The Silverwastes

After a far too long break, Living Story has started up again, with yesterday’s release of Echoes of the Past. The story continues on where it did before (presumably some time has happened since the Summit at the end of the previous episode, but it’s not really specified), with trying to organize efforts against Mordremoth. We also are introduced to another level 80 map, the Silverwastes, which has rather a different feel to it than any other map in the game.

I’m not going to go into the story part of the update too much, simply because there’s already a ton of other people doing so right now. It is extremely lore-heavy, however, and one hell of a nostalgia bomb for Guild Wars 1 players. The Priory has a massive library in its basement, with all sorts of neat, creepy, or just plain magical things…as well as an artifact that sends you to somewhere perhaps slightly unexpected.

Also, it has books. Lots of books. Lots of little tidbits you can read. It’s really cool.

I want to live here.

I want to live here.

But besides that, there’s also the new map, Silverwastes, that I mentioned. And it is, as I also mentioned, very different from other maps in the game. As far as size goes, the map itself is a bit smaller than Dry Top, though one advantage it has is that we apparently get the full map right away (it does not appear that it expands further, but there may be other zones that will open off of it). The story will lead you there, but if you are impatient, you can access it through Vandal’s Claim in Brisban Wildlands.

The Silverwastes

The Silverwastes

As far as location goes, it is north of Dry Top, so for GW1 zones that would place it roughly around Mamnoon Lagoon and Silverwood (hence the name), perhaps very small parts of Aurora Glade and the Sage Lands. It’s a much less vertical map than Dry Top is, which is very much a good thing as there’s no real Zephyrite presence here and hence no aspect crystals. Instead Silverwastes is a Pact staging ground, to take on Mordremoth, and is very clearly a hostile area.

In short, there are Mordrem everywhere.

It also differs from Dry Top in that Silverwastes is full of very old, crumbling structures – the forts that the Pact is trying to hold, as well as a number of other ruins that are scattered around. Dry Top really didn’t have anything like this; other than Prosperity, there was little in the way of actual buildings.

Just out of the frame is the corpse of a giant.

Just out of the frame is the corpse of a giant.

Silverwastes is a map where essentially the entire zone is one big meta event. Dry Top worked something like that, where you wanted to get the favor level as high as possible before the sandstorm to max out rewards, but Silverwastes operates very different to that. In the Silverwastes, there are four forts that the Pact is attempting to hold and defend from Mordrem attacks, and over time they can be upgraded. The most common events that happen in the zone are defending a fort, retaking a fort if that fails, guarding supply bulls that travel between the four forts, and thinning out the Mordrem. As forts are held and upgraded, the meta “timer” fills; when it fills, the Champion Mordrem bosses are available to fight.

It holds some similarity in World vs. World, in having to take and defend areas, upgrading them, and making sure supplies get delivered, but at the same time it’s very different.

Almost two stacks of crests, and I really haven't spent a huge amount of time there yet.

Like in Dry Top, completing events grants you a new currency item (Bandit Crests, this time), and they can be spent on a number of items, including keys to hidden chests, new stat type recipes, and some other neat things. I feel like the costs of these items, as well as the speed of gaining crests, are far better balanced than the geodes in Dry Top. You still only get a few per event completed, but events are far more frequent than in Dry Top, so it’s much easier for them to build up.

I’m sure the list will expand as more things are added (I’m almost certain that will be the case, in fact), and there’s one item in particular there that most people will probably be working towards getting two of anyway.

Chests work a bit differently in here; you get Shovels for various things (LS episode rewards, the occasional event reward, etc.) and can use those to dig up chests, which then can be unlocked with a key. When a chest is uncovered, it’s pinged on the map and is visible to everyone. I also find that the loot out of the Bandit Chests is, so far, better than the loot from the Hidden Chests.

There are new achievements; they primarily revolve around various steps of the meta event (defeating the Champions, defending upgraded forts, killing various rare bosses), as well as other things such as collecting Lost Badges, uncovering a chest, and donating crests.

I may have gotten my 13k chest today.

I may have gotten my 13k chest today.

There are two new collections, and…MY FAVORITE THING…a new armor set.

Not an outfit. Not something gemstore-exclusive. But a new armor set that can be unlocked through playing the remaining Living Story episodes. In fact, there’s two armor sets. The first is the Carapace armor set, which can be unlocked gradually; the shoulderpiece is the rewards for completing episode 5, and more pieces will become available during episodes 6, 7, and 8. It’s quite a nice armor set, too, being butterfly-themed…so naturally I decided I must have it.

Liusaidh showing off the light Carapace set.

Liusaidh showing off the light Carapace set.

You can also buy pieces of the set with Bandit Crests, for 1000 crests. If you want the set for more than one armor weight, you can either do it this way, or by running another character through episode 5 – whichever way you’d prefer to do it. And if you want the second set, Luminescent, you’ll need to do this anyway. Luminescent is essentially the Carapace armor, but shinier, and it’s unlocked through completing collections.

The collection for the Luminescent shoulders.

The collection for the Luminescent shoulders.

Part of the collection for the shoulders requires having all three weights of the Carapace shoulders, so it’s pretty safe to assume that will be required for the other armor pieces as they become unlocked as well. Some of the other requirements are fighting each of the champion Mordrem bosses…and getting all of the story achievements for the episode. So it’s not exactly easy (I tend to skip story achievements because I just don’t find the rewards worth it)…but definitely doable. And hey, now I have an actual reason to do those achievements, so that’s neat. Maybe.

The second collection involves collecting all of the Luminescent armor pieces, which gets you a title. A very neat title. I like it. I want it.

bioluminescence

So…new story, new map, and new armor. Are there downsides to this patch? Well…yes. I find that I’m not entirely fond of Silverwastes. Navigating the zone can be difficult, and while it’s a small zone, there’s only one waypoint. I definitely feel like the size of the map is far too large to only have that one waypoint, as it means you’re going to spend a lot of time running around…and oftentimes finding events blocking your way…which can mean death if you’re not careful. Event frequency is very high, which is nice on one hand, but annoying on another. It’s definitely a bit irritating to finish a defense event, rebuild the fort, and have it come back under attack almost immediately. It also means that events overlap a lot, which can make the supply escorts a fast failure if the bull’s path goes through other events in the area.

I’m finding myself feeling about it like I feel about Dry Top – fun enough, but not really my type of thing, and if not for the fact that I need to spend a significant amount of time there for the Carapace and Luminescent armors, I probably would stop going there fairly quickly.

Overall, though, I do enjoy this patch a lot. The New Player Experience soured me on GW2 for quite a while, even with a lot of the changes having been adjusted, and while Halloween got me playing the game again, it was this update that I was looking forward to. I was hoping it would get me back into the game, give me things I wanted to do, to work towards. This patch does that in the best possible way, and I just have to say…it’s about damn time Living Story picked back up.

The Gates Have Opened

Yesterday, season two of the Living World, the Gates of Maguuma, released, giving us our first taste of how the living story is going to be handled in Guild Wars 2 from here on out.

Thus far, I am quite impressed with what we’ve been shown so far, and eager to continue on.

Now, I’ve been taking something of a break from the game the past couple of weeks. A combination of stress in my personal life and just a general feel of burnout made me just not have the desire to log in. It happens, and for me, is a thing that tends to happen fairly regularly with games. All that said though, I was pretty excited for this new release. New content was exactly what was needed to make the game feel fresh again, and also made it apparent just how used to the biweekly content cycle I was.

So yesterday morning…might have found me breaking the map in Brisban, waiting for the new update. Hee.

At least I wasn't the only one.

At least I wasn’t the only one.

It was an entertaining way to kill time while waiting for that ten minute warning to pop up – all sorts of entertaining glitchy things would happen over in that corner. Things like jumping near a ledge and hovering. Of course, when I logged back in after the patch hit, I kinda was stuck in the map.

At least this time was due to something I had actually done and not an occupational hazard of playing a mesmer.

That's also a really good shot of my mesmer. Neat.

That’s also a really good shot of my mesmer. Neat.

I…kind of wasn’t able to get out of that corner. Oops. Waypointed out, partied up with some friends, ran back, and we decided to immediately dive into the story.

I’m not going to talk about the story much, because it just came out yesterday and I don’t want to spoil things much, but…it is so very clear that they listened to the criticisms of the first living world season and personal story, because the quality is far higher than previous releases. Amazing lore information (when you enter the zone – talk to Nimbus. Go through everything he’ll say. Just do it. You won’t be disappointed.), great NPC interactions, and just good stuff all around. The writing is a lot tighter than before in general. Also, there was actually a lot of story given to us yesterday. Episode one consisted of something like a half dozen different story steps, and it gave us more story in one go than we’d see across several releases during season one. So that was a definite improvement that pleased me and I hope continues going forward.

One nice little touch about the story journal, by the way, is that if you go back through everything, it lists what year it all took place in, so we can see how time has progressed in game. It doesn’t have the season one stuff listed, but still, a neat little feature. Two years has passed in-game now.

I blurred out the text, so no spoilers here!

I blurred out the text, so no spoilers here!

So! The zone itself. We are heading into Dry Top, as was correctly guessed by Dak last month.  The entrance was basically exactly where he guessed it would be, so that was neat to see how spot-on accurate he was. The zone itself is very small – Dry Top in Guild Wars 1 was a tiny zone, but not quite this small. However, I doubt it will stay this tiny – I’m certain that as events progress in the story more of the area will open up and we’ll eventually head through into new zones.

The zone so far.

The zone so far.

As small as the zone is, though, it feels larger than it actually is…due to the fact that it has a large amount of verticality to it, and requires use of Zephyrite crystals to navigate fully. Which, by the way, is not as easy as it sounds, as they are crystal fragments and have a limited timer. Personally, I find the timers to be a bit frustrating at time, and spend a lot of time backtracking all over to find the crystals I need to get somewhere, only to have them run out halfway…but if you move fast enough, you can get to all sorts of crazy places in the zone.

That's a jumping puzzle, by the way.

That’s a jumping puzzle, by the way.

One of the main features of the zone is a sandstorm that blows through every 40 minutes. While the sandstorm is active, there are different enemies in the area to fight, as well as Buried Locked Chests to track down and open. They are very much worth hunting down, as they give quite nice rewards. Champ bags, new crafting materials, possibility of new crafting recipes, and so on.

If I may go on a temporary tangent, in fact, I just want to say that the rewards this time around? Very nice. I think they took to heart that a lot of people were finding rewards to be too stingy, and they decided to change that. Every story step I completed basically had me going “sweet, sweet loot!”. I’ve also had good luck with getting tier 6 materials as drops.

Back to the sandstorm! It definitely is an interesting mechanic. It also makes traversing the open parts of the zone very disorienting. It, in fact, got me killed during my very first trip into the zone yesterday. Whoops.

This is what exploring during the sandstorm looks like...and that's surprisingly clear for that area.

This is what exploring during the sandstorm looks like…and that’s rather clear for that area.

Environmental hazards tend to be a common theme in Dry Top. There’s the fact that most of the zone is a vertical maze that will have you hopping across precarious poles (and probably swearing profusely as you fall to your death). There’s the sandstorm. And there’s also a quicksand river that surrounds the town of Prosperity. When I got killed due to the sandstorm? I wasn’t aware the river was there nor could I see it, and walked right into it. It will kill you pretty fast. There is in fact an achievement for managing to stand in the quicksand river for at least 15 seconds and live. I’ve been seeing a lot of people try and fail that one so far, which is pretty entertaining to watch. It is possible to cross it safely, using crystal aspects, luckily. Generally if you get stuck in it, you are not getting back out.

While taking these screenshots, I watched someone try and live quite a few times. Key word: Try.

While taking these screenshots, I watched someone try and live quite a few times. Key word: Try.

There is, of course, a number of things to do in the zone. There are quite a few events that happen there, and completing events while the sandstorm isn’t active raises favor with the Zephyrites. Raising favor with them will change the things carried by merchants, as well as changing the prices on some of them. The events that happen are a good mix – one is essentially a capture the flag/keepaway game with Inquest, there are standard “rescue X NPCs”, hunting down and killing certain champions, blowing up a cave-in, and so on. There is also one area that only opens up during a specific event, and keeping that area open requires succeeding at that event, as well as followup ones that happen.

Some of the new stuff you can buy.

Some of the new stuff you can buy.

New items you can get include a new armor/weapon stat type (stats are toughness/healing/vitality), as well as new cooking recipes, and lockpicks that you use to open those chests you find during sandstorms. You’ll note that there’s a new currency at work here – geodes are a new thing that you can exchange for these new items. So far I’m kind of back and forth if I like geodes or not. They can be used for a lot of things, and it feels like getting them in large quantities will not be easy unless you farm events and get to favor tier two or three. You need them for lockpicks so you can open the chests so you can get Ambrite (the new crafting material). You need them to buy the new recipes. There are Piles of Silky Sand that drop, and you can use ten of them to try and get a geode, but so far I’ve gotten very low returns on that – over a stack of sand resulted in about three or four geodes total.

…but on the other hand, this has been around for all of a day and is permanent, so in the long run, it probably is not going to be an issue at all, and I’m likely just approaching it from a “this is going away in a couple of weeks” mindset, which will be hard to break out of.

And, one last thing, which just made me absolutely giddy yesterday:

I'm talking to myself.

I’m talking to myself.

Among the new NPCs scattered around the zone is one named Alana. For those who don’t know, that is my real name. I had been told ahead of time to look out for an NPC sharing my name, but that’s all. She’s actually the second NPC named for me (there’s also Explorer Verene, who runs in circles around Gavbeorn’s Waypoint in Cursed Shore), but still. So very cool :D

Thus far, I’m quite happy with the new living world stuff. I’m excited to see where things are going to go from here. I want to see more of the zone and figure out exactly what’s going on.

Is it time for the next release yet?

Living World Season 2!

Hello hello, Dak here.

So, what an exciting time for Tyria now, eh?  We’ve vanquished Scarlet, for better or worse, we’re chilling at the Labyrinthine Cliffs or the Crown Pavilion in celebration, and recovering before our next grand adventure.  And yesterday, in our launcher, we got the official announcement that Season 2 of the Living World will begin July 1st, as well as this image:

Image

But just a moment here, let’s actually look at this image.  It’s time for Dak’s Overly-Deep Analysis Corner!

The image is something we all know, that good ol’ glowing gateway between adjacent zones.  Where is it, though?

Remember after the Battle for Lion’s Arch, when we relaxed with the gang in the Dead End bar?  Jory’s sister Belinda, one of the Seraph, mentioned that she was to be sent on a long expedition to Brisban Wildlands, going after rumors of some black market traders hiding out there.

We know that Mordremoth is somewhere in the west of Maguuma… good bets right now are Magus Falls in the south, or the Wastes to the north.  And for those of you who were playing 250 years ago, how would you get to those areas, from the areas that are now Brisban?

gw1gw2hengemap

Why, from the Henge of Denravi and Aurora Glade!  These two areas, quite close to each other, now lie in what is called Toxal Bog, in Brisban’s southwest corner.  And wouldn’t you know it, the light quality, walls, ground, and trees are all eerily like the portal seen in the Season 2 promotional image.

Some areas that look likely - light quality, ground, and large trees near walls all match the teaser image.

Some areas that look likely – light quality, ground, and large trees near walls all match the teaser image. Be sure to click the image to see them larger and in better detail!

So, taken all together… what does that image really say about Season 2?  I think it says we’re taking the fight to Mordremoth.   Every previous dragon’s awakening has been followed by a massive catastrophe.  I think it says Season 2 will be a season of adventure, pushing deeper into those dense jungles, as we seek to end Mordremoth before even more destruction is wrought on our world.  I think Season 2 will add brand new zones, one by one, as we search for the newest Elder Dragon.  Perhaps we’ll travel through some old familiar lands… does Ventari’s Refuge still stand, two and a half centuries later?  Is Quarrel Falls still as beautiful as the scenic outpost that amazed adventurers in the distant past?

Soon, perhaps we’ll see.  And I think I’m excited for what awaits.

Edit, 6/3/2014:

With today’s patch, there’s a curious thing visible on the map now…what appears to be a new path leading to a new zone from Brisban Wildlands. In particular, in the Toxal Bog. To be really specific, it’s located where the top-right screenshot posted above is, and it looks like it leads into (what was) Dry Top.

Looks like our speculation was very close to the mark…

Location of the new path leading out of Brisban.

Location of the new path leading out of Brisban.

#TeamKiel

The most recent Guild Wars 2 release has gone live – Cutthroat Politics! Thanks to the actions of Mai Trin and the Aetherblades, there is now an opening on the Captain’s Council in Lion’s Arch, and two characters – Ellen Kiel, a high ranking member of the Lionguard, and Evon Gnashblade, leader of the Black Lion Trading Company – are both competing for the position. And we, as players, get to ultimately decide who wins the spot on the Council, by collecting support tokens and voting with them.

Ellen Kiel vs. Evon Gnashblade - who do you support?

Ellen Kiel vs. Evon Gnashblade – who do you support?

It’s a pretty neat idea, especially as who you pick will change what we ultimately get in-game – Kiel is promising a waypoint cost reduction for four weeks, whereas Gnashblade will reduce the costs of Black Lion Keys for four weeks. There will also be a new fractal, depending on who wins. Kiel wants to push research into the Thaumanova Reactor, whereas Gnashblade wants to find out about the fall of Abaddon.

Go Kiel!

Go Kiel!

I decided pretty quickly who I am supporting. Fractals are really not all that important to me – it isn’t content I enjoy, and I don’t do them frequently. I do not buy Black Lion Keys, as there’s enough RNG in this game and I don’t like paying for more of it. Waypoints, however, I use constantly. I have 8 characters at level 80 – those waypoint costs really add up quickly.

So it wasn’t a difficult decision for me to throw my support behind Kiel. She is also, as a character, one that we know better. We’ve worked with her frequently since the Living World updates started – she was there on Southsun Cove both times there was trouble, she headed the investigation of wrong-doings at Dragon Bash, and she came with when we took on the Aetherblades. We know she’s a take-charge person. Gnashblade…well, he sits in the trading post. That’s about it. If he has any fighting experience, we’re not aware of it. If he’s ever done anything other than try and line his pockets further with our cash…we’re not aware of it.

“But what about the fractals?”, you ask? Well, personally…as I said, I don’t like fractals. However, a lot of people will vote based on that. As I mentioned before, Kiel wants to research the Thaumanova Reactor, while Gnashblade wants to research the fall of Abaddon.

I really think that Kiel has the edge here.

Hear me out on this one. The fall of Abaddon – what caused him to be struck down as one of the Tyrian gods – would be awesome to see. I’m not saying it wouldn’t. However, when it comes to relevance to Guild Wars 2…Abaddon has next to none. He was a human god, for starters. Four of the five playable races do not even believe in him as a deity – charr actively revile the human gods, norn follow their animal spirits, asura believe in the Eternal Alchemy, and sylvari are agnostic to the existence of gods.

There’s also the fact that a good deal of Guild Wars 2 players will not even know who Abaddon is meant to be, or why he would be important. Let’s be real here. Many, if not most, Guild Wars 2 players were not players of Guild Wars 1. Abaddon’s only real mention in Guild Wars 2 is the underwater temple that you visit during a personal story quest. And even for the former Guild Wars 1 players, as the fall of Abaddon concerns things that happened long before the events of that game, for the most part only those who were heavily into the game’s lore (like myself, to be honest), would care how that happened.

The outside of the reactor. Looks more peaceful than it is...

The outside of the reactor. Looks more peaceful than it is…

But it’s an event that is long past, and any effect it had on the world is also long in the past. Whereas the Thaumanova Reactor is something recent. The fallout of it is not even close to being taken care of, as is clearly obvious by the mess it’s made in Metrica Province. It was originally an asuran city, destroyed by Inquest experiments. The chaos energy released from the explosion there causes creatures to continuously be teleported in and out from regions all across Tyria, and effects of the experimentation have spread as far as Iron Marches, creating the Chaos Crystal Cavern jumping puzzle there.

It is a recent event, it is one that has widespread effects across the continent, and it is one that is actually relevant to the events of Guild Wars 2. It is also something that is familiar to all players of Guild Wars 2, which is very important here. We all know of the mess that is located there. Most of us have fought that fire elemental at least once. And we all know that the Inquest like to poke their noses into things they really have no rights messing with. Their attempts at harnessing dragon energies have already resulted in some interesting creatures in Crucible of Eternity – just what were they getting into this time to cause all of that destruction? And what were their plans with whatever they were experimenting with?

For me, it was an easy choice. Team Kiel all the way. I love Guild Wars 1 lore, but I would really love to see Guild Wars 2 build more upon it’s own lore, as opposed to relying on the contents of the predecessor.

And, y’know…cheaper waypoints. Gotta love that. So who are you voting for?

Also, Kiel isn't a selfish sort.

Also, Kiel isn’t a selfish sort.

The spookiest time of year is here!

Liusaidh, all Halloween’d up.

Leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter…it’s fall, and fall means Halloween!

Holiday celebrations were always very popular and well-loved in the first Guild Wars, so it was no surprise that Halloween, being the first one seen in Guild Wars 2, had a lot of excited anticipation leading up to it. What new events would we be getting? Would old favorites like Costume Brawl be returning? And was the ever-witty Mad King Thorn going to make a reapparance? For that matter, would Mad King Says be coming back, and if so, how would that work with the limited emote pool currently in the game?

Well, on Monday evening the first Act for Halloween 2012 was released, and already we’ve gotten a good taste of what will be going on over the next week. First and foremost were two big things; first that the Halloween events would be rolled out in a series of four Acts, culminating with Halloween night itself, and second being that there were a number of other new updates added that are permanent additions to the game – not all of the new things added will disappear as Halloween ends!

The first thing you will notice upon entering Lion’s Arch is that it’s been decorated for the holiday. Pumpkins and candles everywhere, trick or treating children and quaggan tads (my favorite – the baby quaggan ghostie. Eeee! So adorable), and of course…the Mystic Forge looks a little different right now. A bit spookier, you could say.

The Mystic Forge…err…Cauldron?

The Forge can still be used as normal, but the giant cauldron will have a special use…but what’s with all this madness going on around it? Witches melting and creating cauldrons, food fights going on at banquet tables, mummies and spiders and golems and raptors brawling with each other, as well as nonstop jokes…good luck, my friend, you’ve just walked into Costume Brawl. Or rather, a bunch of people costume brawling.

Now, in Guild Wars 1, Costume Brawl was an instanced PvP format where, depending on your profession, you’d take on the appearance of a specific character and have a set skill bar. Things in Guild Wars 2 are…a bit different. More chaotic. And as someone who never liked PvP…far more enjoyable. Joining in Costume Brawl in GW2 is easy. Pop a tonic, climb up and jump into the cauldron, or don a costume, and join in the fun! You get special Costume Brawl skills to “fight” against others with; get 25 points before being taken out yourself and you’re the costume brawl champion! The best part about this is that a costume brawl can break out wherever there are players – we started doing it last night while in Orr!

Costume Brawl madness!

There are even more new things to discover in Lion’s Arch – there are new vendors, selling weapons skins (temporary, sadly; permanent ones can be crafted in the Mystic Forge but according to a friend of mine that was looking into that, they’re about equivalent to a legendary weapon), as well as new Artificer and Cooking recipes. There are also pumpkins that you can carve scattered around the city. And if you talk to Tassi just south of the fountain in Lion’s Arch, you can get a candy corn-powered scanner which leads you on a scavenger hunt to find clues about the life of Mad King Thorn.

I must say, I did the first leg of the scavenger hunt and did not enjoy it too much; the scanner seemed to be completely random as to whether or not it was actually using my candy corn to work, and I had issues in both having to be extremely precise in where I was scanning to get something to show up (was less than a foot away from where something should have spawned and it wouldn’t appear for me, but someone else was one step over and it appeared when he scanned), as well as NPCs despawning after I triggered them and before I could get to them. Still, the info you learn about Mad King Thorn by doing these is pretty neat, so even though I swore I would not continue on the hunt…I probably will after all.

Now, I mentioned that the scanner is powered by candy corn. How do you get this candy corn? Well, if you go out into the world, you’ll notice a couple new things pretty quickly. The first is Raw Candy Corn nodes scattered around…and also, on occasion, you may see a door pop up that you can trick or treat at. Candy Corn nodes appear all over the world and can be mined just as any ore node can, and yes, there are even Rich Candy Corn nodes. The doors so far I’ve only seen in Gendarran Fields and Queensdale; my assumption is that they only appear in Krytan zones. When you trick or treat at the door, one of two things will happen; you’ll get a trick or treat bag on the ground you can pick up, or Halloween monsters will spawn from it (plastic spiders and glow in the dark skeletons!) and you have to defeat them to close the door. Trick or treat bags are another source of candy corn, and you can get them a few other ways than just going up to doors – they can be received at random as drops from all enemies, as well as when you mine candy corn nodes (much like how you can randomly get jewels from regular ore nodes).

Oooh, Candy Corn! Oooh, a door!

You’ll want to collect candy corn and trick or treat bags for a few reasons. First of all, trick or treat bags give you more candy corn, as well as other special crafting materials! Oooh. Second, there are achievements for opening bags and chowing down on candy corn – just don’t eat too much too fast or your character will get sick (a hilariously gross little addition there). Third, those Artificer and Cooking recipes I mentioned up above? They use these items! So chances are it’s worth your while to collect these items – luckily, they aren’t difficult to farm. Candy Corn nodes are all over the place, and I’ve found that enemies drop bags at a pretty decent rate.

And yes, there are new Halloween-related achievements – a new category called Special Events entirely where most of them can be found (except for Candy Corn Consumption – part of the Monthly Achievements, and Costume Brawl, which is under Community). There are a number of new ones available – including a new jumping puzzle, Mad King’s Clock Tower, that’s just for this event. Interesting!

New achievements…spooky!

And on top of all this Halloween madness…there’s even more new stuff! There’ve been new dynamic events and jumping puzzles added, there are new mini-dungeons, and my favorite new addition – you get karma as part of the award for doing monthly and daily achievements, as well as for dungeon completion. Awesome!

So, everyone, go out there and enjoy the new additions to the game!

Dak’s Beta Weekend!

Time for my take on the final Beta Weekend!

While Verene spent almost the entire weekend as a sylvari, I immersed myself in the much-anticipated experience of the diminuative asura.  Through what I believe to be a combination of factors, this weekend was a marked improvement over the previous two, and the coming weeks will prove a most grating ordeal of impatience indeed.

Dashing, isn't he?

My character of choice this time around was Zott, a dignified asuran Elementalist from the College of Synergetics, with a particular affinity for the lightning strikes of Air attunement.  His first invention was the Infinity Ball, a remarkable device that predicts the future (and so what if it doesn’t predict it correctly every time?).

The asura experience begins with a call for aid in pacifying malfunctioning golems (not yours, of course), which introduces you to the Inquest.  The Inquest is a sort-of krewe, who believe ethics only get in the way of scientific progress, and without them the true nature of the Eternal Alchemy can be unlocked and so enable them to run the world like a massive machine.  During my beta play, this usually manifested itself in experiments fusing asura with their golems, whether the asura in question really wanted it or not.

The asura as a race are absolutely unique, and my new favorite.  The info we’d gotten from the team in the past always seemed to paint them as rather serious, almost dour scientists, studying the world yet aloof from it.  In actual play, this is far from the truth, and the asura don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as the other races think.  For instance, the first area, Metrica Province, contains a school full of asura children (called progeny).  As you walk by, you hear many bits of childish chatter, and one part that stood out to me was the “your mom” jokes.  Oh yes:

“Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks norn cows go ‘moot’!”
“Well your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks ‘elemental’ is four letters in the middle of the alphabet!”
“…Seriously though, your mom is really smart.”
“Yeah, yours too.”

It was a heartwarming, adorable moment that really cemented the asura as a living race for me.
Other notable looks into asura-based humor included “STA/B-0 the Super Golem,” and another golem labeled “OVR-9000.”

The asura themselves seem to slip and then stumblingly recover their aura of dignity in conversation.  And if you look hard enough, you’ll find individuals who just really, really like bunnies.

Open-ended research could mean a lot of things...

Not so above it all, eh Zojja?

The asura starter area, Metrica Province, showcased the refinement of challenge as we inch closer to full release.  Events did an excellent job of guiding you around the area, keeping your experience gained about equal with your level needed for the next zone you were led into, giving the entire area a very dynamic feeling of organic growth.  The next thing you see is always a fun challenge, but never too difficult to take on.  It felt very good and I applaud them for that careful balance.  It also looks absolutely beautiful, and is filled with plenty of neat things to look at and do (oh Vistas, how I adore thee).  It’s great seeing how much the asura have built up in the last 250 years.  The events to be found were all very fun, and granted a new look at the hylek and the skritt (I will have to write a separate post on my beloved skritt).

My personal story was also a kick, dealing with unfusing golems and, eventually, a new application for my old Infinity Ball that, long story short, led to meeting myself as an evil overlord from another dimension’s future.  Talk about your fun cliches!  Every step was well-executed, and it left me eager for more when the game launches for real.

Actually sitting on top of a giant arch.  About 200 asura high.

Waiting…

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…

New Dynamic Event: Centaurs invade the Underworld!

So a few nights ago, a few friends (TriggerSad, Sharn_Vendeta, and damagedself) decided to try an Underworld run. We ultimately didn’t succeed (damn you Talhkora and your over-aggroing ways), but we did have a lot of fun. A lot of the chat we had on skype was about Guild Wars 2 and things from it we missed – such as the fact that we couldn’t jump (would have been very helpful at some points) and couldn’t dodge.

And then Sharn used his Zhed tonic, said “New dynamic event! Centaurs are invading the Underworld!”, and it got me thinking.

I would really, really love to see the Underworld as a dungeon in Guild Wars 2.

Now, nothing as silly as “centaurs are trying to take over”, but, honestly, how cool would that be, to be able to see how the UW has changed in the 250 years since GW1? I mean, obviously things are still active there, considering how portals to the Underworld will open up all over Godslost Swamp, where the Black Curtain and Temple of the Ages used to be. Aatxes are among the things that spawn from the portals when you destroy them – yes, those same Aatxes. And then there’s the Shadow Behemoth itself, that may break out of the Underworld and needs to be defeated.

It seems to me like things in the Underworld have worsened since Dhuum’s awakening.

I also think it’s an area that would benefit heavily from a GW2 upgrade, in terms of game mechanics. The Underworld in GW1 is a twisted maze that’s not easy to navigate, by any means. So many times we found ourselves looking down on where we needed to go, wishing we had a z-axis so we could just jump down. Also, the area is already set up as a chain of quests; imagine how neat it would be if those were replaced with a series of dynamic events, with things changing depending on what you did. Of course, as it would be a dungeon it would be instanced, so if you did ‘win’ a specific area you wouldn’t have to worry about respawns coming along to destroy all of your hard work. The presence of waypoints would also greatly help out here, as there’s nothing so frustrating as spending two hours clearing things and completing quests only to die and get kicked back out.

I think that if we get extra content between expansions, some of it will likely consist of a new dungeon or two. I really think that the Underworld as a dungeon would be great for that sort of thing, and I doubt I’m the only person that would want to see that old haunt return with an upgrade, and how things have changed over the years. What do you think? What area from GW1 would you like to see return in some manner?

Writing your story: An interview with the writers of Guild Wars 2

Have you ever wondered what exactly goes into writing Guild Wars 2? Well, thanks to a recent opportunity I had, I have some answers for you! I was able to interview several of the writers for Guild Wars 2 on what it’s like working on that game that we’re all waiting so very impatiently on.  I received answers to my questions from Bobby Stein, Lead Writer, Peter “The Explorer” Fries, and Angel McCoy, the voice of the sylvari.

As Bobby, Peter, and Angel are all awesome people, the answers I got were far longer and more in-depth than I had been expecting; thank you so much (and also a big thanks to Regina for granting me this chance in the first place)! Without further ado, here’s what you’re waiting for!

Verene: Hello! First of all, I would like to say thank you very much for your time in doing this interview and answering these questions. I’m hoping to get a look at a side of games that many people don’t pay as much attention to, but for most games I find just as important as the artwork and mechanics, and that is the storyline of the game, as well as how it’s written. Guild Wars 2 being what it is, the story is certainly one of the most important parts of it! So, thank you for taking your time to answer these for me.

First and foremost, just how different is it writing for a game from writing, say, a novel or script? And how does writing for Guild Wars 2 differ from writing other games?

Continue reading

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?