Feature patch, day two: Critical damage, runes, sigils, and balance

Today came the second and third of the blog posts about the upcoming feature patch; this time we got to learn about the changes that will be made to critical damage, as well as updates to runes and sigils, and some general balance updates that are being made.

First, let’s look at the crit damage changes. The biggest thing about it is that critical damage will be tied to a new stat of its own, Ferocity. It’ll work the same as any other stat, starting out at zero and being able to be increased through traits, gear, and other buffs. The hope is that by doing this, it’ll make critical damage easier to understand, as well as make it easier for people to experiment with builds and still be able to crit. This will also have the effect of a slight nerf to full berserker builds; they say that at level 80 with a full zerker build this will work out to about a 10% decrease.

An example in the blog post of how the hero panel will look with Ferocity added in.

An example in the blog post of how the hero panel will look with Ferocity added in.

Now, full disclosure here: I run berserker gear on four of my characters (mesmer, ranger, necro, and warrior). And I am totally okay with this change. My mesmer sits at 103% crit damage, without any buffs, and with a couple pieces of gear still not being berserker (for some reason I have a valkyrie sword on her. Don’t remember why I did that; I suspect to save on money). I also on other characters play a variety of different builds; my guardian, for example, is full support. My engineer is conditions/support. My ele swaps between damage and healing. My thief currently is running venom shares. And my second warrior does a hammer control build. Even my berserker necro has a mix of rampager and rabid trinkets and still pulls heavy condition damage. My healing/boon shout guardian is as fun for me to play as my DPS-heavy phantasm mesmer – they’re different builds, with different uses. And the damage nerf will not be so hard to my DPS-based characters to put me off them, but it will give more opportunities for my more support-based characters to shine.

Build diversity is always a good thing, and I like how this change to crit damage will make things a bit more even of a playing field, and make it easier for people who like playing builds that are more than just “hit that thing with a stick until it dies” to show their stuff, as well as facilitate more experimentation.

Speaking of build diversity, let’s take a look at the post about runes, sigil, and other balance updates. One of the things they mention as working on for runes is updating the stat boosts given to be stacked more towards the fourth, fifth, and sixth effect; a lot of people sometimes mix and match runes, and they want there to be a real benefit to sticking to a single set. It’s also said that this will make it easier for newer players to pick runes.

Now, sometimes mixing and matching is a necessity – my guardian, for example, uses a mix of three different rune sets to get what I want. One of the things that is also being done is that a number of rune sets are being reworked, to take away some of the need of this mix-and-match. It also says that more runes will be updated to have a specific focus, such as a certain condition or boon, which I can see being very nice in some situations. I know the Power runes in general could use a lot of this fixing – so many sets that give power either have might or burning as a secondary effect, but there’s not much else in there. I don’t even use runes on several of my characters, opting for orbs instead as there are no rune sets that do what I’d like for them to do, so changing things up so that there aren’t so many cloned rune sets and they’re all more clearly defined is something I’m looking forward to.

Next, sigils! They’re looking to take away all of the hidden rules that sigils have and make it much clearer how they work. Things like recharges, how they stack, and so on will be made clear in the sigil’s description. One thing they mention is that each sigil will have its own recharge, but they do not stack. To explain that better, this is the example given:

A character with two Sigils of Blood (minor, major, or superior) who activates one will set both sigils on recharge.

So doubling up on sigils won’t be worth it, which is actually not a bad thing by any means, as it’ll encourage people to play around with more types of sigils for different effects. And do people really double up like that anyway?

Sigil of Fire with an updated description.

Sigil of Fire with an updated description.

Another thing that is made note of is on-kill sigils will get a few updates. The first is that killing a human opponent in any game mode (PvP or WvW) will gain you five stacks, as opposed to just one. Regular monsters remain at one. The second is that more strict rules on their use will be applied; namely you can’t build up 25 stacks and then unequip the weapon for another and keep the stacks. Again, a good change, as being able to do that just feels like an exploit to me.

Oh, and by the way, if you use a two-handed weapon? Two sigils. On the weapon. This was the part that had me the happiest (until I got to the bottom of the post, anyway). Just, enough said on that. Two-handed weapons can slot two sigils. I love that change. I’m excited for that change. I’m already planning out what I want to slot on my weapons to add to them.

Several sigils will be getting updated to make them more desirable; this ranges from things like some of the “on-crit” defensive sigils to be changed from “on-crit” to “on hit”. As someone who uses Sigil of Water on my guardian’s staff, I’m loving that change, especially as it’ll give me more wiggle room when playing around with builds. A number of sigils will be getting tweaks on numbers (recharges, how often they trigger, how hard they hit, etc), and there’ll be some that get reworked entirely. The example given for that are the Sigils of Conjuration and Sanctuary, which currently both have the same effect (which is not a terribly useful one). They’ll both be getting majorly changed; Conjuration will become Celerity and give 5 seconds of quickness once hitting 25 stacks (guess what I want for my mesmer’s greatsword), and Sanctuary will become Benevolence and increase ally healing (guess what I want to put on my guardian’s Bifrost along with her Sigil of Water).

Last but not least are a preview of the balance changes, all of which look good to me. Elementalists will get some more survivability when using main-hand dagger, which is handy. For engineers they’re looking to increase build diversity; they say they’re aiming for more power-based builds as well as more support opportunities. Anything that can break people out of the mindset of “grenades are the best ever” is good by me; just don’t nerf my elixirs! Guardians they say will mainly be quality of life changes, but at the same time they want guardian burning to be the strongest burning conditions in the game. Warrior changes will mainly be bug fixes as well as slight nerfs to regen. Necromancers are getting a good number of changes; a big one is Death Magic no longer requiring you to run around with minions if you trait into that line, as well as more survival options and some Death Shroud. For rangers they primarily mention pet AI changes, which are always welcome. Thief they mention some bug fixes, and some more support and survival via traits, such as the Invigorating Precision trait mentioned in yesterday’s trait blog post.

And mesmer. I had to give mesmer its own paragraph, because I love mesmer, my main is a mesmer, and the updates listed for mesmer just make me so happy. More options for conditions. More support and survivability. Updates and bug fixes to illusions, with Illusionary Warden being specifically mentioned as having been fixed. The sigil changes being very good to us. And yes, Maim the Disillusioned is an amazing trait name.

Unlike yesterday’s post on traits, where some of it had me a bit unsure, today’s information I am solidly behind and like quite a bit. So far so good, and as I pointed out yesterday, I’m really enjoying these posts detailing the changes. The next two blogposts, to judge by their names, have to do with armor, town clothes, and dyes, so I’m excited to see what’ll be announced there. My mesmer currently has over 300 dyes unlocked, so I’m really crossing my fingers hoping that account-wide dye unlocks are coming. There’s not much that could make me happier right now.

If only precursor crafting hadn’t been confirmed to not be a part of this patch…ah well.

Feature patch, day one: Traits

So, today information on the upcoming feature patch for Guild Wars 2 has finally started to be released. Yay! Over the next two and a half weeks, we’ll be getting a number of blog posts going over each of the new features or major changes, culminating with the patch going live on April 15th. They have listed the titles and dates of all of the upcoming blog posts, hinting at what’ll be coming, and a lot of it looks like it’ll be really neat.

Today they started off by talking about changes that are being made to traits, and I have to admit, a lot of it looks really good. There’s a few parts that I’m not 100% set on, but for the most part…good stuff. Here’s a highlight of the big changes:

  • Tier unlocks will be automatic and free at a certain level
  • Trait points will be condensed and earned at different levels (including when you start learning them)
  • Trait refunds will be free and available at any point not in combat
  • Major traits need to be unlocked via “trait guides”
  • Each profession will be getting a new grandmaster trait in each line (forty new traits!)
This window will be looking a bit different after April 15th.

This window will be looking a bit different after April 15th.

So what do I think of all of this? For starters, free tier unlocks (and them being automatic) is a great thing. I hate having to go back to buy trait books, especially as they reset your traits when you use them. On top of that, I hate having to spend so much money on them. Yeah, at this point, 3.1g is nothing for me. But when the game first launched? Saving up that single gold for the level 40 book was an accomplishment. So was the 2g for the level 60 book. I remember feeling rich in the BWEs if I had 10s for the level 11 book. If you just started out playing, you’re not going to have money for those things at the appropriate level, more likely than not. And that’s assuming you even realize you have to go buy them! So doing away with that is great.

My quibble on it is the level changes that come in to this – you start getting trait points at level 30, with master unlocking at level 60 and grandmaster at level 80. This…I’m not so cool with. There are certain professions where playing them without any traits at low levels can be very difficult – thief and elementalist in particular come to mind, and mesmer may also be very tricky. But we’ll see. Perhaps other changes being brought in will balance that out. I also don’t like master and grandmaster unlocking so late. I feel that around levels 60-70 I have a good idea of how my level 80 build will play out, but now that will no longer be possible.

GOOD RIDDANCE.

GOOD RIDDANCE.

Trait condensing. Again, a thing I like. Right now, you gain 70 trait points by the time you’re level 80. With this, they’re going to make it so that you’ll gain a total of 14 trait points – each point will be worth five points with how they are now. This makes it so that trait points have more effect and will be noticed more readily; in the post they also mention that this will make it easier for newer players to figure out the system – they give the example of someone who may not know better putting 11 points in one line, 14 in another, and unintentionally giving themselves a far less effective build than they could have. Starting at level 30, you’ll gain a point each six levels; at level 66 it’ll then be 2 points per six levels. I do like the extra points in your last stretch of leveling; they recognize that at this point you’ll be settling on what you want to play at level 80 and giving you more to play with. I just wish that grandmaster wasn’t at level 80.

Free trait refunds. Oh man, this was the best part of it, I think. WE NO LONGER HAVE TO GO INTO A CITY AND PAY TO REFUND OUR TRAITS. The fee was paltry (3.5s at level 80 with all traits used), but it was an unnecessary inconvenience. Now, at any point you’re not in combat, you can refund and change your traits from the hero panel. I’m so excited for this – stuff like this will make things like high level fractals and certain dungeons much easier, as well as swapping builds for World vs. World. It also promotes experimenting more since you can change things whenever you want. The only issue that will arise from this is gear – most people pick their gear based on their build. Trait resets are great, but there’ll be issues with people either feeling they need to carry around a half dozen sets of armor, or complaining their builds are now sub-optimal because their gear doesn’t match. Personally, I’m not too fussed on that, but I can see why it’d be a concern. I also would kill for a way to save build templates, like in GW1, but we’ll live for now. That’d be a great quality of life change, though, hint hint!

Major traits will need to be unlocked. Okay, so this is actually really, really cool, I think. If you played Guild Wars 1, you’ll remember capturing elite skills from bosses, or using skill tomes to learn skills you’d already unlocked on your account. This is similar. Major traits will be learned from trait guides that can be found from completing specific content – anything from personal story to WvW to dungeons to meta-event bosses in the open world. And if you don’t feel like going out and finding that specific trait guide? You can buy it from your profession trainer. I really like this, myself; it gives a bit more of a sense of accomplishment in your build, but if you’re looking for one that you simply cannot get, you can still get it.

The example image used in the blog post, showing a trait unlocked by taking the Gates of Arah.

The example image used in the blog post, showing a trait unlocked by taking the Gates of Arah.

And last but far from being least, each profession will be getting new traits – a new grandmaster trait for each tier, which is a total of forty new traits in total. New traits are always a good thing, as they mix things up and give more chances for build diversity, a thing I’m always a fan of. They gave an example of a new trait for each profession, and I do have to say I’m impressed and excited to see what all of the new ones are going to be. The elementalist one listed, for example, will be a must-have for my ele, and as a longbow user I’m also really liking the ranger one. The thief one is a great way to give thieves more survivability when attacking. The engineer trait makes turrets not entirely useless. And so on. The mesmer one is the only example given that I’m not 100% sold on, but that’s simply because of other game mechanics (I’m looking at you, defiant) and enemy AI getting in the way, but I can easily see how it’d be very powerful in WvW and sPvP. And personally I’m hoping that the new Inspiration grandmaster will be another phantasm trait, as I’d take that in an instant ;)

So far? This is good stuff. There’s a lot more to come, though – tomorrow will be posts about combat and critical damage, which I’m certainly interested to see, as well as the Ready Up livestream where ArenaNet will talk about some of the feature changes. It’s good to see how openly they’re communicating these new changes with us – it reminds me a lot of the pre-release blog posts, and I’m glad to see that format return. I hope to see more things discussed with us like this, as the more communication, the better.

The best skills in Guild Wars 2, as collected by me

When it comes to Guild Wars 2, there are certain skills that are just better than others – whether or not it actually is more effective, it’s more fun, or you just simply like it more. I certainly have my favorites, skills that I make use of more than anything else!

So, in no particular order (other than how much I play that profession), here are my favorites of each professions’ skills. On we go!

Mesmer

Feedback

FeedbackCreate a dome around your foes that reflects projectiles.

My mesmer is my main, and it’s no hiding the fact that I love playing her. Feedback is one of those skills that basically never leaves my bar. It’s useful basically everywhere – so many enemies use projectiles, and even without that, it’s an Ethereal field, meaning that it can be used to apply Confusion to enemies, or Chaos Armor to yourself and other allies. There’s also the fact that a well-timed Feedback can do massive amounts of damage to enemies as well as saving your team from nasty conditions (fun fact! You can Feedback Agony onto bosses in Fractals!). Love it. Illusionary Warden, Illusionary Berserker, and Blink also rank very high. Chaos Storm would make the list but staff on mesmer needs some love first.

Ranger

Barrage

BarrageBarrage the target area with a hail of arrows that cripple.

Longbow rangers tend to be a love them or hate them thing. I fall firmly on the side of “love them”; my ranger is the owner of Kudzu, the first legendary I made. Barrage is by far my favorite ranger skill, possibly my favorite skill in the game (I’m just saying, Feedback has some stiff competition there). It’s a large AoE, it deals heavy damage, and it cripples things forever. Whatever you hit isn’t going anywhere. It’s great in situations where there are lots of enemies, and I love nothing more than using Barrage into an enemy zerg while in World vs. World. Oh it’s so much fun. But yeah, what I’m saying here, is Barrage is awesome, and my guildies can attest to how frequently I say “I love using Barrage…”.

Guardian

Empower

EmpowerChannel might to yourself and allies around you. Heal nearby allies when it ends.

I play my guardian as a support guardian – healing, boonspam, and shouts everywhere! Staff is my weapon of choice there, and my guardian is the owner of my second legendary, Bifrost. Empower takes it as my favorite guardian skill, because it’s just so darn good. It heals – a significant amount. It channels might – up to 12 stacks of it. It has a decent recharge. It being a channel can be a bit tricky at times – I hate when I get interrupted in the middle of throwing around heals and might – but a quick “Stand Your Ground!” just before takes care of that. Renewed Focus is a close second, simply because of the number of crazy things I’ve managed to survive due to those three seconds of invulnerability, but ultimately I like Empower more.

Necromancer

Well of Suffering

Well_of_SufferingTarget area pulses, damaging foes and inflicting vulnerability.

I actually had a hard time deciding which necro skill I liked best – Life Transfer, Consume Conditions, and Lich Form all were contenders. But when it came down to it, I knew it had to be a well. I love wells. When I was running a condition build, my utility bar was all wells, with the trait to make them placeable at range. Now that I run a more DPS-focued melee build…I still use wells, but instead I now bomb enemies with them as soon as I’m in melee range. Between the size of the AoE and the damage ticks, a well-placed well just melts everything. So much fun.

Thief

Skelk Venom

Skelk_VenomYour next few attacks heal you.

I had a hard time picking one for thief; despite the fact that my thief was my third level 80, I’ve had a hard time really clicking with the profession. I’ve recently decided to try out a venom share build, though, and I think I finally have it – something I can enjoy playing. With that said, I have to go with Skelk Venom. For this one, it’s really less about the skill itself – it’s a good skill, don’t get me wrong – but rather what it allows thieves to do. This one skill being added to the game single-handedly made thieves capable of lending support to other players. So yeah. Venoms. They’re fun.

Elementalist

Arcane Shield

Arcane_ShieldBlock attacks with an energy shield. If it blocks three attacks, it explodes.

Yeah, I’m not going with the hilariously overpowered Conjure Frost Bow here. I’m going with my good old friend, Arcane Shield. This skill is responsible for my elementalists (both of them!) dying half as frequently as, realistically, they should have. “AHHH THINGS ARE EATING ME!” quickly turns into “pop Arcane Shield and RUN AWAY”…and I’m still alive at the end of it. Really can’t go wrong with that! It’s also great for anything where getting hit when channeling (hi, skill points!) interrupts you and you just don’t feel like dealing with it. Or running in to grab points of interest and trying to avoid that champion patrolling around. Basically what I’m saying, is Arcane Shield is one of the best survival skills in this game.

Engineer

Elixir B

Elixir_BDrink Elixir B to gain fury, might, retaliation, and swiftness.

Another where I’m not picking the more universally popular skill (sorry guys, I hate Grenade Kit. I’m not fond of ruining my wrists going click-click-click-click-click repeatedly). I run a conditions/support build on my engineer, revolving around the Elixir Gun and other elixirs. Of the utility elixirs, Elixir B is my favorite. I mean, come on now. When are those boons ever not useful? Never, I say. The toolbelt skill for it is a source of stability, something that is always helpful. And with the right trait setup, those boons last forever. It’s excellent.

Warrior

Battle Standard

Battle_StandardPlace a battle standard that revives fallen allies and grants fury, might, and swiftness to allies.

I have a confession to make. I don’t actually use Battle Standard all that often. I tend to run around with Signet of Rage on my bar. However, that’s because most of the time when I’m just running around on either of my warriors, I’m alone exploring zones. When it comes to group events, dungeons, battling in Lion’s Arch, or anything where there are large amounts of people, though? Battle Standard all the way. The boons are nice, but it’s the revive that makes it so handy. The best use I’ve ever seen of it was someone using Vengeance and then Battle Standard to save our group from a wipe while fighting Giganticus Lupicus in Arah. It’s a situational skill, to be sure, but it’s also a great one.

So there we go! Those are the skills that I like the most and think are overall the best and most useful for each profession. This is, of course, all just my opinion – I don’t expect everyone to agree! But hey, give them a try. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite you’d never thought about before!

Ranger, party of five!

In Guild Wars 2, there are some pretty common opinions on which professions are stronger than others. Some are simply better at certain roles, or are more versatile. This leads to an amount of build/profession discrimination – if you are trying to get in a group for a dungeon and are not the requisite profession, forget it!

My experiences, however, say that requirements like this are a load of bunk. There are certain combinations that may be extremely efficient…but that doesn’t make them the most fun. And sometimes the extreme efficiency makes them less than ideal!

I currently have five characters at level 80. In order of dinging 80, they are a Mesmer, Guardian, Thief, Elementalist, and Ranger. My Ranger is my newest level 80, having only reached that this past weekend – leveling her was part of my quest for a legendary weapon. Each one is traited for different roles. My Mesmer is the classic glass cannon, wielding a greatsword and a sword and focus, able to land a critical hit for up to 10,000 damage. My Guardian is pure support – she’s capable of doing damage, but her bigger role is the fact that she’s a very strong healer (I use staff and mace/focus), and even more than a healer, she’s a boon machine. Everything gives a boon, they last forever, and they’re very strong. My Thief is very squishy at melee range…which is why she’s a ranged crit, condition, and stealth machine, only going in close to fire off Dagger Storm. My Ele is something of a jack-of-all-trades, a staff-wielder that mostly plays with (and is specced into) fire and water, though air and earth certainly have their uses. And my Ranger mostly stays at range, throwing down traps and hitting hard with her longbow, but gets in close with her sword and dagger as well.

They all have very different playstyles, and I really enjoy all of them. Ranger is probably the weakest profession of the lot, but that’s mainly due to the limitations of pets, and I’m getting used to dealing with that. Using ranged pets, keeping them on passive, and manually calling them on targets and bringing them back soon as they start taking heavy damage is good for keeping them alive, and they do do very good damage.

There are times, though, where I don’t want to play a specific character somewhere. When we do Twilight Arbor, for example, a Thief is basically considered a necessity. We do not have many fully-leveled Thieves in our group. Recently I did not want to play my Thief in there, though – I wanted to use my Ranger as I was leveling her. So we did the dungeon without a Thief. It was very doable. It wasn’t even really anymore difficult than doing it without one – you just had to be a bit more careful.

Citadel of Flames is a dungeon where it is possible to speedrun the first path, getting times as low as 6-7 minutes. The ideal team setup for this generally consists of warriors, guardians, and at least one mesmer. However, I’d make the argument that such hard efficiency is actually detrimental. In speedruns, you don’t kill stuff – you run past everything. Almost everything you do kill (the acolytes, the guards in the brazier room) are infinite spawns and do not give loot or experience. The real loot from a CoF speedrun is the money for defeating the bosses, the chests…and the tokens – 60 the first time you complete a path in a day, 20 after that. The tokens can be redeemed for rare armor that has the potential to give globs of ectoplasm when salvaged, and pretty much everyone needs ecto for something!

However, complete it too quickly and you’ll hit diminishing returns, which will bring down the amount of money and tokens you’ll receive. Those 6 minute speedruns can be nice…but you’ll hit DR almost immediately. And here’s where mixing up the team makeup winds up working better than a hardcore speedrun team. Take a bit longer on it, and you’ll wind up with more loot and money overall.

We recently decided to take a party of five Rangers, then, through CoF path one. It went quite well – about the same as our normal runs with a varied group. Speed was about the same, minus a hiccup in the middle where none of us could get the boulder pattern right, since we had no Mesmer…but we still got beyond it quickly. Taking down the end boss was cake. It was a great run, all told, and it took long enough where an immediate second run would not have triggered DR for us.

This is what this game is about, and should be. It really is possible for any profession to try it’s hand at something, and succeed. Some may do it better, but all can do it, and sometimes it’s very surprising what the results can be.

The sylvari fangirl report – BWE3 roundup!

Eirlyss at the end of the weekend.

The third and final beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2 has come and gone. We just have over a month left until release now.

This is going to be a long month.

As should be surprising to no one, I spent the vast majority of my time in the sylvari areas. My main of choice for this BWE was Eirlyss, a sylvari Guardian. I did create several other characters (Katte, an asura Warrior, Dairina, a sylvari Elementalist, and Riannah, a sylvari Thief…yeah, I like sylvari!), but I spent the vast majority of the time on Eirlyss. I did play all the way through the personal story available for the beta, having chosen having a vision of the White Stag and finding “Where life goes, so shall you” as the most important of Ventari’s teachings as my personal story choices. I have so, so, so many thoughts on the sylvari storyline that I saw that just…wow. If you’re a Guild Wars lore buff? The sylvari storyline will likely be your favorite. In the beta, a few questions were answered, and more brought up.

And it certainly did a damn good job of getting me extremely patient for launch to see where this storyline goes. A small hint – remember seeds that Ronan found and planted one of, that grew into the Pale Tree? We find out a bit more about that.

I also noticed that the sylvari storyline seems to be the widest and the most concerned with the outside world. Yes, the story is still about you, but what I played of the other storylines (completed human, made a bit into the other three), they remain heavily involved with just you. The sylvari storyline is…definitely less so, and I like this. For example, in the White Stag storyline, I was trying to stop the Nightmare Court from corrupting the White Stag, a creature of the Dream that is a manifestation of hope, to despair and letting it loose back into the Dream to try and corrupt future sylvari. I defended the Grove from an attack from the Court. The “where life goes, so shall you” storyline I don’t want to go to into at the moment (I’ll likely dedicate a future post solely to that) involved trying to keep the Nightmare Court from getting what they referred to as the Harbinger, something or someone they wanted to use against the Grove and the Pale Tree. The sylvari storyline also has the earliest mention of the Elder Dragons that I noticed, with the Pale Tree herself telling her that she believed that you and Caithe would be the ones to face Zhaitan, and that you would be victorious.

Talking with the Pale Tree

So, essentially, I really, really enjoyed the sylvari storyline thus far.

The sylvari themselves are, essentially, perfect. I love how beautiful they are, while remaining something that’s very obviously not human. They have this air of elegance and nobility to them…but if you watch their idle animations, you get to see another side, one of a very young race that is intensely curious, and that is full of innocence. It’s just so absolutely perfect – it looks as though they’re humming something in their head, and sort of idly swaying along with it, along with stopping to look to the side as though they just spotted something interesting, as well as the occasional happy grin.

The Grove is definitely, as far as the capital cities go, the smallest of the five. This, however, is definitely understandable, I think. It’s built in several levels, being more of a vertical city than a horizontal one, which makes sense as it’s built into the bottom of the Pale Tree. It’s also the newest of the cities, housing the newest of the races, which logically speaking is also going to be the smallest in population. It shouldn’t be a massive, sprawling city like the others are.

During the weekend I reached level 25, and got 100% map completion on the Grove, Caledon Forest, Metrica Province, and Brisban Wildlands. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I wish that the asura and sylvari each had another zone that’s just solely theirs – they share Brisban, which is a level 15-25 zone. I can understand why – the Maguuma Jungle and Tarnished Coast are only so large, after all – but the other races had a 15-25 zone of their own! Not fair, says I.

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed playing Guardian. I tried it briefly during BWE1 and thought it was okay, but I wanted to give it another go. I was undecided between that and Elementalist, and decided last moment that Guardian would be the winner. I actually really, really liked it. Yes, it’s definitely the most support-based profession, and normally I don’t like support. But it’s also a very flexible profession, and I enjoyed being able to swap roles quickly and easily depending on the situation. And my ability to provide support was given the ultimate test during an event in Metrica Province.

Being led to our deaths by Mr. Matthew Medina, aka @barefootmatthew. Whoops :P

Ahh, yes. The Fire Elemental in Metrica. It spawns at the end of an event chain if the previous one is failed and…well. “Overpowered” is an understatement. The first time I tried it I had to map out to a waypoint after dying and reset my skills and bust out my staff so I could lend some heavy support. I then spent the entire fight healing people, setting up walls to block projectiles, and ressing everyone as they died. We did manage to succeed at the fight…however, as I spent the entire fight lending support instead of attacking, I got no credit for the fight. No gold, no karma, no experience, nothing. I certainly more than participated – of everyone on that bridge I probably spent the most time alive and actually doing things – but as I did not directly attack the elemental it didn’t count? I was a bit annoyed.

The main issue with that fight is, I think, just a variety of elements coming together and working off of each other to wind up being far stronger than intended. The leadup to the room where the fight is is a narrow bridge, which creates a massive chokepoint. The boss does massive AoE attacks, as well as spawning Embers which also attack.

I wound up getting killed by the elemental another time on Sunday evening – a note of warning, partying up with an ANet dev will likely cause in you dying. I almost feel bad for the random people who spotted the ANet logo as we ran past and followed along only to be led to their deaths…but on the other hand, I think that attempt was one of the highlights of my weekend. Plus now they know exactly how overpowered that event is, always a plus!

The finale, the Hunger Royale (Hunger Games and Battle Royale combined) was certainly entertaining, but I felt like it was hindered by the size of the map. Metrica was just too large for something like that – we spent the most time just running before we’d come across anyone else. Still, I got to send Dak flying as we wound up on opposite teams, so that was entertaining.

I never did get to climb to the top of the Pale Tree, but I did go up into the Omphalos Chamber and found the highest spot in there I could get to, so I guess that wins!

As far as new additions…I love vistas. Some could be quite the puzzle to figure out how to reach, but as I’m a veteran of games like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed (and oh how heavily did vistas remind me of syncing viewpoints in AC!), usually just a moment or two of studying the area gave me a path up. They’re also amazing for taking lovely screenshots of the area, something which I took great advantage of.

Now, if only it were August 25th…

Beta Next Weekend!

So, chances are likely, you’re already aware that the first Beta Weekend Event is happening next weekend, from April 27th until the 29th. If somehow you didn’t…well, now you know! It’s a public beta, so personally I plan on taking tons of screenshots and video of gameplay – the first week of May the internet is going to really explode with goodies from the beta.

However, as you can see in that blog post, the only playable races remain the humans, norn, and charr. Still no asura or, very sadly, sylvari.

Obviously, I wanted to be able to try out the sylvari. As I’m a teeny bit of a fan of them. So now I have a bit of a decision to make…what do I play? And so I turn to you, the reader, to help me decide. However, first, a couple of notes:

  • Of the three available races, humans are my favorite. Mostly because I really love the lore in GW1. However, with HOM not being available in the beta (obviously) I have no particular attachment to them at the moment.
  • Of the professions, I have no interest in playing a Necromancer, and I greatly dislike the Engineer. So don’t suggest those :P

So with that said – what do you think? I’m thinking of being typical and going for human Mesmer, but I’ve a feeling there’s going to be a ton of them. However…it’s Mesmer. I can’t not play a Mesmer. The other option that stands out to me is a charr Thief. Neither of these combos are what I plan on playing in the actual game itself, for the record :P

As far as what to do in the game, Lion’s Arch will be open for the first time, so I plan on exploring that as much as I can. I also plan on looking into crafting as I haven’t seen much on that yet. PvP isn’t of any interest, and I doubt I’ll have time to look into WvW, but who knows!

Anything in particular you’re looking to do or see in the beta?

Who am I? (Another Tale)

Dak again, to join in the GuildMag character diversity blog carnival!  This is written from the second person perspective, as speaking to one of my planned characters, since I couldn’t resist a chance to hear him speak myself.

Well, all of the stories, really.

Ah, hello!  Come, join me at the bar, my friend.  The stoutest ale for the both of us.

You seem new to these parts, so allow me to welcome you to Hoelbrak, my home and the home of many norn, when we’re not testing ourselves against the wilds.

Myself?  I am Arrun the Chronicler, son of Asgeir the Iron-Maul.  Norn are people of great deeds, and we achieve immortality by performing feats none other can.  When our tales have passed into legend, retold night after night by a raging fire, then we become eternal!  And I have taken it upon myself to gather those stories, catalog the greatest epics the world has to offer, then tell them wherever I go.  When my tradition is spread through the norn nation, then I, too, will be legendary, the Great Chronicler!

Ahhh… a wondrous draught if ever I tasted one.  Of course, I wouldn’t be much of a norn if I couldn’t handle myself!  I am a ranger, as fleet of foot as my arrows take to the air.  But in my mind, the most important quality of the greatest of heroes is cunning.  Only with guile can you outwit your enemy, or your prey, with truly legendary style.  Mental prowess keeps a hunter like me one step ahead.

For the most part, anyway.  We all have our lapses, and, well… at a recent moot, I had a bit too much to drink, and wagered a family heirloom on a test of strength… I lost.  But we norn are ever optimistic, and when I meet him again I will get it back somehow!

I know this because Snow Leopard, one of our Spirits of the Wild, spoke to me when I was but a cub.  She teaches us strategy, stealth, independence, and how to laugh when danger looms.  Her wisdom has guided me since, and I know she has great intentions in store for me.  She has even sent me a snow leopard pet to aid my life’s journey, and its grace and stealth is ever an inspiration for me to act in kind.

Tomorrow I will go to the Wayfarer Foothills, and visit the shrines to the Spirits of the Wild there before heading to the Great Hunt with Eir Stegalkin and Knut Whitebear.  I’ve had a feeling that my life will soon change, and I intend to throw myself into it headlong.

I am Arrun the Chronicler, and in collecting the stories of many I will create a story all my own.

Who am I?

This post is written for the GuildMag blog carnival on character diversity, and is from the point of view of the character that will be my main in Guild Wars 2. As such, it is more of a short story than a traditional blog entry.

Who am I? That question is one that has multiple answers. I am a sylvari, I am a Mesmer. I was born of the cycle of the Dusk. In fact I was born just very recently, only having been born of our mother, the Pale Tree, not at all long ago. It was a lovely evening, as I recall; having awoken, my knowledge of the Dream telling me that it was sundown. There were many other sylvari waking up at the same time as I was. The Dream also told us of that, of the threat to our world that necessitated more and more sylvari being brought into Tyria.

As I was born, I only knew what the Dream told me, though, and a few select other things. I knew that my name was Liusaidh. I do not know why I knew that, or why I chose that name – or did I? Did the Pale Tree choose it for me? I knew that I would have talents in magic. Illusions, particularly.

I learned to better wield my magic; I favor using a scepter and a sword. An unusual combination, to be sure. But I feel it sends a message. Do not think me an easy target because I stand back and cast spells; if you get too close, you shall meet my steel. Nor is it wise to think that because I use my sword in my off-hand that I am not a skilled duelist and can only use it for a last-minute defense. I can swap my scepter for my sword with a moment’s notice, taking a focus to facilitate my spell-casting.

I never go anywhere without my sword. Despite that I am not a Warrior, it is as much a part of me as my magic is.

I have been told that sylvari that are born during the time of dusk tend towards being philosophers; sharply intelligent and always thinking. I do not believe it bragging when I say that I have a mind as keen as my blade. I wear a mask, however. A pleasant smile that I show to the world; let them think a serious thought has never crossed my mind. Behind that mask, though, is a mind that does not stop thinking.

It is amazing the things people will say in your presence when they believe you to be utterly vapid.

Perhaps this is manipulation. But I am a Mesmer, after all. It is what I do. You would think that more people would realize that to enter into any sort of conversation with a Mesmer, even a newly-born sylvari, is to risk being trapped in a web of illusions.

Why am I here, though? Why was I awoken on Tyria? The dragons have awakened and are threatening the world, the Pale Tree tells us. We must learn to work with the other races in order to defeat this threat. But at the same time, she tells us…do not become so wrapped up in this that you forget all else. Learn all that you can, for everything that a sylvari learns will enter the Dream. Learn who you are. Learn about love. I have heard about love from others; I have seen the passion between two that share the same heart. I do not understand it, yet. I would like to some day myself.

There is just so much out there to see, to do, to learn! I would like to know it all. I know that this is impossible, realistically speaking…but even so. I know that the other races have been around for a long time, and have long histories and repositories of information. I would like to travel Tyria, visit other parts of the world. I would like to meet new people, make friends, perhaps even…fall in love.

But…at the same time, I cannot forget the threat that is the dragons. There are many teachings within the Tablet, that we base our society upon…but to me, the most important of the teaching that Ventari left us with is to act with wisdom, but act. I am here for a reason, as are we all. I have a calling, and I will do what I can to help this world. I will not sit idly by when there are things that need doing. That is not my style.

I am curious. I am determined. I am a duelist. I wear a mask of a smile. I am a Mesmer. I am a sylvari.

I am Liusaidh, and there is no one else like me.

Trait-orous Fandom Scandal?

Dak here again, to provide my not-a-longtime-player-of-GW1 perspective on a big explodey thing that’s popped up.

It seems that Jon Peters’ blog post on how the new system of traits and attributes work has caused quite a stir among the… shall we say, powergamers?  Complaints about everything from the fee for respeccing to the fact you require Trainers to the trait lines themselves, and how mathematically speaking this system will make GW2 RUINED FOREVER.

Now… it seems like a lot of these complaints come from the view of having played the first game for a while, so can I just ask all the angry people to breathe calmly for a second while I explain my thoughts on it?

First, why the complaints about a respec fee, and going to Trainers?  From a game design perspective, small fees like this serve a two-fold purpose: Helping the game economy, and instilling a sense of worth to your build.  The first part is self-explanatory, but the second: If you can switch your traits at any time, with no repercussions, then do your trait selections really matter?  Who needs to think about it; just drop ‘em in wherever and don’t worry about it until you come up against something too strong.  Then you might as well just pump all those freely “respecc-able” points into whatever trait will maximize your usefulness against that particular mob, and then do it all over again on the next one.  But… we’ve kind of lost the “RP” part of the RPG there, and instead have adopted a ruthless “numbers killing numbers” game which happens to have pretty graphics.

Instead, the fee adds weight to your trait choices.  Is your Mesmer’s playstyle better suited to Dueling, with its high-spike criticals, or should you perhaps add that next point to Illusions, the better for Shattering effectively?  When you know that these choices are relevant, you’ll most likely end up playing smarter, and since you’ll have to live with those choices (unless they’re really not working for you, in which case that small fee probably won’t look so bad to rework it, eh?), you’ll learn how to use them more effectively and you’ll end up playing better, too.

Going to Trainers is, speaking design, another way of controlling respeccing so that there’s further weight to your choices, but I look at it more from a story perspective.  GW2 is a very heavily story-oriented game, so from a plot perspective what makes more sense: Magically getting better at something right when it’s convenient, or going to a master to learn a new fighting style in a time of extreme need?  Since GW2 is by all evidence a well-written story, I think we all know the answer to that.

And the traitorous trait lines themselves?  Clearly there won’t be one particular trait that makes the most effective Guardian across the board; if there is, it’s a balance issue that will need fixing.  The traits are so that, like your well-adjusted face and build, your personal backstory, your highly customized armor, even how you fight can be uniquely tuned to how you want to play the game.  Don’t believe that impression?  Play around with the trait calculator for a bit and see how you feel about the system.

So just… don’t freak out over something you haven’t had a chance to play yet.  If you get into the beta, then you can freak out (you just can’t tell anyone).  Until we’ve gotten to play, let’s just not assume the worst yet.

Gah, “trait” no longer looks like a real word…

Press Beta Roundup

So, yesterday morning the embargo was dropped on the closed beta test that the press was invited to over the weekend.

The information and articles we got in the morning was a veritable flood, and while it may not take a full 40 days and 40 nights to go through it all, it sure is a lot!

I’m not even going to try and go through everything; there’s just far too much. GuildMag has a pretty good list of all of the various articles and video, so I suggest checking that out if you want a slew of stuff to read and watch. I’m just going to recap my favorite bits of info that I found going through it all.

One of the first things I found this morning, scrolling through my twitter feed, was this little tidbit from Elisabeth – that human characters do have the chance to establish their heritage. As I intend to make my human character the descendant of my GW1 main – a Dervish who is, obviously, Elonan – this pleases me. Greatly. I only hope that it’s also open for the other background options! A small thing, but important nonetheless.

Emotes. Oh my god, the female charr emotes? I was laughing so much. They’re just so perfect, and show off how lovely the animations for this game really are. I particularly loved the “napping” one leading into “OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT”, complete with the feline arched-back. LOVE.

The fact that we can now do stuff like this. Yes, I’m silly. Yes, I love looking for the highest points in an area in a game…and then jumping off of them. Yes, I am an Assassin’s Creed fan, why do you ask? :P I fully intend to scope out all of the viewpoints – I mean, highest points in an area…and then dive to my doom. Why? Well, really…why not?!

Mesmers look brilliant. I’m a Mesmer fangirl, and of my favorite professions from Guild Wars, they’re the only returning profession (poor Dervish and Ritualist). I love the way illusions look and work, and I squeed a bit at the fact that one of the skills they have with a sword off-hand is Riposte. People I roleplay with will know why :P Mesmers actually appear to be a fair amount more support-based than they used to be, especially if you’re using a staff…but even so, debuffing is a main part of what they’ve always done, and they sure keep that up. They just look like they’re going to be so much fun to play, and I can’t wait.

Is there more? Oh yeah, there’s more. WvW in particular looked like it was loads of fun, despite the fact that I’m really not a PvPer at all. Overflow servers are the greatest idea ever, and I’m wondering why no one else has thought of them – who wants to be stuck waiting while they can be playing? And the fact that ANet decided to end it by killing everyone horribly – and the fact that having every player grouped in one small area and spawning giants on top of them caused complete chaos – is just hilarious but also not surprising in the least.

I had been hoping to see more on the asura and particularly the sylvari, but they weren’t playable in this build, sadly. Hopefully soon! And at any rate, it is nearly March, and that’s when they’re going to start expanding the beta events to include more people.

There’s just so much to go through (and more still coming!) – what were your favorite bits of info from the press beta event?