Thursday, March 10, 2022

I'm Going To Need A Bigger Boat

Less than two weeks after the launch of Guild Wars 2's third expansion, End of Dragons, I find myself in the unexpected position of feeling as if I've almost finished it. Given that it took ArenaNet nearly four and a half years to produce and that they've only managed three expansions in a decade, that would present a serious problem for me as a regular player. If it was true.

It's not true, of course. As I said, it just feels that way. It's just that I seem to have done a lot by this stage, compared to what I remember from the first two expansions. So far, I've

  • Finished the storyline.
  • Got the 250 Hero Points required to open all the skills on the new Elementalist specialization, Catalyst.
  • Completed map exploration on two of the four new maps, with the third almost finished.
  • Gained enough Mastery Points to complete the full Mastery lines for the three that interest me, Fishing, Skiff Piloting and Jade Bots

For many GW2 players that would barely count as a scratch on the surface but for me it already completes most of the vague goals I had in mind when the expansion launched. I'm not really a "goals" kind of player but even I need some kind of loose framework to keep my whims and fancies in check.

I didn't pay a lot of attention to the promotional push for EoD. I didn't watch any of the livestreams or follow any of the discussions on the forums or Reddit. I didn't play most of the so-called "betas" which, as far as I could see, consisted mostly of running around the live game exploiting a bunch of half-tested new abilities in whatever way would annoy other players as much as possible. I did try out the new Elementalist weapon, hammer, for all of five minutes but that was it.

Running flat-out!

Coming in, about all I knew about the storyline was the title of the expansion itself, which I figured had to be some kind of clue. I also knew we were getting some kind of boats called skiffs and that there would be fishing, possibly from those self-same skiffs. 

Other than that there would be an indeterminate number of new maps, I was guessing four or five, and a whole bunch of stuff I didn't give a damn about, like new Legendary weapons, the stupid turtle thing and some hub zone you were expected to waste time building up until it was nearly as good as whatever hub zone you were already in the habit of using.

The whole thing seemed less than thrilling. I figured I'd pick away at it over a few months, slowly fill out the few bits that interested me, then maybe, if it was any good, go back a few times with other characters over the next few years until ANet ponied up either a fourth expansion or Guild Wars 3.

What I didn't expect was to find the story both interesting and accessible enough that I wanted to finish it in a series of big bites. Nor was I imagining the maps would be so enjoyable to explore I'd find myself so close to map completion just poking around that it seemed rude not to finish.

Does the attitude come with the spec?

If I had any plans at all for becoming a Catalyst they revolved around playing World vs World enough to get the 250 points I needed there, which is what Mrs. Bhagpuss is doing. There's a handy vendor who sells them for the Testimonies of Jade Heroics you can get out of skirmish chests, dozens of which I stack up in a normal week's play anyway.

As for the Masteries, I liked the sound of the skiff and fishing seemed like something I might enjoy (Although I think, if we're honest, we'd probably all have to admit that fishing in most mmorpgs is hardly thrilling.) The one I was probably most interested in was the Jade Bot Mastery, if only for the on-call updraft it was supposed to add to gliding.

Based on my previous experiences, I didn't expect the mastery points to be all that difficult to come by but to get enough for three full masteries would, I thought, take either some time or some effort or most probably both. I seem to remember taking quite a few weeks to get enough points for the ones I wanted in HoT and working quite hard at it, too.

In retrospect, HoT, my benchmark for Masteries, now looks like something of an outlier. To fully complete all five Heart of Thorns mastery tracks requires 142 Mastery points. Path of Fire only asks for about half of that. End of Dragons probably comes between the two but a lot closer to PoF than HoT.

Someone really likes the idea of hiding mastery points on ledges. I  must have found a dozen at least.

If I sound uncertain on that it's because one of my End of Dragons' Mastery tracks is still locked. I do not have access to the Stupid Turtle. That suits me fine because I don't want the idiotic creature. I would rather have a Mastery track that allowed me to hide the damn thing on my screen when anyone else was using it. That would be a Mastery worth having!

As of now, Turtle Blight isn't a big problem in GW2. The big controversy of the expansion is the way access to the two-seater eyesore is gated behind the Dragon's End meta, a massive event that until several recent nerfs almost no-one could finish. Now it's been bug-fixed and toned down and a lot of people still can't finish it. Even if they can, then they have to do a hard mode strike mission...

From an entirely selfish point of view, that should at least keep the number of turtles to a manageable level for a while longer. They will be a huge problem when everyone has them. I saw my very first siege turtle at The Maw last night. The player riding it parked it right on the Shaman and it was so big you couldn't see the boss at all.

From an objective point of view, though, the hoops players are being asked to jump through to get the thing are ludicrous, something that seems to be a theme of the expansion. I looked at the Collection for the Catalyst specialist weapon today and was stunned to find out it requires you to complete the storyline as a Catalyst. 

 And if it can be in a hidden room off a ledge, even better!

Since I just completed the storyline as an Elementalist, that means I'd have to do the entire storyline again, on the same character! And then, if I wanted to get the specialist weapon for the other eight classes, I'd have to do the bloody thing eight more times!

Unsurprisingly, there's a thread about that, too. I would be surprised if there aren't adjustments to both issues over time, although ANet can be both extremely stubborn and glacially slow, so it might not be this year.

Luckily for me, neither issue is crucial or even tangential to my enjoyment of the game at the moment. It does speak badly of the underlying design, though, with many players already suspecting shenanigans. Like Wilhelm, I tend to favor cock-up over conspiracy but I guess we shouldn't really be surprised. In a game known for its soul-destroying grinds, what are a few more?

My own grind, such as it is, looks set to focus on xp, at least in the immediate future. I may have the Mastery Points I need, thirty-two of them at time of writing, but I also need another seven full bars of EoD experience to spend them all. Filling xp bars is something I enjoy so that's not likely to be a problem and seven "levels" shouldn't take more than a few sessions.

All worth having, I think, if only for the exta 2,500 hit points each one adds to your skiff. I've been sunk by sea creatures three times already today.

The real problem is going to be what then? I have a couple of minor goals - getting my two rangers their new pets, for example - and I guess I might fill out the mastery for that hub zone just for convenience. 

After that there's the question of which, if any, of the other classes I care enough about to get the Hero Points for the Specializations. I hear the Engineer spec, the Mechanist, is good. In fact, what I hear is that it's so good it's due a massive nerf. I should probably get that before ANet sand it down and take off all the sharp edges. 

If I'm realistic, though, despite having all the classes, some of them multiple times (There are eleven characters on my EoD account.) I spend about 90% of my time playing my Ele and I'm more than happy with the Tempest build she uses already. I just finished all the EoD content I listed above in that spec so why would I want to change it?

I do sometimes play one or other of my two rangers, one in the base game Ranger configuration, the other as a Druid, so I'll probably try the new Untamed spec for one of them. In fact, as I check on it now it seems that's required to get the new pets so I guess I'll have no choice but to get it for both.

Yes, it's a PoF pet. I only got it yesterday, four years late. It took EoD to remind I'd never gotten round to it.

That probably just leaves the Necromancer, whose new spec is the Harbinger, which is, at least, a decent name. I did try to play as both a Reaper and a Scourge, the two previous specs, but I got bored of both after a while and went back to Core Necro. Chances are the same will happen this time.

Other than going round and round the maps grabbing the same Hero Points over and over (Actually a more appealing prospect for me than I'm making it sound.) there's also Fishing to consider. If I'm bothering to master the skill, shouldn't I use it as well?

Fishing's one of those things, though, isn't it? It turns up in pretty much ever mmorpg ever made, eventually. If it's not there at the start you can bet someone will get around to adding it later. 

I first encountered it in EverQuest, where it was a single key press and a random result, a limitation that didn't stop most of us enjoying it anyway. EQ fishing got fleshed out a lot more later, with bait and tackle boxes and hooks and all sorts but it never turned into the kind of mini-game players expect in their mmorpgs today.

Finally! A use for all these jetties and piers.

GW2's fishing looks to be aligned with the industry standard. Lots of fish of different kinds and qualities, different baits and lures you can use, a variety of difficulties in sundry locations. You can use the fish for recipes and every new species you catch goes into a collection. 

Catching the fish or losing it depends on your skill with one of those mini-games I mentioned. It's about as enjoyable as any of them. I spent an hour or so fishing in various seas and lakes across Tyria this afternoon. I was planning on writing a whole post about it but then I ended up writing this one instead. In my experience that's what always happens when I sit down to write a post about fishing in an mmorpg. If anyone really wants to know how it works, I recommend this guide.

It was enough fun that I can imagine carrying long enough on to fill out those collections. That should keep me busy for a while. I think I have enough mini-goals to keep me going and no doubt new ones will occur to me as I play.

I don't think it'll be like Heart of Thorns, where I played non-stop, taking character after character through the maps and the weapon specs, but it's not going to be one and done like Path of Fire either. I think End of Dragons is settling down to be a nice, cosy, middle of the road experience, which I suppose is what you might have expected from an expansion that listed Fishing and Messing Around In Boats as two of its key features.

Just so long as you weren't expecting an easy ride on that turtle, I think it's going to be fine.


  1. You don't like reaper (not reaver btw)?!?!
    Going around mowing down mobs with a greatsword and reaper scythe is crazy fun - you just keep moving forward until everything else is dead, then you check your health and see you have 2k hp left which means every other class would have died and the people in your party are saying you are crazy.

    1. I knew Reaver sounded wrong when I typed it. I meant to check but forgot. I'm going to change it now which is going to make these comments look weird but there you go.

      I barely remember it, to be honest. I played it back in HoT but about the only thing that sticks in my mind is that it felt a bit clunky. I don't think I disliked it, I just preferred the core Necro. To be honest, with the exception of Tempest, which I only prefer for the incredibly powerful Overloads, I like all the core classes a lot more than any of the Elite specs. Part of it is laziness - I can't be bothered to learn the new tricks - but mostly I think ANet came up with the best versions first time around and now we're getting the also-rans.

    2. I have to agree that some of the EoD specs seem quite bland. Not all.

      I wonder how long they will be able to keep churning out elite specs, since as you say, the core versions cover many of fantasy niches.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide