Back in pre-alpha, the current system where the base class are distinct from the mastery classes was already planned, but not implemented. Each of the available characters represented a single mastery class, the first two being the Beastmaster, and the Sorcerer. In this context we first implemented the Knight as the Void Knight and had a large breadth of thematic design space to work with. The Void’s various associations with darkness, time, and erasure enabled us to include a lot of cool non-melee skills that played with unique mechanics like Anomaly, Volatile Reversal, and Abyssal Echoes, and pad out the range of available melee skills with specifically Void-themed ones, such as Erasing Strike.
In alpha, the separation of base classes from mastery classes, and the addition of the Sentinel meant that we had a base class and mastery whose only core themes were heavy armour and melee attacks. This produced a bit of a conundrum from a skill design perspective.
Armour passively protects you, so heavy armour was more of an itemisation distinction and less of something skills could be designed around.
A lot of the ideas we came up with for melee skills, would have fit in as separate skills in other ARPGs, but were far more suited to just being nodes in Last Epoch.
We want each mastery class to have a breadth of different skills to choose from and to be able to develop those skills in different ways using their skill trees. It became clear that the Knight and Sentinel’s theme was too narrow to accommodate this goal.
Our solution is The Forge Guard. The Forge Guard is a new mastery class that elevates the existing heavy armour theme beyond itemisation. The Forge Guard has direct control over steel, and can will it into forms, manifesting shields, armour, and weapons to protect himself and attack his foes. The Forge Guard’s abilities have two main distinctions that set them apart from those of other classes:
Many of the Forge Guard’s abilities that relate to specific item types will interact directly with your equipped items of that type. For example, while this is not implemented yet, the shields summoned by the new Ring of Shields ability will gain the stats of your equipped shield.
The Forge Guard’s abilities are meant to augment a melee playstyle, not interrupt it. This means that not only will a lot of the defensive abilities be instant casts, so that you can quickly react to threats you’re in melee range of, but some of the melee attacks of the class will also be instant casts. A good example is the new Manifest Weapon skill, which manifests a mace to perform a melee strike for you without interrupting your other actions like moving, or using more traditional melee attacks.
Overall we hope that the Forge Guard will allow players to make a more unique heavily armoured melee fighter than the previous Sentinel subclass, and will provide the opportunity for a more active playstyle while maintaining the same core melee gameplay.
Another related change we’re making is to rename the base class from Knight to Sentinel. The main reason we’re doing this is that we’d like to work some of the flavour and capabilities of the Forge Guard into the base class, in a similar way to how the Primalist base class shares some of the flavour and capabilities of the Beastmaster.
The word “Knight” invokes a very particular expectation - and a big part of that is a relative lack of magic use in favour of purely physical combat. While the focus will still definitely be on that physical melee combat, we believe the class will be more fun and versatile if we don’t restrict it strictly to those sorts of abilities. A more open base class name, like Sentinel, allows us more flexibility with its skill design without stepping on the toes of the fantasy that people are looking for when they decide to play the class.
In addition, canonically the new Sentinel is a different character to the old Knight. He has a very different backstory and appearance - and this is reflected in the new model.
Despite all these changes, no previous Knight or Sentinel skills have been removed this patch. The themes of the new base class and mastery class very much encompass those of the old ones, so none of the old skills feel out of place except for ones which we already planned to move into Void Knight or Paladin.
In subsequent patches there will be more changes to Sentinel and Forge Guard to introduce more of this new theme. These changes will be primarily take the form of adding new skills, and replacing placeholder passive nodes with more flavourful and interesting ones.