I noticed about the minions in particular is that they die often, so you’ll basically have to constantly re-summon them in heated combat situations. I hope that ArenaNet is able to fix this issue in the final build, because while it’s understandable that these minions shouldn’t be overpowered, it’s a bit annoying to have to constantly micro-manage them, which takes away from the gameplay experience a bit.

The minions I was able to experience were the Blood Fiend, Bone Minions, and Bone Fiends. Like Diablo III in regards to sustained, so long as you allot each ability to a slot, you’re allowed to keep as many minions out as you like — just keep in mind that there is a maximum amount of skill slots. Blood Fiends constantly leach health, Minions do DPS and can explode on command, and Bone Fiends attack from afar, with the additional ability to root opponents in place.

Like all professions, the Necromancer has different skills depending on their equipped weapon, whether or not they’re underwater, or depending on their Death Shroud state (there’s even a combination of underwater + Death Shroud). There are ten possible weapon combinations for the Necro, made possible through a Staff, Scepter, Axe, Dagger, Focus, and a Warhorn. I was able to experiment with everything but the Focus and Axe, and found that your skillset and strategy drastically differed depending on your weapon choice.

For instance, while using the dagger, my auto-attack was severely limited, and basically forced me into melee range. When using the Scepter however, my autoattacks and abilities had a farther reach.

Death Shroud reminds me of the World of Warcraft’s Shadow Priest mechanic, but it’s a bit more tactical, and is limited in use. Ran by another statistic unique to Warlocks called Life force, you can toggle the shroud instantly, granting you an additional life bar in the form of Life Force. Once it’s all gone, you’ll go back to your normal state and your normal health bar.

As a result, it’s clear that Death Shroud will be a crucial mechanic in group situations, where Necromancers will be able to off-tank weaker enemies with this extra health bar. Additionally, it can obviously be used as a “last resort” cooldown to save your skin (as I utilized multiple times while leveling!).

I noticed that compared to the other twenty or so press members that were playing, I leveled up slightly faster than most of them, but not as fast as a few other classes, like the Engineer. This seems to be about on par with typical life leech classes in other MMOs, due to the fact that while they aren’t the absolute highest damage-dealing powerhouse in the game, their ability to stay alive and heal themselves constantly helps when it comes to leveling.

My time with Guild Wars 2 was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait to get more in-depth with the rest of the classes — particularly the Engineer, which one lead developer told us was the most “interesting class in the game”. If you’re joining in this weekend on the GW2 beta event, be sure and check out the Necromancer.

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