To give credit where credit is due, the cinematic cutscene folks have completely outdid themselves yet again.
If there is one reason to get the Thaumanova story mode over and done with, it is to go back into the fractals and see the unskippable cutscene which pops up when anyone new enters the fractals for the first time.
It may be unskippable, but it is glorious and gets the heart pumping.
I’ll be happy to keep watching it every now and then, and I suppose it also gives you a warning that someone in your party is new to the fractals and should be communicated with (assuming the PUG reaction doesn’t evolve to immediately quitting after the cutscene is over.)
There is more storytelling and pacing in this cutscene than the entire Thaumanova Reactor fractal.
Some choice moments frozen in time:
P.S. The lack of a waypoint in the story mode of Thaumanova appears to have been fixed via letting the whole party respawn once -everybody- wipes.
P.P.S. The pacing is still a piece of buggy shit as we managed to trigger Scarlet even before all colliders were turned off.
At least this time with a lot of “guidance” from me, ie. supplying tips like I was reading from a third-party walkthrough, my guild group minimized the arbitrary deaths from discovering stuff on their own (not my preferred style of play at all but faced with the alternative of having to completely wipe…) and we managed to insert two cooling rods where they were apparently supposed to go first.
But Scarlet turned up even before we triggered the last collider. Ridiculous, really. The design team needs to take some tips from previous dungeons like AR and MF about shit that is supposed to happen in proper sequence and blocking off access through impassable walls, rather than total party kills.
P.P.P.S. It turns out that my first PUG did indeed boot us out of the instance before it was over. We missed the completion reward of 13 silver that time. (How impressive. Not.)
Thank god for guild groups that hang around examining merchants for any changes, thus giving me enough time to view/screenshot all of the Dessa/Ellen Kiel exchange and for that completion thing to pop up.
*verbose narration by two garbled voices talking asura-speak over each other*
*insufficient time to read wall of text in between extreme amounts of fire and hacking away with swords and axes*
Something about cores and colliders.
Bouncy eventual death in between trying to figure out a maze, a safety shield’s skills and repulsor bolts while typing and communicating one’s discoveries to the group. Failure to break through the barrier with anything because the group had evidently taken a wrong turn and missed a console somewhere.
In between logging in and logging out (thank you, no waypoint) and being rezzed not by one’s group but by the kind souls outside the Fractal of the Mists portal in LA, some guy says he found the console and clicked it, and some other guy says he did something else and the barrier vanished, and anyway the UI in the top right hand corner has ticked off complete. I walk back in completely none the wiser as to what just happened.
The group is busy recreating some tableau of Inquest asura in some manner of distress via Panic and Vomit buttons, though I’m not sure if fire or radiation was supposed to be the cause, and what in the world caused it anyway?
In between trying to experiment with the same thing and read tiny tooltips on tiny icons while one’s hp steadily drops to nonexistence and dash out to safety before dying (wherein the tooltip disappears), most of the party wipes on the ground. I manage to warbanner one, ponder the wisdom of stopping to rez a second, (the warbannered one falls over and dies before he gets out to safety), roll out to safety, and then think “fuck it” because everyone else has logged out already to “waypoint.”
I indulge in a solo experiment to test my understanding of the tooltip I read in 5 seconds, spam 1 and do my best to race solo across a ton of fire fields, pause long enough to try and get my bearings and see that there is a barriered console and two orange gear somethings on either side of the room, and then fall over with the realization that having healing signet slotted instead of a big burst heal might not have been the best strategy here.
While pondering if the coordinated group strategy might be best to have people spam heals and run together, and if all members spamming 1 would buff the group together, I hit vengeance and almost get to one orange gear marked -something- (console? door? who knows, it was unlabeled..) Then I drop dead.
This strategy goes untested because the party decides to investigate the other room with the orange boss monster label on the minimap, and something about Subject Six pops up. Various narrators mention something about slime, but no one hears it because everyone is busy dodging the huge shower of projectiles the giant green slime in the center of the room has decided to throw.
Oh, and something about little oozes healing the big one. Right, kill small oozes, we can handle that…
In between my experimentation with being completely unable to knock back little oozes while killing them, I look up to notice that a good half of the party is falling over and going “wtf.” Enter lots of rezzing while trying to figure out exactly what other mechanics the ooze has.
It takes the rest of the fight to figure out that keeping at extreme range avoids most of the projectile shower (plus a wistful internal reflection on not having any classes in the group with reflection skills), and that we should not let the slime get to a stack of 20 whatever-it-has, and that those 20 stacks of something build up when it is being attacked while blocking, and that those stacks build up really quick due to whichever someones are slow to react and keep autoattacking (I don’t suppose the ranger’s pet being hard to control would have helped, I’m glad I didn’t bring my MM necro).
Anyway, the ooze dies.
We get back to the center. Scarlet.
Halfway through her monologue, which I was listening to, mind you, some other guy in the party decides he’s bored and clicks the console panel.
We are now treated to a jarring display of multiple voices talking over each other, pursuing two separate subjects, neither of which is coherent anymore.
Three people get to wait for the two of us who actually lingered behind to try and make head or tail out of what was being said, and an impatient “dudes, press the switch” pushes us into pressing the switch.
Enter another gimmick fight with disappearing platforms, wherein a missed step = instant death and where the rest of the party has no way to revive you, which isn’t exactly the kindest way to learn a new fight for the first time.
I’m the second casualty because I dared to experiment with meleeing the boss while I saw that the aggro was on some other guy running in large circles on the outer platform. Except something happened, whatever it was, one has no clue, and in between a whole bunch of bombs and projectiles being shot out by the boss, the platforms near me started to disappear and I was one centimeter away from being out of the danger zone when I suddenly turned up dead at the boss’ feet. Latency, I suppose.
That and I saw the guy with the aggro dart out near the two of us that died, so he may have gotten too near while we weren’t paying attention.
I get to watch the other three kite the boss around for about half his hp before an accident takes out one, and then another, and then the last wipes.
We “respawn” via logging in and logging out, which makes the wait time quite annoying as each person has to zone in and find their way back.
This time, the agreed on strategy is everyone kites and range attacks and stays far far away from each other. I get to watch two other guys die and turn up at the boss’s feet, while I stay at long range like a giant furry chicken and run in constant circular motion plinking away until the boss dies.
One short cutscene later, we are greeted with this sight.
If not for someone in the party having the foresight to bring along a revive orb that they happened to have, we would have all gotten screwed out of the rewards in the chest.
We walk into the light to end up back in the fractals lobby and pause for a couple minutes to bitch about what just happened and debate on whether it was intentional or a bug.
Out of the blue, literally -minutes- later into our discussion, Dessa starts up talking and then Ellen Kiel starts to talk and as -some- of us are still listening and screenshotting this conversation, we are booted back into the loadscreen and kicked into Lion’s Arch with two members of the party gone.
The three remaining members are left still trying to decide if the entire story mode was over and whether the conversation ended at the intended stopping point, or if one of the impatient quitters was the instance holder and booted us out before the story was over.
I’m really left none the wiser except Scarlet did something and I guess the reactor blew up? I have no clue where we come in as Inquest.
I would have been even more lost if I wasn’t at least smart enough to attempt the story mode initially by myself – which at least let me talk to Ellen Kiel before entering the fractal, and examining the initial layout of the reactor.
Unfortunately the aggravation of having to clear four veterans a spawn and dying meaning logging in and logging out ended that attempt at soloing after a while.
This is why story is much better told via a scaling instance that can be entered solo to progress at one’s own pace.
I get the feeling that the new fractals were created by a group that were more impressed by the new mechanics for a boss fight that they thought up and for new puzzles to challenge a group than being concerned with any sort of storytelling or proper pacing.
Except group challenge is not inevitable death if you don’t magically know the right gimmick solution to taking out the boss either.
Not everyone runs in a regular group connected by voice chat either, which is the distinct subtype I keep getting the impression they’re trying to make fractals for.
All in all, first impressions: Not impressed. Clumsy. Shoddy. Buggy and insufficiently quality tested.
I’ll have to save lore discussions for later after having gone through it a few more times via random fractal rolls, I suppose. Assuming I can put up with it for that long.