To give credit where credit is due, the cinematic cutscene folks have completely outdid themselves yet again.
If there is one reason to get the Thaumanova story mode over and done with, it is to go back into the fractals and see the unskippable cutscene which pops up when anyone new enters the fractals for the first time.
It may be unskippable, but it is glorious and gets the heart pumping.
I’ll be happy to keep watching it every now and then, and I suppose it also gives you a warning that someone in your party is new to the fractals and should be communicated with (assuming the PUG reaction doesn’t evolve to immediately quitting after the cutscene is over.)
There is more storytelling and pacing in this cutscene than the entire Thaumanova Reactor fractal.
Some choice moments frozen in time:
P.S. The lack of a waypoint in the story mode of Thaumanova appears to have been fixed via letting the whole party respawn once -everybody- wipes.
P.P.S. The pacing is still a piece of buggy shit as we managed to trigger Scarlet even before all colliders were turned off.
At least this time with a lot of “guidance” from me, ie. supplying tips like I was reading from a third-party walkthrough, my guild group minimized the arbitrary deaths from discovering stuff on their own (not my preferred style of play at all but faced with the alternative of having to completely wipe…) and we managed to insert two cooling rods where they were apparently supposed to go first.
But Scarlet turned up even before we triggered the last collider. Ridiculous, really. The design team needs to take some tips from previous dungeons like AR and MF about shit that is supposed to happen in proper sequence and blocking off access through impassable walls, rather than total party kills.
P.P.P.S. It turns out that my first PUG did indeed boot us out of the instance before it was over. We missed the completion reward of 13 silver that time. (How impressive. Not.)
Thank god for guild groups that hang around examining merchants for any changes, thus giving me enough time to view/screenshot all of the Dessa/Ellen Kiel exchange and for that completion thing to pop up.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
She says she is the krewe chief of the fractals project. And there’s a lot about her that seems “off.”
First of all, she assumes you’re here as volunteers and she’ll be your experiment manager. She makes reference to something she calls “Mistlock” which seems to be some kind of process to stabilize bits of the Mists. In fact, that seems to be her dream and ambition:
“I can’t believe I made explorable chunks of reality from the Mists. I’ve dreamed of doing it for so long. Now, it’s real.”
“We can now lock down and enter any point in the Mists. The legacy code of Tyria is ours to explore, assuming it doesn’t collapse.”
Hang on, let’s backtrack a bit. What the hell are the Mists to begin with?
Well, in the lore of Guild Wars (1 and 2), the Mists appear to be the fabric of space/time themselves.
“The Mists are the building blocks of reality, the proto-reality that exists between the worlds. It is where we find afterlifes and the homes of the various gods and other powerful entities. The Mists also resonate from the worlds around them, such that they form bits of their own reality – islands of existence that reflect the histories of their worlds.”
According to the wiki, the Mists are further described as only being accessible via portals.
Previously these portals seem to be created by vast expenditures of magic and link to only one place (see history as described by wiki) but Dessa seems to have the magi-technology to target different parts of the Mists.
But hang on again, WHOSE past are we talking about?
My google-fu isn’t strong enough to locate any other links, but surely someone has commented on the futuristic style of clothing that Dessa is wearing?
Even the rest of her krewe look like miniature stormtroopers.
I leave this as an exercise for my readers (mostly because I haven’t taken screenshots yet) but we may want to compare these guys’ helmets to the Steam mechataur creatures. To me, they look suspiciously similar in style.
Are there any other asura in our present day Tyria that look like these guys?
Where the hell do they really come from? Or WHEN?
Could they be from that alternate future reality that we are positing exists? The one that has magi-tech and steampunk styles all over the place, is probably full of Aetherblade pirates and Steam creatures, likely contains a money-grubbing group known as the Consortium, and very possibly contains a Conclave and a Grand High Sovereign?
Dessa certainly recognizes the name Consortium. “Those money-grubbing connivers? It’s bad enough I lost my boyfriend to those shady “businessmen.” Take my advice: reject their advances. Nothing good will come of their machinations.”
In our reality, they still seem pretty harmless, just creating gift shops and tourist attractions. They don’t seem to have gotten that sort of “corporate evil” vibe that I may be reading too much into what Dessa says.
And she says one more thing. When asked about how they got connected to the gate in Lion’s Arch, where we entered from, she exhibits confusion. “Lion’s Arch? No, there must be a misunderstanding. We’d never launch this lab from that pirate haven.”
Well, yes, our Lion’s Arch is a united gathering of pirate captains forming a peaceful haven of trade and diplomacy to go fight dragons.
But could LA be an Aetherblade pirate haven in Dessa’s reality?
Let’s go look at the portal gates in Lion’s Arch.
Normal tame asura gates look like this. They shimmer with magical energy and transport us from place to place.
The fractals gate looks like this.
Seriously, go -look- at it yourself. There’s VIOLENT lightning strikes crackling across its surface every couple of seconds. (And I’ve been jumping into this thing all the while with nary a care. Aieeee.)
If you talk to the Lionguard guarding the gate, he tells you that this… doorway appeared instead when some asura tried to open a gate to an island. (Presumably a reference to Consortium/Southsun, but I’m not chasing down that rabbit tunnel just yet.)
When we go through, we end up in the Fractals of the Mists. OF THE MISTS.
The crackly lightning gate appears to symbolize getting access to The Mists, where little pockets of various realities/pasts/reflections of worlds are floating like islands, unstuck in time.
Let’s take a trip to Metrica Province and go look at the Thaumanova Reactor.
We’ve all seen it before. It’s a gigantic sprawling dark stone structure that is suspiciously (to me anyway) open to the elements.
Full of asuran architecture and Inquest-y technological trappings, sections of it echo the Elder Dragons’ elemental magic, though it’s unclear if these existed pre or post explosion. Chaos magic is raging all around, displaced monsters are popping in unstuck in space or time, and most importantly for this post, there is also a honking big portal if you amble over to the center and look up.
No, I mean it. Go there yourself and look up. The camera angle is really tough to screenshot, and those animated lightning flashes are tricky to capture in a still image, but there is as much violent lightning energy crackling across the surface of the portal over Thaumanova as the… doorway in Lion’s Arch.
Probably more because this portal is fucking huge.
How huge? Well, it’s like covering the roof of where a second floor might have once been…
…Could the Thaumanova Reactor have been a LOT bigger than it is now?
Could a chunk of it have actually been broken and hurled through the… doorway now hovering above the reactor and ended up in The Mists?
Raving Asura: “I couldn’t save them. I heard them all. Pleading. All gone. All on my watch!”
Could something have breached the security of the reactor?
Could something (or someones) have broken an important part of the reactor?
There would naturally be a lot of falling, screaming and dying as a result.
The clothing style of the raving asura unfortunately doesn’t give anything away. He’s using a standard for our time asura style staff, he’s in what seems like dark brown medium armor and has a monocle/eyepatch thingy, and has poofy grey hair – which might be his usual hairstyle, or just overall meant to simulate a Rip Van Winkle hermit look.
Another possible link:
There are holding cells in the Uncategorized fractal – containing a Flame Shaman charr, a human bandit saboteur, an ettin and a rabbit. Holding cells, we know, are the main purview of the Inquest.
Dessa, too, has some kind of reaction on seeing this fractal. It’s just not very clear what because she doesn’t reveal much of any emotion over the line she’s using. She just needed to leave for a while, and then comes back later and apologizes for her absence.
It’s possible that’s an indication she recognizes it, but possibly not in this configuration and can’t quite put two and two together as to what happened.
The name for this fractal is Uncategorized, after all.
Maybe in her reality, the Thaumanova Reactor never blew up.
Seeing it in pieces in what is supposed to be Tyria’s past is perhaps a paradox that floors her for long enough to shut off communication with her lab rats and try to puzzle it out.
We leave now the shores of plausible theory to venture further into speculation.
I started scouring the Guild Wars timeline because I suddenly realized there are actually documented yearly dates attached to some of these historical events.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any documented source on when exactly the Thaumanova Reactor blew up. We know it’s pretty recent an event, but not exactly how recent.
It’s recent enough that they’re still dealing with the fallout in the present day, but far back in the past for the Inquest to have built replacement facilities.
I’m going to assume the explosion caused realities to diverge somehow – in one reality, the reactor never blew and we enter our future world of magitech steampunk villainy, in another reality – ours – the tragedy happened but yielded our present-day racially united renaissance fantasy heroic world.
Dessa recognizes the name Lion’s Arch. Now LA has existed since GW1, so that doesn’t tell us very much, but it’s a pirate haven for her.
She doesn’t go, oh the capital of Kryta (GW1), oh that flooded ruins? (circa 1219 AE)
Lion’s Arch slowly became a haven for pirates and the LA we know today was founded by Cobiah Marriner somewhen around 1230-1231 AE… I think. I haven’t read the Sea of Sorrows novel yet. That is probably our lowest bounds for when Thaumanova blew up in our day, and my personal guess is that it’s a lot more recent than that.
This rather nixes the part of my theory that the explosion could have released/formed the Elder Dragons themselves because those bad boys were operating way before that. In hindsight, they had servants dating back to GW1 and were perplexing the ancient races like mursaat and what not, so yeah, the Elder Dragons long existed, they’re forces of nature/magic and that bit of speculation is all hogwash, forget it.
But we need another piece of baseless speculation to replace it now, don’t we?
Let’s look at the timeline at very recent historical events. Two events stand out rather prominently to me:
If the Thaumanova Reactor blew up anywhere from 23-45 years ago, could the wave of chaotic magical energy have fueled the possibly premature rousing of what are speculated to be the jungle dragon Mordremoth’s minions? Except with him still snoozing, they have no guidance except to turn to this convenient guidebook lying at the foot of their tree, producing Tyria’s youngest and most recent race.
In Dessa’s reality, this would not have happened. Sylvari might still be evil servants of the jungle dragon. And of course, we’re now dealing with a lunatic sylvari by name of Scarlet Briar that exhibits some very strange abilities and seems to have some familiarity with alternate realities/portals/stuff.
I’d talk about Mad King Thorn and all the jungle-bramble-plant-death theme that seems to be happening here, but that’s just reaching now, even for me.
So, all the latest excitement both in-game in Lion’s Arch and in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit is the discussion about whether one is in #TeamGnashblade or #TeamKiel for the upcoming update of Cutthroat Politics.
Before we get partisan here, I’d just want to point out that this is an exciting development in player involvement with the Living Story. It harkens back to when one was given the choice to vote for Dwayna or Grenth in Guild Wars 1 in order to get a shiny hat, but a lot deeper.
Players get to both control the story and the direction of the game with their vote.
Players are making lasting history.
Whatever way we choose, we are giving up something in order to get something else. Choices and consequences. Meaningful decisions in gameplay.
Now for the analysis:
The hardcore in the Guild Wars 2 Reddit and the GW1 old guard appear to be all over Evon Gnashblade. The Fall of Abaddon as a fractal is a very tempting lure because it’s a link to both old GW1 lore (one of the major strengths of GW2 is being able to tie back into a long established history) and all bets are likely that it’s going to be gorgeous to have a look at Old Orr and the City of Arah before the Fall. There’s Gods and shit. How epic would that be?
As for Black Lion Keys, well, they’re a side benefit, but no one really gives a toss.
The fear of #TeamGnashblade is that Ellen Kiel may promise the ‘casuals’ and the not-interested-in-lore (the unspoken feeling is that it may in fact be a majority over those who prowl Reddit) decreased waypoint costs for a month.
How freaking tempting is that? Gold is always hard to come by and waypoint costs are a sneaky goldsink that affects everyone playing the game.
Finding out more about the Thaumanova Reactor explosion seems less appealing a fractals choice than the former as familiarity breeds contempt and a lot of people see the fire elemental in the reactor remains every day. Though again, some of the fear is that the new GW2 crowd who doesn’t appreciate the past may vote for it out of familiarity with the name. Others argue that we know a lot less about the reactor explosion, and that it may be an important crux point of recent GW2 lore, what with all the dealing with the fallout and chaotic portals and magic going awry that has been established in various zones in the game.
I just want to point out something that may be overlooked in all this fractals-focused excitement.
Let us not forget that this is part of the active and ongoing Living Story storyline.
We’re familiar with Ellen Kiel. She’s been established as a key ‘good guy’ type of character – a Lionguard who has worked with us since Southsun. She seems to have fairly good relations with Magnus and she now owns a frigging’ Aetherblade airship.
On the other hand, she is just a grunt out of nowhere and may not have the political acumen to last a day on the Captain’s Council. Then again, she managed to balance the pressing demands of the Consortium and still cater to refugee needs and be a good person on Southsun. She appears to be keen to work for fairness and balance, a reasonable deal between Lion’s Arch and the Zephyr Sanctum.
Evon Gnashblade seemingly comes out of nowhere, cast in the light of the greedy profiteering merchant owner of the Black Lion Trading Company and looks a little typecast as the ‘bad guy.’ Then again, most Charr look like bad guys, and you can’t really hold genetics against them, eh?
He’s an established citizen of Lion’s Arch and claims to be looking after the interests of Lion’s Arch first and foremost. He may end up doing a cutthroat deal with the Zephyr Sanctum to put LA (and/or himself and BLTC) first. He has no doubt plenty of backstabbing political experience to survive well on the Captain’s Council. And if he’s in charge of the Black Lion Trading Company and the Consortium are its competitors, that’s probably okay, right?
What are the things being left unsaid?
The most pressing question is why the hell Evon Gnashblade? Why him, just popping out of nowhere? Is he just a new unheralded NPC?