So, all the latest excitement both in-game in Lion’s Arch and in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit is the discussion about whether one is in #TeamGnashblade or #TeamKiel for the upcoming update of Cutthroat Politics.
Before we get partisan here, I’d just want to point out that this is an exciting development in player involvement with the Living Story. It harkens back to when one was given the choice to vote for Dwayna or Grenth in Guild Wars 1 in order to get a shiny hat, but a lot deeper.
Players get to both control the story and the direction of the game with their vote.
Players are making lasting history.
Whatever way we choose, we are giving up something in order to get something else. Choices and consequences. Meaningful decisions in gameplay.
Now for the analysis:
The hardcore in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit and the GW1 old guard appear to be all over Evon Gnashblade. The Fall of Abaddon as a fractal is a very tempting lure because it’s a link to both old GW1 lore (one of the major strengths of GW2 is being able to tie back into a long established history) and all bets are likely that it’s going to be gorgeous to have a look at Old Orr and the City of Arah before the Fall. There’s Gods and shit. How epic would that be?
As for Black Lion Keys, well, they’re a side benefit, but no one really gives a toss.
The fear of #TeamGnashblade is that Ellen Kiel may promise the ‘casuals’ and the not-interested-in-lore (the unspoken feeling is that it may in fact be a majority over those who prowl Reddit) decreased waypoint costs for a month.
How freaking tempting is that? Gold is always hard to come by and waypoint costs are a sneaky goldsink that affects everyone playing the game.
Finding out more about the Thaumanova Reactor explosion seems less appealing a fractals choice than the former as familiarity breeds contempt and a lot of people see the fire elemental in the reactor remains every day. Though again, some of the fear is that the new GW2 crowd who doesn’t appreciate the past may vote for it out of familiarity with the name. Others argue that we know a lot less about the reactor explosion, and that it may be an important crux point of recent GW2 lore, what with all the dealing with the fallout and chaotic portals and magic going awry that has been established in various zones in the game.
I just want to point out something that may be overlooked in all this fractals-focused excitement.
Let us not forget that this is part of the active and ongoing Living Story storyline.
We’re familiar with Ellen Kiel. She’s been established as a key ‘good guy’ type of character – a Lionguard who has worked with us since Southsun. She seems to have fairly good relations with Magnus and she now owns a frigging’ Aetherblade airship.
On the other hand, she is just a grunt out of nowhere and may not have the political acumen to last a day on the Captain’s Council. Then again, she managed to balance the pressing demands of the Consortium and still cater to refugee needs and be a good person on Southsun. She appears to be keen to work for fairness and balance, a reasonable deal between Lion’s Arch and the Zephyr Sanctum.
Evon Gnashblade seemingly comes out of nowhere, cast in the light of the greedy profiteering merchant owner of the Black Lion Trading Company and looks a little typecast as the ‘bad guy.’ Then again, most Charr look like bad guys, and you can’t really hold genetics against them, eh?
He’s an established citizen of Lion’s Arch and claims to be looking after the interests of Lion’s Arch first and foremost. He may end up doing a cutthroat deal with the Zephyr Sanctum to put LA (and/or himself and BLTC) first. He has no doubt plenty of backstabbing political experience to survive well on the Captain’s Council. And if he’s in charge of the Black Lion Trading Company and the Consortium are its competitors, that’s probably okay, right?
What are the things being left unsaid?
The most pressing question is why the hell Evon Gnashblade? Why him, just popping out of nowhere? Is he just a new unheralded NPC?
Mine was run in a guild group, which I suspect is what the difficulty of the dungeon is scaled to challenge. Two of us had not ever done it before, two had attempted and failed prior to this, and the last who had done it successfully was being awesome, leading us around and spelling everything out for us.
We were tackling path 3, which I hear is the -easiest- of the routes. *tries not to faint*
Story-wise, I’d have to say the premise is pretty intriguing from a GW1 player’s perspective. Each path appears to make reference to and trickle a small drip feed of information about the ancient races who fought off the dragons the last go around. That is, in no particular order, the Mursaat, Seers, Jotun and the Forgotten (whom we hear about in path 3) and the dwarves and a Tome of Rubicon reference make a sneak entrance at the introduction.
A guild group let the two of us newbies watch the cutscenes. I would seriously not DARE to even try that in a pug.
Our group composition was a good mix, two guardians, two mesmers (one of each was new, and the other pair had at least an attempt or two under their belts) and an elementalist (the only one who had a clue what we were in for.)
We got through the first few packs of ‘trash mobs’ decently well, with the sort of bouncy resiliency feeling you get when group builds are synergizing relatively well (kinda hard to describe, hope it comes across.) We don’t control people’s builds or require anything out of them, so it wasn’t perfect invincible super-synergy, but it felt decently resilient.
But DEAR GOD, did some of the mobs hit hard. A lot harder than anything I’ve ever felt. (I am a bit of a connoisseur on this as I tend to run tanky guardians that pull a majority of the aggro. Getting good enough to survive it though, is another matter.) The Risen Wizards and Risen Illusionists were apparently the major culprits involved in the damage spree, and though we targeted and focused them, I was feeling a decent amount of pressure trying to stay alive in the meantime.
I would love to go back in and study their attacks a little more some day. I’m sure there’s ways to mitigate more of the damage, be it through better reads of their animations and dodging, or countering whatever they’re specifically doing, but as a first timer experience, I was just sorta going in there and facing the brunt of it, then scrambling to heal up.
The first set of bosses weren’t -too- bad. The buildup as the experienced guy was explaining the mechanics was a bit more nerve-wracking. We settled on sending a guardian and the elementalist to deal with the Hunter where he was, while the three of us pulled the Crusher to where we were and the dancing at range began. Health bars were going down methodically (the bosses’, that is) and of course, this silly asura guardian was edging closer and closer into medium range (so I naturally get more daring and try to push limits, sue me) and WHOMP, ate a one-shot hammer shockwave from a miscalculation of the direction the guy was facing. Well, shit. And I still had aggro while downed, so a split second later, I was quite dead.
Fortunately, the other two had lots and lots of mesmer clones and were able to keep the Crusher very well occupied. Got slowly picked up (with plenty of time to resolve to myself not to be a fucking hero again and stay at goddamn max range), the other two finished off the Hunter and came over, and we worked over the rest of the Crusher’s hp. Had a little bit of relieved vindication when a few others also caught in the shockwave and had to be picked up (that’s the nice thing about a guild group, everyone feels human and there’s room for people to err, whereas I foresee a great deal of potential obnoxiousness oozing out of a pug for being ‘fail.’)
Lemme tell you it’s not quite easy to see what the hell the Crusher is doing when he’s covered with blue and yellow flames most of the damn time. 😛 (We can’t stop the pyromania either, says the guardians!)
Then came the running past trash.
The endless running through a very confusing layout through shitloads of angry red names, some of which read Risen Illusionist and Risen Wizard, and me being a fucking slowass guardian with probably the highest ping of the group and the highest armor/toughness.
This was not pretty. I think I have PTSD after the experience. I completely get what Syl said now regarding this… She said:
Yet, my first few Arah PuG runs almost made me give up completely on my set goal (and humanity). They were spent group-rushing through large packs of trash, frantically spamming cooldowns and hoping to keep up with the others because no idea where I’m going. More often than not, they were spent being one-shot by said trash which either wiped the entire party or “the unlucky one” (as I like to call him by now), then re-attempting the same leeroy act, corpse-running over and over until somehow the entire party makes it through alive.
Yes, I was the “unlucky one.”
The elementalist leader was showing us the way, so we were all following him, and stuff would aggro initially on him as he entered their proximity, everyone would dash through the gauntlet while aggro fell right off him onto me trailing behind (slowing me down in combat even further) while having to dodge/run through the big ugly red circles that had popped up on the initial attack on the group.
This did not work. Quite a number of times. To the tune of 8 silver repairs or so. I’d gotten out of Knight/Berserker’s after the first two deaths, and swapped into the tankiest shit I had, Soldier/Clerics with runes of the soldier for condition removal on shouts, and it was still pretty ugly.
Mind you, this was a guild group, so I wasn’t being left alone here. The elementalist was kindly running with me and trying to lead me through, which was good because I HAD NO FUCKING IDEA WHERE ANYTHING WAS and was liable to run headlong into something horrible while trying to get away from the horror behind me.
After the next set or two of deaths, the -entire- group waypointed back to help with veils and speed (something I bet Syl will guarantee a pug would never do) and I made a big point of staying in the middle of the pack and running for my life. Which saved me and got me to the end, but the other guardian caught the brunt of it and died.
Obviously I lacked any confidence whatsoever to go back and attempt it again, so I ended up standing around as part of the sad, asocial show. (Though internally it was more like, dear god, I don’t even dare move from this rock now. If I go back, I’ll just end up being THAT GUY again…)
With one mesmer going back to help him, and both of them probably having a better clue of where everything was, they eventually got through as a pair faster than I did. But wow, I am still more than a little traumatized and cannot imagine leeroying that gauntlet alone over and over in a pug. It really makes me wonder if killing the lot would be faster.
The subsequent Mage Crusher boss went a lot more smoothly than the trash mob gauntlet. We may or may not have been glitching by getting onto the boss in melee and coordinating to not move a single muscle (touching WASD was verboten) in order not to trigger any of the necro marks that popped up around us. I dunno. But I thought it was interesting regardless in that it was challenging a group of five to not do something that is otherwise natural in GW2 (squirming about and dodging a lot) and required discussion beforehand and coordination as a team to stack and not move.
I suspect the ranged fight would not have been too annoying either, though with more accidental downs from Risen Hand knockdowns and stumbling into AoE and folks having to run to get each other up. (Pretty much like how most other big boss fights from range go, see Molten Facility stuff.)
And then there was Giganticus Lupicus.
The typed explanation of his phases was ridiculously elaborate. To the point of my brain threatening to fry while taking it all in for the first time. (You may be able to tell that I’m not really a WoW raider. I found RIFT’s dungeon mechanics rather elaborately challenging also.)
Anyhow, the message that went through was:
Phase 1 – All stack together, attack him from range. Prioritize killing grubs. Locusts not so important.
We did that, and subsequently got pwned from an ever-growing stack of buzzing locusts that everyone was doing their best to ignore in their quest to range Lupicus and kill grubs. As usual, I found myself absorbing most of the damage, which steadily alarmed me to the point of thinking “I’m running out of heals and cooldowns here and this is not working…”
Eventually I fell over, and watched the damage stack up on the other guardian, who also eventually fell over, and then everyone else went down like bowling pins.
New Revised Group Plan for Phase 1 – All stack together, 1-2 melee the locusts/grubs, the rest attack from range.
I believe the two guardians gratefully went back to melee at this point. This went flawlessly. With me getting my hammer on, the protection symbol was pulsing, damage was getting healed up by shouts and stuff, everything was getting hit and worn down by AoE, and whatever the rest were doing, it was working well as the locusts got cleared quickly and grubs died fast, mebbe only one or two got away.
Phase 1 complete, enter Phase 2.
To be honest, it was mostly a blur. A great big blur of everybody scatter, and don’t die, and don’t step in OMG SO MANY RED CIRCLES ahhh dodge dodge heal ohgodohgod run dodge, shit someone’s downed, have I got aggro, no I don’t have aggro I can go rez him, FUCK so many red circles runaway runaway, well he’s dead now, run back to rez a bit more, how am I still autoattacking Lupicus, ooh, he’s shadowstepping to me, dodge dodge abandon rez, kite away and let someone else finish the rez, GAAH he just shadowstepped to them and one more guy is downed, but now he’s gone over there and I can dash over and get the downed guy up and we can get the dead guy up together, oh good, we three are up because the other two are now downed, and NOW I HAVE AGGRO oh shit ohshit kite away don’t die don’t die healheal oh god, give them time to rez up, YES THEY MADE IT, good because NOW I’M DOWN ow ow ow…
Somehow in the midst of this utter chaos, everyone eventually stayed upright at one point and we shifted his hp sufficiently to move him into Phase 3.
Where his aggro intelligence apparently defaulted back to the standard GW2 one of loving Mr High Toughness.
Miss a tanking experience from other games? Well, you can get it RIGHT HERE in phase 3 of Giganticus Lupicus.
My first hint that he had gone into phase 3 was when I noticed the big boy had gotten fixated onto me, and all kinds of damaging stuff was challenging my dodging and healing quite severely, and some guy in Mumble was clinically discussing what his poison death cage looked like as I backed away and fell down in an animation familiar to me via Ring of Warding and he ended with, “Oh there, Shudd’s in it now.”
Luckily Stand Your Ground was up, so I chucked on stability and got out of dodge before my hp fell any further and struggled to heal up.
Then he death caged me AGAIN while Stand Your Ground wasn’t yet up, and that was a frenzy of trying to dodge/heal/stay alive while in the stupid circle.
I had a pretty good front row seat to all the spell effects Lupicus was throwing in phase 3 and pretty much was forced to learn how to avoid them really quick and get my skill usage timing spot on. I believe I went down once, but someone got me up very quickly (and may have gone down doing so) but with his aggro fixated on me, the fight basically turned into me kiting Lupicus in a big giant circle near the Arena walls while everyone else stood near the center and ranged and lol’ed.
In retrospect after reading the wiki guide, I may have stayed a few seconds longer in his life drain AoE than I should have by backing away and continuing to scepter him, instead of turning and running. Anyhow, that portion of the fight was oddly satisfying, if rather challenging playing keep alive.
Y’see, that tanky mindset that never really goes away just loves to hog all the aggro, even up to the point of biting off more than one can chew. (But how else can one learn where one’s limits are, right? Looking for group willing to put up with suicidal tank.)
Down he went, which progressed four of us further than we had ever gotten before.
The last bit was pretty much cleanup. There was so much adrenaline pumping after that fight that a few of us ran headlong into the Wraithlord’s dias triggering the event (guilty!) even as the one experienced guy was going “wait, I need to explain the mechanics…”
Oops. But you said earlier that it was MUCH easier than Lupicus. Anyhow, we managed the explanation pretty quickly and got sorted out over voice that two tanky guys were going to kite wraiths out of the circles and the other three would chill in them. After that, it was mostly tank-and-spank. Which was a relief after the wild excitement prior to this, and we all collected 60 shiny Arah tokens. Some of us for the first time ever.
Time spent wasn’t too bad, bearing in mind all the newbieness to Arah-ness. We started at 6.52pm server time. Reached Lupicus at 7.43pm. Were out of the dungeon by 8.32pm.
It really feels like the dungeon is made to challenge a well coordinated guild group. The difficulty level is quite eye-opening (bear in mind I don’t run high level fractals nor do I run other dungeons on a regular basis.) But it does feel ultimately doable, and it makes me tempted to attempt the other paths too. Though I’m not sure when I’d ever have the opportunity.
Arah would be pleasant for folks who can regularly get together at a set time and crank away at it, I feel. PUGs seem like it would be very hit or miss with how challenging the difficulty is and how liable one would be to get veterans who may splooge obnoxious elitism all over the place.
In conclusion, I wouldn’t mind another Lupicus fight. With a good group (read: understanding and well-coordinated/synergized.)
Though I have no idea how I’m going to get there through the trash.