Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bash It! : Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 and I have been on the outs of late. It's nothing new. Flipping through some of my old posts on the game yesterday, going back a few years, I often seemed to be complaining  - how stale the game felt, how little new content there was, how disinterested I'd become.

None of those drawbacks ever made much impact on my desire to log in and play but my current ennui may well be the most intense I've experienced in the near-seven years the game's been running. It's been building a while, too. I began to lose faith around the time of the second expansion, Path of Fire. I didn't like it much then and the passage of time has done little to improve it. Nothing, in fact.

Still, I go on logging in. GW2 has the event horizon of a black hole. As I wrote almost five years ago to the day, "What is it about this tar baby? Every time you think you've pulled free, there you are, stuck again." I should listen to myself once in a while.

The most recent Living World episode barely held my attention for a week. It took me two short sessions across two days to finish the story and I think I might have spent as long again diddling around in Dragonfall, the new zone. Since then I've barely touched it - or the game.

But I'm back now. My necromancer's logged in as I type this. I can hear the fireworks and shouting as she stands next to Tigg, the Moa Trainer, close to the Legends Waypoint in Hoelbrak.

Tigg used to have the Moa racing franchise in Lion's Arch back before Scarlet's armies laid waste to the city. All his moas were killed in the invasion. When Lion's Arch re-opened, looking for all the world like the campus headquarters of a top 100 tech corp, the new management declined to find space for lowbrow pastimes such as on-course betting.

According to the Wiki, Tigg re-located to the far outskirts of L.A., taking over the now-ruined mill, where he's spent the last few years training Moa chicks. Lion's Arch's loss turns out to be Hoelbrak's gain. Tigg's back in business for Dragon Bash.

The asuran entrepreneur's comeback may be unexpected but it's not in the same league as the return of this long-forgotten festival itself. Who ever thought we'd see it again? Not me, that's for sure.

The original Dragon Bash was a one-off. It appeared as an episode of the first Season of The Living World, the same one that introduced Marjory Delaqua (currently residing in the "Where Are They Now?" file).

The first Dragon Bash made up most of the open world part of that episode. It included some narrative content relating to the Aetherblade sky pirates plus a slew of holiday-style activities. I reviewed it favorably at the time, concluding "Overall. Good. Better than The Secret of Southsun, which wasn't too bad either".

I also saw potential for the non-narrative activities to fit into GW2's sparse calendar of holiday events. As I observed, "...unlike all the other Living Story events so far, Dragon Bash could return next year".

It didn't. ArenaNet, at that time and for years afterwards, seemed entirely content to create repeatable content and then not repeat it. Really solid, entertaining, well-designed events like The Bazaar of the Four Winds and The Queen's Jubilee showed up once or twice, then vanished.

Last year something changed. The Bazaar and The Gauntlet returned for the first time in four years, bolted together and re-marketed as The Festival of The Four Winds. This year, to almost everyone's astonishment, Dragon Bash is back, bigger and better than before.

A lot bigger, in fact. Returning from the original are the Moa races, fireworks and pinatas. Some of the decorations look to be the same, too. New for 2019 we get to battle holograms in the classic GW2 event style in the Hoelbrak arena, try to survive against harder ones in a five-player dungeon-style instance and chase hologramatic dragons around the Shiverpeaks maps in a wild zerg. There's also a mounted race around Hoelbrak because there's always a race, isn't there?

The event comes with a plethora of achievements. There are two sets, Dragon Bash and Dragon Bash Feats. The first has thirteen entries, seven of which are required for the meta-achievement, which seems very generous. The latter has fourteen, half of which are needed for another meta.

So far I like the new Dragon Bash a lot. The choice of Hoelbrak as the location for a holiday is both inspired and also so obvious you wonder why it's taken seven years. The Norns, above all the other Tyrian races, positively live for this sort of thing. They spend their entire lives drinking, partying and trying to one-up each other in "friendly" competition. It seems impossible to imagine they'd sit on their enormous thumbs and let first the pirates and then the Krytans have all the fun.

The decorations look amazing, as always. There's a fantastic feeling of excitement and celebration all across the snowbound capital. Hoelbrak's layout doesn't make things exactly easy to find but that's all part of the fun. The sky is filled with fireworks and swooping holograms and the streets are filled with players having what looks suspiciously like a very good time.

So far I've tried the mount race and the arena event, I've smashed pinatas and bet on Moas, let off fireworks and stuffed my face with sweets. I even set some effigies on fire. All of those I enjoyed to varying degrees, with my favorite definitely being the arena, which seems to run 24/7 with a mere minute's rest between cycles. It offers all the utility of Halloween's Mad King's Labyrinth with none of the annoying running around and I can see myself doing it an awful lot.

I would probably also enjoy the open world zerg event, the Hologram Stampede, if I could get to anything before it died. I tried it last night in Lorner's Pass and even though I was on my Griffin and there from the start I literally never saw a single hologram. Maybe later, when things calm down and there aren't so many people.

Looking at the achievements, many seem doable. I'm currently a sliver away from 25000 AP on my oldest account so I need the points. 25k is a big milepost with a major reward, worth making a bit of an effort to reach.

Not that I'd bother if what was being asked of me wasn't also fun but in this case it is. I could happily never play another Living World episode again but I'd be all over a new holiday as good as this one every couple of months.

Dragon Bash runs for three weeks from June 25 to July 16. After that, if last year's a guide, we'll move almost immediately into The Festival of the Four Winds and then we'll be hard up against the seventh anniversary celebrations.

Perhaps ANet are finally getting the hang of holidays. It's not before time.


  1. Played it for 2+ hours last night. I turned my game music back on. I’m humming Bash the Dragon on repeat loop.

    I’m making plans for how to space out my achievement gain over the three weeks. I’m brooding about whether I can bother any of my ailing network of contacts for an organized group push at Dragon Arena Survival, for the chievo at least or to see how high is possible, I’m delighting in the simultaneous presence of an automated LFG easier equivalent that allows for 10 disorganized casuals to do similar content in drop in, drop out fashion and re-teaching myself how to just chill with the hoi polloi after way too much serious mode performance level content. I map broke and swam down 200k units under the lake just to assuage my curiosity as to where some random player who was offering 100g to find them had gone. My Explorer is off the leash and running around in glee.

    I have yet to do the Hologram Stampede event. There’s Jorbreakers to earn, Pinatas to break, fireworks to launch, things to kill, chievos to collect and three weeks to go.

    I can scarcely believe that I’m... *gasp* ...having fun.

    “This world has lived in shadow, from a pair of demon’s wings...*hums* BASH THE DRAGON, SMASH THE DRAGON, may it never rise up again...”

    1. You may want to check Master Day 41 VOD of Wooden Potatoes, he did 25 waves of survival with group of randoms. Basically, as long as you have boon strip for Eye of Zhaitan boss (to tear down Retaliation and 25 stacks of Might) and some healing, you'll be fine.

    2. Excellent news. I lack time and focus for video watching so I find it hard to pull info from that newfangled front.

      I think the main stopping point is more if I dare to brave random PUGs after two years being trained by design (that I complained about before I surrendered to the inevitable) to be closeted in an enclosed static group bubble.

      But I guess if I get desperate enough, a necro with corrupt boon might be on the cards and trawling LFG for random group dice rolls.

    3. I got drive-by invited to a group the moment I stepped out of the Holo Arena yesterday. I accepted and hung around,with no idea why I'd been tapped. People came into the group and then left and still no word on what we were supposed to be doing. People were talking but not about that.

      After about five minutes of standing around I asked why were were there and no-one answered. I waited a bit and asked again and still nothing. So I left. I imagine someone was trying to build a group for the Survival and I'd have stayed for that, if only to get some background for the post, but if no-ne's even willing to lay out the reason for there being a group in the first place the chances of getting very far seem limited.

      I'm in a very weird situation right now. I'm off work supposedly "sick" as I go through my 12 weeks of chemo but I feel absolutely fine. I have a ton of time to play games. In theory I could dedicate way more time than usual to Dragon Bash but right now I'm playing half a dozen MMORPGs, all of which have tons of stuff for me to do. It's a curious position to be in, especially since, if I don't start feeling worse pretty soon I'm going to start feeling uncomfortable about staying off work.

      There are worse probems to have, though!


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