A primary function of the combat UI in a game like Guild Wars 2 is to provide players with important visual feedback. Key areas include cooldowns on skill activation, whether any boons or conditions are present, the endurance meter, and your current total health. Obscuring or outright hiding that data is largely a design flaw, at least when the obfuscation is not shared across all professions equally under shared conditions.
Yet this is exactly what happens each and every time a necromancer uses their profession mechanic, death shroud. Why anyone thought that should stand for “let’s shroud the entire combat UI from the player while active” is beyond me. In the process of using death shroud you lose all access to important data – boons, conditions, cooldowns, endurance, current health – for the duration, and I consider this a major UI design flaw.
Here are some examples:
You enter death shroud, and have the Spite line trait Reaper’s Might slotted which will cause your Life Blast to grant Might for 15 seconds. The trouble is, you never see the boon to realize it's actually present or its remaining duration until you exit death shroud.
In another scenario, you can enter death shroud and get loaded up with conditions without even knowing, only to F1 out of DS to discover your health immediately begins draining away and your condition transfer skills are still on cooldown.
In yet another, your health is dangerously low and your heal skill is still on cooldown. You pop death shroud and then have to count to yourself or guess how long you need to keep DS active before it can safely be dropped to use your heal. Dropping it early results in being downed, or maybe you got socked with some poison or burning that instantly downs you the moment DS drops but you had no idea either condition was present.
Or maybe you enter death shroud and your movement suddenly slows. Are you crippled or chilled? Did you have enough endurance that you could have dodged to avoid the skill that caused the condition?
I could cite different scenarios where losing so much visual feedback is a major detriment to the profession all day long, but I think you get the idea.
At this point you have to consider two questions:
- If necros are not intended to remain in death shroud for long enough for the loss of UI feedback to matter, then why does the entire Soul Reaping line cater to keeping death shroud active for longer periods?
- Is this visual gimping of the necro with death shroud active intentional, and if so, why?
Here are a few other things to consider:
- No other profession loses sight of the core combat UI when using their unique mechanic
- Using bundles does not hide the core combat UI
- Using the necro’s “transformation” elites (plague, lich form) does not hide the UI
- Switching to your town clothing does not hide the UI
- Being turned into a moa by mesmers does not hide the UI
- And the list goes on...
In fact, there are only two other instances of the core combat UI being hidden from view currently in-game. The first is when you swim on the surface of water. Even then you can at least still see your health bar. Granted, in death shroud your life force meter serves as a secondary health bar, but you’re still losing sight of actual vs. temporary health in the process.
The second is when you’re downed during combat, an in that instance it makes perfect sense. And as much as I love the visual look of the death shroud UI, a part of me will always consider it to be the Jolly Green Giant version of downed unless some changes are made to improve visual feedback.
Finding a Solution
Unless the answer to the second question above is yes (hiding the UI is 100% intentional for combat balance or other reasons) then there are some very simple solutions to the current trouble with death shroud.
Option One: Fade the default combat UI to around 40-50% while death shroud is active, rather than removing it outright.
Option Two: Have the death shroud skills replace the weapon skill slots like any other skill replacement does. It may not look as cool, but would be infinitely more utilitarian.
Option Three: At a bare minimum, incorporate the display of boons, conditions, and endurance to the current death shroud UI. Chances are, this would be the easiest to implement in the short term, though optimally we would never lose sight of skill cooldowns or the health meter.
Option Four: Rebuild the death shroud UI entirely so that it has the current look and feel, but integrates better into the default combat UI. This would take the most work to implement, but could also produce the best overall results.
The more obvious transformations while in death shroud (shrouded character, green screen edges, awesome audio components) are all spot on, and I would hate to see any of them altered or removed. However, I’d willingly sacrifice all of them if it meant I could retain sight of key information during combat when using death shroud.
Chances are, I’m not alone in thinking something needs to change here. If so, I’m deeply interested in getting some discussions going for ways this could be resolved and would love to hear your thoughts on the matter either in the comments here or on our forums. There are plenty of other potential solutions beyond the four I listed above, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on the matter.