I’ve spent the majority of the Beta messing around with shields, so I figured I’d post my thoughts and feedback on them. For reference: these experiences are from playing Cata / Legend in about a 60 - 40 split, and mostly on IB & FK.
Imperial Sword & Shield
I’ve always liked this weapon for its versatile moveset, and it wasn’t changed in the Beta. I don’t think it needs a lot of help since it mostly trades killing speed (not nescessarily ability) for safety and control, but one observation I made is that I consistently get more headshots than kills when I play this weapon, even on Legend… I feel that the buff 1H swords got (higher headshot multiplier) would be appropriate for this weapon as well. If only for consistency’s sake, but also to not feel like you’re trying to beat stuff to death with a pool noodle…
Axe & Shield
My favorite weapon in the game because of its deep and versatile moveset, in combination with its style. It was viable before, but not really powerful. The Beta speed buff however, rounds this weapon off just right! I love it! Near perfect as-is. Only thing I think might be changed, is to give the heavy downwards chop the same damage profile as the one on the 1H Axe. Since right now it is barely worth it to use it over the light attacks.
Mace / Hammer & Shield
I’ve played this weapon a lot in the Beta, especially since the last patch that made pushattack chain into light 3 with its buffed damage profile. Summary: I never thought I’d see the day this weapon would be a competitive pick compared to the other shield weapons, but you actually did it! It’s awesome!
The main concern many people (like @KaelusVonSestiaf ) had after these changes is that, especially because the bash was made heavy 1, this weapon lost its own identity and is now too similar to the S&S and A&S. Figuring they might have had a point, last night I played quite a few rounds in which I kept switching between M/H&S and A&S / S&S, just to see how much this was true. And - and I know this is subjective - after that I have to say I don’t share this opinion. It definitely feels different from its alternatives, and the playstyles remain different. It still has different combinations for different situations. Its characteristic heavy bash - sweep combo is still intact, you just start it in a slightly different way. The bash on heavy 1 provides more utility however. It has more focus on pushattacks than even the S&S. It feels a little safer and slightly less kill-y than the other weapons, but that fits it identity. And I love how well it synergizes with FK’s talents.
The main point of improvement I can think of is that everything that isn’t the pushattack and its follow-up light is a little slow, which means the pushattacks become the most efficient option in almost every situation. Rather than nerfing that, since it is what finally made this weapon viable, I’d suggest speeding up its other attacks by just a little. I think it won’t make the weapon more powerful per se, but rather make alternative attacks more viable which increases its versatility. Like I said, I personally feel that moving the bash to heavy 1 doesn’t hurt the weapon’s identity much while it does increase its utility, so I’d not change it back if it was my call. I can only suggest people try it a little more in comparison with the other weapons, and I think most will feel the same after that as well.
Spear & Shield
I must start by admitting I haven’t played this weapon much in the Beta, but from the short time that I did, I think the change to include a sweep in its light chain is a bit… unnecessary. By chaining different combos you already had easy access to sweeping attacks, and this change doesn’t really make sweeps more available, but rather makes single target attacking a bit less convenient. It doesn’t really feel like a step forward to me. But like I said: I must admit I haven’t tried it in depth.
I’ll leave the brettonian S&S out of this, since it is pretty new and I don’t feel it needs any changes in this Beta.