Monday, February 15, 2016

Upwards And Onwards: GW2

As a big fan of leveling in MMORPGs I'm not usually in much of a hurry to take advantage of shortcuts to the end game. Oh, I'll often latch on to any opportunity to accelerate the rate of experience gain - rested xp, vitality, double xp weekends, boosters, +xp gear, all the gimmicks - but those only speed up the process a little. That way I still get to enjoy the journey, just at a jog instead of a stroll.

For a long time options to avoid the entire game below the cap weren't part of the deal for the genre but in recent years they have proliferated to the point of becoming a standard fitting. I forget who started it. The first I remember using was the jump to 85 in EverQuest.

For my taste these content bypasses work best in games where I already have a large roster of characters. Even when you really love the leveling game, sometimes you get to the point where the prospect of taking a character through the same zones for the tenth (or twentieth) time loses a little of its appeal.

In most MMOs the great leap forward comes at a price - literally. Whether you're buying a high-level character off the shelf, getting one bundled in with an expansion or bootstrapping one you already started it's usually a cash transaction. Not so in GW2.

You can't play GW2 regularly without receiving a plethora of both Tomes of Knowledge and Writs of Experience. You get them, whether you want them or not, from dailies, as drops, as direct rewards. You even get them just for logging in. Unless you go so far as to delete them, pretty soon you'll have them in stacks.

Each Tome is worth a full level. Each Writ is worth 5% of one. There are also Experience Scrolls that raise a character instantly to Level 20 or Level 30 in one click. As of last week I had enough of all of these banked on my main account to bump at least three brand new characters to the level cap of 80. I also had an unused character slot that I bought in the January sale.

When I was playing two accounts side-by-side I had all the classes covered, many of them doubled. After consolidating to one Heart of Thorns equipped account, though, I found myself shy of one skill set on that team: Thief.

If there's one of GW2's eight classes I've never really taken to it's the Thief. I don't much like thieves in any MMO. Heck, I don't like them in RPGs period. Call them Rogues or Scouts or what you will, I find them fussy, fiddly and annoying.

That said, leveling one up in Tyria was easy enough when I did it a couple of years back on what is now the storage account. As I vaguely recall I mostly spammed Heartseeker and used the Shortbow like a bargain-basement ranger. It was painless enough but not something I'd want to repeat just to round out a full roster for the go team.

With HoT, however, came Elite Specs. They aren't quite the same as brand new classes but they do change the gameplay of certain professions substantially. A Dragonhunter, for example, feels very different to play then the Guardian from which it derives.

Mrs Bhagpuss, who played a monk for years in EverQuest, has been experimenting with the Daredevil elite spec for Thieves, trying to see if she can create something similar. She's been pleased with the result so I thought I might give it a try too.

So, a couple of days ago I rolled a new Thief. Human, because another thing I've meant to do for years and never gotten around to is to go to Clown School. Bizarrely, joining the circus is one of the Personal Story options for human characters. I thought I could kill two clowns with one stone.


I quickly flicked through the perfunctory but mandatory "tutorial" and flipped up to The Mists, where I stood in Citadel reading my way through a level 30 Experience Scroll and fifty Tomes. It's a lot of clicking and an awful lot of inventory management as every one of the 80 levels registers independently and produces separate, discrete rewards and pop-ups.

Then there was the choosing of all the skills and traits. The deciding on a pro-tem build to get started. The selecting and acquiring of a complete set of Exotic gear fit for a Level 80. The upgrading of all that kit with runes and sigils.

Even having been through all this well over a dozen times before as characters dinged 80 the slow way and even with substantial resources available in Gold, Karma, Badges and banked gear, this is not a swift process. It took me most of an afternoon. Very enjoyable it was, too.

Eventually there she was, my fully geared, fully specced level 80 Thief. I've skipped a few levels using Tomes before - jumped from 70 to 80 on my second Guardian, for example - but I've never really considered what it means to begin at 80 as a totally fresh character. There's one major factor I hadn't even considered: travel.

Oh, I knew I would have to go out and grab 250 Hero Points before I could transition from Thief to Daredevil. I knew that would mean hitting 25 Hero Challenges in Magus Falls. That's something I was actively looking forward to doing.


What hadn't occurred to me was that if I wanted to go anywhere to do anything, virtually anything at all, I'd have to walk there first. GW2 has some of the fastest Fast Travel in MMOs. Every map is studded with waypoints and for a fee that once seemed extortionate but now seem utterly trivial all you need to do to get from where you are to anywhere else is open your map and click.

Except there's a catch: before you can use a waypoint from the map you have to have visited it in game. And that data is recorded not against your account but against your character. If you open your map as a brand new jumped-up level 80 all you will see is fog.

This is great stuff. For me it adds a whole new layer of fun. I love opening waypoints. Since I first encountered it in EverQuest I have always felt that the mechanic of having instant travel but only to places your character has run to overland first offers the best of both worlds, exploration and convenience.

I can see how it might annoy some, though. You can't even do something as basic as join a World Boss train when you can't click the links in chat and map-hop to the next pinata. Just getting to Silverwastes to begin my HoT Personal Story so I could set out on the road to becoming a daredevil took me twenty minutes of running.

That's done now. I also took the trouble to trot around Tyria to open most of the World Boss waypoints, which gives me a schematic for future travels. Given that even after all this time my highest map completion on any character is still under 70% filling out the maps is hardly going to be a priority but you do need the basics.

How much play my new thief will get I wouldn't like to predict. Depends on how different Daredevil feels, I guess. Even if I don't like it any better than the base class I still have Clown School to look forward to and nearly 500 waypoints to open. Will the fun never end?


  1. I resurrected my norn thief after the patch that buffed their dagger and Daredevil staff damage.

    I have to say that the feel of the Daredevil spec appeals much much more to me than the base thief I remembered of yore. It plays much like a somewhat squishier warrior with more mobility options, in that you don't -have- to go into stealth in order to do decent damage and can mostly autoattack and feel martial artsy.

    1. That's about what Mrs Bhagpuss was saying. Certainly sounds a lot more enjoyable than regular thief play.

  2. I have 2 thieves on my account, both at 80. My original was a charr who I built as a gunslinger - dual pistols and a charrzooka as my elite skill made for a very, ahem different sort of thief. A charr daredevil just didn't seem right, somehow, so I created a human thief before HoT launched and force-fed her tomes of experience before touring the old world grabbing as many hero points as I could so I could go daredevil on the launch of HoT. Yeah, it's fun - probably the best staff fighting class since my DAoC friar, and I still have the brace of pistols on the new character as my ranged option. There's a lot more to GW2 thieves than stealth.

    1. Haven't thought about the DAOC Friar for a looooong time. Mostly I played a Skald but I did do some friaring on occasion. So long ago now I forget what it was like but I seem to remember it was interesting.

  3. "I knew I would have to go out and grab 250 Hero Points before I could transition from Thief to Daredevil."

    Not entirely true. You need 250 points to unlock everything in the Daredevil tree, but most specs are playable way before that (i.e. around 100 - 120 points in).

    1. Yep, I know you can start earlier but I don't like to. I really enjoy collecting all the points and then spending them in one go. That's really the best part. I've done it on all the other seven classes and I want to do it on this one too. In fact, one of the main reasons I made the character was to have an excuse for doing it again :)


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