GW2: The Secret of Karka Island

…is that it’s a really good farming location.

I should farm to some reggae music. Monkey Island flashbacks…

At least, there’s where I was in the last days of the Molten Facility, having suddenly realized that karka shells were going for 8 silver a piece and passionfruit flowers for 50s(!)

Barracudas for Armored Scales was always popular (with the bots, especially) and Skelks for Blood and Mosquitoes for Sacs. Reef drakes and reef riders are generally too annoying to bother with.

I had assumed that when the Southsun patch launched, the sheer amount of people on Karka Island (that’s my pet name for it, I’m a Monkey Island fan) would send the supply ricocheting up and the prices tumbling down, so I was striking while the iron was still warm, at any rate.

Turns out that the devs had noticed the same thing much earlier than I did, with the introduction of Blooming Passiflora and a 200% magic find for supporting the settlers. (Well, that’s a good argument in favor of the refugees, unless and until a dungeon or similar pops up, I guess.)

That's a 20s harvest right there!
That’s a 20s harvest right there! (For now, anyway. Prices to drop more soon, no doubt.)

I think the hope is that a few more or a lot more people look into farming at Southsun (instead of Orr 24/7) and bring some of the prices back into balance.

Whether this will last after the month is out and the buff goes away, I don’t know, it depends on how many people decide they like farming mats here, I suppose.

Some people really detest fighting karka.

I used to be one of them. But I took my experimental spirit weapon guardian even further lately, and bought him an entire set of Berserker’s gear since my other cookie cutter was doing so well on Knights/Berserker’s. (At first I wanted the same, but I wanted to see how much total damage output was possible. Turns out it was a good decision as I drop aggro to pretty much anybody and anything else – including the spirit weapons who now serve as decent temporary minion tanks.)

The new berserker set was also a good excuse to buy myself a rhino helm and dress up like a real Blood Legion soldier. But cooler. (T1 helm, shoulders, armor, T2 leggings and boots. Wrath, Lava, Celestial and Midnight Rust.)
The new berserker set was also a good excuse to buy myself a rhino helm and dress up like a real Blood Legion soldier. But cooler. (T1 helm, shoulders, armor, T2 leggings and boots, Flame and Frost gauntlets. Wrath, Lava, Celestial and Midnight Rust.)

He now cuts through karka like his sword is a real fiery dragon sword, rather than a lukewarm butter knife. Casually comparing my performance with two other random parties who were also farming at the time, I was pleased to note that I killed a karka in about half the time they did. (One was halfway through a karka, and I started a new one and finished at the same time. Another two were in a duo and attacking one karka, and I started a new one, and again finished at the same time.)

Swapping either the armor or trinkets with yellow magic find gear drops the dps a bit, but ups the magic find. I’m still experimenting with the best mix. I found stacking pure magic find up to about 169% to be a bit more pointless, possibly because my kill rate was slower, or I was hitting DR faster, I didn’t know. Maybe it was a weird case of RNG.

Anyhow, I certainly plan on more experiments in Southsun during this new Living Story phase and have been contemplating how wacky it would be to invest in an exotic/ascended magic find set. Perhaps that can be a new stretch goal after I finish my arbitrarily decided goal of reaching 200 gold banked and the Golden title. (Without CoF farming, because the fastest way to personal burnout is repeating dungeons ad nauseam for me.)

And what do I think of the new Southsun content?

Stole this picture from the wiki, since I wasn't clever enough to screenshot it myself.
Southsun Before: Stole this picture from the wiki, since I wasn’t clever enough to screenshot it myself.
Southsun After: It's nice to see the permanent changes to the map.
Southsun After: It’s nice to compare the permanent changes to the map. Big obvious new jungle settlement enroaching into the reef rider vent area. New bridge linking Owain’s with the main part of the island – thank goodness, so tired of climbing up that cliff to get Anders for guild bounty. More developed Captain’s Retreat area. New Crab Toss arena. Pearl Islet with more new resort hotness.
So happy to see this new bridge.
So happy to see this new bridge.

For the most part, I like it, though I have some nitpicks.

How Many Alternatives for Achievements?

I was really pleased to see a lot more options and alternatives for getting to the rewards here.

Some people have a moral stance against ever participating in any form of PvP? Great, don’t do Crab Toss, you still won’t miss out on the reward (assuming you catch and do the later Canach’s Lair bits.)

Some people can’t do the jumping puzzle and have some kind of moral imperative against interacting with a mesmer portal? Don’t get the Islet sample then, but you can still get the pretty flower backpiece.

Some people refuse to do anything that sounds like a dungeon ever? Well, you can already get both rewards even without ever setting foot into Canach’s Lair. (Which, I am hoping is more like an open-world dungeon or a mini-instanced hotjoin dungeon that brings in 15-20 people, but you never know, it may just be the same old 5-man dungeon schtick again. Guess we’ll see at the end of May.)

How Spoiled is the Story?

Some people have criticized the spoiler-ific quality of the achievement text and descriptions on the rewards. I don’t really think it’s a very big deal personally – if you catch a certain DE in the settlement at the center of the island, a settler instigator pretty much confesses to Ellen Kiel that a sylvari put her up to it, and the Inspector names him outright – a sylvari with a beef with the Consortium? Oh, it MUST be Canach we’re looking for!

And there’s all the weird yellow-green flowers that are springing up, and if you visit the karka hive, it’s full of yellow-green explosions of yucky spore-like stuff that personally aggravate me just looking at them, let alone aggravating wildlife…

It's probably my graphics settings, but god, is this hive ugly. (I'll get better screenshots in the next two weeks, promise.)
It’s probably my graphics settings, but god, is this hive ugly. (I’ll crank it up, risk crashing and get better screenshots in the next two weeks, promise.)

Okay, so the story is being told in a non-linear fashion with a decidedly heavier hand than the slow linear time-constrained dripping trickle of information that Flame and Frost got us accustomed to, but whatever. We get the message. I’d actually posit a lot more players get the message than the ones who had the patience to talk to every last NPC (often screenshotting every dialogue because we’re anal that way) and watch the change happen over geologic time.

Different teams always produce different content. (See Call of Duty: Treyarch vs Infinity Ward, and for an example closer to home, GW1: Nightfall vs Factions.) You just roll with it if you like the overarcing game/universe.

How Chic is Conversing?

Welcome to Pearl Islet resort! Home of many easy achievements.
Welcome to Pearl Islet resort! Home of many easy achievements.

Ok, so it was a little startling to simply earn an achievement for talking to some of the named NPCs who are part of the Southsun story. Talk about your giveaway ‘chievos, sorta like talking to a Laurel Vendor for a daily.

But you know what? Who fucking cares. I do not need to feel special through artificial exclusivity. I feel special through having an eye for unique fashion styles and color, and being skillful at what I do. I feel special when I help other people and welcome and include them in my community, teach and learn from them.

You wanna be really special? Be Dulfy. Be a good WvW commander on your server. Be a regular mesmer portaller. I guarantee you that all these people helping their community have a lot more respect than you showing off some artificially scarce item that only proves you have plenty of RL money to spend (well, granted, thank you for supporting Anet and the survival of our game with your gambling addiction, I’m glad in the long term sense that you’re a sucker) or are lucky at the RNG.

But I digress. It’s a short sweet simple way to get people locating the starring NPCs and making sure they at least encounter the words that comprise the story, even if they skip past it all and fail to read it.

And judging by the questions over mapchat like “Where is Subdirector Noll?” it is apparently challenging enough for some. (Never over-estimate your audience, I guess. Or maybe he’s just too short to be noticed. /end Asura joke.)

Besides, some of it is pure fun if you do them serendipitously.

I was just wandering when I dropped into the water, and got a skinny dipping achievement at the same time that I noticed nearly all my clothes had fallen off. (At least I got fur.)

I surfaced to find the beach party and chat with Lady Kasmeer and Lord Faren, chuckling at the conversations, and hung out for a while to add to the eyesore factor while watching several lil ugly Asura running around ruining it further. (Apologies to the two sylvari lying down together by the beach and probably having ERP in party chat.)

I think the crab has evil designs... (There are two female Norn players bar-top dancing in the background. Don't you love Tarnished Coast?)
I think that crab behind me has evil designs… (Besides folks chilling on the beach, there are two female Norn players bar-top dancing in the background. Don’t you love Tarnished Coast?)

How Delicious are the Dynamic Events?


Pretty good, I’d say.

The difficulty and scaling seems fairly spot on.

The aggravated wildlife did teach me once that it was a bad idea to be standing at a settlement entrance and lost in scrutinizing one’s map while in berserker gear. And going AFK safely has been a bit more challenging (climbing up to the huts is a good bet, imo.)

I enjoyed running around doing various DEs. The achievements for supporting either side were completed in a timely fashion. There were lively crowds around to assist, but not to the extent of so crowded that there was skill lag or being utterly unplayable.

Some of my guildies are already making plans for leveling up lowbie characters in Southsun this month, since things are upleveled to 80, the pace of events is good and there’s a current population focus here. I might try that out too at some point.

How Satisfying is Sample Collecting?

Mixed opinions about this one.

I liked that there was an obvious and suspicious looking flower serving as a sample right near where you got the quest and the scanner. That gives a wordless clue as to what to be looking out for.

It was slightly non-obvious how to bring up the scanner again once you put it down. Another person and me spent a while conversing with Researcher Levvi trying to get her to cough up another gun because we’d thrown ours down when some rampaging Veteran Karka attacked the camp. I did eventually think to check my inventory again and figured it out (and told the other person having trouble) but I don’t think we were the only ones initially puzzled.

I ran around randomly scanning and pinging and found maybe half of the samples that way before I started getting frustrated. The yellow glow should have been a little taller and more obvious, imo. The achievement clues weren’t that much of a help (do you know how many shipwrecks there are on this stupid island? Vents and geysers?! At least Cave I knew, and Sandpit was unique – though I didn’t put that one together until after the fact.)

Found the hive samples by myself. It just made evil sense to make players have to go there. Here's the "I was there" flower for players to tell others about how they took down the biggest karka of them all...
Found the hive samples by myself. It just made evil sense to make players have to go there. Here’s the “I was there” flower for players to tell others about how they took down the biggest karka of them all…

So it was back to Dulfy. I’m sure a lot more people just went straight to using her guide and had a lot less pain that way.

Even so, I had a bit of a time trying to find the Vent one, there was just too much steam in the way. I had to try and match my minimap to pixel perfect correspondence with that on Dulfy’s before I finally saw it.

The completionist urge to get the Islet sample also got me to finally attempt and complete the Skipping Stones jumping puzzle, something I’ve put off for a very long time. All that SAB practice paid off, I think. And it was nice to see a resurgence of interest in the puzzle, be able to observe people who knew where to go and where to jump, and have friendly mesmers around as insurance. (One was portalling in stages as they attempted it too, which was handy for folks who wanted to do the jumps but got tired of having to repeat what was done before through a slip of the foot.)

How Crappy is Crab Toss?

Also mixed opinions on this one.

Me off ruining someone's Crabtacular hopes by not being anywhere near crab or karka.
Me off ruining someone’s Crabtacular hopes by not being anywhere near crab or karka. (And also playing miserably.)

If it wasn’t for the ludicrousness of the Crabtacular achievement, I’d actually peg it as a decent enough minigame of ‘fun-in-the-sun’ themed non-serious no-consequences pvp with a very decent reward structure (a karka shell and a loot drop for participating, 5 karka shells and two loot drops for winning. And I’ve gotten greens and yellows from it, others did get exotics while I was there.)

First, it’s not very clear what is required for Crabtacular. Many people seem to have the impression it’s being the last one holding the crab at the end of the game. Some have even claimed that they scored the achievement that way. Okaaay. I dunno, I got mine by being the only one alive while everyone got rolled by a veteran karka. But achievements have been known to bug, so who knows.

Secondly, if your opponents have ANY clue what they are doing, and the goal in any PvP game is after all to attain and compete against others with at least a minimum of skill, they will not all courteously die at the same time for you to attain the achievement. There’s usually at least one or two people sensible enough to stay the fuck away from a karka roll, instead of zergling along chasing the crab carrier.

That makes it a stupid very luck-based achievement if you try to attain it normally. Or you could try the patient route and stay in a game endlessly until other people get tired and the number of participants whittles down to a more manageable number which might reasonably be expected to get unlucky and perish together. (Except those staying tend to be pretty decent at the game, decent enough to tolerate staying at any rate.)

Or, since the game unwittingly creates a Prisoner’s Dilemma for GW2 players who have been trained by other aspects of the game to cooperate together, the easiest way of finishing up this achievement is for no one to defect, and everyone to cooperate.

This was how I ended up getting Crabtacular and the last bit of my Crab Carrying achievement done. Simply hung out in a game until there were three people left, and one of them broached the subject of cooperation. I jumped onto the idea in support, and while it did take a while to get the last party speaking and cooperating (I suspect he was winning and wanted to get the Crab Toss Champion done, he didn’t say anything until he won that match – we’d stopped competing and were trying to get him on board), then we all took turns the following few matches to get each other Crabtacular and stuck around to get the last party his Crabgrabber and me my Crab Carrier.

Lag, latency or ping also seems to be a bit of an issue with this minigame. Against certain opponents, especially playing during NA prime hours, they simply seem to slip away too fast to ever connect with a melee steal or tackle. Playing during Oceanic hours, and I seem to do much better. It could be random pairing with someone skilled, but I’m willing to bet that there’s noticeable performance difference between someone with 30 sec ping vs 300 sec or 500 sec ping.

Still, as a no consequences sort of minigame, it isn’t too bad, though I found previous games like the Lunatic Inquisition a lot more fun. It did help me learn how to predict someone’s movements a bit more and plot how to intersect their path, rather than chase aimlessly behind them. But with seemingly random melee targetting once you get into a scrum, and hard to control facing and a dash that changes distance based on how long you press it (and possibly affected by lag), it’s just not very predictable nor or the skills very reliable – that takes away a good deal of the fun in having control of one’s character.

It might have been nicer as a fun game you could play with one’s guild or with teams rather than a chaotic FFA, but no doubt that will lead to (true) accusations of collusion and match fixing very shortly.

How Fast is it Finished?

A couple hours if you’re really focused. A day or so if you’re less intense about it. Maybe longer if you’re really casual.

Some people think that’s too fast.

I don’t really care. I think it’s fine to err on the side of too easy for something that’s only going to last two weeks.

Somehow the incongruity of this tickles the hell out of me. Brave macho Blood Legion charr with a flower on his back. Maybe growing OUT of his back. Parasitic infections ftw.
Somehow the incongruity of this tickles the hell out of me. Brave macho Blood Legion charr with a flower on his back. Maybe growing OUT of his back. Parasitic flora infections ftw. It’s great that it’s account bound, I can swap the look between characters much more easily without buyer’s remorse.

At least this way, the content locusts will be done quickly with whatever they want to achieve in Southsun and be back to their regularly scheduled activities. WvW will see less PvE event disruption as people can quickly take time out for the event and get back to fighting their endless mist war. Time-starved or very casual people have a chance to reasonably participate and complete the content in a couple hours or a weekend without being expected to be online 8 hours a day for 14 days running.

And people who are still interested in what the island offers are not prevented from still staying after the achievements are all done and ticked away, and the shiny backpieces collected. There’s still dynamic events and materials to farm, xp and karma and loot galore if you want it.

Now to await May 28th and whatever Canach’s Lair has in store for us…

(…and speaking of store… I have $10 waiting for the Consortium harvesting sickle right here. I might drop another ten for a character slot this month too because chronic altholics can’t stop.)