Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Enquiring Minds Must Know (Caution - Spoilers - This Means You!) : GW2

So we'd scotched Scarlet's Knights one more time and in we all went. Hung around for a while waiting for her to notice. Whittled away at the over-sized hologram, split it into three. Kept on chipping til the place was nothing but holo-fragments. Cleaned those up, chased Scarlet out. It gave me time to think about what was coming next.

Behind that door, when she's down and all those alarms go off, when the place starts shaking, that warning message pops and the whole crew runs back up the ramp, even Braham with his "broken" leg, and before you know what you're doing you're back in the Arch? Now that's not how I'd normally do things.

I like to go through a villain's writing desk just on a point of general principle. Check out the bookcase, maybe even look under the pillows. You never know what you might find. Scarlet's Lair, I must've spent an hour. Well, half an hour.

That was running through my mind all while we were fighting and rolling about and now here I was, going in again, so I thought I'd take the chance, do it my way this time. So we danced  the dance again but after all the yelling and spiking, when the rest of them all ran off, I went the other way. Into the room with all the machines.

Same flashing. Same buzzing. Same lines of gibberish scrolling away. And something new.

No, that's not a Charr of the Ash Legion. Well spotted.
Or then again, maybe it is. Ash Legion, masters of disguise, after all...
Three panels that didn't do much of anything before, now you could touch them. The control board for the Marionette, a diagram of the Drill and the Leylines and the last, a map of those damn Energy Probes. I couldn't make much sense of any of 'em. It positively demanded an Engineer's eye.

Now, I'm no engineer. More the outdoor type, me, tell you the truth of it.  Ash Legion, sure, but the scouting end of things, not so big on all the Secret Plans part. But there's an Engineer I know owes me a favor so I called him and in he came.

He came out looking pretty shaken. Well, he did get hit by a laser going in but it wasn't that. It was what he'd found, examining those panels through his fancy Rata Sum College of Dynamics panscopic monocle.

That giant drill? It runs on magic. Well, I could have told him that. But it comes with a dead-man's throttle set in reverse. It won't stop, not for anything. That's how she designed it, he said. What was she drilling for, anyway? Now that's the question, isn't it?

No surprise to anyone that tapping the flow from the ley lines would give someone more power than they knew what to do with. Not that Scarlet ever seemed to run short of ideas. The surprise is, she wasn't tapping it, he said. There's no pump, nothing. All the drill does is break the flow.

Break the Flow, Wake the Foe. Didn't used to be a saying. Is now.

I can't claim it was all my own idea. There was a thread on the forum called *Spoiler*:  After the final cut-scene. I hadn't read it, just the title, but it planted the seed and spurred me to go back for another look. And I wasn't smart enough to come back yet again with my Engineer until I read the first post in that thread, thinking I was safe to compare thoughts since I'd now seen it all and had nothing left to be spoiled. I know, what a noob!

It's such a fine example of what I was praising yesterday. An entirely undirected fragment of narrative, an important one, too, waiting just out of sight to be discovered. First you have to be curious enough to wonder what happens if you don't do what the game tells you to do. Then you have to be reckless enough to risk staying in a building on fire to find out. If you do that you make a discovery but only if you're playing a class with the requisite background and training do you get, fully, to understand and interpret what you've found. And even then you still end up with more questions than answers.

That's how it should be done. No clues, no pointers, no hints or nudges. Just you and the world and your eyes and ears and imagination. Someone in the thread congratulated ANet for planting a nice Easter Egg for Engineers. I congratulate them for understanding at least a few of the possibilities of the medium within which they work.

Oh, and one other thing. Scarlet in that death pose? She doesn't look defeated. She looks ecstatic.

Don't have nightmares.


  1. That ending was fantastic narrative-wise but terrible gameplay-wise.

    But honestly I'm not too upset over the buggy gameplay. GW2 has done really well in terms of being more of a world than a game. It's what kept me playing despite the gameplay growing beyond stale for me. Don't grind dungeons anymore, ceased WvWing, no more PvPing...but will always log on a few times a week to catch up with the story and to just explore and listen.

    I'm really excited for Season 2. I do hope the company as a whole reviews its QA process and finds ways to improve. I feel like the 2 week cadence is perfect in terms of pace, but the bugs. Ugh the bugs. But it's incredible to really look back and reflect on how far the LS has come along in the past year. Like a toddler finally learning to walk.

    That story instance/final scene though was so great. And yea, that creepy smile. Stuff of nightmares.


    1. I'm still enjoying the gameplay a lot. It's easy enough to be relaxing and active enough to be involving. Lack of real new content (new maps, classes, races) is the big downside for me. I really would have liked (and expected) a full expansion by now and while I'm making as much of it as I can, the Living Story is a very, very poor substitute.

      I read that Colin Johansen EuroGamer interview yesterday - previously I'd only read the news items on it - and that was encouraging. Clearly they are working on the kind stuff I want to see and do plan on adding it at some point. I just hope that point is sometime this year because if its after EQNext launches it probably won't matter any more.

  2. You're really enjoying this aren't you. Credit where it's due, they are very very good at this. The White Mantle have a 'secret' GW2 website, very cool. Unfortunately they have a poor sense of style (although that website was actually pretty stylish), their characters are terrible (except arguably Noir-lass and Airhead) and their story has to drag a crude monster of achievements behind it (but the dungeons are great).

    Do I get a prize for contradicting myself on all my points?

    Play something else, you're killing me :D

    1. I only ever played Prophecies and about 80% of Eye of the North but I read a lot about how well the story, lore and narrative were handled over the whole life of GW1. The most vociferous complaints about GW2 seem to come from hardcore GW1 players who feel the younger game can't match the storytelling standards of its ancestor but I notice that even those folks are, grudgingly, beginning to come around.

      The Secret World is still the gold standard for using the MMO as a medium for telling stories though.

  3. I played Prophecies too and was on-board up until the exact moment I became the Chosen One, which is like Kryptonite to me, my housemate at the the time had no idea what I was raging about and thought I had gone mad. Maybe I had,

    Fortunately I begrudgingly played on to protect my investment and was very pleased I did.


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