GW2: The Story of Thaumanova Reactor as Told Via a PUG Dungeon Group

The story is fractured, all right....

*verbose narration by two garbled voices talking asura-speak over each other*

*insufficient time to read wall of text in between extreme amounts of fire and hacking away with swords and axes*

Something about cores and colliders.

Bouncy eventual death in between trying to figure out a maze, a safety shield’s skills and repulsor bolts while typing and communicating one’s discoveries to the group. Failure to break through the barrier with anything because the group had evidently taken a wrong turn and missed a console somewhere.

In between logging in and logging out (thank you, no waypoint) and being rezzed not by one’s group but by the kind souls outside the Fractal of the Mists portal in LA, some guy says he found the console and clicked it, and some other guy says he did something else and the barrier vanished, and anyway the UI in the top right hand corner has ticked off complete. I walk back in completely none the wiser as to what just happened.

The group is busy recreating some tableau of Inquest asura in some manner of distress via Panic and Vomit buttons, though I’m not sure if fire or radiation was supposed to be the cause, and what in the world caused it anyway?

In between trying to experiment with the same thing and read tiny tooltips on tiny icons while one’s hp steadily drops to nonexistence and dash out to safety before dying (wherein the tooltip disappears), most of the party wipes on the ground. I manage to warbanner one, ponder the wisdom of stopping to rez a second, (the warbannered one falls over and dies before he gets out to safety), roll out to safety, and then think “fuck it” because everyone else has logged out already to “waypoint.”

I indulge in a solo experiment to test my understanding of the tooltip I read in 5 seconds, spam 1 and do my best to race solo across a ton of fire fields, pause long enough to try and get my bearings and see that there is a barriered console and two orange gear somethings on either side of the room, and then fall over with the realization that having healing signet slotted instead of a big burst heal might not have been the best strategy here.

While pondering if the coordinated group strategy might be best to have people spam heals and run together, and if all members spamming 1 would buff the group together, I hit vengeance and almost get to one orange gear marked -something- (console? door? who knows, it was unlabeled..) Then I drop dead.

This strategy goes untested because the party decides to investigate the other room with the orange boss monster label on the minimap, and something about Subject Six pops up. Various narrators mention something about slime, but no one hears it because everyone is busy dodging the huge shower of projectiles the giant green slime in the center of the room has decided to throw.

Oh, and something about little oozes healing the big one. Right, kill small oozes, we can handle that…

In between my experimentation with being completely unable to knock back little oozes while killing them, I look up to notice that a good half of the party is falling over and going “wtf.” Enter lots of rezzing while trying to figure out exactly what other mechanics the ooze has.

It takes the rest of the fight to figure out that keeping at extreme range avoids most of the projectile shower (plus a wistful internal reflection on not having any classes in the group with reflection skills), and that we should not let the slime get to a stack of 20 whatever-it-has, and that those 20 stacks of something build up when it is being attacked while blocking, and that those stacks build up really quick due to whichever someones are slow to react and keep autoattacking (I don’t suppose the ranger’s pet being hard to control would have helped, I’m glad I didn’t bring my MM necro).

Anyway, the ooze dies.

We get back to the center. Scarlet.

*sigh*

Halfway through her monologue, which I was listening to, mind you, some other guy in the party decides he’s bored and clicks the console panel.

We are now treated to a jarring display of multiple voices talking over each other, pursuing two separate subjects, neither of which is coherent anymore.

Three people get to wait for the two of us who actually lingered behind to try and make head or tail out of what was being said, and an impatient “dudes, press the switch” pushes us into pressing the switch.

Enter another gimmick fight with disappearing platforms, wherein a missed step = instant death and where the rest of the party has no way to revive you, which isn’t exactly the kindest way to learn a new fight for the first time.

I’m the second casualty because I dared to experiment with meleeing the boss while I saw that the aggro was on some other guy running in large circles on the outer platform. Except something happened, whatever it was, one has no clue, and in between a whole bunch of bombs and projectiles being shot out by the boss, the platforms near me started to disappear and I was one centimeter away from being out of the danger zone when I suddenly turned up dead at the boss’ feet. Latency, I suppose.

That and I saw the guy with the aggro dart out near the two of us that died, so he may have gotten too near while we weren’t paying attention.

I get to watch the other three kite the boss around for about half his hp before an accident takes out one, and then another, and then the last wipes.

We “respawn” via logging in and logging out, which makes the wait time quite annoying as each person has to zone in and find their way back.

This time, the agreed on strategy is everyone kites and range attacks and stays far far away from each other. I get to watch two other guys die and turn up at the boss’s feet, while I stay at long range like a giant furry chicken and run in constant circular motion plinking away until the boss dies.

One short cutscene later, we are greeted with this sight.

riiiight
Riiight…

If not for someone in the party having the foresight to bring along a revive orb that they happened to have, we would have all gotten screwed out of the rewards in the chest.

We walk into the light to end up back in the fractals lobby and pause for a couple minutes to bitch about what just happened and debate on whether it was intentional or a bug.

Out of the blue, literally -minutes- later into our discussion, Dessa starts up talking and then Ellen Kiel starts to talk and as -some- of us are still listening and screenshotting this conversation, we are booted back into the loadscreen and kicked into Lion’s Arch with two members of the party gone.

The three remaining members are left still trying to decide if the entire story mode was over and whether the conversation ended at the intended stopping point, or if one of the impatient quitters was the instance holder and booted us out before the story was over.

I’m really left none the wiser except Scarlet did something and I guess the reactor blew up? I have no clue where we come in as Inquest.

We have?
We have?

I would have been even more lost if I wasn’t at least smart enough to attempt the story mode initially by myself – which at least let me talk to Ellen Kiel before entering the fractal, and examining the initial layout of the reactor.

Unfortunately the aggravation of having to clear four veterans a spawn and dying meaning logging in and logging out ended that attempt at soloing after a while.

This is why story is much better told via a scaling instance that can be entered solo to progress at one’s own pace.

I get the feeling that the new fractals were created by a group that were more impressed by the new mechanics for a boss fight that they thought up and for new puzzles to challenge a group than being concerned with any sort of storytelling or proper pacing.

Except group challenge is not inevitable death if you don’t magically know the right gimmick solution to taking out the boss either.

Not everyone runs in a regular group connected by voice chat either, which is the distinct subtype I keep getting the impression they’re trying to make fractals for.

All in all, first impressions: Not impressed. Clumsy. Shoddy. Buggy and insufficiently quality tested.

I’ll have to save lore discussions for later after having gone through it a few more times via random fractal rolls, I suppose. Assuming I can put up with it for that long.

GW2: Not So Secret But Very Annoying Jumping Puzzle

I came.

I saw. šŸ˜¦

I took a portal.

camesawportaled

I leave out the in-between steps of:

I jumped. (A lot.)

I died. (A lot.)

I raged. (A lot.)

Part of it was no doubt my fault for thinking I would be able to make it through without reading or watching a guide.

balancingbeams

I ended up painstakingly working through (and falling and dying and being rezzed) bits and pieces of the path (with an odd portal here and there) all the way towards the goggles (though I consistently fell off at the last sequence of platforms.)

Absolutely stumped by the lack of visible chest, and wondering why there were so many portals up to the top of the blimp which seemed to go nowhere, I chilled out with the rest and alt-tabbed to discover that I had been missing the chest several times while up there.

That was followed by multiple attempts at the diving goggles, made palatable only by kind mesmers who had set up a sequence of portals up to the goggles. It got so bad I was freeze framing Dulfy’s video guide second by second, trying to figure out the exact spot to jump to.

Eventually, 3 hours and 20 minutes later, I lucked into somehow missing all the pipes and landing in the water alive.

I never want to do it ever again. I’ve died less times in the Aetherblade Retreat.

It started out fun, step by step trying to work out the next part of where to go. The holographic walls were a neat trick. The jump pads were fine when they worked right.

Between the cramped camera angles in some places and the jump-forward pads shooting you downward slightly when the camera wasn’t angled right, it began to get annoying.

As the jumps got less forgiving, and ended up with repeated splatters on the ground instead of being able to respawn, and tracing back long obnoxious to execute jumps in sequence, I proceeded to move on to frustration, anger and being very cheesed off.

I didn’t dare leave it for later, because of how difficult it looked, and the fear that once people had done it and moved on, there wouldn’t be others around to rez or port.

Eventually, after I sorta kinda did each stage and sequence long enough to understand the theory of what to do, even as I repeatedly failed at the execution, I gave up and made use of all the portals. Thank goodness for the community building, inclusive aspect of those things.

I found a twin.
I found a twin.

I pity those who will be doing this puzzle out of season, without the crowds in place. It’s doable, but it’s going to be a frustrating experience, to say the least.

Many many thanks to the generous mesmer souls who had set up portal chains from the ground to the chest, from the ground to the blimp and from the blimp to the goggles.

Many thanks to all those freely rezzing in that place – it was sometimes trickier to figure out how to get to a dead body than the next jump.

This latest batch of content is very strange. It’s hard to the point of only being able to please the small subset of people who really really like a specific sort of thing, with a small leeway for the better souls of the GW2 community to help some others who are struggling with the content, and sorry, too bad, for all those who happened to miss that sweet spot conjunction of friendly people.

(Aetherblade Retreat is like that. Obsidian Sanctum jumping puzzle is another one – I got that one because my server’s pretty populous and strong in WvW and hit a sweet season of an entire zerg in that locale, which I am sure frustrated our opponent servers at the time.Ā  Now Not So Secret too.)

I’m just relieved that’s over.

Was the jumping puzzle fun?

Hell, no.

GW2: If You Can’t Beat Them…

Today, I’m grumpy.

I checked Guild Wars 2 Reddit only to find that a ton of sites had -major spoilers- for the Sky Pirates of Tyria patch, which hasn’t even landed yet.

We already had anĀ egregious example of this turn up on the front page of the Guild Wars 2 website for the noir mystery – which spelled out in crystal clear detail exactly where to go, on which day and so on.

I kinda skim read it very quickly, shying away the moment I realized it was a spoiler in order not to ruin my sense of discovery and fun later playing through the story instance, but forgave it as I figured a lot more achievement and progress oriented players would appreciate that sort of crystal clear direction and guidance.

It took 15 seconds of moral dilemma debating, but I eventually decided to read the fucking guide on Dulfy’s website regarding the Aetherblade Retreat dungeon.

Mostly because I was majorly alarmed by her description that said it was like Molten Facility, IF NOT HARDER. (Emphasis mine.)

Because you know folks who want to complete this sort of thing in an efficient and optimal manner have a higher chance of actually making it than your random casual putz that wanders in without a clue.

Because if you’re going to do a fucking raid complete with shitty complex mechanics, you’d better have read the fucking manual and watched the freakin’ video guide beforehand.

(Or at least, that’s what the elitist folks -who will have completed this sort of thing a lot more times than the casuals – will tell you.)

I immediately got a headache on reading the guide, with all the multiple phase mechanics that were going to be in play. This is going to be some learning curve when actually doing it.

And I’m a little freaked out at the thought that they:

a) decided to spell everything out and release it to the online media hounds early, suggesting that trial-and-error discovery is not the way they’d want you to attempt this dungeon (possibly because it may involve a great deal of rage and frustration)

b) are rewarding a rare and a gold piece on completing the dungeon, which hints at the difficulty level that they tuned it at

To be honest, I’m beginning to heavily reconsider trying to PUG this. It sounds like it may be a massive crapshoot of whether you’re going to get good party members or not. It makes me want to run back screaming to guildies only, who will at least be patient as everyone learns the dungeon and works through it together.

The one good thing that might come out of this is that this may be a dungeon that rewards control and support group-oriented builds. I’m not 100% sure of that. If the leet berserkers can find a way to bypass all the trash, I’m sure they will. And some of it may be a dps race.

But I’m seriously wondering how I may be able to fit Stand Your Ground and Hallowed Ground in my utility bar, along with Wall of Reflection and Hold the Line (something’s gotta give) and if I should be wearing my PVT gear with soldier runes to cleanse more conditions on shouts instead of the crit-focused knight’s. And hoping any warriors that come along have soldier runes and shake it off.

Maybe this may actually be a chance for necros and engineers and classes that can deal well with conditions to shine.

I’m going to apologize now to the one PUG that I will be squeezing my spirit weapon guardian in at an early stage to attempt. YOU NEVER KNOW, maybe the bow will come in handy removing your conditions, and the hammer interrupting, and maybe you’ll like the projectile absorption of the shield. And there will be blinds to interrupt things. I will just NOT BE TANKING on him, deal without your anchor guardian crutch.

Then as usual, once I’ve gotten that worked out of my system, and seen if 50% extra damage helps the poor glowing minions any, it’ll be back to the asura rocking cookie cutter.

If it really turns out too horrible, I may simply just give up and decide this kind of content is not for me.

Fortunately, I’m not at all attracted to the monocle – though I suspect a lot of engineers might be. (Please bring your utilities and support and show the leet jerks what you guys can really do besides chuck grenades around.)

I admit to being a lot more greedy for the guaranteed rare and 1 gold on dungeon completion. Between Dragon Bash and trying to get my new warrior in basic exotic gear, I’m somehow down to 15 gold in the bank, near broke.

If all else fails, I guess I can go hog the dragon timers like lots of other people are doing for rares instead.

GW2: The Canach Lair Experiment

When there's something strange... in the neighborhood... Who ya gonna call?

At least, it sure seems like one.

Almost as if ArenaNet was listening to feedback and said, “Oh, you sure you want what you’re asking for? Let’s give you what you want then, and see if you really like it!”

Imagine if you will, an instance with no trash mobs, doesn’t waste your time, and isn’t an ordinary tank-and-spank boss.

Or as some others might more bitterly say, a one-room “dungeon” which is so short it produces a “that’s it?” feeling at the end comprising of a very gimmick fight.

Depending on who you ask, the rewards of completion may be “crap” or “not worth it” or indeed, so worth it that it risks being farmed via character deletion and remaking exploit-line-skirting.

And of course, the very strange decision to enforce a -solo- instance went down as well as enforcing a -group- dungeon might, just with a completely different subset of people.

Poor Anet just can’t win, can they?

For the record, on the whole, I like it just fine. With some quantifiable nitpicks.

Let’s just get the venting about OPTIONS out of the way, shall we? Forcing anything is bad. Some people like to group. Let them fucking group.

I’m a solo-preferring player, I spend a lot of time arguing for the option to solo, but it sure doesn’t mean I want the option for people to group taken away. That just makes a different set of people unhappy.

The only thing I can possibly think of that this achieves is the idea of a “solo” tutorial, where it is guaranteed that everyone has been exposed to the mechanic in simpler form before unleashing them to wreck their unique brand of (un)communicative havoc in a group.

I’d live without the guarantee personally, if it means all the “forcing” goes away.

I like the concept of the step up tutorial though, as I made good use of it, going through the solo version to learn the mechanics in peace by myself, then poked my head alone into the explorable group version to see what else I could figure out there, and then finally joined a group or two.

The Solo Instance

I took my most masochistic character in first. Yes, my spirit weapon guardian who has been wandering around Southsun in magic find gear. This was on purpose, as I wanted to experience a glass cannon pop gun baseline. Just to see how a badly built casual player might find it.

Story-wise, I felt the linkage was a bit abrupt. We never really got to track Canach down. We’re just suddenly told, oh, look, we found him, he’s here, go get him.

The explanation of the mine detector gimmick was okay, as long as you’re the sort of player that bothers to talk to NPCs and read what they say. (Which apparently, some people don’t.)

canachtraps

I liked that there was an uninterrupted short stretch in front to play with the mine detector gun and get familiar with the scanning and conversion mechanic. The icon indicators for the traps were also decently clear, though the fog and steam doesn’t really help visibility-wise.

I’ve mentioned I like solo instances because it gives me time to take screenshots uninterrupted and admire the scenery – which was nifty.

cooopretty

Figuring out the Canach fight itself was pretty tough on first contact. This has a lot to do with the build, if you ask me.

I got the idea fairly quickly to get Canach into the converted land mines, as the caltrops or poison ones didn’t appear to do much to his health bar. I was able to read the buff he had on to figure out that he was immune to any standard weapon attacks.

I did miss until much later the helpful yellow text in my chat bar as to when he was doing what with the mines, as I was staring in the center of my screen, at him, trying to figure out his animations while dancing around the numerous traps and trying to scan and convert them and play the memory game of where is the land mine I’m looking for…

This led to a few accidents of getting knocked about by Canach and into traps, which then exploded and knocked off considerable amounts of hp, which led to me scrambling around trying to recover on a build not really made for healing up quickly and rapidly, which led to more opportunities for him to rush me and knock me down, or blow up all his mines, and generally set up a cascade chain of eventual failure.

So damnably close to reviving... then he blew up all his mines in my face.
So damnably close to reviving… then he blew up all his mines in my face.

I swapped utility skills to put on the more standard stun-breaker shouts, Stand Your Ground and Save Yourselves, and Retreat! for swiftness.

Which went a little better, though I was still having trouble using skill 5 to knock him back into traps a sufficient distance, and I was finding it tough as a squishy to stay in his melee range for long enough to kite him over a mine, and the charr still felt cumbersome and slowass. After about 3-4 deaths, I finally managed to lead him through enough land mines and down all his health.

I enjoyed the little story conversation epilogue between him and Ellen Kiel after. I appreciate that they put that into the solo instance so soloists didn’t miss that part of the story.

Then I logged on my asura guardian, having been now convinced through firsthand experience that this is a “dungeon” where squishy dps glass cannon builds do not help and a bunker build might very well excel. I even left on my WvW gear – soldier/clerics because I suspected the more tanky I was, the more it was going to be lol-worthy ez-mode.

Gee, that tickles.
Gee, that tickles.

It was. I pretty much stood next to Canach and watched as he hit me for 340 hp, then healed up 168 hp x 2 in the next few seconds before he could wind up for his next attack. This made kiting him onto the land mines extremely painless. This was the character I used to get the Lair-Light Foot achievement as it is much easier to look carefully where you’re stepping when you’re not worried about the possibility of dying.

So if you’re ever wondering why some players think Canach’s Lair is so damn easy, while others are struggling, I’d take a long hard look at what builds they’re running.

Not to mention, what classes.

Because I am slightly greedy and wanted to grab at least one more of the possibly unintended character reward of 26 silver plus 1 bag of 1 gold (found a CoF-like dungeon reward rate, woo!), but also too wussy to log ALL my lowbies and possibly risk a ban for exploiting, I decided to bring my last level 80 in and stop at three.

That last level 80 is a thief. He has swiftness on dodge, and signet of shadows. Canach couldn’t fucking touch him. And remember, I am a POOR thief. Game, set, mined and caught.

The Group Instance

As mentioned above, I poked my head in solo to check out how the explorable differed from the story version, and see if the cave had grown any extra rooms. (It hadn’t.)

I poked in on Mr Squishy Magic Find Charr so you can call me either brave or stupid too.

I did last long enough to note that the golem didn’t have the buff that made him immune to weapon attacks, attempted to attack it and noted with pleasure that I was actually denting him to the tune of 3-5% of his total hp bar (not bad for one person in magic find gear against a mob meant for five, it suggested that the devs had indeed erred on the side of easy with this instance and that it might conceivably be possible if difficult to accomplish solo.)

I lasted long enough to see his purple shield come up and work out the mechanic that he needed to be led onto land mines for his shield to fall off.

But the rate at which I was damaging it wasn’t really very quick and it was a struggle to keep alive alone on squishy charr and guildchat was starting the call for folks to do the explorable with, so I gracefully did a Brave Sir Robin and ran away.

Swapped to Mr Surprisingly Sturdy For His Stature, joined the guild group and went in.

The first go was messy. We were tackling Subdirector NULL with four members, as one was still making his way over and having problems with the zoning / party instancing / directions, while some others had triggered the fight. One of our party members was still trying to lead / talk the lost member to where we were, mid-battle, which couldn’t have been terribly good for his mobility. The automatic reaction was to spread out, and no one else had figured out what the purple shield did, so it made kiting the golem onto a land mine quite tricky. The orbiting energy things were an interesting pickle that made us dodge and move around quite a bit, and when the repair turret message came up, it took some time to scan the room and find where it was to take it down.

Despite all that, the health of the golem dropped quite rapidly. What eventually did us in was the electrolyze mini-enrage timer at the end, as I don’t think anyone realized what was happening in between all the party conversation going on trying to get the last member over, and scramble to revive people who were downed by getting too close to the golem.

The other three’s hp were close to one sliver from being downed and mine was at half full, while I was still trying to pick people up, before I finally noticed the little debuff on my bar that had 3-4 stacks of electrolyze going. Ohhh…

We wiped, and left the dungeon to get the last member properly zoned in. Second go was much better, we sorta kinda clumped together a little more, though it was still tricky to kite the golem to a mine when everyone seemed to have a different idea of which mine to lead the golem to. Plenty of damage burned the golem down once the shield eventually fell off though. Cue achievement. Cue reward chest (oooh, 50 silver, a rare, suhweet!) Cue chest in cave (two greens.) Pretty yummy for not very high difficulty, even if the fight was gimmicky.

Coordination is pretty important in this instance though.

There was one more guild group call out, two members had been attempting it in a duo and were defeated by the enrage timer at the end. I decided to test if the rewards for the group dungeon were character or account bound and logged on the squishy charr. (I did swap out of magic find and into pure berserker though.)

They were on voice and they had a plan.

We went to a corner of the cave that was apparently out of the way of the orbiting energy things, and was near to two traps – one a land mine, one a poison trap, both of which could break the shield. Mechanics were explained to those doing it for the first time. Then Null was attracted over and pounded on.

Went flawlessly. Went so quickly and easily it prompted a “Wow, that’s it?” from one or two people, and started a search for the third instance hinted at in the patch notes. (Which apparently will only exist next week, and is probably just a storytelling epilogue/finale.)

One nitpick is that there isn’t much of a story to the group instance. Perhaps that’s intended, so as to not leave the soloists in the lurch. The issue is probably with a sense of pacing, in that there’s no beginning, middle or end. With no trash mobs, it’s just “boss” then that’s it. And not a terribly difficult boss at that.

Stuff I Liked

  • The inclusion of soloists with a solo instance (with the caveat that group-ists shouldn’t be excluded either)
  • The story being told in an instance with time to enjoy it at one’s own pace and read the text
  • The rewards of silver and stuff are pretty insanely good (to me, anyway, I don’t run CoF farms) for something so short and quickly achieved (If this is a daily feature, I’d be in here every day for sure. If it’s meant to be one-time ever only, then ok, not as great as I thought, but still nice for a one-time bonus.)
  • The fairly painless difficulty level (this is subjective, of course, but I’d rather not waste hours of my time beating my head against a dungeon with a possibly ‘fail’ group for something that is merely part of a short-lived event. I have WvW XP to farm at doubled rates.)

Stuff I Didn’t Mind

  • The whole mine detector gimmick (I’m sure some people felt they didn’t like it, especially when it made their class or skills fairly irrelevant. I kind of think that’s part of the point, to have everyone on the same playing field using the same skills – though builds and classes still do matter somewhat. GW1 had similar minigames. Canach may have been slightly cheesy in that he was immune to everything but mines though. Something more similar to Null where mines break a shield may have gone down better.)
  • How short it was. (I suppose it could have been a room or two longer, with better pacing, but I’m not keen on all day dungeon marathon runs either. It’s probably friendlier for the largest amount of people to make it short and sweet.)

All in all, I don’t have anything that I strongly HATE in this. I don’t anticipate frustration factor building up very high. At most, people might get bored of it much quicker. So what? It’s a limited time one-off. The meta event is the one that we should be looking at with a fine tooth comb to see if it feels great, because -that’s- the one that’s going to go on repeat loop permanently.

Guess we’ll see next week.

idiedforthisangle