Guild Wars 2’s next major content update is heading your way tonight, bringing with it a brand new PVP map. Spirit Watch is a mix of conquest and capture-the-flag, set in the primal land of the Norns. Intense brawls are found at the control points, while high cliffs, bridges and valleys shift the focus to vertical play.
ArenaNet gave me a tour of Spirit Watch, as well as testing our mettle in a few rounds. Read on for my impressions of this upcoming new map.
The objectives of Spirit Watch are simple, yet hide subtle differences than your standard conquest map. There are three control points on the map, identified by three of the Norn animal aspects. These aspect shrines will net your team points at intervals if you control them, like any other conquest styled map.
The difference lies in the center of the map, where an Orb of Ascension is seated on a pedestal. Players can obtain the orb after a short commune time, where they must then relay it to any of the three shrines. Players will still be able to use their skills while carrying the orb, however they will move at a reduced 40% movement speed. They will also drop the orb if they use any teleport skills or become downed.
If the orb reaches a shrine that your team controls, you are awarded thirty points. However if the orb reaches a shrine that is in control of the enemy team, you are only rewarded fifteen points. This does come with the added bonus of forcing the shrine to become neutral, allowing for an easy capture.
After the orb reaches a shrine, the points are added and the orb respawns after a ten second duration.
The map design of Spirit Watch is pretty much perfect for these objectives, with verticality playing a huge role on team tactics. It’s an all out rush for the orb at the start; where my Elementalist zipped across the battlefield as a ball of lightning. It nearly always ends up being all out war in the centre, only ending when someone can get their hands on the orb.
Then it’s the long haul up ramps and stairs to the shrines, avoiding the sheer drops that the enemy team so desperately want to launch you off. Skills that slow, root and knock down are great for grinding the orb carrier to a halt. Likewise, skills that make you nigh invulnerable will ease the brunt of the focus fire.
When you finally make it to the shrine and deposit the orb, the trip back to the pedestal is just a short jump down. This allows everyone to get back into the mad squabble over the orb pretty much instantly. The height of the shrines coupled with the movement penalty of the orb, creates an illusion of length in the time it takes to ascend.
The map is open to numerous tactics, which should keep each game fresh and exciting. You could allocate members of your team to each shrine and the orb, focus only on the shrines, only capture one shrine and constantly relay the orb to it or even try and put the orb as far from the shrines as possible.
Spirit Watch is both fun and dramatic. Our playtime created tonnes of tense, keyboard mashing drama. Those moments included performing an aerial assault on the orb carrier and thwarting the enemy team's victory, or finally reaching a shrine only to be launched off by no other than ArenaNet's Evan Teicheira. Every round we played usually ended up saying “close game”, because with determination and coordination a sure win can fall apart in seconds.
Be sure to check out Spirit Watch yourself later tonight when the patch hits. In the meantime, why not take a look at our hands on of the new Guild Missions.