GW2: Light Up The Darkness

The more things change...

5 years (shy of 1 week) to the date, I defeated Liadri the Concealing Darkness for the first time.

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(Still the same mini, but I might have consumed a teensy bit of bloodstone dust in the interim…)

There are orange circles now in the arena; and the ceiling dome has gone.

The power creep is tangible – where I used to be in exotic berserker gear and called it a day, ascended zerker is now my standard baseline; the burst damage I can output as a raid-built dragonhunter who knows how to use food and utility now is likely 3 to 4 times higher than whatever I was using back then.

I’d like to think that my ability to analyze and solve for a GW2 combat situation has gotten a hair more refined. Am I too slow? Is it because I am always crippled? What condi cleanse do I have for that? Unsoweiter.

I actually know that I can count off and dodge for an invulnerability frame now (even if the execution still requires practice to refine), and can stand relatively unfazed in a sea of orange ready to dodge at the proper timing for my latency, so that the invulnerability kicks in as the shadow orbs shower down.

Even the stress of gearing for a specific encounter has been muted somewhat, by owning both a legendary light and heavy armor set, and not a few ascended pieces across 25 or so alts.

Not completely gone, because inventory management is still hell, but if I want to waste an hour or two to rummage around and/or spend a few currencies here and there, I can probably put together something if I’m desperate enough.

But between my usually played characters and classes, there’s probably something that will work already.

We cruised through the first three tiers in a day, killing two birds with one stone by taking the On Fire gambit and finishing both Gauntlet Contender (defeat 12 bosses) and Gauntlet Favorite (defeat 12 bosses with one gambit) achievements at the same time.

My hoarding habit came in handy, because I found nearly two stacks of really old Queen’s Gauntlet tickets in the bank – all 250 + 231 of them ready for the using. I threw the full stack into the newfangled shared inventory slot to make my life easier.

Oh, there were a few speedbumps here and there. I’d forget how a particular boss worked (thanks, Suriel!) and experiment a little here and Google for an old guide there.

I’d realize my dragonhunter wasn’t going to be the best for a particular achievement (kill one Subject 7 ooze without touching the other oozes? When I pretty much do AoE in all directions? Yea, not happening) and swap to another character. Something I also vaguely remember doing in the mists of time. Usually on the necro. Same old, same old, except more powerful.

Revisiting basic 3-orb Liadri took another day, mostly because I wanted to plan ahead a little, plotting out various build options after reviewing some old guides and videos.

It was surprisingly painless on the whole, maybe taking some 8 tickets or thereabouts to recall the old patterns of where to stand (thank goodness I blogged about it). It was a lot easier to deal with the shadowfall with the orange circles and overall calmer confidence in my capability to handle it (plus willingness to eat +dodge food.)

And once three orbs were thrown into Liadri’s face, dragonhunter spike damage with spear, trap, scepter and torch is almost unfair.

Turai Ossa took another couple of days. His fight patently favors the fast and mobile tanky/healing build types with preferably lots of blocks/evades/invulns as the goal is to avoid or withstand his ludicrously hard hitting stunning attacks in some way until he divests himself of first his shield, and then his sword… by flinging them at you in extremely painful fashion. After which, you must break his bar with crowd control and then proceed to damage and defeat him.

I own practically zero tanky/healing builds, nor am I terribly practiced with fast and mobile classes. A mirage is apparently near perfect to deal with him, and I don’t even know how to play base mesmer well, let alone chronomancers or mirages. *shudders*

There was a fair bit of build experimentation, courtesy of legendary armor and a bit of scheming. I gave it a shot with a tanky/healing block-laden guardian – except I’m not really practiced with that aspect of the class, and I rather did not realize at the beginning that Turai was supposed to be broken after he flings his shield and sword.

I tried a healing/barriering scourge, with not that much success as well – others succeeded by being very adept at necromancer mobility skills, but I was essentially flailing around with unfamiliar non-muscle-memory skill sequences.

Ultimately, what worked for me was going back to a familiar class – warrior. I put a bit of Soldier gear on, switched my traits based on watching a video of someone who did it with a warrior, and while watching said video, it -finally- clicked that I needed to break Turai before he was open to being damaged.

A few more trial-and-error attempts later, learning a bit more at each go, Turai was defeated (by a hair, I was kinda downed at the last, but we’ll take it. Fear the warrior Rock.) Kingslayer get.

And now we were back to that old bugaboo – 8 orb Liadri.

In 2013, my framerate was 12, on a good day. Maybe dropping to 6, if the Boss Blitz zerg went under me. I surrendered.

In 2014, my system apparently could manage 20+, but I wasn’t mentally ready for it then.

“Maybe next year,” I said, but next year never came. No festival in 2015. Or 2016. Or 2017.

It’s 2018, and the Queen’s Gauntlet is finally back.

My upgraded graphics card and system manages 50 FPS. (My ping has increased to 280ms -with- a VPN, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.)

It was time.

30+ tickets were thrown into the meat grinder, along with the first build I’d determined I’d give a go. A tanky necromancer with parasitic contagion and blood magic, with spectral grasp pull and spectral walk for speed, maybe some minions to distract Liadri, a shroud bar for extra health reservoir.

It wasn’t horrible. I’d get about 4-5 orbs in before things started to fall apart.

Picking up orbs felt really slow with my ping, while I was locked in combat courtesy of the minions and while the standard sigil of geomancy on my weapons kept trying to proc unnecessarily each pickup.

I just could not figure out how to use spectral grasp in a reliable fashion to pull 2-3 minions into the light – the whole reason for the pull to begin with. It’d pull one if I was lucky, leaving the rest nearby to contend with, while locked in a pickup animation. If unlucky, I might pull all three into me, with only one turning into a light orb and the other two inches away from blowing me up.

I ended up swapping it for the blinding well, which was somewhat helpful, in that I could put it down, blinding the visions as they popped and cleared the arena to make life easier. And somewhat not helpful, in that there were then less visions that could be used as light orbs.

The problem I encountered was that the necromancer was still somewhat slow, especially when crippled, with limited escapes besides two dodges.

In theory, I could clear the crippled condition; in practice, there were so many things on my mind, including not dying, trying to position self for visions to turn into light orbs, trying to pick up orbs without dying, trying to remember just how many damn orbs I’d thrown, trying to remember to renew conditions on everything in order for parasitic contagion to kick in and help prevent me from dying, while running around at half health and almost dying, that I’d run around with crippled and THEN die to some mistake or another.

All that chill and crippled on the visions were probably also not helping the speed at which they were approaching the light pools to be converted into light orbs.

Adding a little salt to the wound, my latency meant that the visions’ movement could get a little de-synced and unpredictable. They’d look to be a feet away, but then suddenly, you’d be downed and booted out of the arena. (In one memorable instance, I was watching a vision walk straight on at me into a light patch, except it managed to pop and kill me first before hitting the light patch. What the-? I don’t even…)

To make things laughable, nearer the end part of the 30-something spammed tickets, I was getting kicked out of the arena with “Event Success” and no achievement.

Apparently, as I started losing track of orb throwing and just trying my darnest to survive, the necromancer’s conditions while autoattacking were whittling down Liadri’s health faster than I could hurl 8 orbs safely at her. (With goodness knows how many missed opportunities I just had to walk away from, because I’d die if I tried to pick up that orb at that point in time.)

With another 100 more goes at it, I might have made it work, but it wasn’t quite working out as I’d hoped… so I went to plan B earlier than intended.

What I needed was something that would clear conditions fairly automatically, have more than two dodges, and keep the visions controlled enough to be harmless while I walked in and out to pick up the light orb with not the greatest latency.

Without any experience worth speaking of on a mesmer (ie. clones, mirage evades and pulls), that meant a daredevil.

P/D, apparently, was the way to go, said one 8 orb Liadri video.

Lovely.

Of course, it’s the ONE armor weight I don’t yet have legendary armor for. (It’s so fugly.)

The video I watched said berserker was fine. Another Reddit thread I read said they managed it in marauder. I wasn’t quite sure because I’m really pretty bad on a thief too – just a tide more experienced on it than a mesmer.

P/D, if you look at the pistol, also strikes me more as a condition damage weapon?

I rummaged around in GW2efficiency to look at my available medium armor sets on all my characters – no marauder unless I wanted to buy one wholesale with magnetite shards, plenty of berserker…. oh wait, what’s this? A Trailblazer set?

Toughness, Condition Damage, Expertise, Vitality.

I’d been using the set as part of a WvW roaming pistol thief experiment once upon an age, before repurposing the thief as a berserker deadeye for more lethality.

This seemed pretty good to try. Not much tankier a thief could get while still doing -some- damage. I could practice with this for safety and getting the hang of the build, and if I ended up running out of time to kill Liadri, then I’d switch in pieces of berserker or viper.

I started with the traits and skills as shown in the video, decided that I wasn’t really putting the precision signet to any real use after a few attempts, and swapped it to scorpion wire for a pull.

Man, P/D daredevil felt so good. Three dodges. One pull. Cloak-and-dagger on a vision to stealth for four seconds – juuust enough time to run in and snatch a light orb from under the visions’ noses, if I didn’t screw up. One teleport when alive, one teleport when downed. Vigor and decent amount of healing. Some thieves’ guild allies every now and then to keep Liadri tangled up while you busied yourself hurling light orbs at her.

The one problem? I was still losing track of just how many orbs I’d thrown.

3 orbs had an obvious counter and tell – there’s a buff for each and she starts moving at you after three. Each orb after that apparently adds a stack of vulnerability. So in theory, you want 5 vulnerability stacks, then you kill her.

In practice, goodness knows how many other skills add vulnerability, you’re detargeting her every now and then to deal with the cosmic rifts or stealthing off visions, and you’re still trying not to die from everything that could kill you in the arena. (Even if a daredevil has a lot of tools to manage this, it still needs managing.)

So it actually came as a surprise amidst all the dodging and throwing and stealthing and throwing and dodging some more, when I got chucked out of the arena and a 32,500 AP chest opened up in my face.

Eh? Wha? Huh?

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Oh.

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OHHHH.

It’s really rare in a game that I feel strongly about anything – even a Dhuum kill left me feeling mostly tired/relieved/”Ok, that’s done” rather than triumphant – but the abiding sense of satisfaction that washed over me is hard to put into words.

Five years.

I couldn’t do it then. Between my lack of tools and lack of requisite knowledge.

And now it’s done.

It feels… good.

Completionism sated. Achievement get.

Apparently, between all the pistol autoattacks layering conditions on her and the thieves I’d been chucking at Liadri, they took care of the killing portion and I’d managed to hurl 8 orbs without even realizing that I could be defeating her already.

That was pretty good yet unintentional timing on the AP chest though. It was an extra rewarding surprise.

Stress over, that albatross hanging around my neck is gone. A bit more cleanup on some leftover achievements, then maybe I’ll mess around with the other new champions for fun in the leftover festival time.

Path of Exile: Forsaken Masters First Impressions

There's actually some neat art for some gear. If only wardrobe customisation were a thing...

It’s really fun.

Granted, it’s from the perspective of a slow lowbie or a noob’s eye view, but as a representative of the beginner player subset, I think the latest update for Path of Exile goes a long way towards making the game more interesting when you simply play through the game.

(As opposed to more ‘endgame’ or ‘alternate’ gameplay modes where one speedruns through everything, racing though maps or levels, or sit around repeating instances and farming for loot – though it probably does make life more interesting there as well.)

First off, the UI has changed:

The Old UI
The Old UI
The new UI
The new UI

The most obvious addition is that of an MMO-like ‘quest tracker’ to the right side of the screen, that probably makes things a lot clearer for newbies as to where they’re supposed to go and what’s optional and what’s not.

Even though I’ve played through the Acts enough times by now to have memorized the sequence, it’s still nice to have a quick reminder of what quest stage one is at, without having to bring up the entire quest objectives menu.

(Now, if only I can figure out how to stop the damn square exclamation mark from popping up every time I fulfill a quest objective. Any Path of Exile pros have any tips on this front? It’s driving my OCD nuts to have to press U to clear it every time.)

It would be a little better if it were more customizable, but small steps forward, I guess.

The strange rune-like icons on the left have been replaced with a single pop-up menu button that expands out to show all the options in detail. Again, a more newbie-friendly change. Experts will already have memorized the keyboard shortcut by now.

The cryptic dollar sign has been replaced with a more clearly labeled “SHOP” button for the microtransaction shop.

And the flasks have had a little pretty visual upgrade, complete with recessed shadows that conform to their shapes.

Anyhow, I logged in with barely contained glee onto my level 65 Shadow, full of confidence that Forsaken Masters would make everything better.

analysisparalysis

Then reality struck.

They’d literally reset ALL of my points, since duh, I’m a Shadow, and that part of the tree got completely rearranged.

That’s 81 skill points to reallocate.

uhhhhh

As if that were not intimidating enough, going into the passive tree warns you that the patch gave your character a full one-use skill tree reset, except that if you allocate any passives before using it, it will be lost.

(Not that the Shadow really needs it, they already reset the whole thing for me!)

yeahhhh

Finally, one looks at the whole relevant part of the skill tree, trying to take in all the changes, while still trying to figure out if my previous playstyle can still be built for, without totally gimping myself again…

…crap.

I am perfectly aware that there are skill builders on websites that I can use.

Those rather assume a bit more knowledge and familiarity with the tree than I start out with, nor do I have the interest in staring at and reading each node online, then spending three hours tinkering with it without playing the game.

(Those kinds of things are fun -later- after you’ve mastered the basic game. I spent plenty of time playing with City of Heroes’ offline build creators, slotting IOs to eke out that last percent of optimal, but that was -after- leveling a bunch of alts and being familiar enough with the powersets to pick the arrangement I wanted without thinking about it.)

Granted, the new layout does feel a lot better.

Just going through the Shadow-related nodes, you can see more distinct paths where you can be more an elemental spellcaster, or a melee user – and pick up more survival-focused nodes at the beginning.

There’s a very clear Trap focus, to give the Shadow a more distinct specialization, as well as damage-over-time through poison/chaos damage, and daggers / claws, etc.

It gives some promising ideas for new Shadow characters later, but trying to find the right nodes for my rather quirky design vision was a little more challenging.

All in all, I wussed out.

I decided that the best way to explore the newly rearranged part of the tree was to make a NEW character, checking out each node organically as he leveled, with the express purpose of trying to recreate the same playstyle.

If the new character did well enough through the levels, then I could copy the bulk of that tree over to my 65 Shadow, with any extra improvement tweaks from playing and feeling out the weaknesses on the new character.

It was also a good opportunity to check out the new Rampage league.

Rampage is the standard not-hardcore league, with the twist of having a killstreak mechanic for chaining multiple mob deaths.

The more kills you increment on a counter, the more things happen around you.

Hit 15, and a handy dandy projectile stun spins out in all directions – it’s very nice for my lowbie Shadow, since all the mobs obligingly hold still to be stabbed.

Other stuff that happens include animated weapons showing up, and some kind of corpse explosion, but I tend to lose track of anything happening on screen at that point, besides trying to stab things with red health bars until there aren’t any left.

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There’s a nice synergy to this with the Loremaster Elreon minigame.

You see, each master apparently has a miniquest activity associated with it.

I’ve only met three so far, because I r a slowbie.

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This is Elreon, and he seems to be the Templar class representative.

He has little ‘defend the relics’ miniquests, that can be as simple as one relic and one small circle:

relic2

Or something like this:

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Yep, 4 relics.

The 4 circles above crashed my game, by the way. I assume there were just too many mobs generated for it to cope at that point, as the servers were a little jittery at the time with concurrent users – there was a queue of several thousands when I tried logging back in, something I’d never seen before – though granted, it only took a few tens of seconds for hundreds to enter at once.

Couple minutes wait, at most.

All in all, a fun minigame, which rather reminds me of the Mythbusters’ zombie special:

Haku the Armourmaster, on the hand, opens up a separate mini-area when you talk to him.

haku

Here, you’re supposed to retrieve a Karui spirit for him, in what is possibly the most streamlined version of an escort quest yet.

There is no slow-moving NPC to lose your temper with.

The spirit is essentially an object you pick up.

Except that it’s like frickin’ dynamite when you DO pick it up.

Most of the time, you can choose to fight through or run your way to the spirit as you desire. Sometimes, you’ll have to kill a mob to free the spirit.

Once you do grab the spirit, MORE mobs will spawn and chase you, while a ‘self-destruct’ mechanic will trail you like a most persistent hound. Fire falls out of the sky, blood explosions gout out of the ground where you’re standing, and they all HURT.

Moral of the story: Don’t stand still.

I ran around being on fire and trying to kill an endless stream of mobs, draining health flasks like water, for all of the first instance before I figured it out – you’re not supposed to stay there and kill everything until it stops moving. You won’t, you’ll just die instead.

Instead, it’s like a little training tutorial in introducing newbies to the concept that yes, you can run away from trash packs of mobs, and juke around them (and hope you don’t get stuck and die from desync.)

NPCs have never made it back to the quest-giver so quickly, when the player can pick them up and carry them, and then is promptly given a sizeable inducement to GTFO as fast as possible.

There may still be a few tweaks needed. The Path of Exile Reddit is all busy talking about the “Rocks fall, everybody dies” Haku miniquest which seems to be near-certain death. Me, I’m just glad I haven’t seen that variant yet.

Tora, the Mistress of the Hunt will request you to track a series of appearing footprints (or green blood pools, in my one specific case) back to a miniquest entrance, to which you enter and do a short kill quest.

wtfisthisdoinghere

It was a bit of a dead giveaway when I stumbled on the miniquest entrance before even finding the master. It was like, “hmm, this is odd… guess I better run around and check the map to see if there’s a master here…”

There was.

Doing these quests for the masters nets you faction reputation for them, and places them in town, where they become vendors that sell armor for the class they represent.

That’s kind of nice, in a way, since that’s another source of gear where RNG -may- possibly favor you.

Eventually, as you build rep with them, they can offer to create a hideout for you with a specific tileset, and then provide crafting stations in those hideouts if you invite them to it, or some such.

Wouldn’t know yet, I only have enough rep with Haku and am waiting to find all the masters and get them into town first before deciding on a hideout.

(Preferably -after- all the PoE veterans have put the info on a wiki so that I can make a decision I don’t regret. The whole thing is apparently shared by all the characters in the league. The good news is that this is the Rampage league, so it’s sort of a four-month trial run. Faction rep will combine down with the standard league when the Rampage league ends, apparently, so it’s not wasted time either.)

The last interesting change is that some of the early bosses seem to have gotten more of an upgrade in combat skills.

merveil

Merveil, if you let her get away from you, starts calling up a bunch of adds and whirlpool tornado things.

Brutus, in the Prison area, also summons up adds and has a few more interesting attacks.

I rather like it, since it seems to balance out a bit more of the prior slightly weird difficulty spikes, where everything seemed like a cakewalk until BANG, you run into mobs that start using high-damage elemental attacks and here you are, with no clue that resistances are a priority… or BANG, here’s the Piety or Dominus fight where the bosses suddenly have multiple phases and understanding the specific attack mechanics of the fight is suddenly important.

I’d already been learning this through rather painful trial and error on the higher Cruel and Merciless difficulties with my alts, but it’s nice to know that newbies won’t have to go through the same experience.

Now, from the start, you expect that boss mobs will have a whole bunch of weird attacks, and that reading animations and dodging these (hey, just like GW2!) is important to avoid damage, rather than just running up to the mob and killing it… until you suddenly can’t, one day out of the blue and explode into little perplexed gibs.

All in all, a very nice patch.

Knowing there may be different masters in an area encourages an interesting tension between being thorough in exploring versus being speedy and just rushing through to the next zone.

Encountering the different masters also changes things up in that procedural generation manner. Prior concepts from various leagues are also in – so you may encounter Strongboxes of loot, Corrupted Areas for vaal gems, Ambushes from various rogue exiles (aka sort of elites or mini-bosses).

Altogether, it becomes more varied an experience.

Though farming may now be more of a pain. I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a consistent way to get a corrupted area to try and find a Vaal Summon Skeletons to make my new character more resemble the old one, and it doesn’t look very promising on the RNG front. Since I’m neither willing to manual trade, nor do I even -own- a chaos orb’s worth of currency, it’s a bit of a moot point to get it via other players.

The good news is that for the other kind of playstyle that I normally prefer – ie. not building and matching a character to a specific design spec, but working with what RNG doles out to you and creating a unique playing character from it, this sort of varied roguelike map layout matches pretty well.

For example, I picked up Cold Snap and tried it out, and discovered that it actually synergizes quite well. Freezing enemies in place for a short time gives more room to a) survive damage, and b) stab things.

I still miss my Vaal Summon Skeletons ‘elite’ or ‘ultimate skill’ but well, one makes do with what one has, for the time being.

GW2: The Gates of Maguuma – First Impressions

At long last, it seems like ArenaNet has worked their way towards something good here, through the iterative design of the first season.

The Story Journal brings back some of the epic, episodic story feeling of Guild Wars 1, where each story mission was a new chapter and a new development in a narrative that eventually went somewhere.

storyjournal

We see the personal story that has gone before in more logical fashion, broken up into three arcs. One, your true personal story, the best bit that gets customized by your choices at character creation.. The next, The Orders of Tyria as determined by the order you chose. And finally, what’s more unofficially known as Trahearne’s story, the story of the invasion of Orr to defeat Elder Dragon Zhaitan.

Living Story Season 1 has yet to be re-worked to fit into this, but it looks like a very promising new beginning.

Episode 1 has three story instances involving combat and what appears on one solo play-through to be fairly decent boss fights with interesting mechanics. I assume these can be done in a group as well, though I chose to take my first run at them solo, which is the best of all possible worlds.

They can be replayed to strive for more ‘hardmode’ optional achievements, but the frantic urgency to complete them is gone, since one knows they can now be attempted at leisure. I suspect I’ll get around to doing most of them by fortnight’s end, but I no longer feel compelled to drop every other thing I’ve been doing in GW2 -just- to get it done before the seasonal content vanishes for good (or for another year.)

It has two more ‘plot points’ – one involving a small conversation and object interaction investigative story instance akin to some Living Story 1 scenes in the Dead End Bar, where one pokes around items left behind by Scarlet and draws some conclusions from them. These bits feel like candy bars for lore fans, especially those of an exploratory nature. I count myself as one of them and it’s been an absolute treat.

It feels like Anet is listening to some of the criticisms that decry the use of out-of-game channels like short stories on the website or social media to convey valuable information about an NPC.

The writers and level designers, once initially stumped about how a psychotic sylvari would stop her relentless depredations to tell her opponents about her origins, have finally figured out that clues and hints can be conveyed indirectly by letting us examine her ‘rooms’ – what objects a character owns, in his or her pockets, or rooms, or living spaces can say a lot about them.

scarletindrytop

As an explorer, I was very thrilled to find that there were additional clues intentionally left unmarked, beyond the main highlighted ones that Destiny’s Edge 2.0 points out.

Long after Braham and Rox, Marjory and Kasmeer walk out and the instance exit button was hovering on the right of my screen, I was keeping Taimi company as we poked around at -everything-. Playing a little object hunting game by moving my mouse all over to see what else highlighted and could be clicked on to interact with.

The last ‘plot point’ is a conversation with an NPC in the open world, which rather neatly brings you back out (story-wise) into the open world to continue your narrative how you choose, perhaps even following up an intriguing hint re: Scarlet. I haven’t had time to poke around Dry Top much, let alone find any secrets or hidden stuff, so I don’t know if there’s anything more to this yet, but it’s certainly something to do.

Which brings us to our new permanent zone, or maybe I should say, permanent “region” of Dry Top.

I truly wonder how Anet intends to handle these zones – are we really going to have a crashed Zephyrite ship here until the end of time?

crashedship

I don’t think so. It doesn’t make sense.

I suspect these will follow the way of the open world content of Season 1. They’ll probably exist in this state for 2-4 weeks, giving us time to earn the token rewards off the merchants, and then convert to a more ‘aftermath’ sort of map like Kessex Hills.

Some have criticized Anet for such a ‘small’ permanent zone. They want VAST, HUGE, expansive zones!

I wonder if they realize just how -dense- the content is layered within this small space.

I personally would rather prefer a small, well-done region per episode than vast, barren areas containing naught but one main quest chain to be consumed a la WoW or Wildstar and then abandoned.

There seem to be quite a number of dynamic events in the area. It’s the nature of the beast to not be able to experience them all in one go.

As I approached Dry Top for the first time in the Brisban Wildlands, I saw the last bit of an event to clear regrown vines blocking the way to Dry Top, but didn’t even managed to get a hit in for any reward before the event vanished. That’s something else to catch next time.

I ran across the Inquest stealing crystal shards event, but it was so crowded and laggy (but that one’s my fault since I cranked settings back up to enjoy my story instances in non-ugly mode, my framerate tends to collapse to single digits once I run into a zerg with those settings on), that one was still figuring out what to do with the boulders that one didn’t even see the crystal spawn location until way too late to run them. And of course, there were barely any Inquest NPCs even managing to get their hands on a crystal since everyone and their mother was trying to knock them down for the achievement, which I didn’t manage to get either. Something else to get around to, later.

I -did- manage to enjoy a fight against the Colocal Queen, possibly because it was so fatal to anyone trying to solo it for the first time. I get the feeling that many of the boss mechanics of this episode are doing their best to declare all out war against melee zerkers, which imo, is as it should be. The dungeon meta shouldn’t be allowed to work -all- the time.

As a zerker who passed on that last few 5-10% incremental dps for the ability to rapidly flip between range and melee, I found my flexibility a lot more handy for exploring new fights and accept the punishing downs and deaths for not yet having figured out a tell or a counter yet.

The Colocal Queen took 3-4 waypoint runs back, even as its dropping hp bar attracted a total of 5-7 other people, up from the 1-3 people we started with (mostly taking turns to fall over in one good hit of her charge.) Still, she seems doable once everyone figures out her mechanics. The art of dodging sideways can protect you from her charge in a line, though I couldn’t make out her tell very well and it was very touch and go to dodge only as the rectangle comes out. (The perils of latency and bad framerate, I suppose, I’ll be wandering around with zerg settings later and seeing if that makes any difference.)

I did fall over in a heap when she pounced though, and couldn’t quite get my dodge timings right to avoid that yet. Perhaps this is where Anet expects some people to use the new Toughness, Healing, Vitality armor to stand up and be de facto tanks. That’s not to say that there’s any kind of ‘forcing’ involved, as it’s still quite possible to zerker zerg rush it down, as long as you don’t mind sacrificing 1-3 members of your group at any one time and rezzing them up. But maybe life would be easier if there was one person in the open world who did that. Maybe. We’ll see how things develop.

I saw a region-wide alert for a Devourer Queen that had spawned, but never quite managed to get to it in time.

On the front page of Reddit is praise for Three-Toed Tootsie, which I haven’t seen at ALL just yet.

I did get to catch the Skritt Burglar as a whole horde of people chased after him, and managed to get turned into a llama, so yay.

Who knows what other events are there just yet?

All these dynamic events apparently feed into the big zone-wide ‘help the Zephyrites’ mega-event, which upgrades merchant tiers, making new items available and making them cheaper and cheaper. So far, the random maps I’ve gotten in on have only hit Tier 2. Presumably, it will take a focused organized effort to hit Tier 4 within 40 minutes, which is content for big groups!

The last 20 minutes of each hour is a Sandstorm event, where the whole place effectively turns into a giant dust cloud. The zone turns into a giant treasure hunt for buried chests, and I see the opportunity for commander tags marking chest locations and a zone-wide cooperative effort to lead everyone to lots of chests at some future point.

Well, that teaches me to go vista hunting in a sandstorm.
Well, that teaches me to go vista hunting in a sandstorm.

There’s an amusing giant dark room in the mines to the northeast, where one can apparently search for the Legendary Llama. Seen no hide nor hair of him just yet either.

It's times like this I love my Fiery Dragon Sword. Hall of Monuments, whoo!
It’s times like this I love my Fiery Dragon Sword. No dull torches for me. Hall of Monuments heroes unite!

All the praise for sky crystal hunting in Labyrinthine Cliffs have carried over to Dry Top. Now the search is for lucky coins, and the zephyrite movement crystals have a time limit on them, which adds a certain haste and challenge.

10 seconds is a tide on the short side though, I wish they were a little more generous and went for 15 or 20, to account for first time exploration and folks with higher latencies. It’s not impossible at 10 seconds, but it does require more precision jump-from-here-to-there don’t-deviate actions and more frustration to keep going back for crystals when the time limit runs out. That’s a recipe less for casual relaxed exploration, and more of a push towards “perhaps I should read a dulfy guide that tells me where to jump and stop wasting my time.”

There’s apparently a jumping puzzle, as well as a diving goggles location, neither of which I’ve gotten around to.

All in all, it feels good.

There’s stuff to do, but I was able to log out after an hour and attend to other things like casually reading a book in RL, and not feel like I have to consume it all now.

There will be time enough in this week to play around in Dry Top as folks figure more and more things out.

P.S. I clean forgot to mention the fabulous music of the zone. The effort to get orchestral music in was well spent. Sent thrills up my spine every time a track played. And you can hear it all on Soundcloud. Maclaine Diemer has effortlessly stepped into the very big shoes that Jeremy Soule used to fill and done both Arenanet and the world of Tyria proud.

GW2: Visual Guide to the Twisted Marionette’s AoEs

aoe aieee

Hey all,

Just a quick reference guide to the AoE attack patterns that one might face in phase 2 of the Twisted Marionette Boss fight.

(Disclaimer: Diagrams are not 100% accurate, but hopefully illustrates the idea.)

They should hopefully give an idea of where the danger zones and safe spots are, and help with your situational decisions per fight.

Chain 1 – The Warden With the Big Arrow Pointing To Whoever Has Aggro

chain-1-animation

Marionette will stomp in sequence from first platform to the last, producing each orange circle in sequence.

Keep an eye out for her leg stomping on other platforms to predict when she’ll step on yours and prepare to dodge.

Suggested strategy: Dodge if/when the orange circle appears over you. Person with aggro faces mob away from the others. Others attack from the back.

In case of stubborn pets pinning the warden against the edge, check if the sides can be hit still.

Chain 2 – Mine-Laying Warden

chain 2

Marionette will attack a small rectangular strip that is almost dead center, but slightly nearer one side of the platform.

Suggested strategy: Kite warden into mines. (ie. Keep a mine between you and the warden.) Attack when it is stunned by mines and vulnerable. Stay in safe areas or dodge when the strip appears and you happen to be in it.

Chain 3 – Bomb Throwing Warden

Update: You can thank a failed overflow for this one. And my great platform who rezzed each other and finished the kill fast, plus the platform that didn’t – prolonging the fight long enough for me to document a hint of a pattern.

chain-3-animation

Marionette will start from the last platform and strike each platform one by one with an outstretched hand throwing green lightning as circular patches of AoE.

chain-3-screenshots-2

Use that like the leg in chain 1 to predict when the AoE will reach your platform. (Which is still easier said than done when there’s close-range bombs to watch for, but yeah…)

The placement of circular AoEs still seems a little different for each circuit of the arm, and since you can’t predict which platform you’ll turn up on, assume it to be random for now.

Another layout in the sample screenshot below:

chain 3 screen

See image at the top of the guide for yet one more layout.

Twisted warden produces bombs that do not have an AoE marker.

chain 3 bomb

Bombs go boom after a few seconds. Stay away from the bombs.

Suggested strategy: Ranged DPS and stay mobile. Have good reaction time on dodges. Melee only if you’re pro.

Much easier said than done, I know. Plenty of room for unlucky things to happen in this fight, including loadscreening into bombs.

Rez downed teammates wherever possible. Having a rez skill slotted might help.

Chain 4 – Cone Shriek Warden With Lots of AoEs

chain 4

Marionette will do a sweeping sword attack that arcs around all the platforms, covering a good part of each arena.

The warden has three kinds of attacks:

phase 4 shriek

It will do a cone shriek towards the player with aggro. Dodge away or receive stacks of confusion. Auto-attacking with confusion is bad. (Click away from any valid targets to detarget / turn off autoattack / holster weapon are all ways to stop attacking when confused.)

Note the shriek does not reach the edges of the platform.

phase 4 center

Warden produces a patch of circular AoEs in the center. (Diagram is approximate, I didn’t -actually- count how many AoEs there are.)

When the warning marker disappears, they leave behind a black patch that causes torment. Moving with torment causes double damage. Be able to condition clear.

phase 4 outer

Warden will produce a circular ring of AoEs on the outermost perimeter of the platform, leaving behind the same black patches that cause torment.

There is a small safe zone in between the two AoEs, approximately 3/4 of the way from the center, nearer to the edge.

Suggested strategy: Ranged dps. Keep near the edges of the platform, moving and dodging as required to avoid AoEs and the cone shriek. Melee only if you’re pro.

Have condition clears. Don’t run around wildly with torment on or attack blindly with confusion on to avoid taking extra damage.

For achievement, what worked for me was staying in the safe spot at the power generator and ranged dps’ing. The cone shriek should not be able to reach you. You avoid the center aoe and only have to worry about the outer aoe (or just eat the torment and stay still.)

Chain 5 – Multiplying Warden

chain 4

Marionette produces patches of small circular AoEs that will essentially cover the above areas of the platform, with gaps in between. The area near the power generator appears to be safe.

Suggested strategy: Stack on the power generator and DPS down the multiplying warden(s) with melee cleaves/AoEs.

A big thank you to my references:

Knigaesera’s video of the cutscenes and each of the champion phases is great for seeing an example fight in motion.

Dulfy’s guide to the Twisted Marionette is, of course, a good foundation to start with.

GenocideOPS has another comprehensive one stickied on the GW2 forums.

Shortlinks to this guide:

http://wp.me/p2sQ6r-RG

or

http://tinyurl.com/phase2aoes

GW2: Queen’s Gauntlet – Liadri the Concealing Darkness

allthatforapatchofblack

If you ask me, all that shows is not how l33t someone is, but how goddamn pigheadedly stubborn and willing to throw money and time at the problem they are.

I think I wore holes in the floor with all that respawning and running back. Little tip: It's pretty fun to wait for a random person to have their turn, rez them, then have yours. Hopefully they reciprocate and you can avoid the run back.
I think I wore holes in the floor with all that respawning and running back. Little tip: It’s pretty fun to wait for a random person to have their turn, rez them, then talk to the ringmaster. Hopefully they reciprocate and you can avoid the run back. Three people also work and you can queue up beforehand for that.

I basically bought two stacks of watchwork off the TP and dedicated a holiday afternoon to banging my head against the boss until something stuck. I’m a little slow on the uptake and learning, so it took possibly 100+ tries. On the bright side, I now have basic Liadri phase 1 to a science and will be happy to share what I’ve been doing with you.

I’d like to thank my P/D condition thief for being the guinea pig, having 25% speed, swiftness on dodge, extra endurance recovery and stealth to pause the action some aided quite a bit in the learning process, but I kept running into the issue of not doing enough damage on phase 2 before dying. I’m just not as instinctively familiar with the class and skills and I think it shows.

Anyway, you’re not hear to listen to me blather on…

Phase 1 – How to Move On to the Next Phase As Efficiently As Possible

liadri-1

1) Move to the left of the first white patch

Your point of view will look something like this.
Your point of view will look something like this.

If you are lucky, the shadowy orb will spawn near here (it’s random and it pulling is the only thing that can screw up this strat, try again) and you can smash it with a hit. A targeted ranged attack can be obstructed, so use an AoE or a melee weapon. I used dagger 1 for the thief, and staff 1 for the guardian.

The idea is you want to start the Vision of Mortality clone approaching the light patch.

2) Do not get comfortable, Liadri’s AoE is about to fall down on your head. Dodge forwards towards the clone approaching you.

liadri-2

It’ll feel a bit scary but you should still have some distance from the clone. Let the AoE shower down behind you.

3) Then dodge backward into the same place you just left. Because AoE is now about to hit where you were standing.

All this time, the clone should be advancing toward you in a fairly straight line and should be about to run into the light patch.

The idea of the dodging is to evade past all the damage-over-time walking on the light patch does to you (as well as get out of the AoE shower.)

4) Pick up the first crystal. Swing towards the white patch, keeping Liadri on your left. Throw crystal at her.

liadri-4

This gives you a little distance from the clone behind you, enough time to grab the crystal and throw it at her without getting pwned by its touch.

5) You then want to head leftwards of the white patch. Give it a fairly wide berth for now.

Why? Because this is about to fall on your head if you stand too close to it.

liadri-5

6) Now you can move to the edge of the dome, behind the white patch, to lure the clone over. (There will be one on your left and right as well.)

liadri-6

This will be the time that tall characters and charr will rage about the camera angles. It really sucks in this position.

I’ve also encountered a cage or two where the white patch is damn close to the wall and you have to stand in it for a while. (Ouchies.) At least, I think it is the cage. I thought it was being on a charr at first, but I now suspect the cage. I’d switch cages, personally.

Just hold your ground and wait for the first clone to get into the patch, if your health isn’t too horrible.

You could also sorta kinda juke to the left and right of the patch and hope for a clone to get in, but the more deviations, the more chances something is going to go horribly wrong.

7) Grab crystal. Run towards Liadri, aiming to get past her a little. Be prepared to dodge forwards if/when AoE appears under you.

liadri-7

Because stuff will shower down as you are doing this, first here:

liadri-7b

Then here:

liadri-7c

8) Being in the safe spot gives you time to swing your camera back to look at Liadri and fling the second crystal at her.

You also want to look out for the orb at this point because it respawns around this time – when you’re about to throw the crystal and may screw you up with a pull. If you’re lucky, it will appear right with you, and you can throw the crystal, then whack it as you go past.

9) From safe spot, arc and approach the third patch but STOP just before you get there.

Because AoE is just about to cover the white patch area.

liadri-9

(Ignore the player and the position of the clones in this picture, his movement deviated from how I like to do it and they’re all a little out of position as result.)

10) Once the AoE clears, you should have free range to stand in the appropriate place to kite the next clone into the third patch.

liadri-10

(Same issue with the screenshot, the clones can be a lot closer to the patch by this point. The basic idea is the AoE is not falling where you will be messing around with the patch.

11) Grab third crystal. Move/dodge away from clones. Fling at Liadri and begin phase 2.

Ok, so I’m glossing over the tricky bit. The other clones will be very close at this point too and may cause death to the unwary. A thief can shadow refuge (or a shorter stealth if you like living on the edge) and halt all clones long enough to grab safely then be off. Other non-stealthy people may just have to eyeball it and see if you can grab and dodge before a clone gets too close.

If you miss, like I sometimes do, stumbling out of F pickup range, there is NO time to go back and try again. The crystal may also despawn by the time you putz around avoiding clones then re-approaching it. Abandon crystal and move to the next patch and try again. You’re on your own at that point. 🙂

Phase 2 – Where I Can Provide You The Theory But The Actual Doing May Cause Hair Loss from Frustration and Rage

So, yeah, once she eats three crystals, her invulnerable shield falls off, she’ll pause for a slight moment then begin a spin of some kind. After that, she’s after your ass and will be leaping toward you to attack with her whip, she applies cripple and weakness, and all the while the clones will still be after your hiney, and the shadow orbs will also be spawning to pull you and fuck up any nice pattern you try to fall into.

If there’s a pattern of orb spawning, I need to watch a lot more people attempt it to figure it out. So far it’s just been utter chaos for me.

I can, however, show you the pattern of the two AoE showers.

liadri-phase2a

My best suggestion, which isn’t much at this point, is to use the white patch as a cue that it’s probably a safe spot to start with. Probably. I mean, there’s a 50% chance of being right regardless, eh? And dodge if it isn’t. (Have dodge food on.)

liadri-phase2n

They alternate like so. So the THEORY seems to be that you want to move in either an anti-clockwise or clockwise pattern, step by step as the AoE shower alternates too.

Which will generally help you to sorta kinda kite all of them in a circle, but doesn’t really help you on a bad orb pull. Stability only goes so far, y’know. And the clones may/will get in the way of you ranging down Liadri too. And she’s busy getting in your face at the same time. Yeah, good luck.

I can make one further suggestion, which is to try to use the hexagonal grid as a system of landmarking where the heck you’re running. (It just occurred to me watching people and thinking.)

cage-zoning

There’s the center hexagon in red. There’s the inner hexagon ring in blue. The ranger I was watching was doing a fairly good job kiting in the outer hexagon ring in green.

The furthest unmarked ring near the cage edge is probably too far to run around in time, but hey, if you can make it work, by all means.

I personally found it easier in the blue ring, or at the boundary of the blue/green area, because slow guardian is slow. Even with retreat and save yourselves and dodge food. But the caveat is that they all get in your face because they have less distance to run too and it is very scary, very chaotic and very very hard! *rages*

If you’re better at balancing aiming one’s camera at Liadri, and aiming forward in time to get to the next safe spot, you may find phase 2 easier than me. I will cheerfully bow to a better player. (Plz lemme know ur tips for 8 orb Liadri. Thx.)

I honestly still don’t really know how I lucked into a success. Just persistence, really. Set her on fire with F1. Hit her with scepter in berserk gear. Try to immob, which gives vulnerability. Space out shouts for swiftness and condition clear (cripples, youch.) Save smite for the orb if I actually saw it spawn amidst the chaos.

Traits were generally the same as the one I used for the candidate trials, except I moved 10 from Zeal into Honor for Pure of Voice and switched out Powerful Blades since no sword. Staff and scepter/focus. I just popped in Signet Mastery to make Signet of Resolve recharge at 32 seconds, because I like emergency burst heals. Others may find the Shelter block more handy.

Radiance 30: VI – Blind Exposure, II – Signet Mastery, XI – Right Hand Strength

Honor 30: II – Superior Aria, VIII – Empowering Might, XI – Pure of Voice

Virtues 10: I – Unscathed Contender

All shouts – Retreat, Stand Your Ground, Save Yourselves.

Renewed focus is a good emergency invulnerable panic button if you’re caught in an AoE shower, but frankly, I can never get to it in time because I was too busy and confused trying to dodge already. Working on getting better.

Apologies for no first-person perspective screenshots, but I realized it was screwing up my rhythm and my toaster (and me) would probably die if I tried to FRAPS it.

Credit goes to Myrkridian, whose thief video of handling Liadri gave me the initial inspiration for continuing to plod away at her for umpteen times and eventually develop a method for handling phase 1 without needing to time dodges with pinpoint precision.

Of course, this is not the only way to attempt Liadri, but just sharing the results of literally nigh unto 100 tickets spent in repeated attempts. Because I am a slow kitten and too n00b to do it in like the first try or even a mere seventeen attempts. But hey, if I can do it with lots of persistence, you can too!

Best of luck to everyone attempting her!