GW2: Return to… Flame and Frost

So… how I did find Living Story Season 1 episode 1’s reappearance after nine years?

A bit of a non-event, really. But in contrast to way back when, I’m thinking non-events are pretty good in the larger scheme of things. Means the writers and designers managed to smooth the flow of the story out to the point of palatability for the greater part of their intended audiences.

I had far more to say on the living story prelude in Feb 2013 – sign posts and refugees – there were a lot more signposts then, now cut down to 3 for the Guiding Sign achievement.

I suppose already having completed the Refugee Volunteer achievement helped, otherwise those that missed it now have the ability to experience the joys of fixing signposts and rescuing refugees 75 times for a title just like we did.

I also had far more to say on the Braham and Rox instances way back in Mar 2013 when they launched. Yep, a full month of wait time between fixing signposts and having mysterious molten mole invasions before even getting started on the actual plot. Pretty sure the story developed in the writer’s room makes far more sense when compressed down into a shorter timeline.

One difference I noticed right off the bat was that I was a lot more willing to suspend disbelief and be immersed into the world and story as presented to me. It’s a little more like present Belghast’s reaction to episode 1, discussing the impact of characters and little nuances and such.

Jaded veteran me has no major comments on the storyline. It’s like, “Okay, yeah, we’ve seen this before. It’s not bad. It makes sense.”

Also, “Oh, this little bit is new. I suppose yeah, that smooths it out for newcomers more.” The new bits are the little lore dumps in hidden object note/book form, which the writers seem to have discovered in Icebrood Saga as a way to throw in their longer form paragraphs that attempt to convey their writer’s room story where game and level design is unable to, in the hope that interested people will read them, and disinterested people will see the wall of text and automatically skip them. (Kinda like this blog, in a way.)

It’s all collected into the Investigative Study achievement, where interested people have also preserved the texts on the wiki for other people to read at leisure. Mostly it provides a little more welcome context which the initial prelude was missing – leaders actually acknowledging that dredge and Flame legion have formed some kind of alliance and their responses to this threat, some backward foreshadowing of characters that were only conceived of during Icebrood Saga like Crecia, Bangar and Efram, and so on.

The new directive of the writer’s room appears to be “players only remember characters, not plot” so now everything is a character.

Molten Firestorm and Molten Berserker have been “promoted” into being named Gigarg and Rodion.

(Honestly not sure that is really an improvement. May as well just call them Squeee and Roar.)

There is now a lavish one page explanation for how Firestorm and Berserker (I’m old school, sue me) got to be the way they are, buried amidst lab workbenches in the Molten Furnace. Basically the dredge guy made others forge him armor, turning him into Ironman – er, Irondredge, and charr guy is implied to have gotten a Jormag’s blood transfusion a la Icebrood Saga explanations.

Were the clues already there in the original story? Maybe. In a very non-obvious fashion. The big vein of molten lava rock that all our attention is called to, in hindsight, now looks like a vein / ley line of Primordius power.

There -was- a cold area in the original Molten Facility, though the implication was more that it was being generated by three cold-producing consoles, which we destroyed to stop skidding around. No Jormag ley lines anywhere. Molten Berserker’s model -might- be called icy, if you looked at it charitably… or he could simply have been intended to glow blue to differentiate him from the red Firestorm. Certainly his attacks aren’t ice-related, they were simply shockwave tremors, claps and stomps.

Still, I suppose it’s an acceptable enough retcon. It gives our mysterious “B” villain (yeah yeah, we all know who that is now. Spoiler: it ain’t Braham) a little more world domination motivation along the lines of our Canthan Ankka. It appears she wants to understand and harness dragon magic and essentially create her own dragon minions, thus neatly hand-wavey explaining the soon-to-arrive rainbow assortment of enemy factions-of-the-month.

As for the actual instance, wow, its difficulty level is now pretty darned confusing. It may be the only instance in GW2 to now officially have a whole learning curve of scaled difficulties across time.

The new Molten Furnace is the revamped version of the old Molten Facility.

The Molten Furnace story instance in Flame and Frost is distinctly cut down to scale properly to a single player that may not be geared to tip top condition.

The biggest mobs tend to be only bronze-ring veterans, no silver-ring elites.

Was Kostya really a level 1 dredge knocked over in one sword swing in the original Molten Facility? I forget. Maybe he was, for comedic effect.

Years and years of the Molten Furnace fractal have led me to expect some kind of dredge miniboss there, so I was mildly confused.

The newly renamed Gigarg the Cruel and Rodion the Vile melted fairly quickly to an obsolete Dragonhunter raid build (aka not as high dps as the new power-creeped builds but probably still higher than the average player.)

All in all, it seems scaled well for its intended audience, which might be doing three times less dps. After all, it -is- the very next story step someone that finished the Personal Story might take, and it wouldn’t do to knock them silly three ways into Friday like Heart of Thorns pocket raptors did.

Old Molten Facility, on the other hand, was very distinctly a group dungeon intended for five players.

At least, that seems to be what my old posts imply.

I was already obsessing over inclusivity in dungeons way back when – though it was more of a level range issue back then. Oh, sweet innocence.

You can observe the development of early “meta” even then, though I didn’t have the jargon for it at the time. Altruistic healing hammer guardian was the aggro-holding ‘tank.’

I basically copied the build to sneak into meta groups and had zero clue otherwise. It wasn’t exactly hard to hold aggro with high toughness, you did it by existing and many of my 2012 and 2013 posts were lamenting about how much self-inflicted pain I brought about on myself and how challenging it was to survive, while everyone else just waltzed through untouched and said “ez game.”

Apparently, the other support classes at the time were “shout/banner warrior” and “TW mesmer.” Makes sense in hindsight. For great justice for might and fury probably was on the menu. Banner of strength and discipline have always been loved, and will stay loved until the soon-to-be-impending nerf/rework to make them non-unique buffs. I have no idea if TW mesmer brought anything other than Time Warp, but eh, if you’re pretty much the only source of group-based quickness, I suppose the meta will find you regardless.

For a real blast from the past, you can check out Ravious’ take on the Molten Facility as well, and his one week later retrospective. #saluteRavious

As alluded, I was insane enough back then to “solo” the Molten Facility. Took 5 hours.

Yes, my builds sucked back then. Didn’t we all? (Besides those super-clued into the meta of the day?)

Even though my builds probably weren’t ideal, I’m pretty sure it was objectively higher difficulty than the current Molten Furnace story instance. You can see in my old screenshots a lot of the enemies had silver-rings, so they had elite hp for sure. Molten Berserker had a purple legendary ring, as opposed to Rodion the Vile’s mere gold champion ring.

There were some kind of enrage stacks on the bosses in those days. The wiki says that once they got to a 25% interval, the other boss gets 50 stacks of enraged, and you had to take it off by attacking it.

Do they exist now? Probably not. I think it’s all defiance bars now. Either that or we spike down Berserker so hard it doesn’t even matter.

After one week of experimentation, I apparently give in to the meta for as long as I can stand to get what I’m greedy about, and then I go back to chilling and recovering from the intensity.

It’s going to be a familiar refrain in the coming years ahead.

The final addendum to the Flame and Frost achievements are instructions to go visit the Fractal Recursion: Molten Furnace and Fractal Recursion: Molten Boss to revisit the memory of the Molten Furnace/Facility.

It’s cute, like a little encouraging push into instanced group content and starting lost level 80s into the vertical progression ladder of fractals.

Me, I’ve never really liked fractals. I try to avoid them whenever I can. Something about five man content being a little too close and personal, where people are too ready to nitpick every move. Something about the insanity of vertically progressing agony resistance just to do higher level fractals, which get harder and harder and require really cookie cutter meta builds for a much less painful time.

It’s like you can’t win both ways – either you play like perfectly efficient optimized robots in groups that like being perfectly efficient optimized robots and invest tons of effort getting to that point (my memory for remembering dozens of different encounter mechanics that can be presented to you in random order isn’t great, and I don’t exactly want to repeat them for long enough to burn them into memory), or you get groups which devolve into failed carnage. Neither are really my idea of a great time, so T4 fractals aren’t really for me.

Then there are the fractal instabilities, which randomize the encounters even more, and are apparently a pain to even people who LIKE fractals. So now I have to not only remember two dozen different dungeon mechanics, I have to now mix and match and remember which instability means “don’t stand near other people” (wait, don’t we need buffs and heals and need to stand near people to get them?) and which instability means random sky cannon may just blow you up for shits and giggles every couple of seconds, and and…

…oh, they reworked fractal instabilities? Now there are new, more annoying fractal instabilities to remember, when I barely even remember the previous ones? And you need to already have all this etched into your brain before a PUG kicks you for being not up to their standards? Never mind. I’m pretty sure I didn’t start playing GW2 because I wanted vertically progressing instanced group content.

T3 fractals are about my comfort level maximum… except there is a known stigma and reputation around T3 fractals. It’s where us casual fractal losers end up, plus we end up mixing with up and comers from T2 fractals where it is perfectly safe to ignore most mechanics…so it becomes a generalized clown fiesta of people realizing that mechanics exist, and insufficient leadership to teach/perfectly perform said mechanics. Not an ideal group exerience either.

T2 fractals are ok. I can deal with the occasional T2 fractal. It’s just a mess of group brute force tactics, usually. It also triggers me a little to see people ignoring mechanics, nor do I really have the energy and willingness to teach said mechanics… so it’s just… urgh, close our eyes and get through it, if you really need to. Do you really need to, though? Usually, the answer is no.

So, to me, the one saving grace of fractals being on a staggered difficulty level is that T1 fractals are pretty easy. Most of the mechanics are gone or non-existent. You can probably get through a T1 fractal with any group mix.

You can also probably SOLO a T1 fractal with the right build, as long as the mechanics don’t require more than one person to perform required tasks. (Or with clever, exploity skips, most of which I don’t know about.)

So hermit me shamelessly avoids the concept of fractal grouping and just goes in alone to level 9 and 10 Molten Furnace and Molten Boss. It’s slightly harder than the story instance, but not that much. It certainly didn’t take 5 hours a la old Molten Facility, more around 45 leisurely minutes. It’s not at all profitable, I come out only 25 silver ahead when all is said and done. But eh, it’s good for once-off achievements.

Apparently, the fractals got reworked some time in 2019 because man, was it ever confusing to find things even more DIFFERENT from the molten furnace story instance and the molten facility of yesteryear.

Boulders to be placed to seal vents? Gone. Now you hit rocks instead to unseal vents. I suppose the dredge didn’t do enough steam damage to the place, and you have to help them humidify the place even more. Molten Protectors at the core that’s supposed to be destroyed, and movable with a clever push or pull, rewarding crowd control? Gone. Replaced by some kind of weird shamans you need to take down before the core becomes hittable. Because murdering things is the only thing players understand, I guess.

The flame tornadoes that used to be shielded by the core – and still work that way in the Molten Furnace story – the way I thought was -intended-, cleverly going on the opposite side of the core to shield yourself (a la Silverwastes, Dragon’s End and Echovald Wild metas) as opposed to hiding in a corner… now the tornadoes go right THROUGH the core. Wtf? So now you try to stand between the gaps, and get knocked about if the invisible hitbox of the tornadoes scrape you by a milimeter.

Which intern got assigned a fractal rework in 2019, huh?

Well, it certainly didn’t improve my taste for fractals any.

Got it done, then got out of there in a hurry, is about all I can say. That and “at least it’s still possible to solo it” so that the achievement doesn’t have to be ignored like most of the other fractal stuff I dislike.

So, that’s over.

It’ll be interesting to see what episode 2 brings, I suppose.

Looking back at old posts, Canach, Ellen Kiel and Southsun actually came after Flame and Frost, but devs have alluded to that plotline possibly hitting the cutting room floor. So it may just end up being Aetherblades and Mai Trin coming next? Noir Marjory and Kasmeer?

(Two more fractals and Aetherpath to recursion through? Gods save us all.)