“I can’t sing a love song
Like the way it’s meant to be
Well, I guess I’m not that good anymore
But baby, that’s just me…”
I should like this update. It hits all the discovery and wonder and awe notes that (map) Explorers love.
Indeed, when I first set foot into the Labyrinthine Cliffs, I switched my graphics back over to auto-detect settings, crashes be damned. After all, with content that can be solo’ed at one’s leisure (or also done in a group for those who have friends,) I wasn’t inconveniencing anyone but myself.
ArenaNet proves once again that they are the masters of gorgeous gorgeous fantasyscapes.
Running around it gawking at everything, talking with every single NPC that could be talked to, scraping all the corners of the map made me a happy happy charr.
It is perhaps ironic that the first thing I did was run away from civilization to discover all the yummy skale (blood!) and krait (scales!) amidst some totally awesome surroundings and make a mental note that I would likely have an excellent time here later farming in bliss.
Then of course, the climbing up things that look vaguely climb-able began.
And there was a brief side trip to plunge into the deeps and explore potential hang out locations… because there’s nothing like being underwater when you really want your alone time.
Throughout this initial exploration, there were, of course, places where I noted sky crystals to be eventually got around to, and a few swarms of folks buzzing around with their unique movement skills hopping on poles (and generally missing) and the odd fella falling out of the sky.
Eventually, I did get with the program and start my way up the city, with one’s incessant curiosity creating no end of chaos and corrupted creatures to mark my progress.
❤ this lady.
Charr need no burned books. Or I’m real sorry your book got charred.
It did take me a while to figure out the whole ‘new movement skills’ thing, since I somehow failed to walk over the sun crystal by the Sun Aspect tutor and thus failed to ever get past the waterfalls. Fortunately, in my enthusiastic exploration of just the ground floor alone, I eventually stumbled into a wind crystal thingmajig and went “eh, how did I get this 1 skill?” and worked it out slowly from there.
One of the most positive things I can say about this content is that one can discover and learn this at one’s own pace. This is good. Excellent, really. I sidetrekked to grab some of the easier sky crystals while trying to work out how the movement skills functioned and they served as little tutorials and side puzzles.
The lightning crystal took me quite a bit to get the hang of, and I eventually turned off fast cast ground targeting in order to get it more precisely aimed. Ironically, I managed to get the manual mode working more smoothly than the automatic one – probably because I didn’t have a clue initially when it was going into automatic and kept trying to steer and aim, and there may have been some latency issues being all non-North American and all that. Which wasn’t great when you’re several miles up in the sky and need one perfect jump or else…
There was much cynical reflection that the learning process made a good sneaky goldsink with all the emergency waypointing while in freefall.
I did make it all the way up in the end.
Oh, the irony. Everyone ignored him, of course.
Beyond this point, this, you… Zephyrite.
And got 40 sky crystals, without the help of any guide whatsoever.
Which is also excellent, by the way. I really like and appreciate that there are some, what, 52 or so sky crystals lying around and only 40 needed for the achievement. This gives a lot of leeway for people to stumble onto crystals and work out how to grab what they can see, as well as give up on a few that are beyond them, while still being able to complete it via a natural, organic process of discovery.
Instead of running around feeling frustrated that one is on 38 of 40 and DAMMIT I CAN’T FIND THE LAST TWO I NEED, which naturally then segues into slavishly following someone else’s list and video guide.
Au contraire, there’s a lot more freedom here and the only mild nitpick I can give is that my finger got tired of holding down CTRL to scan for sky crystals by the time I finished the achievement (how about a toggle, eh?)
Other minor nitpicks are, imo, a result of the fast pace of development of Living Story content. Like how I ALWAYS find a way to get stuck.
Literally, the first instance even before you hit the new zone, where you listen to Magnus and Ellen Kiel. I walk down the steps afterwards, hoping to see if the sleeping Mai Trin had anything to say, promptly slide off it and into the gap between cage and stairs and end up trapped. Thank goodness for the exit instance button.
And low res for the new stuff ain’t that pretty, as compared to the old stuff. I have to switch into it now and then for better performance and framerates, especially when attempting tricky jumps, and it’s a little disappointing to see that less of a polish pass was done on the low res stuff. The Dead End Bar for the Sky Pirates patch was pretty plain with minimal settings on. The sails and cloths in Zephyr Sanctum are also just flat panes of color.
At least the masts here are thicker than the one I scaled for the other diving locations. I’d also question whether this set of goggles was really the Best. Dive. Ever, but I was so relieved to find no sharp protruding objects or tricksy rocks on the way down that I didn’t want to think about it too hard.
Difficulty level for this felt about right, I slipped off quite a couple times trying to figure out a way to get up there, with no reference to any video guides but only had to waypoint in a few instances – the rest was just spent resetting by clambering back down and collecting all the crystal charges again for the next try.
All in all, I think this zone was a pretty big win for ArenaNet. I can see myself spending quite a lot of time here in the coming weeks, and would be sad to see such a gorgeous zone vanish when its time is up.
I also like the movement skills in theory. It sort of recreates some of the City of Heroes feeling of superspeed and superjumping.
Except that lag and rubberbanding and latency always seems to be a perennial problem for them to get around when coming up with all these fancy schmancy new skills, and 1, 2 and 3 are really awkward keys for this sort of thing.
Which brings me to Sanctum Sprint.
Reading the previews, this was the one thing in the update that I wasn’t super keen on. (Achievement rewards and new revamped UI go without saying that it’s universally welcomed – though it’s harder to see at a glance now what one’s progress is on certain things.)
A competitive race. Involving new movement skills.
For someone who lacks much of a competitive bone, this doesn’t really tick any boxes in a list of my preferences.
Objectively though, it’s not -too- bad.
If one ignores the very strange occurrence of plunging you directly into a game (in the last place) and the even stranger bug which dropped me into a PvP match the first time I talked to the NPC. (It was like, umm… this loadscreen seems ominous. Er, yeah, this scoreboard… hey, I really don’t want to be here, this character isn’t even specced for sPvP and wasn’t that a Sanctum Sprint NPC I talked to?)
I still enjoy Rollerbeetle Racing in GW1 more – probably because of the whole shapechanging aspect of the roly poly beetles providing a certain anonymity and the whole race feels smoother, shall we say. Fast to hop in, fast to start, fast to run through, fast to end, and the rewards both had meaning (in that 1st to 3rd got something, 1, 3, 7 tickets, iirc) and were fairly inconsequential (if you lost, no tickets, boohoo, whatever, the tickets could be got in other ways too.)
Sanctum Sprint is a spiritual successor to that, but it feels a little more complex and has more moving parts to keep track of. Which then ends up as potential clogging in the works.
The Z axis is in play here, making the race immediately more vertical with the annoyance of falling. Rubberbanding while using skills and weird shit has been known to happen. There’s an ungodly long wait time after you complete the race and have to sit around waiting for others to make it – many of these others having loaded in mid-race and thus given up any semblance of even trying to hurry. I’m already beginning to consider keybinding to more convenient locations the movement skills – except I’m all out of controls, and I don’t own a Razer Naga.
Nor do I quite understand the point of enabling the people in the first few positions to massively screw things up for the rest by dropping fake powerups that launch – that’s just furthering their already sizeable lead, and ensuring the after-race wait time for everyone in the back to be even longer. Surely for excitement’s sake, it should be enabling those behind to catch up and slow down those in the lead instead (which only sometimes happens.)
The reward system is a little odd. I mean, I quite like the communal aspect of “just finish the race and you’ll get a prize.” It’s inclusive in that sense. The bag of coins yields a decent healthy and encouraging amount of silver for the time spent. But when RNG comes into play and the sixth and eighth place pulls out the aspect skins from the chest and the first few just get greens, it just feels an itty little bit odd.
Most of the race-related achievements are fairly doable and do not involve any weird counter-productive to the objective hijinks.
I don’t know that I’m ever going to get the first place one. Especially as more people get more skilled at the race and have better latency than I do. It’s a little depressing to consider the prospect, but well, I end up in 2nd to 6th fairly regularly, it’s possible that one might get lucky at some point. Or maybe people will get bored and leave only those still seeking the achievements nearer the end of the week. Maybe.
The focus on jumping puzzles is also a little worrisome. Some days, I wonder if things aren’t getting too action-y for my old brain. (Even Belcher’s Bluff has such a short delay time between skills.) I visited Spekk’s Lab and promptly failed at the many timed jumps, plunging into lava repeatedly – but at least there was a respawn option, so it wasn’t AS frustrating, and some kindly mesmer finally took pity on me and left a portal where I was bound to respawn. Still, it’s not too many of them, and there’s always portals, and I guess they need a reason for the community to revisit some of the ignored content, so perhaps it’s acceptable.
At any rate, when I get frustrated, there’s always taking a break and wandering the open world farming kites and fortunes. There’s much less pressure in this update, I feel, for whatever reason. It seems like two weeks will be sufficient time to get to most of it. Eventually.
With time to enjoy the pretty scenery.