Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Goodbye, Path of Fire. Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out.

I spent most of today playing Guild Wars 2, which isn't all that unusual. What was different from a run of the mill day off work was that I spent pretty much the whole time in the new content that came with yesterday's Living World update.

I think the last time that happened was probably Season Three, Episode Five, Flashpoint, the one that introduced us to Draconis Mons. I liked that map. I spent a good while completing it and generally goofing around there.

That was all the way back in May 2017 but most significantly it was before the release of the last expansion. The long and the short of it is that I don't much like anything about Path of Fire, and that very much includes the entirety of the Living World/Story Season associated with it. I don't like the look and feel, the mechanics, the plot, the characters and I very especially don't like the mounts.

Perhaps the best thing about LS4.4, A Star To Guide Us, is that it feels, if not like the end of an era, then at least like the beginning of the end. I'm more than ready.

I guess the real beginning of the end actually came in the last episode, when Palawa Joko, one of the most tedious, cliched, derivative villains I've ever had the misfortune to have to sit and listen to, died. Really died, as in gone for good, never coming back. In case anyone's in doubt or denial (and many seem to be) the permanence of his departure gets some heavy emphasis in the narrative this time around. 

Of course, as anyone who has ever read a comic or played a video game knows, no-one ever really dies. It's kind of a feature. What's more, in this very episode, the one in which several people, my own character among them, state with absolute certainty that Joko won't be coming back... well, I'd better not say any more.

Even so, I think we're free of the pest for a while. There's a distinct feeling of decks being cleared and pages being turned. The new map feels quite significantly different to all the others that came with the PoF expansion or the previous chapters of this Sesson. It may be connected geographically but it seems existentially separate.

As I was playing today, at one point I caught myself wondering whether this was the last episode in the Season. It can't be, of course. There would have been an announcement if it was.

Still, it's mid-September. They're going to have to go some to fit another one in between Halloween and Wintersday, although last year, if I remember correctly they did allow a Living World release to overlap the midwinter festival.

Whether we get Episode Five at the end of this year or the start of the next, either way I would bet on the next one being the climax of Season Four. I think it will set up the announcement for the third expansion, which will arrive sometime in Summer 2019. There will be no Living Story Season Five until after that beds in, so probably around October/November next year.

Or I guess they could wait another year. I don't think the finances will stand that, though. You can see from the financials each quarter how heavily they rely on the uptick from expansions.

I know there was a lot of brave talk in the first couple of years about never having any expansions ever but we saw how well that worked out for them. The game is on the expansion treadmill now and it won't be getting off until it follows the original Guild Wars into maintenance mode.

ArenaNet also once claimed they weren't going to make any more MMOs after GW2, the game they planned to operate and update indefinitely. It's been running for six years now and it probably has at least as long again to go, but some players are starting to get itchy feet. I've noticed an increasing number of in-game comments lately speculating on "Guild Wars 3".

There's even a thread about it on the forum - it was on the first page for a while but the flurry of posts following the update have pushed it on to page two. I wonder if the OP there is on to something when they say "...if ArenaNet does reach the point it can develop and maintain another MMO without having to send GW2 to the curb, I believe they should start up a new story entirely. Guild Wars was great, Guild Wars 2 is great...Guild Wars 3 would be too much."

Anyway, for now and the foreseeable, GW2 is what we have and as of this update it feels surprisingly fresh again. I am even more frustrated now than I was yesterday about not being able to discuss the story here. There's a lot to discuss. Maybe I'll get back to it when a few weeks have passed. Problem is, by then we'll all be on to something new and it won't seem as urgent.

One thing I will say is that the final instance is brutal, but in an entirely different way to usual. There's no awful, dragged-out boss fight. Instead there's a timed jump puzzle that has to be done on a mount. It's also currently very badly bugged, to the point of unplayability, which is traditional.

Nevertheless, I did manage to complete it, by means of a combination of workarounds, multiple deaths and brute force. Even though it was unfair and infuriating, I enjoyed it. I don't think I could honestly say that about any Episode finale since the Living Story moved to instanced content.

What's more, the penultimate instance is also brutal and unfair and I enjoyed that one too. For the first time in a very long time I am seriously considering taking a second character through the story for my own amusement and to see how it plays with a different class.

A Star To Guide Us isn't perfect, not by a wide margin, but it's a major improvement on what we've been used to over the past year and for that we can be thankful. If it's also laying down a marker for the future tenor and direction of the game, well, no-one will be happier about that than me.


  1. I wanted to write a long post about how wrong you were but I read the rest of your blog. I think you're a decent writer, but I think your opinion is shit. Keep writing though because I'm sure that some people love it, and I think you're good!

    1. If this is spam, it’s the funniest spam I’ve seen in a while.

      If it isn’t, clearly they have not been exposed to the “did he just troll me?” wonders of the Bhagpuss contrary opinion!

      Back on topic, I haven’t had time to go through any of the recent Living Story patch drop beyond attending a progression raid static - where we just about managed to clear the first two bosses going in semi-blind and ran out of time figuring out the mechanics of the last. It seemed pitched at a fairly acceptable level of difficulty - the hardcore will complain it’s too dang easy while the resr of the hoi polloi will work their way through eventual success, even if I’m not personally looking forward to having to pull out new builds out of a back pocket and learn how to play them decently.

      Oddly, it feels like the urgency of GW2 has gone out for me. This LS patch will have to last the next three odd months or so, there’s probably time to do everything else in good order, and if not, it was probably some kind of grindy time waster anyway.

      Good to hear the story and maps are fairly promising, it looks like they’re focusing on the right things for the right audience then. I still find it hilarious that every mention of the raids on Reddit just calls ‘em boss 1, boss 2 and last/third boss. Story? Lore? Name? Truly unimportant to raiders. So it’s good that wing 6 is basically a bunch of mechanics heavy bosses in themed rooms.

    2. Wow, if that is spam then *giggles* that's some fun spam :) Unicorn Spam possibly.

    3. The first comment follows the exact format of a particular type of spam but it doesn't have a link to anything so I'm going to assume it's genuine. In which case, um... thanks. Or something.

      I didn't even mention the raid because as Jeromai suggests raids are pretty much their own game and audience in GW2. Might as well be a standalone spin-off. The other big part of the update I didn't mention is the upgradeable armor, because I haven't found it yet. There's a lead-in to it from the story but I haven't run into the NPC that sells/starts it. I probably need to check Dulfy.


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