Monday, November 6, 2017

Funny Weather We're Having: GW2

I spent pretty much the whole of today in Path of Fire. I started out in The Desolation, which is about as as nice as it sounds.

Actually, no, it's worse. "The Desolation" makes it sound like it might be empty, quiet, eerie.  Even, oh, I don't know.. desolate? I wish!

In fact it's crammed to bursting with vicious wildlife, poison gas, ley-line radiation, branded automata and two psychotic armies.Take your pick -  undead or cyborgs. Makes no odds. Everything wants to kill you, all the time.

I think this is "tundra", isn't it? Anyway, I'm no geographer but I'm pretty sure it's not "desert".

I was down there getting Mastery Points but after a while I tired of the heat and dust and headed North. To Desert Highlands.

Desert Highlands is not a desert as I believe I may have mentioned before, although I realize deserts can be cold as well as hot - endless snow instead of endless sand. Antarctica is a desert, technically. Desert Highlands is not Antarctica.

At one end it's all crags and monumental buildings and at the other it's... well, what is it, exactly? A lot of huts on stilts, boardwalks, rope bridges and pots the size of houses. And a coast. That's the part that's neither Desert nor Highland.

Flying through a blizzard to land under a palm tree. As you do.

Then there's a bit in the middle that's sandy and another bit that's purple. It's all a bit of a hodge-podge. Still, whatever it is, it's a big improvement on The Desolation - at least to look at.

When it comes to peace and quiet, though, you can forget it. Once again everything wants to rip off your arms and beat you death with them. It is quite literally impossible in most parts of Desert Highlands to find a spot peaceable enough to have a brief conversation. Every time Mrs Bhagpuss spoke to me it was five minutes before she got a reply because that's how long it took to get out of combat.

Over the course of many hours - I started around nine in the morning and finished about tea-time, with a break for lunch, a trip to the shops and a walk in the afternoon sunshine along the way - I eventually achieved Map Completion.

Who built this stuff? And for what? There's probably some lore about it somewhere...

I also ran down enough Mastery points to fill out all the special abilities for all the mounts. All that's left is the final Mastery for the Jackal and the Skimmer and all those do is share their buffs across the other Mounts. Nine more Mastery points and I'm done.

It was good fun but exhausting. Not to beat the thing to death but Path of Fire maps are just relentless. Heart of Thorns is like a stroll in the park - literally - compared to this endless gauntlet.

Mob density has already been mentioned but another issue is the extremely fast respawn rate. Because I frequently found myself detained for lengthy periods, trying to finesse my lurching griffon onto the top of a pillar the size of an occasional table, just as a for-instance, I had ample opportunity to study the life-cycles of the local predators as they tried to gnaw my legs off.

On the very rare occasion the developers stinted on the spawn they made up for it by dropping in an Elite. Oh, and two Veterans, which I've already killed. And a wandering spawn of half a dozen little ones...

I didn't think to time it but my impression was that reincarnation takes about sixty seconds. Maybe a couple of minutes at the outside. Frequently I was still fighting the tail end of the spawn when the early dispatches began to come back.

At one point - this was in The Desolation - I found myself in a battle that really did seem as though it was never going to end. I started off with a single Veteran Awakened Canid, somehow acquired some wargs and a Veteran spider and it escalated from there.

It was only after about a quarter of an hour that I realized I was fighting on what we used to call a "mob highway" back in the old EQ days. I don't think I've seen a genuine mob highway for a decade or more. Is it someone's idea of a joke?

Has anyone ever tried to come up with an explanation of how these chests get refilled every day?

Despite the unwanted attention, exploring Desert Highlands was a lot of fun. Mostly, I eventually decided, because it isn't a desert. I just like snowy, mountainous zones in MMOs. They are my favorites, I think.

There's a good deal of climbing fun to be had. Although I was set on ticking all the official boxes to complete my map it became apparent rather quickly that a lot of the points of interest I could clearly see around me weren't included in the tally. When you look up and see ruined buildings on the crags above you or look down and spot passages disappearing into the cliffs below you don't really need a marker on the map to know there might be something worth investigating.

The cartographers may have missed the point now and again but the developers rarely did. Path of Fire is littered with chests and some of the best coffers are in the highest or deepest or least accessible places. I came away with my pockets overflowing.

This is a log fire. There are large piles of logs on both sides. The Norn tells the Charr how lucky it is there's so much coal around because she's freezing. Did the writer and the artist ever talk to each other? Also, I know it's in the snowcapped mountains, but just outside the door there's an open lava flow. How cold can it really be?

I also found the start of the Desert Highlands Griffon Master Race ... er, wait a minute... that doesn't sound quite right... Master Course - Course, that's it! The flag is so very high, so hard to reach that just getting to it automatically qualifies you to enter.

It took me half a dozen tries to get Bronze but it's the first Griffon race I've done and I was seriously delighted just to finish. It also honed my flying skills more than somewhat. I was concentrating so ferociously I neglected to take screenshots of anything but the starting flag so here's Dulfy's video , which I used to try to understand the technique required. It's a lot harder than she makes it look, I'll tell you that for nothing!

In the end I got what I wanted: map completion and every Mastery in Desert Highlands. I even got to kill the Caffeinated Skritt when someone tagged up and called it, one of the more awkward requirements for the Soulbeast ascended dagger collection, which it appears I'm doing.

There are quite a few weird sights in Desert Highlands but this is the strangest by far. An ethereal city - or the plan for one - hanging in the night sky. I feel I should know what this is but I have no idea.

The maps weren't exactly buzzing but there were plenty of people around, mostly whittling away at collections or completion or filing out Masteries just like me. It felt relaxed, friendly, laid-back. It reminded me of a Central Tyria map maybe a year or two after launch. Not a bad thing.

The next thing I need to do is to take a close look at the new Elite specializations. I'm doing everything on my Druid because it's easiest that way but I really should think about which class would benefit most from having the full PoF specialization. Currently I'm veering towards Mesmer.

Better wait until tomorrow's big balance patch first, though. Those that were first shall be last and all that. Let's wait and see how the dust settles. However that pans out, working on specs should be something to chip away at in the dark, Winter nights, at least.


  1. "Has anyone ever tried to come up with an explanation of how these chests get refilled every day?"

    I reckon it's skritt mesmers.

    I like Mirage, it's the one character I've completed the story on. Very pinball "can't hit me" evadey kind of spec, and you can let your phantasms/clones do all the damage while you focus on not getting hit.

    1. Oh, that's where they hide their shinies! And I'm definitely going to try Mirage.

  2. I find it a little interesting that your description of PoF's zone frustrations voice my frustrations about HoT. The friends I brought back to the game for PoF despise the jungle zones and rarely touch HoT because of it. And one of them even went all out to finish the entire HoT storyline (I still have a ways to go on HoT, whereas I completed PoF solo without much trouble).

    Desolation is pretty nasty, but it's what I expected knowing it from GW1. I find most of the mob density can be shot past with my mounts, and don't stop to fight things unless they beat my mount senseless and force me to (which rarely happens).

    I will say that playing PoF with two other people is significantly easier than when I played it solo. Very, very much so. Like night and day difference.

    And... I still am working towards my griffon mount. 250 gold feels like a huge undertaking to reach. My other friends have resigned to the idea that they're never going to get the griffon. I'm still slowly plugging away at it, though. : /

    1. I think you have put your finger on one of the issues when you say "I find most of the mob density can be shot past with my mounts". I'm guessing that's part of the design ethos. I strongly dislike all the ground mounts and never use them except when absolutely necessary to get up or over things so almost all my travel in PoF is on foot. That leads to endless fights that can't be avoided because of the vast amount of CC the PoF mobs use. If I got on the raptor I imagine I could just barrel through them.

      The other big difference between PoF and HoT mobs is that most PoF mobs are trivial in difficulty but there are enormous numbers of them whereas HoT is much less thickly-populated but the mobs are a lot tougher. That leads to a lot of fights in PoF that go on and on and on because, yes, you can kill everything fairly easily, even the Veterans, so naturally you do, but there is always another one to kill and eventually it just wears you out, whereas in HoT no-one in their right mind would fight anything they could avoid fighting in the first place so you only have a small number of fights that you actually need to have for a specific reason, like an event or to get a drop. Avoiding Mordrem and Dinosaurs seems like good sense whereas avoiding devourers or Awakened seems like a cop out. Also PoF Harpies are insanely OP.

      We went through this before, though, when we were analyzing HoT. A lot of it just comes down to personal preference, I think. All I can say is that I found HoT much easier to explore than PoF and a lot more satisfying. It's not that I dislike PoF, just that it's annoying in what seems to be an unnecessarily trivial way. HoT was annoying because it was meant to be a ramp up in difficulty. PoF just seems to be annoying for the sake of it.

      Keep going on the Griffon - it's worth it. Especially if you can get to grips with the advanced flying - I'm still working on that.

    2. Oh man. Don't get me started on the PoF Harpies. I'm right with you on them. Terrible fights!

      Avoidance is the way I play all MMOs. I'm usually on my way to obtain something, explore something, complete something or gather something. So, if a game gives me something (mounts) to achieve less fights on my way to an objective, I'm going to take it.

      GW2 can be annoying to me because there's not a single zone where you outlevel anything, so you're always getting attacked. Always. Sure, in the vanilla zones these fights aren't long or hard, but they interrupt my goals. If I settle in to fight an event or a heart, that's one thing. But all these little fights that keep hamstringing me along the way? No thanks.

      I've learned since I've come back to GW2 from other games that I really miss over leveling old areas and just being able to do my own thing without a constant string of attacks. On one hand, I appreciate content always being relevant, but on the other, I think I'm always going to personally prefer out leveling a zone to have peace and quiet while travelling. XD

      I will admit that PoF has a LOT of pockets of enemies with way too many veterans lurking around, though. If I were on foot, I'd be frustrated too. So I can understand that. I use mounts everywhere. All the time. Even in towns. :D


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