Things That Make Guild Wars 2 “Home”

My last three blog posts were specifically about the new expansion and both positive and negative things that it has brought to the game. Although I could add on some more on both sides, I think enough has been said on those.

Recently I’ve been playing a lot of different games to give myself a bit of a break. I’ve been playing:

  • Rift – In spite of a few newer P2W elements that were recently introduced, I’ve been playing around to get an older school MMO fix like other games I used to play.
  • Neverwinter – Even though those dang Astral Diamonds (a form of game currency) take forever and a day to get, and the shop is terribly overpriced.
  • LOTRO – Which is my old home and I have a hard time going back, as I didn’t like the direction once they hit Isengard. It’s pretty desolate now, sadly. I miss the world though, as well as Shadows of Angmar.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 HD – A game I absolutely adored in college, and still really love the dressphere system.
  • Pokemon Omega Ruby – Don’t get me started on my fanboy obsession with this game right now. I got a Mew. Over 15 years later and I finally have a Mew!!!

One thing in those first three really stuck out to me… there are elements that make me rather unhappy compared to Guild Wars 2 that, in spite of feeling a little bored with it as of late, still have set a certain standard in my mind that other games don’t seem to match.

GW2 Changed Things

  1. Gathering Materials
    • I get so sick and tired of running up to an ore node and having someone mine it… and then I get nothing. Guild Wars 2 made it disappointing when that happens in other games. I love being able to mind the same nodes as other people.
  2. Rezzing
    • Alright, in a lot of other games I have the option to rez people, but even in Rift I can’t just click a button and rez someone from a dead state. There’s something fulfilling about helping other people out and to be honest, I find that doing this has made me want to help others in every part of the game if I can.
  3. Quests
    • Ok, so I tell myself I’m going to read quest lines and immerse myself in other games. You know what? I don’t. I really don’t. I try time and time again, but I just can’t sit there and read pages upon pages of text that really doesn’t flavour anything. I’m sure there are other games that do it. LOTRO, I read almost everything I encountered because I genuinely loved the lore and the atmosphere of the game. Guild Wars 2, I find I’ll even stop and read little snippets here and there because I love it. Other MMOs, I just can’t bring myself to do it.
  4. Gear
    • So here I am, thinking that I’m annoyed with Ascended gear and acquiring all the crazy stats that are now available. I get bored of my setup and think “this is going to take forever.” I swap over to other games and realize that if I ever want to actually be useful, I need to raid for hours on end (I abhor raiding in most games, to be honest. It’s not my thing). Get gear, so I can get more gear, to get more gear, and constantly try to get more gear… for what purpose? Yeesh. I can grab exotics in Guild Wars 2 and still be good enough for almost everything in the game. Heck, they even made it possible to change my Ascended gear for a small investment.
    • On this topic, the only two things I could think of that should be changed would be the runes and sigils being unlockable instead of destroyed when you swap ascended, as well as WvW having a PvP Build setup instead of using your actual gear. After playing a few other games though? Wow. I’m spoiled. I’ve got it good.
  5. Exploration
    • The sheer amount of games that are focused on “go from point A to point B” is maddening to me. I love that I can openly explore, choose my own path, and fight my own way through Tyria. It’s exciting that to this day, I can choose what Vistas to see, what enemies to fight, and what part of the Shiverpeaks I want to explore. In many other games, I’m forced to go from point A to point B, collecting a series of quests that eventually turn into senseless clicking instead of immersing myself into an entire world. Even worse are those games where you literally cannot explore and you’re pretty much stuck on rails.

Some Thoughts of Thankfulness

In all honesty, I have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, I have some criticism of the state of Guild Wars 2, but I also have a lot of things I adore that keep me coming back, and are exactly why I call Tyria home. I’m pretty sure I’ll be on this ride for a *very* long time. So today, I feel very excited for what’s in store, and definitely still put my trust that they’ll figure out where they’re going. If there’s one thing I can respect and appreciate about ArenaNet, it’s that they’re always looking to improve on what they have. Do they always get it right? In my opinion, no, but I can immensely respect them for being willing to take risks and step out to do something creative with what they’ve made.

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HoT Thoughts – Part 3: Elites and Love

The past month I’ve been writing about the story of Heart of Thorns, as well as the maps–two of the biggest things that HoT brought to the table. It was rather critical, because there are definitely a lot of areas that ArenaNet could work on that would help me enjoy their expansion better.

With that being said, I’m excited to finally share with you my thoughts of what I’ve been loving about Heart of Thorns!

Elite Specializations

One of the biggest changes that Heart of Thorns brought is the elite specializations. Every single one of them brought new things to the table (don’t shoot me yet for that statement). By now, many of you have played most of the elite specializations and have started to see how they change the base professions to at least some extent, so I’ll give some of my (very) brief thoughts on them all!

Dragonhunter

As someone who mained a Guardian for quite a long time, I was rather disappointed with Dragonhunter. Traps feel more like symbols all over in the sense that they’re stationary rings. I’m not convinced Guard needed this. The longbow? People have been asking for it since launch, and it can be quite powerful. I just find it doesn’t synergize as someone who was a straight up Hammer Guard. The more I played Dragonhunter, the more it seemed like DPS was the focus. Not a bad thing, but it just didn’t click. Since then, I’ve pretty much abandoned my Guardian.

Druid

Oh. My. Goodness. I adore this profession, but this brought something radically new to the table with Rangers. I know a lot of people would’ve loved to be able to get rid of their pet for bonuses, but I think ANet took a very interesting route. The Druid is quite possibly the best healer in a game where healing was pretty much useless as a whole. Since raids (which I won’t be touching on), a healing Druid is pretty much meta, and they offer a whole lot more group support than Rangers originally did. It brings something new to the table, for sure, but I also wonder if it makes Druid feel too much like its own new profession all together? Maybe this is a good thing?

Whatever way you lean, I personally find my Druid to be a blast, and the glyphs really give some extra flexibility in playstyle, even if you go DPS.

Tempest

Ok, I know that I’ve complained on Twitter time and time again about how much I can’t click with Ele, in spite of maining it for an entire year, but let me say this… I FREAKING LOVE TEMPEST. I don’t know why. Those overloads, the Warhorn, and shouts, all give me a great sense that I’m more in control of my toon instead of mindlessly doing a rotation between elements. Right now I’m running a Fresh Air Tempest build, and I’m having way too much fun. The burst is amazing, the support/utility is somewhere between staff and focus, and it’s a fresh take on the Elementalist to me (see what I did there?).

Reaper

I’m still figuring Reaper out, but I’m getting the picture more and more. I think the Necro needed this a lot. There’s some stability in there, there’s some great melee outside of dagger, and as someone who ran a Power Necro (Wells), I’ve finally put together a build that jumps off of that and makes me more of a beast in melee. I’ve duo’d champions with random players in Auric Basin, so that’s a great start with a profession that I always struggle to be good at, but still love.

Daredevil

I’ve enjoyed most of the elite specs. Heck, I actually really love playing the Daredevil. Dodging and dealing damage, the extra dodge, and the staff as a whole, all really click with how I play the game. The down side? It still doesn’t bring great utility to a group, and it’s still horribly selfish. It makes me wonder how Daredevils do in raids? I don’t really know many that main it.

The biggest issue people have (and I do as well), is that it feels like they took away things from the Acrobatics line that made us great at dodging, and then put it into the Daredevil. There were recently some changes to the Acrobatics line, but I haven’t delved into it much to see if it really helps.

Regardless of that little chip on my shoulder, I actually love how the Daredevil feels. It doesn’t seem to bring great team support still, but it’s a blast to play!

Scrapper

I’ve been looking forward to Scrapper. I played a Power Engi for quite a while there, and suddenly I find I’m not really figuring Scrapper out at all. Gyros seems underwhelming and while the hammer is fun to play, I find my Rifle is much more powerful and useful. To me, that’s an indication that I need more time spent into Scrapper. Does anyone have any advice or ideas on how to use their new weapon and utilities?

Chronomancer

Alright, I’m not a Mesmer genius. I’m actually a Mesmer moron, but I try. My wife’s the one that adores Mesmer as well as Chronomancer. Alacrity radically changes a lot of things and gives greater group support to this profession. The wells are well-needed AoEs (look! I did it again!) that were sorely lacking outside of Shatters and Chaos Storm. I personally love the shield, although my wife barely uses it. As a whole, I find it adds on to what already existed for Mesmers and filled in the gap.

Berserker

Fun. Chop chop. Slicey dicey. I don’t really play Warrior, but I’ve heard a few people say that conditions are now a little more viable with the Berserker, and Berserk adds another fun layer on to how Adrenaline is used. I don’t play Warrior enough to actually give any thoughts on what it does as a whole.

 

The Revenant

Alright, this is where I really want to get a bit more in-depth, other than a few opinions. Why? Because I main the new profession, the Revenant now. My Guardian has taken the back-seat and become a crafter, and I’ve been able to put some serious effort into building him up. I rolled him, and haven’t been happier. The Revenant has a unique set of weapons:

Sword

The Sword is my main go-to weapon. It used to simply be used for auto-attack which wasn’t very engaging and didn’t force you to use your profession mechanic (managing energy–sort of like the Rune Keeper of LOTRO’s class mechanic). The changes now force you to use 2 (Precision Strike) and to use 3 (Unrelenting Assault) very carefully. This is a positive thing.

Mace

The Mace is a condition-based weapon that deals Torment and Burning. Although it’s fun, it’s definitely underwhelmed by the Revenant’s sheer ability to tear through things with its Power and Ferocity stats.

Staff

The Staff is a support weapon. People have to get this through their heads very quickly. A lot of complaint at the beginning was how little damage it did (which they may have buffed at one point). It’s honestly my favourite weapon of all, considering it has a condition cleanse, CC control (they totally nerfed it though… at launch, you could tear through a Legendary Wyvern’s CC bar and break it with one attack), and a few other CC abilities. It also drops healing orbs with its auto-attack. Frankly, staff is my favourite weapon in the entire game and is a lot of fun!

Hammer (Ranged)

A hammer as a ranged weapon is one of the most amazing ideas ever. It feels hilariously awesome. They’ve recently attempted to fix 2 (Coalescence of Ruin) since it was critting for way too much and hitting way too many people, especially in PvP. It was over the top and needed a nerf. I do believe it still needs a few more tweaks though.

Axe (Off-hand)

Axe is also condition-focused and pairs well with Mace or Sword, depending on your build. Its 4 (Frigid Blitz) is amazing for shadowstepping and is very satisfying to use. Axe 5 (Temporal Rift) is fun to use, causes some Torment, and pulls foes into it (giving a CC side to it). I haven’t used Axe in a while for Shield (coming in a bit here) , but it’s definitely a fun go-to.

Sword (Off-hand)

Sword off-hand is ok, I suppose. The block on 4 doesn’t seem all that significant, and 5 (Grasping Shadow) is rather clunky and strange since it’s so single-targeted. I may play around with it again soon since I’ve been getting bored of my Shield.

Along with this, the Revenant also brings four Legendary “stances”:

  1. Ventari – A healing tablet you can move around, cleanse conditions, and destroy projectiles. It’s a little awkward because you have to constantly be moving your tablet around for healing and positioning, which is challenging in big boss fights. Regardless of that, it’s my favourite legend to run (even though I don’t ever use it since there are better options).
  2. Shiro – An assassin stance that is focused on quick attacks and movement, as well as a powerful CC with its elite (costing 50 out of your 100 max energy) called Jade Winds. I run this legend constantly, and for good reason.
  3. Mallyx – A strange condition-based legend that needs some tweaking, especially since some of its traits are still based on what it was before HoT’s release–taking lots of conditions on itself and creating conditions so you could spread them to others. Not much to say here.  Resistance is a great boon, but Mallyx needs some Dev love still.
  4. Jalis – Supposedly the tanking legend, Jalis has a few elements of healing, some condition removal, a taunt, damage mitigation, and

The Herald – Revenant’s Elite

The Herald brings in another level of power to the Revenant. Given that the Revenant was built with the Elite Spec in mind (compared to the other professions), I find that Herald is almost needed, and you feel gimped if you don’t run Herald. It brings a few things:

  1. Glint Legend – Facets that you activate like a signet but create new skills to use. Facets take energy to maintain and share boons to people around you. Using the next skill will cancel the boon-sharing ability of said facet and create an effect, such an AoE that burns and chills, or healing you for all damage done to you for a few seconds.
  2. Shield – The shield brings some interesting skills, but given the recent nerf to Crystal Hibernation (which blocks all damage and heals you periodically while you’re rooted and blocking), I’m finding it not as good anymore. I don’t really use the 4 on shield and honestly, I find myself using it more because I have the Flameseeker Prophecies (which, thematically, works so amazingly well together with Glint).
  3. Traits – The traits are pretty useful to any build, like increased damage per boon on you, gaining toughness for each point of upkeep you have (be careful if you’re in a raid), stun breaking nearby allies if you stun break, etc. I find as a whole, it’s a no-brainer and radically improves the Revenant.

Conclusion

HoT has brought quite a bit of content, but most of it has been gated in time or massive amounts of grinding. Thankfully, the Elite Specs are built in a way that are fairly accessible if you just start getting some hero challenges done in the HoT areas (which most aren’t as daunting as you’d think, and people have an incentive to help since they get rewarded daily for helping with a hero challenge). I would say that of all things, the elite specializations are the best thing Heart of Thorns has brought to Guild Wars 2. The problem? There is a sense of a power creep here, where those who are F2P or haven’t yet purchased HoT are going to notice that they’re underpowered in WvW and PvP.

I’d say as a whole that from these three blog posts that Heart of Thorns is both a success, and a struggle. They brought some amazing content with some serious blaring flaws. There are some great things that have been offered, but some areas that myself, as a gamer and consumer, am left longing for something more. Because of my time zone and work life, I’m not able to play how and when they want me to play.

I think overall, they’ve created a good base with the mastery system on where they can go. Hopefully, Heart of Thorns is a bold step in a direction they can tweak to work for the masses, and deliver us bigger and more engaging content than what HoT offered.

For now, I’ll play my Herald, finish my dailies, and cross my fingers for what Living Story 3 will do for the game as a whole.

HoT Thoughts – Part 2: The Jungle

DISCLAIMER: This post contains spoilers. If you have not finished the Heart of Thorns Story and Maps and do not wish for spoilers, I suggest reading after you’ve completed them.

Last week I took some time to write about the story in Heart of Thorns. Specifically, it was the most critical of this 3-part series about my HoT thoughts. This week I want to talk a little bit more about the story, as well as the open world, events, maps.

HoT Thoughts – Story (the good)

Last week you may have noticed that my views on the story were highly critical, and could possibly be mistaken as negative. While yes, I believe that there are some not-so-well-done elements of the story, there are some amazing things as well!

Recently I decided to bring my Necromancer through a bit of the story as a Reaper, and I remembered how much I absolutely love that your character speaks. This is huge. They converse, express thoughts, and vocalize their experience as they step through the journey to the Heart of Thorns.

Furthermore, I love that there are some minor choices that change the direction. Verdant Brink gives you this option with either going out with Tizlak or defending the Itzel village in Chapter 4: The Jungle Provides. Sure, it’s small, but it definitely lets you have multiple experiences of the story as you do it on alts.

Finally, I really love that not everything is instanced. You are engaged with the world around you, since the story itself isn’t just tied to the chapters you complete, but also to the meta events that take place. Each map itself is a part of what’s happening in the giant narrative of Heart of Thorns.

Moving on, HoT radically changed a lot of things in Guild Wars 2. Some for the better, some for the worse. I’ll step through some thoughts from each

Open World

Verdant Brink

This is probably my favourite map in terms of the meta event. If you haven’t played it, the Pact is scattered and need to set up encampments. During the day, you’ll be completing meta events to establish these encampments throughout the map. During the night, rally points are established that require that you claim them, deliver pact supplies, and escort pact soldiers to boost the supply level. Like the meta events in the day cycle, these contribute to the map meta level at night. After a certain point, choppers are placed at the rally points and encampments, and you can go up to the canopy and fight a set of bosses that also contribute to the map meta completion (up to Tier 4).

This is an astoundingly well done map meta because there is always something going on. I’d say of all the events, this is the one that’s done perfectly well. Sure, you may not get Tier 4 rewards if you’re not on a great map, but there is always something happening that’s worth doing. I find of all the maps, I end up back here the most.

Auric Basin

This is a beautiful map, and quite possibly the most beautiful of all of them. Exalted are all around the map, and Tarir is absolutely gorgeous. The problem that arises is the need to taxi into a good map to make the map worth the events. I won’t go into the detail of the rest of the map metas, but this one is a weird mixture of Vinewrath, Marionette, and the Ogre Guild Challenge.

It’s actually a really fun meta event that’s pretty easy to do if people cooperate,  but the issue is that the map is rendered rather worthless unless you do Hero Challenges every day for Aurillium (10 per repeatable challenge), or taxi to a better map. The good part is that of all of the meta events, this seems to be the easiest to get into and to do. The down side? Nothing else happens if it’s not the meta event.

Tangled Depths

As you get further into the jungle, you hit Tangled Depths. This is actually my favourite map in the entire game because of its complexity. It’s beautifully done, full of mobs to destroy, and has a lot of nooks and crannies outside of the Ley-Line Confluence Waypoint where the meta event happens. Some find it highly confusing, but once you’ve explored quite a bit, navigating gets much easier.

There are two issues I see with this map though:

1. Meta is Everything

Like Auric Basin, the meta event is all that matters here. You won’t find events worthwhile to do unless it’s hero challenges, which will net you some Ley Line Crystals, the currency for this map. To me, this is a huge down side though since the meta for this map isn’t ongoing. At least with Auric Basin, there’s a progressive meta with very little down time. You can always get in. This one? The meta builds up fairly quickly, only to end abruptly if one lane should fail (more on that in a minute here).

2. Wham-Bam, Thank You, Meta

Harsh, but that’s how I feel this meta event is. I actually LOVE doing the Chak Gerent battle. Problem? It’s every two hours, meaning I rarely ever get to attempt it. It’s also extremely difficult compared to all the other metas in HoT, and you need it for some collections. I’ll be blunt and say that this is a poor design, and should be looked at again.

The map meta starts with pulling different lanes together, consisting of Rata Novus, Ogres, Nuhoch, and S.C.A.R. These events pull together pretty quick. Then every two hours the event takes place… for a very brief time.

You see, multiple lanes gather to face the Gerent, each having a different mechanic to get the Gerent up for a burn phase. This happens a few times, with multiple opportunities to fail. Should one lane fail, the entire group fails. Some lanes like S.C.A.R. are simply DPS checks as opposed to being heavily mechanic-based.

It’s hard to explain my feelings for this. I honestly feel that Tangled Depths is too long between meta events, too insignificant in the grand scheme of the map (it runs for what… 20 minutes, if that?), is too important for collections when it’s that infrequent, and is far too difficult for how important it is. I enjoy the idea behind it, but it relies too much on way too many people doing it perfectly, when you don’t get enough time to practice.

Overall, I love the map itself… it just feels empty and purposeless in the grand scheme, as if it were forgotten about. Also, if you want to do the meta? Taxi in an hour before, other wise there’s no hope.

Yeah. I want to play the expansion by standing around, waiting for a 15 minute meta event that’s most likely going to fail. Thrilling.

Dragon’s Stand

This is the shining beacon of excitement in terms of the design of meta events. The entire battle pulls together the entire map meta stories and joins all the races and groups together (even the Nightmare Court) in a final assault against Mordremoth. Well, specifically, the Mouth of Mordremoth. If anything, this is one epic battle that culminates in an amazing raid-like boss fight with great mechanics. Is it hard? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Completely.

The big problem? That this expansion should have been called Guild Wars 2: Heart of the Taxi. You need to taxi into this map as well to make any use of it, and it has a two hour time limit to succeed. Reality is, I rarely get to do this one as well because of real life. I have a job, kids, and things to do, so when I have a few hours at night to actually play, I don’t get to touch Tangled Depths or Dragon’s Stand. It’s sad, because this place is amazing.

If you haven’t done DS, you need to. Take some time, sit down, and enjoy the giant war that is the siege on Mordremoth.

A Few Thoughts

I really do love Heart of Thorns, but the extreme need to taxi for events, the long wait time between many meta events, and the lack of maps outside of these four, is really one of the biggest down sides of Heart of Thorns. Yes, you get four maps that have some serious events to them, but if you don’t get into a good map, you don’t get to play a large chunk of the expansion. This type of taxi-gating is infuriating at times and has, in some moments, made me wonder why I purchased Heart of Thorns.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I bought the expansion and you’ll see why next week, but there are definitely some frustrations. This expansion is not perfect, but I think it’s a great start. When you do get to experience a lot of metas, you’ll find that they’re quite engaging and exciting, with some fun mechanics to them. Are they game-changers? Definitely not.

HoT Thoughts – Part 1: The Story

It’s been two months since Heart of Thorns was released for Guild Wars 2, and I’ve found myself with mixed feelings. I’ve decided to write three posts, giving my thoughts on HoT and what I’ve experienced.

DISCLAIMER: These three posts will contain spoilers. If you have not finished the Heart of Thorns Story and do not wish for spoilers, I suggest reading these posts after you’ve completed them.

Of the three posts, this one will be the longer, and I will focus specifically with the critical side of Heart of Thorns’ story.

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The Story

I have to admit that the story of Heart of Thorns felt absolutely amazing to me. I was completely built up from the Living Story since Scarlet attacked Lion’s Arch in her Breachmaker, and woke up Mordremoth. I was actually completely sold to the storyline and all that was happening. I patiently waited since February to see what was going to happen with our dreaded Jungle Dragon.

When Heart of Thorns launched, I quickly rolled my Revenant (thoughts to come in Part 2), went through the main story, and moved on to the HoT story. It consisted of 16 parts, most of which were quite quick.

Prologue: Rally to Maguuma – In Their Footsteps

The first few chapters are focused on the Pact being torn apart from Mordremoth’s retaliation. Sylvari are being corrupted, Destiny’s Edge is scattered, and everything in the jungle is unknown. Your character, along with Destiny’s Edge 2.0, begin their search in the jungle.

I love the first few chapters because it really pulls you in. You get captivated in all that’s going on, feel the sense of the struggle that Sylvari are facing with Mordremoth’s call, and see how torn apart everything really is. The atmosphere for the Verdant Brink section as a whole is absolutely amazing. I think they did a top-notch job on it, and it’s a great experience.

Prisoners of the Dragon

The only thing I have to say about this story step (remember, I warned you about incoming SPOILERS), is that the death in this story is… uhh… random? Forced? I mean, Faolain is selfish and a little crazy, and I understand that she would throw anyone under in order to save herself, but she didn’t feel like Faolain at all. Perhaps Mordremoth’s voice was getting to her? If that’s the case, it should have been better explained. Yay. She stabs Eir so she can get away. It just felt like they wanted to kill someone to make the player “feel.”

Although I was shocked, I felt like it was a copout.

Of course, I definitely did feel with Braham’s reaction. Would’ve been a great time for him to become a Dragonhunter and tie in some lore to the profession.

Prized Possessions – The Way In

From here, the team moves into Auric Basin. I adored the city, the map, and the exalted (although I still think they should have brought in a bit more lore by making some tie-in with the Mursaat, but it seems that they don’t want to tie into old lore from Guild Wars 1. It’s been pretty obvious that they want to make new lore, and any references seem to be just throwing us Guild Wars 1-lovers a bone.

Side Note: What the heck is with your character hating on Caithe? Instead of asking what’s going on, your character immediately villainizes her. It’s uncharacteristic with the experiences from the story dungeons and the Personal Story. What in the world? Even in the end, you act like she’s a worse creature than Mordremoth…

The trials were pretty exciting and fun to do. I enjoy how the chase with Faolain, and the trials were all unique mechanics instead of just straight up “spam 1” type stuff. Highly enjoyable!

The story is pretty straight-forward until you reach Rata Novus. You’re looking for your team and friends while trying to survive. The Exalted are activated from the egg being nearby and will protect it while you follow Taimi into Rata Novus.

I’m not spending a lot of time on this section of the story, as it was enjoyable and straight-forward. My wife and I were pretty happy while we did this section of the story.

The Way In – Bitter Harvest

Here’s where things get… weird. So you’re in Rata Novus after your journey through Tangled Depths (which I actually enjoyed as well–Tizlak 4 Prez), and discover that apparently, they were researching dragons and found stuff. Dragons have a weakness.

Voila, magic, suddenly we know we can defeat Mordremoth, so let’s go in guns-a-blazin’ and attack. Out of nowhere, we have no clue what the weaknesses are but clearly they all have one, so uhh.. yeah. Hoorah. Go team.

I adore Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet, and the people that work there, but I have to admit that this is the biggest plothole I’ve ever seen in the game. “They have a weakness” is not a valid enough reason to charge forward and start attacking a freaking dragon. There has to be something more given than that. It’s like there were supposed to be a few more chapters but they got cut because of time constraints. “Our job is to find out how they can be killed.” Onward, ho!

After we leave Rata Novus, we find pods and such where Logan and Zojja are being held, and we rescue them both.

We find Trahearn, kill Faolain-Vinetooth-thing that was protecting him, and I had hoped it would have been a more engaging battle. Still, glad she was gone. That was just… weird.

Mordremoth rips Trahearne out of our grasp and we follow into… THE HEART OF THORNS!!! *Ominous-yet-epic music*

Hearts and Minds

We encounter Trahearne who’s kinda… half-absorbed… and we have to figure out (after understanding that Mordremoth isn’t just a dragon, but he’s the jungle itself) how we’re going to kill him.

“Ummm… he does jedi mind tricks on the sylvari so uhh… hey. Let’s ummm… go inside his mind and kill him there!”

Wait… wut? It kind of comes out of nowhere. Like your character has some magical epiphany. Allow me to have a small rant, if you will.

I hate when people scream: “Ewww it’s a trope!” as if they’re a critic. Tropes are not a bad thing. So before you scream “trope! bad writing!”, stop and ask if it was used well. Things can be stereotypically classic and still be a wonderful story. How tropes are used is what makes them good or bad. That being said, this deus ex machina they pulled was probably the worst thing I’ve seen in Guild Wars 2. It’s honestly like they were going to work up to it and ran out of time.

This moment is what left a terribly bitter taste in my mouth for the story. It fell flat. On the flip-side, the mechanics of the fight were amazing.

I loved how Mordremoth’s envisioning of himself was shown. He’s a freaking Draconian. For those of you who complain that he was some potato lump, methinks you need to raise your graphic settings, because he looked awesome (just my opinion, but I was pleased). The mechanics of the battle, having to glide around, and having to use the rifts to gain control, were all absolutely amazing. Playing that whole instance was epic. It was a lot of fun, and definitely showed what they’re capable of in terms of mechanics. So in spite of the story falling flat, the fight with Mordremoth was amazing.

My Big Fat Issue(s)

Mordremoth is… dead? Like, that’s it? All this build up and there’s no epic fight (yes, I get the Dragon’s Stand battle with the Mouth of Mordremoth… which is the best thing in Guild Wars 2 right now). I expected a story struggle, and massive revelations about story things like:

  • Where’s Magdaer? Well, Eir’s dead, so whatever.
  • Mursaat? People have been asking. Some kind of tie-in would’ve been good.
  • Revenant! We’d love to know what happened with Rytlock? Oh wait. I bet he doesn’t even know.
  • Mordremoth is dead. Seriously. Did they think it was dragged out enough? We woke an elder dragon and then “Poof!” Just like that, he’s dead. So now what? We’ll have to wait until Living Story 3, I guess?
  • Rata Novus had so much potential, but we barely spend any time there.
  • The Caithe-hating doesn’t mesh with the entire story up until now.
  • Wait, where’s that big vine creature from the trailer? It was made up for nothing, and then not included? Would’ve been way more epic if that had been Mordremoth.
  • Sylvari being corrupted really seems to fade into the background after Verdant Brink. It doesn’t affect anything.
  • The random solution to kill Mordremoth was way too cheesy and unfounded.
  • The story felt way too quick for something called an “Expansion.” It was more like a Living Story set than what I’d consider Expansion-worthy.

Conclusion

In spite of that criticism, I actually really did enjoy the story as a whole and will do it again as a Sylvari, just for a different view on things. Hopefully it adds even more to the story than what I saw. Now that Part 1 is done, be sure to look for Parts 2 and 3, which will become progressively more positive as they go on. I intentionally wanted to get my biggest issues out of the way so I could end with what I love about the expansion!

Revenant Thoughts: Beta Weekend

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I don’t shut up about the Revenant. I’m pretty sure even ArenaNet employees are going to get tired of me rambling or messaging them about it. Still, I wanted to take some time to write about my experience and thoughts on the Revenant. I’ll preface it with saying that I’m pretty positive that this will replace my Guardian as my new main.

I will say that I have not touched anything outside of PvE. I cannot comment on WvW or PvP for the Revenant. Although I enjoy math, in games I avoid being a min/maxer and focus more on the ‘feel’ and playstyle of a profession or class. I care more about enjoying myself than doing the most damage. “MOAR DEEPS” is not my idea of fun, and I’ll even mention throughout this blog post that I enjoy playing support more than anything, which is why I’ve mained a Guardian for a long time now.

So for those looking for detailed math and what specific tweaks should happen? I’m not a developer. I don’t claim to know what will be the best changes. Still, I hope that if there are those who work at ArenaNet who read this, that it can be valuable feedback for the PvE side of things, as well as conveying my understanding of the feel.

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Legends

Shiro (Legendary Assassin)

As a whole, the Assassin stance is very unique, but fills a gap I didn’t expect from the Revenant. It has an in-and-out feeling, but seems to lack in the healing department. It’s definitely DPS-focused, and it’s an element the Revenant was severely missing in the last weekend event where we could play Revenant.

6 (Enchanted Daggers) – An interesting heal that feels very strange to me unless I’m running Dagger. I feel like it really doesn’t do enough to heal me up, and isn’t worth me using. Because of this, it makes Shiro feel a little weak to me on the self-heal department. Then again, I think they were aiming more for mobility, forcing you to step out for a better heal.

7 (Riposting Shadows) – I need to learn to use this more. The specific conditions it deals with are a good thing. I love the stun break, and the evade, along with the endurance gain. Honestly this one is so unique that I barely used it, as it would take me time to get used to it. It felt really good when I used it right though.

8 (Phase Traversal) – So I honestly might’ve been running Shiro just for this skill. BAM. Shadowstep. Sure, something about unblockable and some damage (which are very welcome), but that shadowstep alone really made the difference for me in this legendary stance.

9 (Impossible Odds) – Slaughter fest. Stack up enough energy and you’ve got quickness and super speed coming with every tick? I love running it with staff so my auto is dropping healing orbs nonstop. I also loved it with sword, slamming out quite a bit of damage. My biggest problem is forgetting to pay attention to my energy, so I end up having to swap out instead of being able to use skills I wanted to.

0 (Jade Winds) – A *very* cool skill that hearkens back to Guild Wars 1. I was impressed by it, but don’t see much value for it in dungeons. I wrestle with whether it feels very ‘elite’ or not to me. Does it have a lot of value? I think more value in PvP and WvW for sure. PvE? Not so much. I’m not convinced it needs to be tweaked much, but I’m sure others would have better insight.

Ventari (Legendary Centaur)

I actually find this extremely fun. Some people complain about having to move your tablet around constantly but as I use a Razer Naga, I find it very engaging. It’s probably the degree of engagement that makes me want to use this all the time. Of course, I adore support.

6 (Ventari’s Will) – Move the tablet, heal some people, and if traited you’re getting Regen around the thing too? Yup. I’m good with that. Makes sense.

7 (Protective Solace) – I love a toggle skill that reflects projectiles. Very strategic, and I can see it being great in PvE. I’m not convinced Ventari as a whole will be useful in WvW or PvP, but who knows?

8 (Natural Harmony) – I wish this skill would heal for a larger amount and have a longer CD. Otherwise I feel like I’m just moving with 6 and hitting 8 almost every single time. It doesn’t feel as strategic as it should be.

9 (Purifying Essence) – A great condition cleanse that heals for every condition removed. Works for me, and I used it frequently.

0 (Energy Expulsion) – Blow it up, knock things back, drop big orbs that heal for quite a chunk. Feels very good, and in Ventari stance it seems energy is easy to keep up so 50 isn’t a big deal. I have to get used to using this more often.

Jalis (Legendary Dwarf)

6 (Soothing Stone) – A standard heal that feels familiar, cleansing conditions. You gain retaliation for each cleansed condition, which is quite nice.

7 (Inspiring Reinforcement) – I love how this skill looks. The best part is the stability and weakness that it gives/causes. Frankly, I love using this in a group and find it’s really easy to spam, as it’s on a 5s CD. One of the best parts of the Dwarf stance.

8 (Forced Engagement) – I’m still not used to the taunt thing, and I barely used this skill. I can’t really comment as to why. It just didn’t seem valuable to me while in larger groups. It could be very useful in PvP.

9 (Vengeful Hammers) – This is crazy amounts of fun, but it does drain energy pretty quick. Only good if you’re in melee, but I used it quite a bit. I admit though, I had to be pretty conscious about using it, as I’d often forget. Happy that it’s a toggle.

0 (Rite of the Great Dwarf) – Love the reference. I do find that the cast time makes me avoid using it most of the time, and 50% dmg reduction to normal attacks doesn’t really seem appealing. It feels rather underwhelming to me as a whole, so I barely used it.

Mallyx (Legendary Demon)

I have to admit that the Demon stance doesn’t really click with me much and I have a few reasons why. (Side note: I felt like I was playing a bit of a condition necro while in this stance). It doesn’t seem like a good PvE stance, as I find I’m not slammed with too many conditions. WvW on the other hand, I could have fun with this as I do WvW almost every night.

6 (Empowering Misery) – Gain more healing per condition. I hate self-weakness, I must admit. I get why it’s there, but it drives me bonkers.

7 (Pain Absorption) – Resistance is a unique thing to get used to, and is quite helpful if you’re dealing with a lot of conditions. Self-blind is no big deal as it’s only one hit.

8 (Banish Enchantment) – I get spam-happy on this as I love stacking confusion. Removes boons, it’s unblockable, and hits multiple targets. Probably the best part of the Demon stance.

9 (Unyielding Anguish) – I have issues with knockback or displacement in this game. It’s an insane pet-peeve of mine with how many people knock things out of giant stacks of AoEs because it’s mindless. This skill does that very thing, screwing up group content. Maybe in PvP or WvW it could be a lot of fun, but I find it’s just a royal pain in PvE. Torment is great, yes, but I just don’t get this one. Of everything the Revenant has, this is the one skill that I think was a cool idea but in practice? I think it’s going to be dubbed the new “Ranger LB 4 (aka Point Blank Shot).” We will curse the name of Unyielding Anguish throughout 2016 if this stays.

0 (Embrace the Darkness) – I’m a freaking margonite. I’m amazing. I love the graphics of it. 10% to all stats is definitely a bonus. Copy conditions with each tick? PvE once again it’s not so valuable, but I could see its strategic value.

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Weapons

Sword

Overall, I found that sword was ok. It wasn’t my favourite, but that’s just personal preference. It has a lot of value and can be used quite effectively for DPS and the like. It wasn’t where I spent my bit of time this weekend.

1 – Pretty standard auto-attack. I quite enjoy it. The range on the second hit is very strange. I could see it having some value though with enemies that move around a bit.

2 (Precision Strike) – This feels strange to me. It feels like it doesn’t do a tremendous amount of damage, and the Chill doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. 1s of Chill doesn’t seem to have much value, if you ask me. 4 second recharge isn’t very long, but I’m not sure I personally felt like it clicked.

3 (Unrelenting Assault) – This seems quite damaging, and I love that you can get might from it.

4 (Duelist’s Preparation) – Quite good. I actually enjoy the defensive element of the off-hand sword.

5 (Grasping Shadow) – Didn’t play with this enough.

Staff

I spent most of my time again in Staff. It feels like the damage has gotten quite buffed, and the support capability while in melee is exactly what I’ve been wanting to play. I’m in love with it.

1 – Damage, damage, damage and healing orbs. Most people hate healing in this game it seems, but I actually love this little tiny boost. Mix that with Impossible Odds (Shiro Legendary 9) and that’s quite helpful in groups. I felt like it really helped when grouped with my wife.

2 (Punishing Sweep) – This feels awkward to me. I enjoy that I can sometimes inflict weakness through Debilitating Slam. 3s of it is quite effective, imo. I also enjoy Melee AoEs, so it’s right up my alley.

3 (Warding Rift) – I love this. I adore this. The reflect has to be fairly timed, and the blind is great.

4 (Renewing Wave) – These are the types of skills that I adore. 2 conditions cleansed on a 15s CD while also providing healing? Yes please. I’m a player who enjoys playing support, and it gives some flexibility with some of the legendaries.

5 (Surge of the Mists) – It feels like tremendous damage to a series of enemies while knocking them back. Nothing more can be said other than “this is amazing, I love it, and I should probably stop using it while facing a cliff.”

Mace

Mace is very much a condition weapon but still seems to have a bit of damage to it. It’s not a condition weapon like the Necromancer’s scepter. I’m not sure what to relate it to.

1 – Torment and Poison on the auto-attack? Yes please. I didn’t even try a condition-based Revenant, and I found this powerful in PvE.

2 (Searing Fissure) – Fire Field? Burning? Nice area in front of you? I love it. I felt like this was quite damaging.

3 (Echoing Eruption) – Blast finisher? You mean I can drop a fire field and then blast might with the same single weapon? Yup. I’m game. This is a huge draw for me. Plus hey, more torment.

Axe

Axe offers some condition and mobility that I find to be quite effective.

4 (Frigid Blitz) – The chill on this is ok, but it’s the shadowstep with the final blow of damage that really draws me in. They buffed axe, and it feels very in-line with where it should be. Pairs well with sword, imo.

5 (Temporal Rift) – Ok, so I admit that didn’t even know what this did. I just kept using it because it looked so cool. Torment and a pull? I actually didn’t notice if enemies were pulled in or not. I just loved the torment and damage from it. Feels very clean, easy to use, and works.

Hammer

So I have the Juggernaut. My desire to play Revenant was partially influenced by that fact. So here it goes:

1 (Hammer Bolt) – It feels clunky, but deals some nice damage for being ranged. I like that it penetrates and hits up to 5 targets (untraited Ranger LB drives me insane for that). The projectile finisher can be paired with skill 4 (Field of the Mists) for constant Lifesteal. Throw in Shiro’s 6 (Enchanted Daggers) and you could possibly have some nice self-healing there from range.

2 (Coalescence of Ruin) – 2s CD for some spammy fun. I still haven’t gotten used to where the damage really takes place, but it’s clear that hammer encourages you to really stay at range. It’s built to live somewhere between burst and sustain for damage. I’m not sure how I could see this weapon being effective in PvP, but for PvE this is a great skill. I think it just takes some getting used to. Frankly, I think ANet are thinking outside the box for this.

3 (Phase Smash) – This feels strange. Rooted… sorta… because you’re flung ahead and slam down into enemies for a blast finished. It’s nice to really aim your blast finisher from a distance though, because I’m pretty selective over what fields I want to hit. The chill and damage feel on-par for me. I’m actually surprised at how damaging the hammer feels now compared to before.

4 (Field of the Mists) – Fun mechanic of a wall that moves in front of you wherever you turn, blocking projectiles. As I mentioned before, it’s also a movable Dark Field. Talk about fun for Lifesteal.

5 (Drop the Hammer) – Such a long cast time, it seems. I get it because you wouldn’t want someone getting this out too quickly for a blast finisher and a 2s knockdown on enemies. It’s hard to hit with on moving enemies, but it only has a 15sCD. Frankly, I love how low the CDs are on the Hammer. I always carry one.

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Conclusion

After playing the Revenant on and off throughout the weekend (and having my friends wonder why I’m not really playing the Dragonhunter as I main a Guard), I find that it’s feeling really good. It’s hard to really get a good understanding of the skills or trait lines for me when I don’t get much time to play it. The traits, I barely even touched, although it seems to make a lot more sense than the last time around.

I think it’s in a better place, and I’m looking forward to where they’re going with this. To play from 1-80 will give me a much better feel of the Revenant and really train me in how they ought to work.

I love the flexibility, the ability to support and DPS. I love that you can use conditions, and I’m extremely pleased with the ability to weapon-swap. Best decision they could’ve made for the Revenant. It made the profession come alive for me.

Ultimately, I find the Revenant can be summed up with the word “Strategic.” You clearly have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it in terms of the legendaries. I’m thankful that there is now a profession that makes me want to use the utilities instead of just hold off on it. The energy system has refreshed my love for the future of Guild Wars 2. I’m in love.

Getting More Out of My Game

Last week I posted concerning the topic of “More,” and ended with the question: “Is it possible for me to simply be happy with what I have in Guild Wars 2?”

It’s interesting how we always want more and more content, but how often do we find ourselves being satisfied with what’s been given to us? Satisfaction in our gaming is a choice. I mean, we don’t always “click” with every single game or every single playstyle, but after a certain point we’re forced to either enjoy what’s offered to us, or not. I’ve hit this wall since having an 80 of every single profession where I felt like the game wasn’t worth playing anymore and I asked: “Why is this?”

One thing I mentioned last week was the whole concept of having the carrot dangled in front of us–as if we need this. I’d go so far to say that we should feel our intelligence is being insulted if we have to be told to have a specific goal in a game. Sure, it’s a beautiful thing to have a story crafted to guide us and engage us, but shouldn’t we find value in the journey itself? Once upon a time I played MMOs such as World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online where your goal for your character was maxing your stats, getting the best gear (that would always be updated and render your last gear obsolete), and running the same dungeons over and over. I remember in LOTRO’s Riders of Rohan expansion, finally getting all the top gear and feeling proud that I finally accomplished it. Actually, I got TWO sets for my Captain (one for healing and one for DPS), and then stepped away to play Guild Wars 2 for a bit. When I came back, it was all useless.

[…]shouldn’t we find value in the journey itself?

Yet this was the premise of every game I’ve played my whole life. Console RPGs, I’d get the best gear and hit max level and kick the living daylights out of the final boss. In WoW, I just wanted to get my character to max level (I played pre-Burning Crusade, which was pretty awesome back then). Guild Wars 1, I felt myself confused after I hit Lv.20 because it made no sense to me. It was all aesthetics. There was no carrot to chase, other than completing objectives that were set. Wasn’t this a good thing? Isn’t the intended direction of Guild Wars 2 exactly what I needed?

Yet I’ve been so conditioned.

Perhaps I’m being too idealistic, because as I noted in my last post, I tend to need that carrot. I love the idea of freedom and exploration, but when it all comes down to it I just get bored. Too much freedom and I feel like I’ve completed everything and move on.

Take the acclaimed Minecraft, for instance. It’s a purely sandbox game that’s based on discovery and exploration, learning more and more about what you’re capable of through different materials you gather and combine. It’s tremendously fun to play, but I get quite tired of it after a while. Why? The lack of the carrot.

In terms of Guild Wars 2, it became extremely clear that when I got all 80’s I felt like I had achieved everything. My completion of the game was tied to reaching “the end.” It’s where people fall flat on their faces and ask: “Now what? Where’s the end-game content?” To be honest, this is really hard reprogramming that ArenaNet has been trying to do. Instead, they’re moving into the concept of meaningful, horizontal progression that goes beyond fashion through their mastery system in Heart of Thorns.

Will this be enough of a carrot? Will progression in the mastery system be gained through multiple areas of the game? Will exploration and pure enjoyment of Tyria feed into this? I’m honestly not sure how this could be done well. Either you constantly dangle carrots, or you open up the sandbox. Is it possible to work somewhere in-between?

I know ArenaNet is trying to find a beautiful medium there, and I hope they achieve it. I think they’re on the right track, but it’s definitely taking some reconditioning of… well, me.


Maybe this blog post is ending without an answer. It’s more of a scattershot of thoughts based upon last week’s post. I guess I want to get more out of my game and I’m finding some ways. Do you have any suggestions on how to get more out of Guild Wars 2? Be sure to post your comments below. I’d love to read, and respond to, as many as possible!

More

As a disclaimer, I hope that you all take this with a grain of salt, realizing that I’m speaking more to myself about this than anybody else, so here goes…

I find that we, as people, are always dissatisfied. Lately I’ve been thinking about my posts on wondering what’s even happening with Heart of Thorns. I’m very thankful that a lot has been revealed so far about elite specializations and the specialization system as a whole, but I can’t help but still feeling dissatisfied. I try to log in and although I’ve had a bit of renewed excitement over my Guard by trying different weapon sets and builds in WvW (yet I keep going back to a Hammer + something Medi Guard for roaming), I still feel like things are lacking.

Being the introspective person I am, it’s got me wondering… what’s my issue with where things are at in Guild Wars 2 right now? Is it actually ArenaNet, or is it me? Am I entitled for wanting more content, even though they’ve released quite a bit over the years? (Yes, I stand by that) Am I wrong in feeling like I want more content now? It’s really hard to know. Everyone has an opinion on it, and I’m not sure if my expectations are a little too crazy.

Part of me really misses the Living Story updates because of the small “sandboxy” feel to it. Perhaps, I’m just impatient as a whole for Heart of Thorns to come out because of all that’s been promised?

As a whole, I feel restless with where we’re at, and part of that is the excitement for something fresh and new. It makes me wonder: “Are we ever really satisfied, as gamers?”

I mean, as soon as things are released these days, we begin asking about expansions or DLC before we even complete it. We push through to get as much as possible, consuming content like a swarm of locusts, and rarely stop to smell the roses and truly appreciate what the developers have done to create the game. Isn’t that what Guild Wars 2 was originally supposed to be about? The journey? Exploration? Discovery? Heck, even recently I discovered a beautiful location in the Grove I never knew existed:

gw364So why is it that I feel tired of Silverwastes, Dry Top, dungeons, making a legendary, etc? Probably because I have it in my mind that I need to chase the carrot. It’s been conditioned in my head by games my whole life. Better loot, more power, and more “stuff” for the sake of stuff.

Is this actually the way to enjoy things though? It’s like the rat race all over again. We push and push in real life to have more and more money so we can have more and more things so we can work harder to get the things we achieve to have more objects that’ll never make us feel happy because we’re constantly searching for something more and still feel like we’ve come up short because we haven’t savoured the journey. (That massive run-on sentence is very intentional…)

I’m really asking myself as to whether I’m going to enjoy what’s offered to me, or end up going crazy and getting sick of the game? If it’s a constant grind for gold and more “things,” then I’m going to lose interest. I think I need to step back and enjoy what has been created, whether it’s little things in Hoelbrak or hidden gems in Malchor’s Leap.

Ultimately, while I wait for Heart of Thorns to release, the biggest problem is me–I keep wanting more, but more always seems like too much work.

Is it possible for me to simply be happy with what I have in Guild Wars 2?

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There you have it, people. Some random, unedited, free-writing from the brain things inside my head. Does it resonate with you? Have you asked that question about chasing the carrot at the end of the stick? Where are you at? Post your questions or comments below, because I’d love to hear from you!