Monday, October 28, 2013

Off The Map : GW2

World vs World may be addictive, thrilling, rah! rah! rah!. All of that. Mad King Pumpkinhead vs Crazy Prince Eddie may make for an amusing, if slightly tasteless, diversion. Swatting Tequaatl may get you a tiddly dragon and a title. Fine and dandy.

Don't see much of the world that way, though, do you?

I was flipping idly through the pages of my Achievement book, passing time waiting for something to happen, most likely Righteous Indignation to fade off some choleric camp Supervisor, when I happened to notice I was just a discovery or three away from notching up Explorer for Ascalon and Maguuma both.

Not being much the Achiever I didn't really know what that meant. I know about the map completion one that by now everyone but me has done. The one where you touch all the things marked on the map. I'm not much of a toucher for the sake of touching. My ranger, made on launch day and played more than anyone else on the team, sits at 58% on that one. None of the other eight come even that close. 

Map completion never struck me as exploring. More like box-ticking. Even the title it gives, "Been There, Done That", reeks of ennui. Ascalon Explorer, on the other hand, now that has a ring to it. And I love Ascalon. Always have. The thought that there might be some bits I hadn't seen came as quite the spur.

What makes an Explorer in Tyria? Turns out it's not hitting those same map completion markers after all. Started out doing that. Scoured my maps for dull dots. Went to light them up. Nothing. Waypoints, maybe? Nah, can't be. Already found all those ages ago.

In the end I had to look it up. To be an Explorer you have to visit all the places that sit on the map with their names in white letters and pop up once across the screen the first time you cross some invisible border. Anywhere still waiting to be found remains a blur on the map and there were two blurs right there in Blazeridge Steppes.

The first was way off to the Northeast, as far as you can travel; on the way to nowhere with no reason ever to go. I went. There's a cave filled with Secessionist rebels and a Charr outside offering her heart for help. A heart full of fondness for me, which is more than I could say in return. I didn't remember her at all.

I'd been here before, long ago, then, but it seems I didn't go deep enough. Exploring the cave over the cooling bodies of the dead, in a room far at the back I saw broken stairs that looked like you might climb them if you could only reach. Some clambering and leaping with that feline grace so emblematic of the Charr brought my head against the high ceiling and lo and behold a hole, invisible from the ground.

Through the hole, a hidden valley, home to wild boar. A grizzled old one did his best to gore me but I put him down, skinned him then took my pick to mine the rich node he'd been using for a scratching post. Save for the odd aggressive giant pig it was a truly idyllic spot. Verdant, lush, fed by its own clearwater stream and quiet. So quiet.

Did finding it make me an explorer? Yes...and no. It made me an actual, virtual explorer for sure. I'd poked around and scrabbled and found somewhere I never knew existed, that possibly most people who've ticked all the boxes have never seen, but it didn't increment the Ascalon Explorer counter. After all, there was only one white name in that corner of the map, Terra Carorunda, and I already had that from when I'd helped that Charr with her secessionist problem all those months ago.

Back to the map. Look! There's a fuzzy bit in Iron Marches to the West. A swift trip through the aether to an adjacent waypoint led to a disturbing discovery: The Infestation. Perhaps it's best to draw a veil over the descent through caves glowing weirdly with the sickly purple light of The Brand, the rubble-strewn floor thick with nests, the distorted chittering of countless corrupted devourers, the battle with that massive Branded Siege Devourer and, most terrifying of all, the huge and terrifying Branded Devourer Queen, skittering across the corpses of the Sentinels foolish enough to challenge her.

That was the place alright. No-one in their right mind would go in there and I hadn't either. Well now I had. One more discovery to go. Back to Blazeridge to gawp at the closed, barred gates of the Ogre stronghold Agrak Kraal. Will we ever see them opened or will they always keep their secrets close, like so many more?

All told, the whole adventure took not much more than an hour but chances are I'll remember it long after all the keep saves and candy runs are forgotten. There's a whole, wide world out there and I still haven't seen the half of it. Next stop, Maguuma.


  1. You get to briefly meet the ogres of Agrak Kraal if you picked a racial sympathy for them in the Personal Story.

    Alas, I lost sympathy for the race rather quickly while trying to complete the watering hole event with a bazillion harpies and thirsty wildlife out to get two very useless and defenseless ogres home with water. Leveling a thief in berserk gear did nothing to help me pull aggro away from them, leading to umpteen failed attempts as they demonstrated why one does not tank in GW2 by standing still.

    1. To no-one's surprise I picked the Skritt on my first run-through the Charr personal story. I took the Dredge with someone else and that's all the Personal Stories I've done, I think.

      I did a post about those ogres at the water-hole, which I can't immediately find or I'd link it. I found the whole thing, not just those two but the whole series of events that surround that hapless clan, so emotionally affecting after doing them twice on two characters as I leveled up that I not only declined to do the sequence a third time but I take a wide swing out around that area when traveling so as not to see them because I find it too disturbing.

      It's one of the best dynamic event sequences in the game for my money, at least in terms of emotional heft. They are idiots, though. Talk about standing in the fire!

  2. I think that first spot with the boar actually hides another jumping puzzle near a waterfall there filled with trolls and a veteran troll if memory serves correctly. Also I think you'd need to not touch the boar's treasure if you want to get the one of the troll. :)

    1. Hmm that's interesting. There definitely was a waterfall there. I had a poke around because you should never leave a waterfall uninvestigated but I couldn't see anything unusual. I might have to go back and take another look...

    2. Yeah, there's a jumping puzzle further into in that area if there were a number of decayed brick walls (hint jump up those to the up hill cliff)

      Another aspect of just sort of bumping around and looking is finding paths, pillars, and jumping ledges that apparently were either unfinished jumping puzzles or puzzles that didn't quite make the cut. eg. the path from the back watchtower tower in Halkors Meadow, leads across where the forest spiders are to a strange little hut and no reward.


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