GW2: Turning Back The Clock

Since Bhagpuss and Azuriel have both offered their hot takes on the return of the Twisted Marionette in GW2, I felt like it was finally time this weekend to get off my reluctant-to-interact-with-people arse (the pandemic has only been feeding the grouchy misanthropy) and head back into the multiplayer *shudder* fray. Even if I feel completely done with MMOs as a concept.

Oddly enough, the biggest revelation of the first night was a deeply personal, deeply weird one.

Harvesting wood feels so much better and smoother in GW2 than in Valheim!

It’s ludicrous, I know. But it’s true. Glide up on a mount, hit F and seamlessly transit into a wood-chopping animation that hits three times, wood harvested, mount up and zip to the next node. Wow, the feels. Of all the things, I f–king missed harvesting in GW2?!

But what was I even doing harvesting elder wood, stacks of which were probably bleeding out of my banks and bags and the trading post?

The finger of blame points squarely to the pretty darned good idea that ArenaNet had (as Bhagpuss mentioned, roughly a month ago in Try Anything Twice) to offer a new set of achievements to cajole players back to replaying super-old content.

A returning player to GW2, like me, already overwhelmed by looking at the plentiful and unrecognizable junk in their bags, will grasp on to any offer of focus and direction. It so happened that the Return To Bitterfrost Frontier week was running. This is good! Bitterfrost is a small, compact map. Let’s narrow down focus and just collect these laundry list of achievements while trying to remember what all these buttons do.

No joke, while skills are still super comfortable on my main, I stared at the buttons when I mounted and couldn’t recognize any of them. Especially the green thing. It’s probably the newest, which I must have blanked out some time ago.

Foraging 30 things, mining 30 things, and woodchopping 30 things are perfect goals for this state of confusion.

Adding on some dynamic events, a story mission or three (my god, the voice acting really talks too much in the earlier episodes) and even a diving goggles plunge helped to recapture some of the essence of GW2 gameplay.

Then it was time for the Marionette.

I went for the public one, because the word on the street is that the public one is easier than the private one.

I think this is one of those strokes of accidental genius that ArenaNet are so good at stumbling into unknowingly.

The public one has a map cap of 75 players, allowing for an extra player or more per platform, to basically paper over potential mistakes made by players; whereas the private squad one caps at 50 players, meaning the two per platform better know what they’re doing, or else…

The “public” one only pops up every two hours, on the even hour, in a super sekrit location that presumably more aware players know to access; the “private” one is advertised by squad commanders in LFG and the popup that you can only enter in a private squad is there 24/7 for the supremely casual to walk into and think “oh, I need to join a squad to enter.”

The former is probably intentional and is great. Casual play should be a little more forgiving to be enjoyable. Let those who like organized group content challenge themselves as desired.

The latter is probably not intentional and is doubtlessly producing hilarity (because the reaction to community toxicity is to laugh despairingly or cry, and I’m done lamenting) when people with distinctly different values collide with each other. But in the sense that it’s pushing people who don’t want to bother with such organized drama into cramming the public instance to get their achievements done on the week the Marionette sticks around… it’s pretty good. The success rate of the public instance goes up. More people want to join. It’s a net positive effect. Unity, not division.

Yes, unity does mean that the occasional failure of a few people means the failure of all. I feel like we had this debate seven years ago already. The original GW2 way meant teaching, relentlessly. Somewhere around Heart of Thorns, a lot more people started just giving up on this and haranguing other players for being ‘bad’ instead. Somehow, that strategy doesn’t seem to have improved players through the years either.

I suppose the most realist strategy is that you accept reality – yep, there are anti-vaxxers that are going to spread the virus, yep, there are players who are not going to play up to your standards – and live with it, taking precautions for one’s health and sanity as necessary. This could mean not playing the game at all so as not to interact with the community, playing the game in your own private groups that meet your standards, mixing with the general community and accepting that occasional bad things will happen and/or educating your heart out or whatever.

And yes, sighs, you can complain about it. Even if I’m tired of reading the same things over and over. (Guess I should just not read them.)

So far, the Twisted Marionette hasn’t been too terrible.

With some amusement, my 2014 phase 2 AoE guide summary still seems to be relevant. Or at least I looked it up in a panic during the 5 minute wait time, having realized I didn’t remember a thing and it would probably be good to at least know where to stand safely. (This is one of the primary reasons to blog. To refresh your own damn memory.)

First go, went lane 4, success on my platform, some other platform effed it up, lane 4 failed, another lane covered for it and Marionette was won regardless.

Second go, went lane 4, some other lane effed up (lane 2), turning lane 4 into effectively lane 3, success on our lane, the other lanes covered for lane 2, and Marionette was won regardless.

Third go, went lane 4, my platform effed up but good (I regret switching out my sword of wisdom for a less damaging hammer for cc, and I panicked when the other two guys went down early and left my already established since 2014 safe spot while waffling over whether I should try to rez or solo and god, what is this pulsing damage circle suddenly around me, do I run? and ran straight into a bright orange circle I should not have run into. 10% hp left on the boss. Bet a solo would have been possible if I had been a little less rusty), another lane covered for it, and Marionette was won regardless.

Fourth go, went lane 1, having realized that I was simply not getting stomp achievements done by taking on harder lanes, and lane 4 or 5 effed it up, another lane covered for it, and Marionette was won regardless.

Got greedy on the fourth go, having learned from map chat that you could rush into another Marionette instance if you completed before :20 on the hour, and hurtled into another instance for my first Marionette failure. They were on lane 2 or 3 and struggling. Didn’t manage to go in yet from field sickness and the whole thing broke down by lane 5. Moral of the story: zone in on time.

Fifth go, went lane 1, cleared lane 1, lane 3 effed up, lane 4 covered, lane 5 blew up on the lane 4 boss, and the whole thing basically ran out of time due to plunging player morale letting in lots of twisted clockwork to run the timer down.

Sixth go, went lane 1, cleared lane 1, lane 4 effed up, lane 5 effed up, ending up doing lane 4 boss again on lane 1 (oh cone confusion, how do I love thee, let me count the ways; panicked a little less when that pulsing glowy weird shit kept following me – wtf is that, why do I not recall that from 2014, maybe I was just not as observant back in 2014? – remembered I had litany of wrath for the really clutch moment of oh-god-I-stepped-out-too-far-and-now-I-have-confusion-on-fast-attacking-scepter, got it done), lane 2 covered lane 5 boss, and Marionette was won regardless.

Seventh go, went lane 1, cleared lane 1, no lanes effed up, Marionette was won, flawless victory.

Eight go, changed to Scourge for a lark. Went lane 1, cleared lane 1, realized I was mostly pushing random buttons trying to remember how to play Scourge. Epidemic did lots of sidelong AoE, but not as focused as a direct damage greatsword spin on top of menders rushing for the gate. Seemed to be more leakage in that respect. Lane 4 effed up, so lane 1 got to cover the carried over lane 5 as usual. That seemed more not so fun as scourge, or just zero muscle memory in remembering how to actually target one mob to focus on while resisting the urge to spam fear and scatter mobs. Still, those phase 1 champions and those humongous hp pools are a great target dummy for remembering how to play various classes. Regardless, Marionette was won.

Also, stacking two lanes per fight means all achievements but the defeat Marionette one are now cleared. 3 more wins to go, should be doable casually by tomorrow, unless all the players suffer sudden brain trauma and forget how to deal with the boss in a day.

7 successes, 2 failures (1 of those success/failures was during the fourth go simultaneously). Seems to be an acceptable ratio. It could only go up by the second week as players learn, but for whatever reason, one week is all we get? Strange decision. Even the Living Story events were staggered over two weeks.

Only the third and fifth goes had a loudmouth bitching their heart out about bad players. Not something I really enjoy subjecting myself to, on a long term basis, but for a short period of time, for the sake of nostalgia, eh, it can be ignored.

Since the self-declared goal is to try and get the Marionette achievements for the heck of it, it means popping in every two hours to see how the different timezones do.

Ironically, I find myself somewhat nostalgically enjoying the clock watching.

Goodness, way back in 2013, it was Tequatl and camping all timezones hoping for a kill.

Obviously, this is not at all sustainable. It’s a one weekend let’s-pretend-we’re-young-again affair.

It would be a little less insane if spread out over two weeks, but what the hell, we’re all in on nostalgia, if only for a little while.


Side Thought:

You know, it strikes me that if GW2 was really looking for a unique selling point, these large map battles might be the way to go. As far as I know, map metas are distinctly unique to GW2 – other MMO players can feel free to correct me, are there other MMOs where every player on the map is pulled to specific spots, given objectives to achieve, then channeled into fighting a multi-phase boss or series of bosses?

By definition, this can only be done in a game where you have massive numbers of players running around, thus necessitating MMO, rather than simple multiplayer lobbies like Monster Hunter World or whatever.

Granted, I’m not sure about the marketing appeal. Herding 75 cats may sound like a lot more work than channeling 5 people towards a goal. 75 random, faceless people may as well be slightly more intelligent bots (or less, if you’re really unlucky.)

But then, the spectacle of a zerg doing something like Dragon’s Stand… well, it’s definitely a unique experience.