This has been a topic I've been thinking about for quite some time. Ritualist is one of if not the most requested Profession from GW1 to be made into an elite spec. Assassin being close. I'm not sure if its because of their overall popularity in GW1, rose tinted glasses or the bias much of the community has for Factions over other expansions, but it is very clear that many of us want to see the ritualist return in some form or another. I've been milling this about in my head for some time, trying to determine just how Viable Ritualist would be as its stand along profession as well as determine just which profession could make the best use of the ritualist's unique set of skills and themes. And I've come to a few conclusions.
Potential as a profession
I want to start here since most players haven't considered this as an option to my knowledge. So I want to pull this up first. I think the ritualist has some advantages and disadvantages as a profession in the design potential in GW1. For starters in terms of its Mechanics and how to best utilize them the Engineer does that job fairly well. If they were to get their own profession their design with the Urns, Spirits, Spirit weapons would all have fairly similar functionality to Engineer skills like turrets, Kits and Gyros. Although aesthetically they are quite different this really isn't a strong enough justification to make them a unique profession. They were a unique support class with Damage reduction, Spirit support and high raw healing. All things easily replicated by the engineer.
Thematically The Ritualist has other problems as well. And that problems comes in the form of the Necromancer who is everything the ritualist is and some. A Dark conjurer of undead horrors, vengeful spirits and otherworldly afflictions. All very much tied into the Necromancer's core design. The idea that the Ritualist does Rituals isn't unique to them either. Necromancer's have always done rituals and continues to do them. Even in the lore as priests of Grenth again necromancers had always taken up that mantle and now almost exclusively take that mantle on themselves. Guiding lost spirits, conjuring dark energies, summoning the dead, these are all aspects achieved by the necromancer. In its theme it really doesn't work all that well with that in consideration the idea of having 2 professions heavily focused on death it makes sense to just have the one.
With that said, the Ritualist also has the opportunity not to be locked into the same trappings as the engineer or the necromancer. It neither needs to be as complex as the engineer or as tied down by shroud like the necromancer. It can be built from the ground up as a true support class. Its urns used as its identity to conjure aspects of Protection, healing and damage. They could take on that role without the need of an elite spec. Unlike Engineer who's healing ability has a few strange kinks ritualist can just be that from the start.
As for play feel, no profession truly feels like the ritualist. Yes the Engineer mechanically is supposed to be its successor but the visual and auditory effects really does impact the player's sense of enjoyment of the class even if mechanically it might be identical to another. Some people in fighting games prefer fighting as the clone character as opposed to the original. And they might say it feels just different enough to increase their engagement with the game. Some prefer Ryu while others prefer Ken. Those two fighters are almost identical to each other with minor variation, but they are both beloved characters of their franchise.
For how the Ritualist could expand with the game using elite specializations this is were the ritualist really steps on the toes of the necromancer. What themes and ideas could they pull from? Summoning minions makes sense for them, a strong Melee spectral brawler also makes sense but both of these are themes the necromancer is already doing. Would they just be some weird variation of what the necromancer could be doing? Would this be good design space for the game or would this be too much bloat on the profession end?
I know I am the one who suggested it as a possibility and yet I'm kinda dumping on the idea, but don't get me wrong. Even with all the negative aspects of the ritualist's inclusion of it were to happen I'd still be both excited and happy to see it in the game as its own unique profession. I feel that it is the strongest way to really succeed the ritualist's identity in GW2 even if it also comes with the most complications.
Potential as an Elite Specialization
As an Elite spec, it becomes much easier to find space for the Ritualist. its theme and style of gameplay is rip for the picking and actually slots perfectly as a puzzle piece for one particular profession. The necromancer! I've mentioned it a few times in the above post, but the necromancer is everything the ritualist is thematically and beyond. With the Elite specialization system in place it becomes thematically and lore wise the best possible fit for its inclusion. No profession comes even remotely close to the Theme's and play styles required by this elite spec to give it the respect it deserves in GW2.
Advantages of the Necromancer as its core spec
- Urns: One of the most forgotten Aspects of the Ritualist is their Urns. The GW2 translation of this mechanic are kits, so in the GW2 space these are supposed to be bundles that provide extra skills for the user to use. With this in mind, the necromancer actually has the perfect design space to include these without the need for them to take up their Utility skills which would be a crime if it wasn't saved for Spirits. The Shroud mechanic is already similar to a kit in many ways and it wouldn't be a stretch to say their shroud was replaced by an Urn. This also has an advantage to it since a few urns had summon and drop effects that could heal, provide energy or deal damage in GW1. GW2, the necromancer has a few traits that function similarly. Although I'd make the request that Life from death, Spiteful Spirit and Foot on the grave all be changed in fuction to be entering and exiting shroud for their effect. This could increase the nostalgic feel that the Urn users of GW1 remember. Other professions really don't have a mechanic similar enough to pull this off well. They don't have the traits or skills and it would need to be crammed on just 9 traits along with all the other design space we need to cover, which is unreasonable.
- Spirit Weapons: This took me a long time of milling it over in my head how to best represent the weapon spells from GW1 in GW2. And only a couple could be available to any class let along necromancer, but I feel I have a compromise that might just work. Putting these skills on 2-3 of the Urn skills and/or weapon skills could give necromancer's a temporary unique buff they can apply to allies. The necromancer is sorely lacking in damage buffs and there are a few that come to mind that could give the party a short burst of damage. Both Nightmare weapon and Splinter weapon have these properties. Although this wouldn't have to be unique to the necromancer, the other professions that could get ritualist already have unique party buffs they can give out. Guardian has its Ashes of the Just, Revenant has Soulcleave's Summit, Ranger has Glyph of Alignment and its spirits. But the necromancer only has a passive buff in Vampiric presence, which all or almost all professions has one of these passive buffs. Giving something like this to necromancer would go a longer way on them for a support spec than it would for other professions who already have all the pieces. How this could work is very similar to how it worked in GW1. Rather than targeting an ally individually though you could use a ground target or aoe burst to grant these unique weapon buffs to allies. Most likely they'd fade after a few strikes. The other advantage is that some weapon spells were defensive. Although they reduced damage allies could take usually and would steal life from the attacking foe, on a necromancer it could just block the attack and steal life from the attacker. A minor damage buff while giving minor healing with appropriate protection.
- Spirits: Spirits of course would need to be the utility skills of choice. If there is one thing everyone can agree on its this. Necromancer once again has the design space advantage here. You might wonder how that's possible but I'll explain. The necromancer has some uniqueness to it that the Ritualist never had which can change the function of spirits to be more of a real aid to the party. The Ritualist Spirits weren't just offensive spirits but also defensive. And the best design for spirits in this regard would be a 3/3 approach. 3 defensive spirits and 3 offensive spirits. The 3 defensive being the heal which could take on the identity of Preservation and Life to help fit that support healer theme that is part of the ritualists design as well as 2 utility which can embody aspects of Shelter and Union but not so absurdly powerful. Beyond just that the unique flavor of the necromancer could use a defensive spirit as its own personal martyr, drawing in conditions from allies with a turn over skill that allows it to burst those conditions outward. Offensively the obvious choices would be Pain, Wonderlust (only inflicting torment rather than knock down with a flip fear skill), and Call to the Spirit Realm as the elite. The necromancer already has a trait called Vampiric which could be adjusted to include spirits as well as minions giving further synergy and allowing for a painful bond feel in some aspects. There is also the advantage of using traits in combination with the "shroud" or urn that could modify the spirits in some way, likely though recharge much like they did with Ritual lord and Soul Twisting. The tech to fill out these spirits is all available to the necromancer. Some aspects could be replicated by other professions, but not all which would be a short sight in this part.
- The Ritualist cares about summoning: One thing to note on the ritualist is that it was designed with the expressed intention of being able to synergise with necromancer minions and any other hypothetical future profession that might have summoned something. This is a part of the ritualist's identity with skills like Boon of Creation, Explosive Growth and Spirit's Gift. It would be an absolute shame for the ritualist elite spec not to have some cross synergy with both spirits and minions as this was built into their identity in GW1. One of my favorite builds was the Ritualist Minion bomber and it would be an absolute shame to lose it.
- The necromancer is Lacking a lot of what the Ritualist can offer it: Unlike other professions, the necromancer really hasn't gotten along too well in the realms of support. They have some interesting options, but nothing that really has stood out. This makes them the prime target for a solid support spec which the ritualist absolutely would be. While other professions already have much of what the ritualist would offer, the necromancer doesn't. A solid healing spec? Revenant has Legendary centaur stance, Ranger has druid and Guardian has the tome of resolve. You can argue how effective these are or aren't in comparison to each other, but the fact is that these professions already have the capability to heal and rather adding more healing options on a single profession, branching out would be better in my opinion. Spirits? The ranger already has spirits, the Revenant has something similar but can't have the diversity the spirits would require. Although Guardian Could use the spirits to similar effectiveness as the necromancer this isn't something they really need. The necromancer lacks support for allies, and the scourge really isn't cutting it for them. And even if it did in some way it still couldn't fill the same design space or niche that the Ritualist would offer.
Mechanical Themes and abilities
- Cares about life force: Life force is a unique mechanic in a lot of ways in GW2. And the necromancer seems mostly to ignore it aside from generating and spending it. There doesn't seem to be traits that modify this in anyway or give benefits to it. For me I feel that rather than this elite spec caring about a specific condition like with reaper and scourge it could care about life force and how its used or generated. Minor traits that give a bonus when gaining or spending life force. I always feel that life force should be an important focus for the necromancer and this allows for space to open up to bursting strategies and conservation strategies.
- Trident: For the weapon it was a tough choice, but I have to pick the Trident. I Milled about back and forth on what to choose and what fits best thematically and in truth the Staff does. And although I wouldn't mind doubling up on staff skills for the necromancer I feel that other players might not be so happy with that. So a Trident on land seems like it could be a fairly decent choice and would give the freedom with skills to offer a greater support package.
- Summoning: The Ritualist cares a great deal about summoning so at least a couple of traits would need to care about summoning and impact the field in this way. This wouldn't just include spirits but minions as well.
- The Urn itself: The urn being a replacement for shroud makes sense in a lot of ways, but the mechanic of shroud is a little limited. My idea would be that the urn would be summoned, replacing your skill bar but the life force would be used to fuel the abilities available with the urn as opposed to providing extra health. This would allow the skills to have stronger support elements to them without making the Ritualist just the absolute tankiest support spec in the game. With this in mind, it also wouldn't lock your utility skills or yourself out of being healed.
- Unique urns: Another idea I was milling about in my head was the idea that the urn's skills would dramatically change based on which grandmaster you decided to choose. Be it damage support, Healing support or Summoning modification. Something to really build on the themes available to the Ritualist to really diversify it from other specs.
Lore Justification possibility
It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that the necromancer priests of grenth in Cantha would keep the ritualist practices alive considering how closely tied their magic and beliefs are. So this was never really an issue for me. It would be really simple to make this the reason why the ritualist is an elite spec of the necromancer, specializing in spirits and souls. As for why a trident this could have some interesting lore connections to Tyria and the Elder Dragons. And I'll explain.
My hypothesis is that the reason we'd go to Cantha in the first place would be because the Deep Sea Dragon is active and at the coast of Cantha. This could have huge ramifications for the Canthans already there since the rise of an Elder dragon has caused the sinking of Much of Lion's Arch. So something similar could happen to much of Shing Jea Island and Kaineng City. This pet idea of mine lead to an Idea of literally thousands of souls being lost at sea and people without identification who died being cremated on mass giving the vibe that the urn the Ritualist would summon would be the Urn of the Drowned. Necromancers would Likely take on the role of cremation here as the bodies of the drowned would most likely be brought to them. Thus the role connectivity can continue. The Ritualist is very much a part of Canthan culture so this would make perfect sense for them to do as a part of their societal job. But this is how I'd justify the Trident as well as nameless urns that any race could use. The Urn being ashes of the drowned allows for more design space freedom while also giving players a compelling story and culture to explore.
Its very difficult to design and conceptualize an elite specialization or a profession. And its especially difficult for an individual to do it on their own without aid or impute. There are a lot of Specialization suggestions were the players get into the nitty gritty of what they want and rarely do I actually like them to any extent. This is just a proof of concept on some ideas on how I think it could work and some of its potential. Ritualist has been something I've wanted to see since HoT and the teasing Arena Net did with Marjory in her story really got me excited for the prospect of its eventual return to the game. Marjory really gave off a Ritualist vibe to me, and she was the spark to my long standing hypothesis of an elite spec of the Ritualist. Every new expansion has only reinvigorated my passion for this pet obsession of mine as they expand what each of the elite specializations can achieve. I hope you enjoyed the read. You're welcome to agree or disagree, but please keep it civil.