Wednesday, November 18, 2020


It's a bit of a tradition here at Inventory Full to write a review, of sorts, every time I finish a Living Story episode in Guild Wars 2. I've posted something after just about every Living Story/World/Saga update since the game began but I can't remember ever having less to say about one than I do about yesterday's "Champions: Truce".

No-one seems especially stoked this go round. Time was, when a new episode or chapter was looming, you'd hear people talk about it in game. There'd be multiple forum threads speculating on what might be about to happen and I'd read (and write) blog posts fueled by nothing more than the trailer and a heady sense of anticipation.

For a long while now it's been entirely possible to log in and play a full session without hearing even a passing mention of the latest update. It's true I don't hang out much in the metas but there was a time when people in the starting maps talked of little else on patch days and I'd hear commanders in World vs World complaining they couldn't defend a keep because everyone was off doing the Living Story. 

Those days are long gone. All you hear now, if you hear anything, is the odd derisive comment. As for the forums, gone are the multiple discussion threads that Gail Gray used to have to consolidate. Gone too are the official feedback threads that once ran for several pages and had to begin with an official request for posters to keep things brief.

Instead, when I went to the forum today to check if anyone else was having the same trouble with one of the events I was, I had to look twice before I found any threads at all. There's one called "What do you think of the new Living World: Champions? (Spoilers inside)". It has sixty-six comments and it's been viewed thirteen hundred times, which I guess isn't all that bad for an update that hasn't been live for twenty-four hours. Or it's not until you read it.

Not in my house!


If I had to summarize the opinion most commonly expressed in the thread in a single word, that word would be meh. Or maybe bleh. 

"About what I had expected. I figured that they had pulled their living world teams to work on the expansion so this was a low effort way to provide content until it releases."

"All in all, I'm actually surprised it's even more bare bones than expected... The only good thing is I can commit my time to other games now this isn't going to demand anything from me."

"I didn't expect much and at least it was not disappointing in that regard."

"It is as bad as we feared... Luckily Shadowlands is right around the corner".

"It's okay. It didn't blow me away and it didn't disappoint me."

"Good idea, bad execution, too tedious."

"'s underwhelming, even with my expectations low."

Those are probably some of the more positive ones, too. There's a widespread assumption that anything we get between now and the launch of End of Dragons is going to be the work of a skeleton crew trying to cobble something together while ninety-nine per cent of the teams work on the third expansion. We can't expect much and not much is what we're going to get seems to be the general feeling.

There's also a fairly commonly expressed opinion on the forums that the Icebrood Saga has been generally poor in comparison to previous seasons. I'd take this with several buckets of salt because you could have heard a similar sentiment being expressed during every one of the five seasons to date. (It is five, isn't it? Hard to keep track since they keep changing the name).

What does puzzle me is what seems like a growing tendency to compare the Icebrood Saga to Living World Season One. I've read this a number of times, almost always couched as a criticism, but I'm not clear whether the supposed similarity is in the story or the gameplay. 

I can't say I can see much of a correlation in either. I wish I could. I liked Season One well enough at the time, as my contemporary commentary demonstrated, but if I'd known what we were going to get next I'd have positively raved. Scarlet's War seems like a golden age, now.

Is there something you'd like to tell us, Jormag?


Perhaps the two seasons do have something in common, even if I'd struggle to articulate exactly what it might be. If I was going to put the seasons in order of preference I'd have Season One at the top but the Icebrood Saga would come next, which does suggest they at least both pander to my personal tastes. 

Does that mean I like this episode, then? Champions? 

Eh, well... I guess... It was... okay. Y'know?

It was surprisingly good to have voice acting back. When we got the first silent episode, courtesy of the pandemic, I quite liked just reading the text but I found I was hearing the familiar actors' voices in my head anyway. The novelty wore off fast. 

I'm not sure I'll go back and replay the last two episodes just to hear the dialog out loud but I definitely will watch it on YouTube if someone edits it all together. A few years back you could have counted on someone doing that. Not so sure anyone's got the motivation any more.

The plot's quite interesting. Some people don't like the very idea that we might be about to team up with an elder dragon, specifically Jormag, but a lot more don't like the way it's being handled. The rationale behind it certainly is vague and confusing but I think that's deliberate. 

Jormag, as Braham points out, is the master of lies. I can't think of a non-binary term for that or I'd have used it. And Taimi, lest we forget, is living with a terminal diagnosis. If she's being less rational than usual... well, come to think of it, how rational is she, ever?

That's sarcasm, right? Just so we're clear.


I had more of an issue with the ease with which just about everyone accepted Ryland's assistance. Isn't he subject to some kind of war crime tribunal? Does being Jormag's Champion give him a pass on that? Yeah, well, I guess it does, at that.

The plain fact that I can sit here and discuss this (with myself) a few hours after playing through the episode suggests the story is working better than it has in the past. Sometimes I get to the end of a chapter and can't even remember how it started, let alone how it fits in with what came before. The Icebrood Saga, though, I feel I could write a coherent precis for, if I had to.

Other than the acting and the story, Champions doesn't have much going for it. There's some fairly desultory combat in the early sections and some exceptionally tedious and long-winded slog to get through at the end. Full disclosure, I haven't even done all of that yet.

The episode concludes with three missions using the not very popular "Private/Public" instance format. I tried to do the first solo, supposedly an option, and had to give up due to sheer boredom. There was no risk of me not being able to finish it - it was just going to take me about an hour to kill the boss and I couldn't bring myself to do it.

That, I should add for anyone who might have been reading the patch notes, was after they fixed the bug that made the mission bosses far slower to kill than they were meant to be. What they must have been like before, I don't care to imagine.

Second time around I took the "Public" option and completed the first of the three missions relatively painlessly in about fifteen or twenty minutes. It was still tedious but it was bearable. Put that on the poster!

You noticed?


There are two more missions to complete before the chapter can be considered finished and from what I've read they're functionally identical to the first. I'll get them done eventually but I can't say I'm keen. After that I imagine I'll never see them again, even they're supposed to be our repeatable content for the next couple of months.

I believe ArenaNet have done a better job than most of their competitors at keeping older content in play but I suspect we may be reaching a point where they're becoming the victims of their own success. GW2 has a staggering amount of repeatable content now, all of it with its own metas, currencies, dailies and achievements. It's almost self-defeating. If no old content ever goes out of date is that any different from if all of it did?

One thing you don't hear too much of is people complaining about being ripped off. The general feeling, as expressed in some of the forum comments, seems to be that this is about what you can expect for nothing, which is, after all, what we're paying:

"I'm... fine logging in every 2 months or so to check out the story progression"

"I am unsatisfied but on the other hand it was for free, so hey..."

"I've pretty much stuck with logging in on release days and then disappearing till the next. It's honestly more enjoyable that way".

I'm not sure that kind of lack of engagement is what any developer wants to hear but, honestly? It does kind of work for me, too. Sure, I'd love to be swept up and blown away by an mmorpg, the way I was by GW2 itself eight years ago. I just don't expect it any more. 

It's actually quite convenient to get occasional content drops that pique my interest for a day or two - maybe a week if it's really good - then for the game to go on the back burner again. It's not how this hobby used to be but then I'm not the person I was when I discovered it, either. I'm twenty years older for a start.

Maybe we don't get the games we want. Maybe we get the games we deserve. And I'm not sure how many of us have the capacity for engagement we had when the genre was new. Maybe meh is about all we can handle. I mean, when was the last time you heard anyone yell "Woot!" ?


  1. I don't think I've yelled "Woot" even once in the past 15 years, but's that's not because I didn't feel like it but because I'd forgotten it existed. :-)

    I still do feel like it every now and again (Genshin Impact did it, for example, and still does it), and I consider myself as being very lucky because of it.

    I don't intend to ever be content with 'meh', and I really hope the day when that is all we'll ever get will never come.

    1. Yeah, I don't think anyone ought to aspire to "meh", or even settle for it, but one quality level I would like to reclaim is "fine". Or even "perfectly fine". These days, if someone says something is "fine" they're usually telling you it's achieved the minimum basic level to be considered acceptable. Now, perhaps it's my comics-collecting background, but to me that's not what "fine" means.

      Fine is a high grade in comics collecting. If you have a fine copy of something you're likely to be pretty happy with it. Of course you'd prefer near mint or even mint but fine is... well, it's a lot better than "perfectly fine". And it's not just comics. We still talk about fine china, fine wine, fine dining... and yet, if someone asks how you're feeling and you say "fine", these days apparently that means "not so good".

      I'd be very happy for my games to be fine but meh really isn't good enough. Although, when you break down the etymology and usage of "good enough"...


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