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World of Guildcraft Wars, Too

World of Warcraft’s next expansion was revealed today, and its theme is… Guild Wars 2.

Sorry. It’s called Dragonflight, deals with helping dragons reclaim their legacy, will “provide a more in-depth open world experience going forward,” and features new dragonriding skill that lets you “defy gravity while using your momentum and skills.” Here is a video of it in motion:

I get that the entire history of WoW is copying other peoples’ homework and all, but something about this is… a bit too on the nose.

Anyway. There were some other items that popped out at me.

Cross-Faction Coming Soon. Technically old news (first revealed in January), it was nevertheless interesting to hear cross-faction grouping being brought up again. While Blizzard is still being ultra-conservative with it – not being able to join guilds is probably going to make organized raiding problematic – cross-faction play of some kind is one of those things that never really made sense not to have in WoW during its heyday. I have had real, non-theoretical conversations with coworkers in the past wherein we (briefly) got excited to learn the other played WoW, only to face the double disappointment of being A) on the wrong server, or B) the wrong faction, or C) both.

If only we knew why it took so long…

…oh, right.

Talent Trees Return. Overrated. It’s mildly interesting that they have a class tree and a spec tree separately, but that is just lampshading the “lack” of a borrowed power system in the expansion.

WotLK Classic. Expected, but nevertheless still hit me in the feels. Everyone has a WoW entry point they feel nostalgic for, and for me it is WotLK… despite my actually starting to play in Burning Crusade. Epic scope, epic music, ground-breaking raiding (in 10m flavors!), and some great guild members relationships. Devs mentioned intentionally leaving out the Dungeon Finder for “social fabric” reasons which, okay, whatever. It will be interesting to see what happens to said fabric when everyone is trying to farm badges for gear.

UI Improvements. This sort of thing might seem minor at first, but not being able to get my screen looking like it did the last time I played WoW ends up being a rather large, subconscious barrier to reentry. Addon Managers can remove some of the tedium, but having a lot of the same functionality within the base UI is more ideal.

Cosmic Plot Intermission. Coming out of the narrative disaster that is Shadowlands, it’s refreshing to see Blizzard basically hitting the pause button. Nothing in the trailer hinted at some kind of Big Bad Guy to face, or that the fate of the world was once again at stake. It’s always possible that that comes later, but the tone is being set early on. Reminds me a bit of Mists of Pandaria minus the faction war.

Everything Else. K.

This is the part of the post where I talk about how I’m intrigued by what Blizzard is doing and will probably resub to see the new content. Probably not this time around.

A pause in the power escalation is necessary, but… I don’t like dragons. Not quite on the level of hate Syp has for elves, but dragons are a solid third place above “It was all a dream” and Time Travel in terms of ire. What possibly interesting story could ever be made concerning dragons? I don’t just mean in Dragonflight, I mean in any fiction. Yes, I watched The Hobbit, played Skyrim and Dragon Age, etc etc. In all cases, dragons could be replaced with an infinitely more interesting colossal beast with no impact to the storytelling. Dragons are flying, hoarding tropes. Vampires? A lot of directions you could take a story. Dragons? Replace it with an eldritch horror of some kind and get a much more engaging tale.

So, yeah. Good luck, have fun.

OTOH: GW2, Part 2

A few days after logging out last time, I crack my knuckles and get ready to head back into… Tyria? Whatever the Guild Wars 2 world is called.

I am feeling so spunky, in fact, that I take a Waypoint directly from the Asura Borg Cube I use as a home-base back to Sparkfly Fen. Nearly two whole silver? I am living on the edge, man. Can’t stop me now. I spot a large blank area on the map, and decide to tackle that first.

YEAH, I SAID “YOU CAN’T STOP ME NOW.”

Nightmare Court mobs in a dark tunnel? I can eat these guys for breakfast. /attack

Pictured: Getting stopped.

I am not going to lie: I almost logged off right then.

In the four minutes between zoning and death, I killed two of packs of two Nightmare mobs. The next group was three linked together, which did not seem insurmountable at first. Unfortunately, one of them was a Necromancer who proceeded to ramp up ranged damage to some ludicrous degree before I noticed. Perhaps I could have squeaked out a victory had I blown ALL the cooldowns, but the certain knowledge that I died within 20 feet of the entrance, the down-leveling mechanic ensuring that trying to explore this tunnel solo would lead to inevitable death, and getting double death taxed¹ on top of it all – within four minutes of logging on – punched through the paper-job I have hitherto made over the cavernous enthusiasm gap that is GW2 combat.

That was a long sentence. Let’s take a breath together.

Last week, I made a somewhat controversial remark that GW2’s combat was not as responsive as WoW’s. “Responsive” was not the right adjective to use, and my follow-up explanation in the comments felt unsatisfying even to myself. The mobility does feel fun. There is a sort of sponginess to the button-presses –> attack result, but even that is not the precise issue. And while my next instinct was to say it feels shallow, it is pretty clear that there is a lot that can go on simultaneously (especially in PvP).

The combat simply feels… insubstantial.

I fully admit this could just be an Elementalist problem. I do not actually enjoy the Attunement swapping mechanic in general, even though I engage in it quite a bit. But I do not think it is just an issue with the class I am playing; I got the same general feeling from my level ~20 alts as well. I can quite literally run circles around most of the mobs I face, avoiding 100% of their attacks without even needing to Dodge. Then you start facing Risen, who comically run around at 300% speed and basically make your mobility moot – I stand and cast in their faces, lest my directional-attacks miss while they continuously readjust. With the ranged Risen and the Nightmare Necromancer that sealed my fate earlier, often it feels like my HP pool just fills or empties randomly with little input or feedback from me.

All that may not even be an adequate explanation of the feeling GW2 combat evokes, but there it is.

Instead of calling it quits, I rez at a Waypoint way the hell away from there.

Largest Heart description ever?

Heading North along the West side of the map, the Shadowform tooltip most verbose Renown description I have ever seen pops up. Apparently another frog-dude (Costi Atl) wants me to feed him, this time by shooting termite mounds with a cannon, grabbing the grub by the tail, killing it in normal combat, picking up the shiny thing it leaves behind, aiming that at the campfire, and then clicking on the fire afterwards. Or you can talk to and then fight with the frog-dudes. Or, I think, kill spiders.

A bit north of there was an Event-camp overrun by Risen.

I don’t know why they even bother having Wooden Planks lying around as weapons past level 10.

This little Event really drove home the insubstantialness feeling I had earlier. Those Speedy Risen may as well be DoTs and my attacks against them a Recount DPS meter. The perma-snared tough ones are more like normal enemies, but again, fighting and killing them brought no satisfaction. While clearing the camp, I starting thinking back to all the skelks, spiders, fireflies, Nightmare Court/Inquest/Bandits/etc etc etc I have killed in the past 65 levels, and how much of a pain in the ass the Kill 15 Enemy Types daily is. Most games have recycled and color-swapped mobs, of course. But, Jesus, it feels like there isn’t a lot of variety in mob types/abilities, and I am heading into even deeper into Risen territory.

Oh. Looks like I died at some point.

After rezzing and coming back and clearing the camp, I switch from Dagger/Dagger to Scepter/Dagger. I leveled 1-20 with staff, 20-40 with S/D, and 40 onward as D/D, so I am pretty familiar with all of them. It is my hope that getting back to a more combo-oriented and sort of wind-up gameplay will make things more interesting again.

The camp Event turns into an escort Event, followed by another escort Event. Two people show up near the start of the 2nd Escort, and it’s nice. Then the Event turns into a Champion fight, and then the two strangers leave without even attempting to engage the Champion. I do likewise. There is never really a sense for how strong a Champion is versus another Champion – some can probably be 2-manned, while others usually need a full zerg. The risk simply isn’t worth the ~2s reward most of the time, especially when so many don’t have chests at the end. Considering this entire Event chain revolved around blowing up this Lich’s tower and then killing him, simply leaving felt incredibly anti-climatic.

I do some more Renown Hearts, fight some more dumb Risen, then log off.

Day 3

At this point, I have read the comments to Part 1, and realize that a lot of people are suggesting that the zones/enemies/storylines get dumber the farther South you go. Good to know. But then I realize I am two Hearts and a handful of other things away from 100% map completion. We get a warning that the servers will be down for maintenance in 60 minutes, but I figure I will be done by then anyway. I zone back into Sparkfly Fen, and head SW.

Pictured: Chekhov’s Bigass Gun

This area looks promising.

In the comments to Part 1’s post, I mentioned the reason why I dislike the concept of timed Events. Inevitably, timed Events break down as follows:

  1. You arrive just in time.
  2. You wait around for it to start.
  3. You miss it entirely.

In this specific instance, I landed squarely into A). No sooner than I talked to Kamma and picked up my quest gun to kill Risen with, an Event popped up to… kill Risen. I do so, completing the Heart in the process. Before I even have a chance to finish looking over the Karma rewards, Tequatl the Sunless shows up without preamble. I do my civic duty in letting Map Chat know the dragon is up.

At first, I head over to the turrets and try shooting a few times. I do not see very many people, and begin to get worried. A bunch of Risen show up and kill the turret and nearly me along with it. I see only a few people at other turrets, and then I see no one at all. A mob of Veteran Risen surround every turret, and then I get one-shot by an exploding Risen while trying to rez some of the NPCs near the big Asura cannon thing.

I rez at a nearby Waypoint, look at the dragon and… wait. Was that a Fireball? There are people down there? I run past all the Risen mobs and destroyed turrets and Asura superweapons and… see a bunch of people whacking on dragon feet. Okay, then. Let’s roll.

At some point, I see extra-large Risen spawn, and I mouse-over – apparently they explode, and also explode on death. Good to know. DPSDPSDPS. I notice someone 20 feet away eat an explosion and go to the downed state. Immediately afterwards, a pile of poison gas settles over them and they die. I run over and try to rez from the edge of the poison cloud. I get a 1-2 seconds of rezzing in before I start taking 2k damage per second from the poison. I back away and start attacking the dragon again, knowing that this person can rez themselves at the Waypoint and be back in half the time anyway. Then this exchange happens:

/facepalm

Do you know when you encounter those people who say things like “Get the government out of my MediCare?” Words fail me to describe how stupid this exchange was. Which was perhaps appropriate for this dragon encounter, as it felt about as difficult as those Prologue events were in the Beta Weekends, back when bosses could 1-shot you.

A minute or so later, dragon dies.

I hardly knew ya.

Somehow, 1.53 silver and 8k XP don’t seem to cut it. There was a big treasure chest, of course, filled with 4-5 blues too… about half as many items as I got in the Risen Event immediately before this one. But perhaps it is an appropriate reward for killing a dragon I never knew existed, nor know what role it played in anything up to this point. Surely, the dragons were talked about somewhere, right?

Between the impending server shutdown and that run-in with the dumbass, I lose all motivation to continue onward and log off.

_____

As you might infer from the tone, I feel the experiment is at its logical end. While I cannot discount the possibility that my enthusiasm was hamstrung from the start (due to endgame concerns), these play-sessions very clearly brought out the perhaps hitherto repressed feelings of… blah when it comes to the combat system. I might enjoy the game more with the Warrior or Thief, or maybe even the Necromancer, but I find myself unwilling to throw away 40+ levels of progress.

My current plan is to simply level up the rest of the way to 80 via Crafting, knock out the all the Story missions, and maybe try to hit all the dungeons. Indeed, dungeons were the one bright spot when it came to enjoying playing my character, even if the specific dungeons I have played thus far have been fairly bad; Caudecus’s Manor in particular is the worst designed dungeon in any MMO I have ever played.

Once complete, I’ll set GW2 aside and move on to other things. I am trying to imagine what would bring me back after that point, but am kinda drawing a blank. Maybe an Elementalist class redesign, or if ArenaNet fixes a majority of those 100+ Necromancer bugs. I dunno.

We’ll see.

¹ The double-death tax being your gear taking damage plus the cost of reviving at a Waypoint.