Saturday, September 22, 2018

Soft Kitty: GW2

No, I'm not going to talk about the story. Way too soon, although it's irritating the bejezus out of me, having to keep quiet.

Spoilers are a problem, though. Even with the story safely tucked away behind the velvet curtain of secrecy, it's still impossible to talk about the update as a whole - the new map (Jahai Bluffs) the personal instance (Sun's Refuge), or the upgradeable armor collection - without spoiling something.

Partly, that's because Guild Wars 2's A Star To Guide Us is far and away the most complex and complete update ArenaNet has given us for a very long time. In some ways it feels more like a mini-expansion than a regular episode of the Living Story.

I'll leave it to someone else (Jeromai, maybe) to look into the intricacies of the new Raid. I'm also not going to discuss the new Legendary weapon, except to say that someone in my larger guild had already finished it an hour after the update came out, or so I was told. Not sure if that's an endorsement or a criticism.

Have you ever looked at a tornado and thought "I bet I could ride that!" ?

Better I talk about things where I have at least a little personal experience. There's plenty going on that I am doing without casting my net over trivia I'll never touch, like Raids and Legendaries. A ridiculous amount, in fact. Just look at the Dulfy entry for the "Full House" achievement to get some idea of the scope.

Full House is a portmanteau Achievement for completing all the other Achievements - the upgrade paths and collections associated with the combined second home and nuclear fallout shelter, the aforementioned Sun's Refuge. At a certain point in the story you get gifted the keys to this underground bunker and it's then up to you to blow away the cobwebs (that's not a metaphor) and invite a few hundred of your closest friends and allies (most of whom you never met before) to come set up home there.

You do know there's a gaping great hole in the roof, right? And dragons can fly?

So far all I have managed to do is persuade a Djinn to move in with me (that always goes well...) and open a massive, steel vault door. Oh, and pay some random NPC five gold for no discernable benefit to me.

To get the Djinn in I had to complete a group event, something I did by accident, which is the best way to do anything in Tyria. I learned a little about Djinns in the process but not as much as I'd like. Djinns are an under-developed race and the wiki is certainly uninformative.

In this event there are two, with a rivalry going back centuries or maybe millennia. I turned up in the middle so I was a little lost on the plot but I found the dialog engaging and involving. Like much of this episode it was also a tad on the bleak side with an effective mood change towards the climax. Whoever's writing this stuff must have shares in Kleenex.

Grief affects people differently.
The event also raised more questions than it answered, pretty much the signature trope of GW2 for six years now. I've long ago given up expecting clear answeres to 90 per cent of anything. I quite like not knowing. It allows for a lot of speculation and pondering, which is a kind of player-generated content, in a way.

In this case, the unanswered question is how a Djinn came to be Branded by the Elder dragon Kralkatorrik. Djinns are supposed to be immune to that effect. It does suggest that, having acquired the powers of two other Elder dragons (I think that's right - he got something from both Zhaitan and Mordremoth, if I'm remembering the plot correctly), the crystal dragon is beginning to break the physical laws of his own universe.

The event ended successfully and I hung around for a while, partly becasuse I was curious and partly because someone said in map chat "if you haven't got the Djinn for your instance, go talk to him". This, incidentally, this right here, is why it's impossible to go back to single-player RPGs once you've experienced online games with other players. Or it is for me.

Waiter! Waiter! There's a hare in my soup!

As it turned out I didn't even need to speak to the Djinn. He spoke to me and I gladly accepted his offer to come join my not-so-merry little band of grim survivalists in our heavily fortified hole. Once installed, naturally, he had some projects he wanted my help completing. Don't they all?

One of the first things I did after I took possession of my firelit cavern was to go round and interview everyone with a symbol over their head. In other MMORPGs this would be called "getting the quests" but we famously don't have "quests" in GW2 because we're all humpty dumpties here.

Whatever we call them, there are a lot and they are all on the lengthy side. There are eight separate, substantial quests to upgrade the instance plus another enormous to-do list that comes attached to the new, upgradeable armor set.
Is it just me or are things getting a little HoT around here?
The good part is that, having scanned the walkthroughs, they all appear to be eminently doable. They mostly ressemble previous quests I've enjoyed such as the Cadalbolg, Roller Beetle or Griffon, rather than the interminable, gated grind of something like Mawdry or the new-style legendaries.

At first I couldn't find the armor quest. I could see the correct NPC but she wouldn't talk to me. Apparently you have to exit the instance and come back. When I returned later she was more communicative. And also extremely depressed. With very good reason.

Tell me who did it and I'll get 'em for you!

She'd learned that the shrines she'd built to commemorate her dead lover had been vandalized, because GW2 is nothing if not a barrel of laughs right now, as I might have mentioned. By chance I had already happened upon the vandal in the very act.

I'd had strong words with them but the game offered me no option to do what I wanted to do, which was to boot the bastard off the cliff where we were handily standing. It seemed odd at the time but now I understand why. I didn't have the right quest.

GW2, with its dynamic events and invisible, hot join grouping mechanics, does a better job than most MMORPGs of presenting an organic, living world but quests, whatever you call them, are quests. If you're not on the right step then it's not going to happen.

In stark contrast, opening the vault door had no pre-reqs. It required nothing more than five random drops. Runes, no less. I forget if we've had runes before in GW2 but we have them now and they fit in the slots just like you'd expect.

At first I thought they came out of the chests you get at the end of events so I went and did the New, New Shatterer several times. I call him the New, New Shatterer because we already have the New Shatterer, who replaced the Old Shatterer ages ago.

Dragon down!

The New New Shatterer is tough. Most of the attempts failed. He clearly needs an organized map or at least a good guild at the core of the zerg. We did get him once, though, which popped a bunch of achievements for me.

The runes, as it happens, don't drop in the big chest anyway. They're random drops off anything. I got my last one from a grawl. What grawl are doing on the map beats me but Jahai Bluffs has a bit of everything, from a gorgeous, pocket Heart of Thorns zone to a chunk of another planet that might possibly be Haight-Ashbury circa the Summer of Love.

The colors, man!

That last one also features both the update's most quoted line of dialog and its greatest tease. (The line comes in the story so I won't spoil it, although you'll be lucky to dodge hearing it several times in map chat as you explore Jahai, not to mention in the title of this post...). As for the tease, well, as I suggested last time, nothing is forever. I'm taking Scarlet's cameo here as a hint if not as a promise.

Something's not right here...

With the runes all slotted, the vault door swung open. I was hoping, somewhat prosaically, there'd be an actual bank inside but what I got was a lot more interesting, if less pragmatically useful. Behind the battleship steel doors lies a foliage-filled room, strongly reminding me of other enclaves of nature hidden in obscure corners of Tyria.

The walls are studded with plaques, some readable, others not. The place is evidently sacred to some god or other. My knowledge of the Tyrian pantheon is woefully incomplete but if this were Norrath it would certainly be a shrine dedicated to Tunare.

There's also a Splendid Chest at the back, just like you'd find at the top of a jumping puzzle and with just as underwhelming contents. Mrs Bhagpuss tells me the runes vanish after a while and the door closes again. I'm guessing this is something that resets daily so you can do it over and over.

Before I opened the door this had been a sealed, pitch-black room for hundreds of years. And yet it's filled with plants.

When the door first opened some NPC behind me expressed a concern that I might get trapped inside and suffocate. That didn't happen but it did remind me of the strange thing that did happen to me in a hole in one of the cliffs on the main map.

There's a very large unbound magic node in the cliffside cave. You can see it from miles away. Unbound magic is a currency so everyone heads straight towards any obvious conglomeration to grab it and stuff their pockets. When you grab that particular stash the entrance instantly seals with rock, leaving you trapped in a 10x10 room with no discernable exit. Just as well we have waypoints.

That apparently meaningless but oddly immersive incident is emblematic of the attention to detail lavished on the entire map. So far I feel I've barely scratched the surface of Jahai Bluffs, let alone the whole update. There's enough content here to keep me busy for a week or two if I were to go at it hard and a month or two if, as I most likely will, I just pick away at it when I'm in the mood.

In the words of Donna Summer, could it be magic?

There's not only a lot more here than usual that I could do, there's a lot more I'd like to do. Chances are I'll wander off and get distracted before I finish most of it (I still have plenty of unfinished content from Heart of Thorns...) but at least it's there to begin with. That's a huge improvement over what I've come to expect in the last year or so.

Is this really the best place you could find to hang your washing?

And that's quite enough praise for now. I'm off to look for more children's books to fill my bookcase. That's what I call an adventure!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide