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Heart of Thorns Complete

In other GW2 news, I finally buckled down and completed the Heart of Thorns expansion story. Which is a bit weird, because I never finished the main GW2 story in all the time I’ve played the game, but whatever. The primary impetus was not necessarily seeing any kind of plot resolution, but because you can unlock an Ascended weapon at the very end.

Okay, yeah, this is cool.

 

The story experience of GW2 is interesting in general. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, your character is fully voiced and actually present at all the story moments that occur. While for some people this can pull them out of the game, I’m more than fine with it. In fact, it was oddly soothing for me, as the Commander always knows what other people are talking about, even when I do not. I mean, of course that is the case, but sometimes there can be large gaps inbetween plot points simply because you get swept up in some Map event chain.

Well… at least it wasn’t just me.

Indeed, I was recently wandering around unlocking stuff when I got swept up in a Mordremoth battle. This is technically the big dragon you are trying to kill in the expansion, so it was a bit weird engaging it before I had even reached the point story-wise when that was possible. The fight was crazy expansive, and I was forced to learn the mechanics on the fly, as it featured many instant-death mechanics. Ultimately we were successful, and I got a lot of shiny loot that was immediately thrown in the garbage, because Good Game Design.

Then I went back did some quests to find my friends kidnapped by Mordremoth, so I could figure out a way to kill him.

Those are real rocks you can stand on, by the way.

 

Along the way, I encountered a lot of bugs. Out in the open world, bugs can be super frustrating, but at least you can do something else. When you’re trying to complete a story though, getting force-disconnected at the end of a 25-minute story instance means starting all over. And there’s not any loot along the way, so it’s a total loss of your time. So while I appreciated the cinematic experience, this is not a exposition vehicle I want on the road.

I’m wrapping things up with Heart of Thorns, but there is something I definitely cannot say enough about GW2: it evokes a sense of space and depth and environment better than any other game on the market. I did find some invisible walls while I was messing around with mounts – which weren’t implemented until the next expansion – and all of the maps are sharp rectangles… but man. Not just the skyboxes, but the level of detail on the terrain is a sight to behold.

So beautiful that it almost feels wasted…

I would take any random corner of Tyria against the best, staged screenshot in WoW any time.

I Get/Don’t Get GW2

Since reinstalling the client a little over a week ago, I think I have spent more time reading about GW2 than I have playing.

The initial issue was as I described: picking a class that I wanted to play. I’m not sure how normal people do this sort of thing, but my standard operating procedure is a combination of getting hands-on while also reading the latest news about said class. Nobody wants to play a class about to be nerfed. The other issue is that you can read about how powerful a given class can be, but if the button combinations required to get there aren’t fun to push, then it doesn’t matter.

GW2_Space

Quite nice.

My original thought was Thief or Mesmer, so I started there. Then after playing a while, I realized something: if you aren’t playing GW2 for the WvW gameplay, why were you even playing? The game’s narrative is background noise, endgame progression is wardrobe-based, dungeons are about speed running exploits, and world PvE content consists of Champion trains and dragon zergs. You don’t even really have anything to look forward to while leveling either, as you can generally unlock every ability you are ever going to use by level 31, even under the revamped system. The only really redeeming feature seems to be WvW.

Or is it?

I’m still conflicted myself. I ended up going Necromancer as a class, which I had avoided at the time because of all the bugs and other issues. As it turns out, Necros are pretty damn powerful if you just ignore pets. Between that and the ability to really annoy zergs of any variety (PvE or PvP) from the relative safety of range, I felt like I had found a better home, class-wise.

Issues remain, however. It’s been three years, but I still remember all these level 30 zones I am going through, and the non-existence of their narratives. Combat feels floaty and insubstantial. The economy has inflated massively, and yet there really doesn’t feel like there is anything of value I can do/gather/create for cash. The more events I go though, the more it feels like I’m just mindlessly grinding for no reason. There might not be a mechanical difference between this approach and grinding out quests in WoW, but it emotionally feels different.

I was about to pack it up for good (again) when, in the course of doing an easy achievement daily to satisfy the 3 achievement daily daily, I just… sort of looked around.

GW2_Trees

Something something forest for the trees.

Those are trees. Duh, right? But looking at them, I began to really (re-)appreciate the sense of space that GW2 manages to generate. Each of those are an individual tree that you can walk around, get stuck on, and use to block projectiles coming at you. Other games might have a higher graphics fidelity than GW2, but I haven’t played one that quite felt the same walking around inside. There is almost a Skyrim-esque feeling to the terrain, insofar as you can reasonably look at an area and decide “hey, I want to climb that mountain over there” and be able to do so. This really comes through in the jumping puzzles, but those are just a byproduct of the underlying design allowing you to play in a remarkably detailed 3D space.

The only skyboxes in GW2 appear to be just the sky.

So, I feel like I “get” GW2 now – it is the best exploration MMO I have ever played. It’s just too bad that exploration isn’t enough for me as a player. I either need a reason to explore, or the ability to do something interesting once I arrive. I’m just not getting that feeling from GW2, and I’m not sure that I ever will. But if I ever get the desire to really walk around in a fantastical fantascape, I know which game to boot up.