GW2: Epic is the Expansion’s Watchword

If there’s one thing that strikes me about the Heart of Thorns expansion, it’s that ArenaNet has been really trying to up the scale on this one.

That's a pretty big frog.

The Nuhoch are pretty big frogs. These guys are part of a fan club.

This guy's fanclub.

This guy’s fanclub.

Everything is larger than life and supremely gorgeous. There may be only four maps, but they are probably some of the world’s most dense and tangled maps that an MMO has ever produced.

Perhaps LOTRO’s Moria might try to compete, but your typical MMO’s maps are merely only spacious but barren – this area is for that quest hub, kill 10 such-and-such named mobs, pick up 20 blah items and the rest are just mobs to grind through or run past.

Also, you cannot glide over or down to various scenery in Moria, and thus it loses by default to any MMO that offers flying or gliding.

hotd

Funny story about an item fetch quest that an NPC on GW2’s Heart of Thorns personal story sent me on. He told me to go get 6 ‘Chak Enzymes,’ either by talking to various other NPCs that had various ways which you could obtain said item, or by running around the open world killing said Chak, which are really annoying bug monsters that apparently eat ley line magic energy or something. Sorta like karka on magic steroids, triply annoying.

I talked to two NPCs, attempted to go in search of some items they wanted in trade, stumbled into some Chak bugs and thought, oh well, may as well kill them and get some enzyme that way…

…and then I followed a tunnel down, another tunnel around, slipped and fell and glided to safety somewhere, killing a bunch of Chak along the way, and realized “Oh, I have 6 Chak Enzymes now, I can go back.”

Except that I was thoroughly turned around by this point and made about six or seven abortive attempts to get back to the NPC, cleaving through a whole bunch more Chak along the way…

…By the time I found my way back to said NPC, I had about 27 Chak Enzymes on me. Oh well. Let’s just pretend I’m an over-achiever and say nothing about my sense of direction. Or lack of.

I digress. Let’s talk about scale. I poked my head into the new Desert Borderlands WvW map today. (Confession: Not to WvW, just to use a crafting station quickly without moving from where I was in the PvE world.)

hotc1

This map greeted me when I hit ‘M.’

After swearing a little, I scrolled down to see the rest of it.

hotc2

Well, -that’s- going to take a while to learn how to get around, and what all the special spots/events are… when I get to it eventually.

My NA guild claimed their guild hall a couple days ago, and fortunately nabbed Lost Precipice, so I have access to ogle both map variations.

hotg

Yeah, well, we say “guild hall,” we really mean a wide swathe of territory in which you can build multiple buildings. The scale of it may not be obvious in a map, so just take a look at the circular formation in the southeast corner of the map…

hoth

It’s this thing. A coliseum. I presume it can eventually be upgraded into a place where small PvP duels can take place (the space within looks comfortable for 1 vs 1 PvP, or 2-3 players to dodge around), and spectators can gather on the bleachers above to watch.

hote

The guild banners on display around the map are really cool.

hotf

Random scenery around the map. I think half a pumpkin is sticking out of the right hand side. One can apparently place guild decorations in the zone, but I haven’t had time to check out that functionality yet.

I think it’s lovely that our community’s decorator types (you know who they are, there’s bound to be a few compulsive ones in every guild or community)┬ácan step up and prettify the place for those of us with somewhat less interest in investing lots of time making things look nice aesthetically. (And you just know there’s gonna be a few jumping puzzles and other displays of creativity eventually.)

hoti

And this is the other map, Gilded Hollow (courtesy of one of the OCE TTS guilds)…

…yeah, the mind boggles.

(The draw of Lost Precipice – while seemingly slightly smaller in map size – is gliding, supposedly. There are apparently jump pads around the place that one can activate for updrafts to glide on. Unsure of just how it all works right now, whether stuff has to be unlocked or whatever.)

No other screenshots as yet, I’ll have to find the time to run around both maps in depth eventually.

I do have a few more screenshots I want to show off, but this is where I lay out a certain amount of spoiler warning:

There will be three pretty pictures from the Heart of Thorns story. I do not place them in any context, but they may show off some environments which you may prefer to stumble on yourself.

IF SO, STOP READING NOW. GO AWAY. COME BACK LATER.

If you have very little plans to ever complete the Heart of Thorns story, or don’t feel that you will be spoiled by seeing alien environments with no context or commentary whatsoever, then proceed on.

Continue reading

Advertisements

GW: The Villainy of Galrath, Then and Now

Continuing on our Wayfarer’s Reverie tour of Tyria, we have a representative image that never fails to send a little thrill of memory through me:

What? A swamp? Yep, along with the shrill neighs of Necrid Horsemen, and the ominous robed skeletal silhouettes of Zombie Warlocks and Damned Clerics.

You see, I’ve always thought of Villainy of Galrath as one of those oldschool fiendishly epic marathon quests. The problem stemmed from its introduction. You can get the quest in Lion’s Arch, the moment you arrive in town somewhere near the first third of the Prophecies chapter. You’re probably not even level 20 yet. Certainly not Ascended nor done with the main story yet.

And if you were as ignorant as I was, you’d never even heard of the Temple of the Ages – which is the best outpost to hit the Wizard’s Tower with.

No elaborate Guild Wars wiki to explain everything in those newbie days either.

And like a trusting fool, you assume that if you can get the quest, that means the game and MMO think you’re ready for the attempt. And so you collect your henchmen (heroes? what are those?) and follow the green arrow directly out of Lion’s Arch. (It’s where you got the quest from, after all.)

And it turns out that if you do it that way, you have to cross North Kryta Province, Nebo Terrace, Cursed Lands and the Black Curtain, before even hitting Kessex Peak where Galrath is.

With only five level 10 henchmen to assist you.

And in those days, your skill bar only had Core/Prophecies skills available to you, and probably only half of those since you hadn’t even gotten through the entire chapter or skill captured much yet. (There was the old way of skill capture too, where you had to wait for the mob to begin casting the spell you wanted, and then and only then hit the signet of capture.)

In other words, it was a grand adventure of epic proportions and much death penalty.

June 2005 – Ranger/monk with ridiculous random build, and henchies – doomed to fail

The pastoral countryside was never really much of a problem. Yeah, there were many accidental aggros of Tengu hordes since one never had the patience or the knowledge to wait for patrols to separate. There was the occasional whupping by fire imps (damn elementalist dps.) But one got through it.

It was in the swamps of Cursed Lands that things started getting hard. Crossing two zones was already quite marathon-y, and now one plunged into the slough of grim plague green despair. Trying to fight undead with levels all in the mid-teens with level 10 henchmen is not the easiest thing in the world. No such thing as flagging the party either, so one ran ahead and hoped for the best.

Many a time the attempt to reach Galrath died stillborn in those black marshes.

Gritting one’s teeth and steeling oneself, one would force oneself to run through the two precursor zones again, wondering when it would ever be possible to push through the fog of this swamp, and how many more zones it could be before reaching the tower?

I honestly don’t remember if I ever reached it that way.

I do remember once teaming up with another player or two and we got much much further into the Cursed Lands than I had ever gone by myself. At the time, it was an absolute thrill to be exploring virgin territory, so to speak. We may even have made it into the Black Curtain. Where I think we subsequently got lost, turned around and wiped. The group broke up shortly after, and I was back to hitting my head against the mud with too low level henchmen.

Several years down the road, after conquering Thunderhead Keep which I had stalled at, running through various chapters, I must have taken on Villainy of Galrath and succeeded. With heroes, better skill builds and knowledge, it was a non-event, I don’t even recall any specifics, just getting it done and marveling at the difference between then and the old beta days.

And then there is now.

Map to Temple of the Ages, load up on 7 heroes, tapdance through Black Curtain and jog through Kessex Peak, fondly remembering trying to pop Shadowy Essences off Fog Nightmares for Nicholas the Traveler.

This corner turn is etched into my memory. Too much farming, I’d say.

See the horde of red dots on the radar.

Shrug and charge like a madman into the whole morass shouting “There’s Nothing to Fear!” and “Save Yourselves!” while flinging Pain Inverter left and right and let the heroes do their thing. Normal mode, after all.

Their reaction? “!!!” (Thanks, Gwen.)

Then proceed to happily rotate 360 degrees on the hilltop like a National Geographic cameraman, wondering what the best angle would be and whether a panorama shot was possible. (Alas, it wasn’t. GW imposes some kind of perspective angle when looking up or down, making it impossible to overlap screenshots in its entirety. This and the featured image above will have to do.)