Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Go-Go-Go-Go, Go Rocket Roll-Roll-Roll-Roll: GW2

When ArenaNet added the sixth mount, the Roller Beetle, to Guild Wars 2's increasingly bizarre stable, I described it as like riding "a souped-up, ride-on mower". I also praised the collection required to add it to your account as "enjoyable, well-paced and satisfying".

I imagined the reason the thing was in the game at all was mostly to add some short-term bridging content between major releases. I thought it would hang around with the rest of  the Side Story stuff, providing background content for newer players, when they trickle in. It also had the benefits of being both a nostalgic nod to the original Guild Wars and handy peg on which to hang yet more Gem Store skin sales.

What I didn't imagine, even in my most feverish dreams, was that the ridiculous creature would come to be the centerpiece of one of the game's bigest marketing pushes in a long while. Today's patch added Roller Beetle Race Courses to six maps, together with a slew of Achievements and in-game rewards, supported by a month-long sweepstake featuring prizes worth thousands of dollars.

As I've mentioned before, I love races. As I've also mentioned, I hate GW2's mounts. Paradox! Conundrum! Impasse!

Well, not really. My major objection to mounts is the damper they put on Mrs Bhagpuss's gameplay. She can't use them at all. I don't like them but I can deal with them when I have to. If it's a choice between mounting up and racing or standing glumly on the sidelines watching, I'll get my saddle.

In the course of a couple of hours I've tried the races in Diessa Plateau, Snowden Drifts, Gendarran Fields and Mount Maelstrom, as well as the training run in Kessex Hills. Just Brisban Wildlands to go. They vary enormously in length and difficulty, the two factors not necessarily being connected.

The main feature is competitive racing, on a schedule I have yet to work out. I've done three of those. The first timed out before I finished because I started late. I still got a reward, which was unexpected. I managed to finish the other two within the time allowed but about fifty people got there ahead of me.

I suspect it's going to have to be a slow day, say midweek, around 3am Pacific, with a major event going on somewhere in the game, before I place for points. First day of Wintersday or a Living Story episode might be a plan.

As well as actual races, every course has a time trial you can start at will and repeat as often as you like, although you only get rewarded for the first time you hit the benchmark times. They use the familiar Race/Adventure UI and offer Bronze, Silver and Gold rewards. As yet, the six time trials are not even close in terms of challenge. Whether the easy ones will be toughened up or, more likely, the harder ones toned down we'll find out soon enough but so far I've racked up two Silvers and two Golds.

The Golds came in the training run, which is as simple as you'd expect, and in Gendarran Fields, a long course that I found very straightforward. I got Gold on my second try.

The first Silver came from Diessa, which was also the first time trial I tried. It's another longish course; a little harder.  I got Bronze on my second run out but it took three or four more goes to get Silver. I didn't attempt Gold but it looked possible.

The second was in Snowden, which is vicious. It took me more than a dozen attempts just to get Bronze and I almost left it at that. It's a very short course but the hairpin turns are ferociously hard to handle on the inertia-driven beetle. I found myself missing gates on every run, sometimes launching myself into space and landing so far away I couldn't even find the track.

Because it's so short, there's no time to correct mistakes and you can't afford to take it slowly. It was the busiest track by far and map chat was filled with cursing and complaints the whole time I was there. I did eventually manage to scrape a Silver but I wouldn't even contemplate going for Gold. I would bet that the Gold target time, currently 32 seconds, gets pushed back to 35 seconds in a hot-fix soon. I'll wait for that and even then I'm not sure I'll do it.

Mount Maelstrom is both very long and very tough. I have yet to get Bronze on a time trial although I have successfully completed the three lap race within the time limit. I've heard that Brisban is harder still. I can't say I'm looking forward to finding out.

Given that this is optional content - it's included under Side Stories, after all - you might imagine people who don't enjoy it would just skip it. Most won't. They'll do it and hate it because it has Achievements attached and a significant number of Achievement Points to go with them. Also titles and a Racing Scarf. This sort of thing matters.

Even for those who aren't AP junkies, there's a vendor selling Endless Tonics including Fancy Cats and Dogs as well as other desirable bits and pieces. GW2 players live for this kind of thing. The prices are on the steep side - 350 Racing Medallions each for the tonics, for example. I have 89 medallions for my efforts so far, the bulk of which came from completing Achievements. Once those are all done it's down to the repeatables and the competitive racing.

At the risk of repeating myself, I like racing. I can imagine running enough races to get 350 tokens - once. I may well need to do it again for Mrs Bhagpuss, if there's something she wants. The races are permanent content, so there's no rush and if they were foot races, like Sanctum Sprint, I could easily see myself whiling away many hours on a weekend, doing laps and racking up the rewards.

The Roller Beetle isn't helping, though. It's annoying enough to make more than a few runs feel like hard work. I wonder if it checks what mount you're using? If you just want to finish, the Griffin or the Raptor would be a lot easier on those tight turns.

I suspect this is going to be one of the very many additions to GW2 that I quickly forget exists at all. There's a long list of those and it includes plenty of things I really liked when they were introduced, like the Cadalbolg Collections, for example.

I'll try to keep at it at least for the next month. I'll have a go at doing a race or two on every account. I could do with a new car. Or a new PC. Or $8000.

Let's be honest: I'd be happy enough if I won a new mousepad.


  1. I don't think they check what mount you are using. It would be the first time. All the other races you can finish on foot or with another mount. Also i think i read somewhere on reddid that you can finish on foot or another mount if you are thrown of a rented beetle.

    1. Yes, I got knocked off and was in combat and I ran through two checkpoints, both of which updated. I meant to go back and test it on a raptor but i ended up playing EQ2 all evening. I'll give it a go tomorrow.

  2. I will admit that after the haloween racing course, I was pretty skeptical - but the 2 I tried (Gendarran and Diessa) were quite fun! I plan on trying a few more tonight! And, I didn't even know there was a sweepstakes :)

    1. I've tried all the courses now. Gendarran and Diessa are the easiest and the most enjoyable. Snowden is tough but very short. Mount Maelstrom and Brisban are both very long and very hard, with a significant chance to get knocked off by mobs or lava or to get hopelessly stuck on roots or trees. Three laps of Maelstrom or Brisban (the length of a race) is going to take even the winner about seven minutes. I just barely scraped home in Brisban tonight with about 5 seconds to spare from the 10 minute timer!

  3. The racing dailies are also a good way to earn medallions for the month, i think they are like 15 for completing all 3 and 5 for each. I stop trying for gold, just got silver for the achievements bar ace, and then doing dailies to get the mini and probably the choya tonic.

    1. Yes, I spotted the dailies yesterday. Also I seemed to get another reward for doing a Bronze-level speed run on a track where I'd already ticked that box, suggesting you can get that every day, too. It's starting to look quite reasonable.


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