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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.

OTOH: GW2, Part 1

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
–T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The experiment start at 7:48pm on Saturday. I zone into Sparkfly Fen, a level 55-65 area for the first time. During the loading screen, I let out a heavy sigh. Okay, here we go.

Starting strong.

I may have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating again: Guild Wars 2 looks amazing.

I can see the sort of watercolor schtick being an artistic preference, but more than the looks, the game does make you feel like you are moving in 3D space. I could (and did) climb that little rock wall thing on the left, for example. Skyrim still has GW2 beat, but they both share that sense of space and scope that encourages a “let me go over there… because I can!” feeling.

So far, so impressed.

After talking with a scout, I head over to the NW. A Heart icon and unfilled meter appears – the game face comes back on. I start clicking on the shiny things, filling up the meter 20% of the way before catching myself. Part of the experiment is to read ALL the things, because the head writer is not an accountant like I alleged. I talk to Jezza, and he/she wants me to help clean up undead by clicking on things, killing Risen, or picking up a flamethrower and using it on the bushes. I pan the camera around to case the area, then say “Yeah… flamethrower.”

Halfway through the meter, I hear a WHOOSH and glance over:

I cannot pretend this wasn’t a cool moment.

Clearly, someone at ArenaNet reads the blog and is following me around after complaining about the lack of Events. I drop my flamethrower and move to the cannons on the beach. We apparently have 15 minutes to kill the ship before… things happen. As I shoot a cannonball every 5-6 seconds, I see some other players running around near me. It is hard to see what they are doing, although I know the ship is launching things at the beach. None of them ever hit me, so I just keep firing.

After about the first two full minutes of said firing, it gets a bit tiring. Eventually, the ship goes down.

Boom

I briefly wonder when I started getting 1.33s for Events, as I go looking for my flamethrower. Oh… the Heart completed too. I talk to Jezza, browse the wares, and look around. Okay, there is a Skill Point just North of here. There is a crumbling stone building at the Skill Point location, and it appears to have several different levels. I walk in, start killing some things, and realize that I might have to commit some serious time to this place because it isn’t immediately clear A) where the Skill Point is, and B) how I would get back out. But… science!

I hop down to the bottom floor, and see some other players engaged with the Skill Point “guardian.” I land one blow before it dies, getting the Skill Point. I do talk with the NPC afterwards, as it appears to be a ghost. Interesting. It is apparently a “good” ghost that is also fighting the Risen in the area. Ghosts fighting undead is an interesting premise, and one I hope gets expanded on at some point. Indeed, I remember going through the Charr beginning zones thinking “if ghosts are this absurd of a weapon, why aren’t they used more offensively?” Anyway, getting out of the fort ends up being pretty easy.

I grab a Waypoint or two, and then pause for a photo op:

I didn’t choose the Asura life, the Asura life chose me.

I get to a… frog-people village at the tail-end of a king-of-the-hill-ish Event and get credit for basically 40 seconds of standing there. While so doing, I kept an eye on the unfolding drama in Map Chat regarding a Champion Shark spawn:

A legitimate chuckle was had.

By contrast, Qoetl was not particularly interesting to talk to. Fix signs, kill Risen, or squirt guards with a water gun. As I get started on these tasks, I hear a giant WHOOSH.

Long time, no see.

In case you did not want to check the timestamps yourself, it has been exactly 20 minutes. Dynamic, indeed. As I squirt a frog with a water gun, I muse on how it could have been possible for me to have missed the boat at the fort. Then again, as I eventually came to realize, you can hear the boat surfacing from anywhere in the entire zone.

All frogs hydrated, I head South. There are two Event notifications, but they are on an island with Hearts two levels higher than my current level. I get to another frog village, this time headed by Potatlan. I am linking all these characters so you can read their “quest text” yourself.

Having no interest in killing Risen, I get perfumed in the stench of death to attract the flies away from Risen corpses (both redundant and contradictory!) and bring them back to the frog so he can eat them. Okay… what is he going to do 4 hours from now when he’s hungry again? I guess it is a silly question, either because I may solve the undead problem entirely later on, or he could just eat the flies by cutting out the undead juice perfume middleman. I mean, it was not like I was preventing the flies from eating the corpses – I was merely bringing them to the frog so he wouldn’t have to move.

What a dick. I vow to let him die next time an Event rolls around.

Finishing up, the next Heart I see is to the South, but I see an Event notification to the North, near a Heart I already completed. Backtrack or press on? It has been about an hour, so I decide the Events can wait.

I barely get time to talk to Cuadinti before another survive-the-waves Event starts in the same area. I start to notice Risen frog-people are spawning, and they just sit back dealing 10% of your HP in attacks and stacking poison on you. Since you do not regenerate HP after combat until all debuffs fall off, this poses a particularly strong danger; at one point, I had a poison debuff that would have lasted 35 second. I spec’d my Elementalist as mostly Arcane/Water, so I could cleanse it pretty quickly when I pay attention, but it perhaps might have been an issue for some classes.

I cannot quest any farther South, as I am below level and have no interest in fighting Risen even in those rare times when I manage to get placed 1-2 levels above them. I move West and start working my way back up North. I run into the Champion Shark along the way:

Fair and balanced.

I have 7425 HP in this area, and as the combat log shows, the shark dealt 9,174 damage in, for all intents and purposes, a single attack (probably a “charge,” but I saw no warning for it). This was the first situation in which I experienced the underwater downed mechanic in a setting where I could actually get to the surface quickly.

As it turns out… it is fairly ludicrous. Just getting to the surface auto-heals you for an amount that is akin to 2-3 people rezzing you, making things fairly trivial. I could probably still auto-die after getting downed multiple times, but there were several other people around to act as additional targets so it was fine. The shark eventually died, and I got a grey vendor-trash fin, plus whatever the Event normally gives.

Talked with Ayomichi, who wants me to pop bloated fish corpses and kill infected wildlife to stop spread of corruption, just like all the other frog-people so far this map. I begin to wonder if that Vigil outpost at the beginning is all of civilization I am going to see.

I am immediately distracted by a waterfall/jumping puzzle.

*unconsciously leans forward in chair*

After solving the puzzle and harvesting a cauliflower “farm,” I check the AH prices. Hmm, vendor+1c for the vegetable. Makes sense.

I complete the Heart offered by Admiral Clarinda Demard, who is apparently a pirate that looks like a Seraph and willing to turn me into a Chocobo to peck open treasure chests. I swim into the water as the bird, to see what happens. You can do it, but you lose all your abilities, including the ability to untransform. I get out of the water, untransform, and get back in. After the first Risen mob I pull, I remember why I never A) fight Risen if I can help it, B) fight underwater. Elementalist underwater combat is awful, aside from the 10 seconds or so when you can turn into the Vortex with your Elite Skill and deal ~1500 damage per second.

Final Heart of the night is offered by Leemoola. I complete it as fast as humanly possible. Whoa, Aquabreathers! I upgrade my level 40 aquabreather with a level 60 version.

Believe it or not, I am actually missing Events and Enemy Types for the daily. Apparently the daily achievement resets between 8pm-9pm EST, because that isn’t prime time or anything. I open the map and see no orange circles, and am too tired to desire playing for much longer. I Waypoint myself over to the beginning Charr area, and roll the dice for Chili Peppers on the herb nodes (selling for 1 silver apiece!) and get my last few Events/Enemy Types filled.

Log off at 10:12pm.

OTOH Experiment

Everyone knows the importance of first impressions, and how they can color every experience thereafter. The situation is a bit more dire when it comes to blogging (or at least it feels that way), because once we nail something down with words, it not only helps cement the first impressions in our own minds, but it also becomes baggage that gets checked any time we say something contrary in the future. You would not see Wolfshead or Syncaine posting about how much they enjoy Mists of Pandaria, for example, even if they were genuinely impressed; so much of their identity and “e-cred” is wrapped up in historical posts about hating WoW that everyone would assume they are trolling at best, or hypocritical at worse.

I was thinking about all that this weekend, as I mused over the sort of feedback and counter-arguments I have been getting about my Guild Wars 2 posts. Do they have a point? Am I letting my first impressions and foreknowledge about the “endgame” color my moment-to-moment enjoyment? Am I not talking about the fun/interesting things because I subconsciously fear “contradicting” myself?

To answer these questions, I decided to try an experiment I am calling: On The Other Hand. The idea is to carve out a space between playing Devil’s Advocate and cleaning the slate as much as possible for a second impression. The experiment does not involve me being relentlessly positive or pretending to like things I do not – it merely gives me mental room to acknowledge that I may have been unfair in the past.

I’m wrapping this all up in a fancy “experiment” instead of just coming out and admitting possible wrongs, because… well, it is easier. Hey, I never pretended to be a humble guy.

In any case, the first night of the experiment actually happened on Saturday when I strolled into a zone I had never been to before; took some screenshots, jotted down some notes. Since I spent all day Sunday playing FTL (ominous foreshadowing?) I am going to try and run the experiment for another day or two. The end result may be in one big post, or several smaller ones. I especially want to try to get back into a third dungeon.

So look forward to that, or dread it, as is your predilection.