Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Summer Forever: GW2

Unless I missed a memo, we still don't know who's in charge at ArenaNet. Let me re-phrase that: we know someone called John Taylor is "the (top) game director at ArenaNet" according to Massively OP, but we have no clue who he is or what his plans are, since he doesn't seem to want to talk to anyone.

ANet's P.R. department has been doing a pretty fair job of whipping up interest in the ageing game without his help. More importantly from a players' perspective, Guild Wars 2 has improved quite noticeably during his elusive tenure. I guess that's a lot better than making big promises and breaking them. Long may he keep his counsel.

Yesterday we got a suggestion of what the game can expect over the summer - or "Q3" as whoever designed the graphic unromantically chose to call it. That does smack a little of someone's draft being sent to press by mistake but maybe it's supposed to come across all businesslike.

There are five events for us to look forward to over the next three months. That should impress those who only, or mainly, play GW2. It's certainly an improvement on some previous Tyrian summers. It looks a little thin to me but as an EverQuest II player I'm probably spoiled. 

Sitting in judgment.

Icebrood Saga Episode 4.

Due towards the end of this month. I've heard mention of the twenty-fifth.

Based on the first three episodes (and the prelude) I'm cautiously optimistic. I confess I can't really see any substantive difference between the "Saga" format and the previous "Living World" or whatever we were calling it back then, but I can very definitely perceive a difference in quality.

All of the episodes so far have been enjoyable. The story, although it has its peculiarities, has almost made sense and the gameplay has been a major improvement. Whoever is calling the shots seems to have finally worked out who the core audience for the story-driven part of the game is and at least tried to tailor the difficulty accordingly.

If ANet ever decide to add real housing this Drizzlewood lighthouse would make a great Prestige home.
 The last episode added a new map that attempts to merge World vs World gameplay with PvE content and makes a pretty fair job of it. Unlike most of the new maps we saw in the previous season, most of which I never explored fully even once, I've been back to Drizzlewood Coast several times. Mrs Bhagpuss even gave the meta a few runs, which I don't think she's done in any new map for years.

This new episode is also coming to us in very good time. There'll be exactly two months between it and the last one. The upcoming, as yet unnamed episode, like the previous "No Quarter", will be text-only thanks to the continuing impact of the pandemic. I wonder if the absence of voice acting is responsible for the fast turnaround?

Festival of Four Winds.

Since their welcome, if unexpected, return from holiday limbo in 2018, the Zephyrite celebrations seem to be slipping deeper into the summer, year by year. This time around, the festival slides out of July altogether, not turning up until "the first half of August".

I loved this event the first time, back in 2014, when it appeared as a one-off episode of the Living Whatever.  When it encored four years later it came slightly reduced but also melded with another much-missed carnival, Queen Jennah's tournament in the Crown Pavilion. The combination feels like a somewhat random two-for-one offer in which the very different celebrations sit a little uncomfortably beside each other.

There's plenty of entertainment to be had all the same, with the endless fights in the Pavilion offering some good drop-in boss-bashing, provided you can grab onto the tails of a competent tag. After multiple rounds in the Hoelbrak Hologram arena during Dragon Bash these last couple of weeks I can't say the thought of fighting Jennah's champions fills me with excitement but maybe the "new rewards" we're promised will change that when August comes.

GW2's Eighth Anniversary

Has it been that long? Easily. It feels longer. I find it quite hard to remember a time when I didn't play Guild Wars 2. I've logged in just about every day since early access in 2012.

I'm looking forward to getting my present on the 25th. No doubt the contents will go in the bank with the previous seven years of freebies. I have seventeen characters on three accounts and they all have birthdays and they all get exactly the same gifts. There are only so many minis of Queen Jennah you can find a use for (the precise number being zero in my case).

New hat, new coat, new dyes.
Just this month, I started to think about opening some of the dozens, scores, of anniversary and other gift boxes that clog up the bank on my main account. I've bought all the vault expansions ANet are willing to sell me so the only choices left are to buy another character slot to make a bank mule (never works, I always end up playing them) or clearing some of the last eight years' worth to make space for more years to come.

I did open some dye boxes recently. I rarely bother because I change my characters' looks so rarely and anyway I have signature colors for everyone I play regularly. At least dyes are consumables so when you open them they disappear. The reason half the boxes in my banks are there in the first place is that I know if I open them what pops out will take up even more slots because it won't stack. It's Tyrian Catch 22.

New Mount Ability

Although the infographic pulls it out as a separate event, the text of the press release reveals the new mount ability is also one of the birthday treats. "One of your mounts is harboring an undiscovered talent" apparently, which I have to say sounds more like a threat than a promise.

Many open world events are now all but inaccessible to players without mounts. This one's barely manageble with them.

Unless one of the misbegotten beasts has learned to manoeuvre without wallowing like a tramp steamer in a Force Ten gale, I'm really not interested. Mounts are, at best, an annoyingly necessary evil but mostly a bloody nuisance. They frequently ruin what would otherwise be enjoyable aspects of the game, the current Hologram Stampedes being a case in point.

New Fractal

Last on the list, something else that doesn't interest me in the least: a new fractal. Fractals are a part of the game I've successfully managed to avoid so far and long may that continue. It's considerably more likely that I'll engage with new Strike Missions than with fractals, although I don't plan on making a habit of that, either.

I'll take a Strike Mission over a Fractal.

Still, it's a big game with lots of variety and fractals have their constituency. I'm sure there are plenty of people who'll be happy to have somewhere new to do whatever it is they do in there.

All in all it looks like a reasonable timetable for the summer months. I've had GW2 firmly on the back burner for quite a while now. I can't imagine a real flare-up of interest this side of the proposed third expansion and that won't be with us until after next summer, I'm sure, but for now this should keep things simmering away quite nicely.

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