Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Best Defense Is a Good Defense: GW2

Here's something I didn't expect to see this week: our Garrison with a waypoint. What's more we have another at Lowlands on Eternal Battlegrounds. There's even a chance we might have a third at Dreadfall Bay later this afternoon.

What's unusual about that? Golem Week, that's what.

The special event kicked off, unexpectedly early for those of us on North American servers, at EU reset on Friday. It threw the last few hours of the NA league matches into total chaos and I missed the start because I was in the middle of writing a blog post. As people realized what was happening the borderlands began to fill up with golems large and small. Within minutes virtually every Keep and Tower had changed hands. They kept doing that. They're still doing it.

Inside an hour or two even those, like myself, who'd been looking forward to the event, were beginning to have second thoughts. The majority of WvW regulars were talking about taking the week off and finding something more amusing to do like household chores or yard work. Mrs Bhagpuss, an inveterate defender, scout and strategist, was highly disgruntled. It seemed none of those qualities would be required while the event lasted.

The underlying concept - doubling the run speed and damage of the asuran power suits while making them free and instantaneous to create - was always a risky proposition. It was always likely to favor attackers, very heavily, over defenders. Coupled with a slew of bugs that, among other things, permitted golems to use summoned weapons and be duped at no cost whatsoever, the whole thing looked set to become a total disaster.

Someone has too much time on his hands.

Certainly that was and largely remains the opinion of most posters on the merged Golem Rush Feedback Mega-Thread, where,  at a rough estimate, more than 90% of all posts are highly critical of either the concept or the execution or both. WvW players are almost unanimous in their contempt and derision for the event. The few positive opinions come from the occasional PvE player that happens to stumble on the thread.

If more PvE players visited the WvW forums the story would be very different. For PvE players with a casual interest in WvW it's rather a fine event. There's a phenomenon in GW2 known as Karma Training (KTraining for short) in which gangs of players from each team run around maps avoiding each other while battering down gates to capture undefended structures. Each capture gives large spoonfuls of regular xp, wvw xp, karma, loot and who knows what other goodies.

It's the very definition of reward without risk and like all such opportunities it's wildly popular with a certain demographic. The home of the KTrain has long been the Edge of the Mists map, which ANet added a long time ago as a kind of waiting-room with magazines for people queuing to get into the real wvw maps but which almost immediately became the domain of PvE players looking to level alts at a breakneck pace.

The current event not only comes with its own xp bonus but it takes place in some nice, flat maps (you can easily fall off the narrow walkways in EOTM) and the objectives are much closer together (there's a lot of running in EOTM), making it a more attractive alternative for trailing around and around in a circle sucking up xp for an hour or six. That's exactly what happened from the moment the rules changed and it's very likely what's happening on most servers and in most matches right now.

Let's be honest. On Yak's Bend every week is Golem Week.

It's happening in our match too but thankfully it's not all that's happening. Yes, there are KTrains running almost non-stop. I took advantage of one this morning, along with the good old World Boss Train, to finish the last ten levels on my Asura Warrior. He dinged 80 taking a tower in EBG with his bags too full to collect his loot. Inbetween stations, though, he hopped off to answer several map calls, defending the two Keeps we've so far, somehow, managed to hold long enough to fortify and waypoint.

We are, after all, Yaks Bend. Roundly criticized from all directions for siege-humping, known as the Home of The Superior Arrow Cart and, ironically, infamous for our golem rushes, it's sometimes forgotten that there's a reason we love our siege: we're defense obsessives, the lot of us. Somehow, even in the face of a set of rule-changes seemingly designed to render defense completely pointless, we have managed to develop strategies to Hang On To Our Stuff.

It's led to some amazing fights. The successful defense of Lowlands a few hours ago, when FA arrived with what looked to be at least two dozen Omega golems and as many ground troops, was one of the most exciting I've experienced for months. I answered a map call and arrived, in the guise of one of my two elementalists, to find the Lord down and the ring two-thirds complete.

I made the mistake of running in to contest and was insta-killed by a wall of spinning FA Omegas spitting double-damage fire like erupting volcanoes. Like every other Yak's Bender on the map I immediately ran back to throw myself into the fray again only this time I danced around out of range of the golem apocalypse and rained my own fire down on them instead.

The Golem "Dance"

The battle lasted what seemed like an age but was probably less than ten minutes. I was downed repeatedly but always rallied, or was revived, before I fully died. The ring remained stubbornly at 70% while we slowly whittled away at the FA Omegas, our own golems standing and spinning among them while the rest of us picked off the downed and chipped chunks off the metal men.

At some point Mrs Bhagpuss arrived, also on one of her elementalists, but the fight was so manic I didn't spot her until all the FA golems were destroyed, the ground troops killed or chased out and the Keep Lord revived and back in control. This was the kind of battle I'd hoped for when this event was announced.

How many similar fights are happening around the NA and EU leagues I have no idea. I'd guess not many. Was the golem event a good idea just because we've managed to make it into something a little more than a KTrain festival? No, it wasn't.

It was, as so many are complaining, both ill-conceived and ill-executed and if, as some suspect, it points to a future direction for WvW that ANet wants to pursue then that's a very ominous prospect indeed. I count myself very lucky that not only am I on a server that cares about defense but also that the event arrived when our server happens to be particularly strong and is able to enforce its will to some degree even against stiff opposition. On most servers and in most Tiers I would guess normal WvW is effectively on hold for a week while PvE has its head.

There was quite a lot of talk earlier this year about how Heart of Thorns would make defensive play and holding territory more important in World vs World. I hope that remains the vision and this week is no more than an aberration. As with almost everything about HoT, we won't know until it's here. And we still have no idea when that might be. This event does not instill confidence and that's putting it mildly.

If nothing else, though, at least I learned that Golems can dance.

1 comment:

  1. According to Points of Interest it was basically one guy in its free time that wanted WvW to get something while everyone is busy working on HoT.

    If that is the truth, then there is no change of plans.
    It might be an excuse against negative feedback though.


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