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 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!

It’s Been a While

What a journey it’s been, the past year. I’ve pretty much been absent from blogging, trying to keep up with Traveller Thursday and even failing at that. To be honest, I went through quite a challenging time in changing careers with a tremendous lack of support in RL circles. Thankfully, so many of you have been extremely supportive and helpful. I’ve found people in Tyria and on Twitter who have helped me keep my head above water during the change to become an electrician and regain some sanity.

So to those who have helped support me, I thank you! There are those of you who I feel are more friends to me than those I know in RL. It’s amazing how a game, and the internet, can bring people together to support each other in ways that we couldn’t imagine!

With that, I want to begin a small journey of slowly sharing some thoughts on the Guild Wars 2 Expansion, Heart of Thorns. First, I’ve got a lot of exciting new things that have happened the past while!

  1. If you haven’t noticed on my constant Twitter rants about Heart of Thorns, I rolled a Revenant.
    gw224Now seriously, Vice Kormiss is my new main. I took all of Asmund’s gear and moved it over to him. Every. Last. Piece. Everything about Revenant just fits for me!Heck, I played through the entire personal story before entering Heart of Thorns, just to make sure he was caught up!
  2. I got the Flameseeker Prophecies (if you didn’t notice in the picture above)! My wife put a lot of work in while I was changing careers to help me get this shield once I found out that the Herald can use it!! After playing Herald in Beta, I was sold to the feel of Herald and the shield. Guess what? I use it all the time. Juggernaut is still my favourite weapon, but Flameseeker has always taken a close second.
  3. Wintersday was fun! My wife had an amazing idea to use the Human Male Wedding Outfit to create… well… just look and see how amazing this is:
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  4. Finally, I joined a new guild [POW] who have been an absolute blast and have had crazy amounts of fun events and activities. It’s nice to be around people that are easy-going, no drama, and no pressure or stress. Definitely been feeling welcome. Way too many laughs already.

So that’s a small taste into what I’ve been up to. I’ll be posting more as time goes on. It won’t be the usual weekly updates I used to do, but I’m getting more… better… and will be posting more frequently as time goes on!

Traveller Thursday #15

Time for yet another #TravellerThursday! I hope you enjoy some of the first-person sights I’ve been able to take in-game!

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A beautiful scene from Silverwastes, I do believe! The entire Maguuma Wastes is beautiful in its own strange way.

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There was something about this bridge and view that I absolutely love! There have been times that I’ve actually stopped and stared for a while because I love it so much.

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Fort Salma…. those feels.

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Of all the places in Guild Wars 2, the entire Shiverpeaks are #1 for me. Mountains, the snow, and the views. You can imagine how much I love Skyrim. I currently only have Skyrim on my 360, but one day I’ll have it to mod on my PC. One day…

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my sights, and I’d love to see YOURS! Make sure you tweet your first-person screenshots from Guild Wars 2 to @gw2traveller with the hashtag #TravellerThursday to get yours retweeted and shared with the rest of Twitter!

Traveller Thursday #14

Yet another week of #TravellerThursday is here for your enjoyment! Here are some screens I took from the Beta Weekend event this past month:

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Anyone else creeped out by the eyes of the Itzel? I know I am. Buggy eyed creatures. (They’re kinda cute).

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The artwork and detail in Heart of Thorns looks to be amazing. I’m hoping that the Verdant Brink is the ‘worst’ of the artwork and graphics. If that’s the case, I’m going to be in jungle heaven.

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Trogdor the Burninator was here.

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So this has nothing to do with Heart of Thorns, but the fog is breathtaking. I love the entire atmosphere around the swamp in Queensdale!

Getting back into doing #TravellerThursday has really helped me relive the beauty and excitement that the game brings to me. I hope it’s been doing the same for you!

Make sure that you share your first-person screenshots with @gw2traveller with the hashtag #TravellerThursday to possibly get a retweet, and to share your experiences and sights with rest of Tyria and the Twitterverse!

Traveller Thursday #13

Yet another week of #TravellerThursday continues. Here is a scattershot of first-person screenshots I’ve found throughout Tyria.

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A group of us went into Arah P4. As I tried to take a picture, my wife lovingly decided to get all mesmery. I swear, whenever you try to take a picture or screenshot, there’s always someone that has a gravitational pull towards you.

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I have a strange thing for ruins and architecture. I’m pretty sure this one is from AC!

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I WvW a lot, but I’ve never noticed these figures on the walls of Garrison. Definitely amazing detail as always. There’s a reason I love Guild Wars 2.

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GET TO THE CHOPPA! …that is all.

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All these years, and I’ve never noticed the Tengu wall near the Destroyers in Kessex Hills. It’s amazing how many details I miss, even to this day.

That’s it for this week!

Be sure to tweet your first-person screenshots to @gw2traveller with the hashtag #TravellerThursday to share your discoveries and sights with all of Tyria and beyond!