When the Queen’s Gauntlet was first introduced oh so long ago, I remember liking the idea of difficult solo fights that had to be puzzled out.
But I also wasn’t terribly keen on one’s (lack of) prowess being on public display for everyone to point and laugh at.
Surely, if ArenaNet wants people to learn and improve, having a practice arena that one can fail at in the privacy of one’s own solo instance would be a good complement?
After all, people learn differently.
Some thrive in the public space, as friends and strangers can watch and offer encouragement and tips, but others prefer to suss things out on their own, with the number of times they died in the process a secret known only to themselves.
Curiously enough, Season 2’s episode achievements appear to be filling this niche.
The first two episodes had achievements that seemed straightforward enough (okay, with the exception of the jumping puzzle ones that made me pull my hair out.)
Some even complained that the achievements were too easy.
Me, I suspected there was a subset of very casual players that were going to be challenged just a tiny bit even by the normal story instances – facing off two veteran inquest might challenge the more haphazard of builds, and for some players, figuring out the mechanics of the bosses at the end of each instance – even with NPC prompting – might be something new for them.
Anyhow, it was always possible and likely that they’d ramp up the difficulty of the achievements as the episodes progressed onwards.
It was with some disbelief that I browsed the GW2 forums to discover that there were players having trouble with the Foefire Cleansing instance.
That was an instance I enjoyed thoroughly, with a charr main who found it awesome to revisit Barradin’s Crypt with a slightly more sophisticated boss fight to echo the first time we fought the statue in the tutorial.
Of course, there are some things that I take for granted that not every player may be aware of.
(And I don’t mean the above sentence with any conceit. Everybody is new to something at some point or another. Someone who habitually plays something has unconsciously integrated a whole lot of habits that would be alien to someone who hasn’t.
For instance, I’m currently watching a ton of DOTA 2 beginner videos having my mind blown at simple concepts that more regular players take for granted – like being unseen and getting behind an enemy makes for a more likely and successful gank. Ohhh, so I -shouldn’t- just be charging up gung-ho from the front and shooting stuff! No one ever pointed out that basic principle to me before!)
I know that in Guild Wars 2, every attack is preceded by an animation. Barradin’s Statue is especially kind because it’s so big. That makes his hammer strike super-obvious to someone who is watching the statue’s arms, and when the big orange circle flashes to indicate an attack to avoid… it’s already second nature for me to bang down on my dodge key.
Dodge key, singular, by the way.
I used to double tap WASD to dodge for a long time, rather stubbornly, before trying to dodge-jump in the Super Adventure Box made me face the fact that there was no way I was going to time dodging and jumping pressing so many damn keys at once.
(Also, one gets tired of forward rolling off narrow beams in jumping puzzles.)
It’s a lot faster to tap once than tap twice. That translates to dodge reaction time (in which some of us are already screwed over by having 200-250ms more lag time via geographic latency.)
I am aware that GW2’s dodge uses invincibility frames. Which means I don’t have to try and scramble out of the big orange circle, and end up getting knocked around while doing so, I just need to time the dodge just right to be “invulnerable” at the point of impact.
My main normally always sits in berserker gear, going with a fairly selfish build of sword/focus, scepter/torch that is built for damage and one-hand crit.
When Rytlock called out the Ascalonian Menders, all I had to do was turn around, flip to my scepter, target the mender and autoattack. Toss in a smite and an immobilize for good measure. Ghost gone in under five seconds.
Now I do have an extra asura guardian that I use to play around with tankier builds, so I am quite keenly aware of the immense difference of speed between my charr who regularly hits 1.4-1.9k+ per crit scepter autoattack, and the asura who has achieved gloriously spectacular lows of 400-600 damage per scepter hit when he’s trying to be super-tanky and heal-y.
Needless to say, there’s a reason why I choose to roam the open world and farm stuff with the charr. (And why I mostly converted to the zerk church of power and crit.)
Still, it wasn’t until I replayed the instance for achievements that I discovered some things which other players would already have known from their taken-for-granted experience.
Going up to melee the statue allows for double damage – as one’s melee weapon cleave can hit both hitboxes, hitting it twice. This makes the statue’s health drop very quickly. (My own impulse is to stay ranged for safety on strange things I don’t trust, aka the first playthrough.)
The other orange circles contained fear wards – that could be destroyed if you target them and attack. I had no clue originally since I just kept moving and avoided anything scary orange to begin with. (Contrast this with some other players’ described experiences where they were knocked about, feared everywhere, and found it extremely frustrating. I can only conclude that they stayed still and got caught in all the stuff, rather than realize they could cast and attack while moving.)
What I think this successfully counts as, is a potential learning experience.
Sure, some people who chronically refuse to learn may just give up in frustration, or admit defeat and get a group to help them or whatever. It’s good that there’s the option of the group to assist for those whose particular situation means they have understandable trouble with the encounter (injury, disability or whatever).
But for others that are able and open to adding to their pool of knowledge, figuring out how to master the encounter, and then doing it, is the challenge and the reward. The level of their play goes up. They’re better able to appreciate the complexity of combat that GW2 can offer, if only just by a smidgen more.
The Waypoint Conundrum instance, on the other hand, was something I struggled for a while to do.
Well, part of the turn-off was the thought of having to spend extra time teasing out every last ambush and trap systematically, and then dealing with the stupid running inquest assassin and closing doors encounter.
I suspected that doing it trial and error, without reading Dulfy, would mean having to repeat the instance several times over. (I was right.)
And it was annoying because defeating the mob wasn’t hard per se, but mostly a matter of hoping things didn’t break. I left Scruffy on defensive mode to take on the assassin, and the first time, the silly asura NPC just vanished without ever engaging him while I was already running off to eliminate the inquest before the door closed. I did everything else to find that the last achievement stack wouldn’t tick off and the assassin was nowhere to be found.
The second time I hung around to make sure both Scruffy and the assassin were locked in deadly yet ineffective combat before leaving, and the inquest door actually closed on me and locked me out while I was taking out the other three inquest. That was worth about ten seconds of heart attack and screaming at the door before the instance relented and somehow teleported me back inside, having concluded I was now in a part of the map that I shouldn’t be. No shit.
And there was that dang Veteran Mordrem Wolf.
That thing deserves to be a boss in its own right. The Champion ooze was more of a pushover than this nightmare floral canid. (Or is that canine flora?)
Part of the problem seems to be an exceptionally broad definition of flanking – which makes any sideways movement of your own risky, plus the tendency for its pounces to overshoot and whack you in the back before you can even react – or use the turn 180 degrees key (which I am unfortunately not terribly used to using, though I have it bound.)
To add salt to the wound, it coats itself in retaliation. Any damage you do to it while it has the boon on, is some damage you’ve inflicted on yourself.
I tried to range it. Got mauled.
Tried to melee it. Got mauled.
Stopped to think. Swapped gear. Swapped weapons.
Obviously this creature punished squishy thoughtless berserkers. So maybe let’s not try being so squishy.
Except I don’t really have a wide range of gear on hand and was feeling lazy to switch traits if at all avoidable. Put on cleric’s gear. Tried a cheapo hammer. Too damned slow. Not enough damage, still died.
Tried a knight’s greatsword. Still ended up with it having a sliver of health remaining. About the same as me dodging my best in zerk, really.
Maybe try boon stripping off retaliation? Searing flames unfortunately was a little too slow to really successfully do much.
On and on. Death after death.
I even went as close to DPS meta as I could with zerker greatsword and sword/focus, trying to burn it down faster than it could tear me in half.
Which -almost- worked.
Twice it had literally no health, not even a sliver of red remained on the bar, before I got downed. Presumably if I had been a smidgen less cheap on my runes, or if I had an Ascended sword, or if I traited more appropriately, I might have been able to nuke it.
Then finally, the revelation unfolded.
I’d previously been having a nice discussion on autoattacking and its role in depth and complexity of combat in games with Talarian, via the comments, spinning off a section of his post.
Ultimately, he concludes that he sees no difference between autoattacking or spamming 1.
Conversely, I think the point of being able to turn off autoattack is that you can -choose- to spam 1 or no.
Not every game is WoW in which DPS meters must be maxed uber alles.
GW2 is a game about proper -timing- in combat. (Also proper positioning, but that’s another story.)
I got back into my standard berserker gear.
I put on my sword and focus, the main weapon types I’ve always carried with me since the beginning of the game.
I CTRL-right clicked off the autoattack on skill 1.
“Self,” I said, “When you see the retaliation buff come up on that wolf… you -STOP- freaking attacking. You just face it and do your best to survive.”
“But self,” I protested. “I’m in zerker, I only have so many heals. It moves so dang quick, the animations fly by so fast, I can’t even tell when it’s going to attack. I can’t dodge or move around very much, I’ll risk getting flanked and my buttocks ripped off for 6000 damage instead of my face bit for 1000-2000. How am I going to survive that dang wolf pouncing on me?”
“Self, you have forgotten your roots. Do you not have blocks and blinds?”
And I’ll be goshdarned, but I was right.
With a new resolution to not just autoattack like a madman and to really choose one’s timing properly…
… I staggered blinds every time that dang veteran mordrem wolf twitched. Never mind if it was a bite or a pounce, I wanted it to miss. And keep missing.
When I ran out of blinds, I blocked, and let the blinds cycle back.
Every time retaliation came up, I touched -nothing- attack-y in nature, and was surprised by how little damage I was taking as compared to before.
When the buff fell off, I pressed 1 repeatedly (I did not spam, because the blinds had to go in between) and hit 3 now and then for a channeled damage boost.
That dang veteran mordrem wolf died with me only having suffered half the damage I had been taking before.
-I- had been my own worse enemy in that fight.
There are, of course, multiple solutions to the same battle.
Some have found the scenery helpful in obstructing its pounces, for instance.
(And to be honest, if you observe really carefully, you can actually see the animations correspond.
When it roars/howls, it buffs itself with retaliation. When its hindquarters twitch, it’s probably going to leap.)
Me, I’m just proud and happy I took it on guardian style and won.