WubWub Pink Power: WvWvW Mesmer Guide Part 1

Asuran Greatsword

Pack a big sword and Portal Bomb to PVP Heaven

WvWvW As A Mesmer

This post will hopefully help players with tips on how to play a Mesmer in WvWvW and also go over the two builds I use in WvWvW as a Mesmer. I will first link two builds I use, along with a summary of their purpose and playstyle, and then go over how I play these builds in different WvWvW situations.

The Phantasm Mes

http://www.guildhead.com/skill-calc#mcmz0mzzMmanbomLnboaG0pVcMmzR9M8kiC707kiG

The above link will take you a rough sketch of the build. You may recognize the Greatsword and Sword/Focus combo. These two sets are quite common in WvWvW, though a lot of Mesmers run them with a shatter based build. I do not for I find the Phantasm build to be more suited for sieges and zergs. The following rundown of the build will be based on the status of the build before the December 3rd patch which removed the quick-attacking Phantasms. As of now, this build is not as effective as the Shatter build, but once they put Phantasm attacks at a .25 delay the build should begin to function properly again.

The key traits for this build are Empowered Illusions, Phantasmal Strength, Phatasmal Fury, Sharper Images, and Warden’s Feedback. Other parts of the trait setup you can switch around a bit, but I feel the traits I listed are highly important to the build. With these traits you get 30% damage increase from your Phantasms, constant crits from your Phantasms which lead to bleed stacking, and you get easy access to projectile reflects from your Focus skills. This means that dropping a Warden at the head of an opposing zerg will create a whirling reflect bubble that will cause a zerg to back off or die within the fury of its own arrows.

Other traits you may consider are Greatsword Training or Compounding Power. You can shift trait points around to acquire these or sacrifice one of the main traits for one of them. I originally had Greatsword Training, but dropped it in favor of other traits. I found having better access to Leap/Swap and Blurred Frenzy a greater tool than more frequent access to the Berserker or the knockback on Greatsword.

Your utilities in this build allow you escape and stealth through Decoy and Blink. If you get snared, especially by a Warrior or Ele, you can blink out and away to safety. You can also use Blink at the start of any journey between nodes to quickly cover distances. Mirrored Feedback is for siege and zerg fights, allowing you to reflect damage back at doors or at bridges. Cycling through Feedback, Warden and Curtain can effectively cutoff any bridge you are fighting at. Blink,Feedback or Decoy can be swapped out with Portal for doing Portal Bombs. In certain situations, swapping Mass Invisibility for Time Warp as your elite is pretty important.

The Shattering Reflect Mes

http://www.guildhead.com/skill-calc#mcmmzMczMmaLnomMLnoaa0GxzmzRzmq8kiH707khd7kiG

This is a shatterbomb Mes, but it carries Scepter/Sword as its secondary weapon set. you may see other shatter Mesmbers that carry Greatsword or Staff as their second weapon set. The reason this Mesmer carries Scepter/Sword is for the two block skills. What this Mesmer build does is reflect and block a lot of incoming damage. You can see that it features the same Inspiration trait line setup as the Phantasm Mesmer, but also carries a full Illusion line with Illusionary Persona and Masterful Reflection.

What I. Persona and Masterful Reflection do is allow you to do the usual shatter bomb and then follow it up with a Distortion bomb. After a full distortion shatter, you have 4 seconds where you are invulnerable and any projectiles aimed at you or in which you are along the path of are reflected back at their source. This makes you an unstoppable reflect circle within the battle. You can help push a group forward with a full Distortion Shatter as well, giving your group a moving relfection bubble for 4 seconds at the start of a push, then following it with Blurred Frenzy to allow yourself a second of further invuln to have your group catch up to you and then blink or portal back away out harms way.

Just as an aesthetic note, the Masterful Reflection trait comes with its own unique spell effect that differs fromt he Distortion effect. This can clue in your allies that you are in invuln & reflect status.

Your utilities are similar to the Phantasm build with Mirror Images added and Decoy removed. You can swap Blink with Decoy to put out more clones for shatters if you want, but I do often find Blink vital to escape and movement. For the purposes of Portal bombs, I replaced Feedback or Blink with Portal, but rarely Mirrored Images as the clone factory element of Mirrored Images is so important to the build. As with the other build, Mass Invis can be swapped for Time Warp depending on situational use.

Using Your Mesmer Within A Siege

If you are defending a wall against a siege, you can use your reflect skills at the head of a zerg or on Flame Rams at the door you are defending to reflect projectiles back at the attacking group. Always be careful of not spending a prolonged time at the edge of a wall to do this or you may be pulled off the edge and down into the battle. If you are yanked off the edge then make sure to quickly blink towards portal near your door or blink away and follow with a Decoy or Mass Invis. If the enemy is setting up a line of catapaults or trebuchets to hit your walls and doors, you can drop a Portal at a safe spot behind the wall (On the stairs for example) and then stealth into the middle of the siege array and drop the portal exit, allowing you to quickly move an army to the primary target. [See The Mesmer Zerg below.]

If you are attacking a wall with a siege then you can be the one yanking players off of walls and into the maw of fury and death of your siege. The key to doing this is setting your Temporal Curtain spell at the top of a wall where you can see enemies attacking and then triggering the second part of your 4 key spell Into the Void and yanking multiple foes off the wall and down below. Otherwise, swap your Mass Invis Elite skill for Time Warp as you approach a door. If your siege is using Flame Rams then pop Time Warp as soon as the Flame Rams are built. If your siege is using Golems then swap in both Time Warp and Portal and wait until all Golems are portaled in. Once all your golems are portaled in you can drop a Time Warp on top of them.

The Mesmer Zerg

The rules of using your Mes in a large battle where one side is fghting another upon a more open battlefield is much like how you use your Mesmer within a siege except that you portal far more often, and more at a whims notice. Instead of waiting for a Golem to show to portal, you lay your portals within the battle field, first (Portal Entre) at the back or middle of your group and then second (Portal Exit) in the middle of your enemies group. Sometimes you can put your Portal Exit at the side of an enemy group to flank or in certain cases behind the enemy group to pincer. The pincer is often very effective at break a zerg v zerg stalemate by splitting up the opposing group with ocnfusion. Half of your group is at the back defending the line, while the other half materializes behind the enemy boxing them in. The resulting chaos of the suddenly split force can often lead to your enemies splitting in multiple directions and de-turtling their turtle.

The turtle concept is based upon the AOE rules of the game, where AOE skills can often hit a max of 5 enemies. By grouping up in a turtle, it limits the amount of allies a single aoe can hit within its radius. For if there are 30 allies within a radius that an AOE can only hit 5 allies therein the radius, the turtle has saved a sixth of your allies from damage. The portal’s purpose then is to surround the turtle, pincer it quickly and cuase enough confusion to split it. If the pincer tactic doesn’t work then the portal bomb into the middle of the turtle will often cause chaos along with triggering the dreaded culling effect.

Culling is what happens in the game when too many targets appear within the same area. Culling makes the targets furthest from the player invisible. This lightens the load on each packet carrier so that the game can continue to function with minimal lag and framerate loss. The problem is that Portals create the culling effect at will and thus create an invisible army within the middle of a battlefield. This is great at portaling into a siege array of your enemy, but extremely frustrating for the other side as they can not see what is hitting them. This issue has made Thiefs and Mesmers popular due to stealth and portal skills triggering the effect on command.

The Mesmer’s Portal is still valuable within a zerg fight even without the culling issue being present. It still creates a sudden movement of reinforcements or allies that is valuable in winning a large battle. Key to this attack within the zerg is what I personally call the Mesmer Reflect Encounter rules.

The Encounter Rules

Reflect Encounter

The encounter rules graph to the left is a rough draw-up of the process I follow in a typical WvWvW encounter. The zero point marked by 0 on the image shows the player as the dark square shape. This is where the Mesmer player enters into the fight. In front of the Mesmer is an assortment of enemies marked as red circles. The closest enemy is marked with a 1 to signal them as initial or primary target. The secondary target is marked as an enemy to the far side of the first target, and the following targets are any group behind the initial target, marked by the number three. This creates a four step process, process the battlefield (0), acquire first target (1), check for secondary targets to your side and diagonal (2), check for targets behind your primary (3), and neutralize all targets.

If you notice those pink and purple marks on the graph you will see how I typically use my Mesmer skills. In both Mesmer builds I listed, there is a Sword & Focus weapon set, and that is the set used for this encounter graph. Your first encounter (1), uses your Phantasmal Warden. That is the W on the graph with a pink bubble around it. When you cast your Warden, it will often show up behind the target, but sometimes to the side or in front of the target. The Warden creates a reflect bubble  for you to to hide in while you melee away at your foe. So your opening attack will be casting a Warden on your target, followed by illusionary Leap, and then the following Swap skill to teleport and snare the target, and then finally Blurred Frenzy while your target is snared, following with basic Mind Stab attacks with the Sword primary spam attack. If done correctly, the Warden’s spin attack and bubble protection will be hitting at about the same time as your Blurred Frenzy channels. This creates a large damage spike on a single target or multiple melee range targets, while also providing invulnerability and reflection upon yourself and the target area.

If you see a secondary target to side or diagonal of your primary target then before Leaping into your primary target you cast Temporal Curtain infront of the Secondary target to reflect projectile damage back at them or to cripple them if they to engage you at melee range. (2)

If there is a second group behind the target or only a second target or gorup behind then you can cast the Temporal Curtain in front of them or cast Mirrored Feedback upon a foe within that group to reflect all projectiles from them back as you attack your primary target.

This allows you to engage three different enemies at once before even switching to your second weapon set.  I’ll go over the graph and process again.

Reflect Encounter

The Graph

  • Dark Square – The Mesmer
  • Red Circles – Enemies on the battlefield
  • Dark Lines – Movement steps via Leaps, Swaps, Blinks and good old fashioned running.
  • Light Pink W Circle- Your Warden and its Pink reflect Bubble
  • Pink Lines – Your Temporal Curtain lines
  • Dark Pink Circle – Mirrored Feedback AoE
  • Yellow Arrows – These are to note the way projectiles may reflect off your reflection spells. As you can see, the Warden is a circular outward reflection and the Mirrored Feedback bubble reflects projectiels back in, while the Temporal Curtains reflect directly backwards,
  • Numerals – The Process Steps

The Process

Zero Point is where you process your battlefield according to the graph.

  1. Find Primary Target and engage with Phantasmal Warden and Sword Leap –>  Swap.
  2. Identify Secondary Targets to your side or diagonal and neutralize them with Temporal Curtain
  3. Find next set or group of targets behind your primary target. Neutralize them with Mirrored Feedback or Temporal Curtain.
  4. Dispatch Primary Target after snare with damage spike from Blurred Frenzy and then proceed to Secondary Target.
  5. Disengage if you do not have the reinforcements with you to proceed onto further targets. Escape via blink, stealth, or portal.

Following this sort of thought process is how a Memser multiplies itself and makes great use of its tools to take on the fog of war in WvWvW. This process can be used within a large battleifled or within small skirmish encounters. The basic concept is to hit weak targets while protecting yourself and allies from the vast volleys of arrows and fireballs that litter the WvWvW battlefield.

Next up, Part Two!

This is an initial foray into my WvWvW Mesmer. Next up will be some ideas about playing the Memser as a skirmisher and yak-slapper.

How to Horizontal Boogie: Improve Traits Not Stats

The Outrage

If you’re a Guild Wars 2 player then you may have heard about the new Ascended gear added to the game with the Lost Shores patch released this past weekend. The release of information on a new tier of gear being added to the game caused a major uproar in the community. People have quit the game or are threatening to quit the game over the addition of new gear with better stats.

I think the first important thing to do is to present what Ascended gear is, how it will grow into the game, and why people are angry.

Tiers of Grief

Ascended armor has been explained as not a new higher tier, but a tier to bridge a gap between exotics and legendary items. What is new with Ascended gear is a stat increase over exotics and the infusion upgrade slot. The Ascended items themselves are unique, meaning that you likely cannot equip two of the same Ascended item, and in addition to this, the secondary stats of the items cannot be modified in the same way current items can.

The only types of Ascended gear in the game currently attainable are back pieces and accessories. Previously, each of these slot types of armor had an upgrade slot that could be interchanged with gems of various types and statistical benefits. In the case of Ascended gear, the upgrade stats are built into the item and cannot be changed.

Instead, Ascended items have infusion slots that can be changed, and come in different types. There are offensive, defensive and omni infusion slots. How this operates is not entirely known, but we have seen that the infusion slots can add Agony Resistance as well as stats like power, vitality and precision.

Agony is a new Damage over Time effect that occurs in the Fractals of the Mists dungeon starting at the level 10 difficulty tier. The Ascended items and the Fractals dungeon go hand-in-hand, as earning the items requires playing the Fractals dungeon, and so far the Fractal dungeon is the only place in game that has the Agony condition.

ArenaNet has stated that they plan to add more ways to acquire Ascended gear, including through WvWvW, but currently Fractals of the Mists is the only way. They also plan to slowly introduce each new type of Ascended item into the game piece by piece. There will be Ascended helms, shoulders and weapons, but these will be introduced months down the line.

Why They Scream You Lie

ArenaNet has been unwisely quiet in response to the anger about Ascended armor. They have spoken once in response, but the explanation provided did not truly quell the fears of the populace. One claim in particular has been a bone of contention.

Ascended items have been explained as a way for ANet to bridge the gap between Exotics and Legendaries, but people have challenged that assertion by saying there never was a statistical gap between Exotics and Legendaries. In response, the gap alluded to can be explained via rarity and the general ease of acquiring an Exotic versus the long trudge of attaining a Legendary. This too has not held up as people have pointed out that not all rares or exotics are equally uncommon or attainable.

There is a large gap between a crafted exotic such as a Pearl Broadsword and that of something like Legend of the Foefire or Vision of the Mists. For example, the Pearl Broadsword might run you 3 gold on the Trading Post, while the Foefire or Vision of the Mists will cost you at least a 100 gold to buy. Below the level of these status symbol swords are craftable weapons of the Corrupted and Destroyer type that require rare, expensive materials. Higher up in costs from these weapons are the Legendary precursor weapons that can often go for over a 100 gold.

Even rarity between statistical tiers are not consistent. The tier 3 cultural armor is much less common and harder to acquire than crafted Exotic armor or karma armor or even the dungeon sets. Much of the populace doesn’t have the 100 gold it takes to get the full set. So, while statistically the armor is weaker than my gear it is far more of a status symbol or reason to brag due to its high cost and consequential rarity. This holds true for tier 3 cultural weapons. My Peacemaker Greatsword gets more oohs and ahhs than my dungeon exotic scepter even though the original item itself is of only rare quality in stats.

All of these are examples of tiers within tiers that act as gap bridgers in rarity that have nothing to do with statistical differences, so ArenaNet’s explanation struggles to really hold up to criticism. Many have claimed that they created the gap themselves by introducing Ascended items with a new ceiling of stats.

And Why They Keep Yelling You Lied

The heart of the issue though is the claim that this introduces a gear treadmill to a game that promised no gear treadmills. This argument then sort of swindles out of control into dismissal of the game as a new WoW’-clone.

Overall, There’s too much histrioics within the anger and I worry it damages the legitimate concerns of the game’s core audience. And that core? I would describe them as a mix between Guild Wars veterans and those who had tired of the way things have been done in MMORPGs for so long. Both sides want a statistical plateau to tiers and skill over stat based gameplay.

However, is this now a treadmill game? No, not at all, but it does open the door to the treadmill, and the situation really makes me wonder why ArenaNet would even let that door get kicked ajar. There are multiple issues the game has in its current form and many things people want addressed or improved, but new statistical highs doesn’t seem to be high on that list.

Areas of Concern

The sPVP side of the game is struggling to retain players and it is easily the least developed side of the game. It also suffers from there being only one type of map, so while they did introduce a new map in beta form, its still the same type of ruleset with the same issues as the rest of sPVP. As long as structured PvP remains Cap Point mode, the game will be a never ending meta of bunker vs roamer, and tanky versus spike. I feel I have gone over the issues with Cap Point quite a bit here, but it’s the larger PvP playerbase that is starting to feel the limits of the map type.

WvWvW players are looking for incentive to keep playing, but as well, they are the group suffering the most from the game’s culling issues. It is known that culling is a top priority for the team and likely wont be an easy fix, but WvWvW issues go beyond culling. Players are starting to question whether they should keep dumping gold into upgrading and taking keeps for their Guild only to have all their investment vanish overnight.

PVE on the other hand requires more bug fixing and more variety at endgame. Orr is a jump in difficulty but a step down in variety. Lost Shores introduces a new max level area, but again has little in the ways of variety of events or enemies. Loot drops have also been a problem with far too much RNG involved and rather poor loot tables, but that at least began to be addressed with the Lost Shores patch. New bags of goodies were added to dungeon chests, new items with a rare chance off bosses, and the Fractal dungeon themselves offer more chances at valuable loot. Yet, beyond this, the game needs to make exploring more rewarding, that again being an issue of incentives. There’s a lot of great areas of the Tyrian world not being populated because the zerging of mobs that increases chances at valuable loot and the high-end gathering nodes that are essential to money making are only available in max level areas.

Somewhere far below these concerns lies new gear to chase. To some, those used to the old MMO model, that concern for new shinies may be much higher, but its hard for me to envision let alone support gear treadmill addicts being drawn to Guild Wars 2. Once you realize that power creep puts you in the same place in vertical progression game as you are in a horizontal progression game, that gear treadmill loses all value.

Horizontal Boogie Time

So how did the original Guild Wars support continual PvE gametime? How did the PVP and PVE continue to be populated and active without new statistical tiers? There’s one major element as to why: skills and encounters.

The card game-like skillbars of Guild Wars allowed the game to continually progress via new build ideas and strategies for many years. As well, new encounters that involved new situations and limitations created the need for new build ideas that again refreshed the play experience.

For Guild Wars 2, the original idea was that traits would provide this customization and variety that skills provided the original game, but the traits themselves have needed a serious overhaul since beta.  Too many of the traits are outright boring and uninteresting stat increases of no difference from gear changes. My Phantasms do 15% more damage? That doesn’t change my play-style anymore than stacking more power into my gear. My Glamour skills blind, oh wait, now all blinds confuse? Now my Glamour skills provide extra functionality and versatility. My Engineer’s pistol range is further? Well I suppose that makes my character more functional. My bombs heal? I create a bomb on dodge? Now being a bombing Engineer is also a support Engineer.

These are the differences between traits that have limited the horizontal progression in the game. There are some traits that add functionality and thus add variety to playstyles, but there are too many traits that only add vertical increases or functionality that should probably be there to begin with.

Beyond this, the traits are often bugged for many classes. The Necromancer class has suffered the most from this problem, but even my beloved Mesmer is not free of these issues. Hilariously, ArenaNet stated in their patch notes that Phantasmal Fury “now works”, but in actuality it still doesn’t work with Phantasmal Mage which was one of the main parts of the trait that was not working previously.

Overall, the issue with traits are holding back the side of the game that should be adding interesting options for daily players. Due to this, the game has not opened up like it should be opening up at max-level.

What To Do Now

I really feel ArenaNet needs to come out and directly address the elephant in the room. They need to announce whether or not there will be more statistical increases in gear between now and when a new level cap is introduced. They need to answer the gear treadmill question with a firm yes or no and stick to it. There is too much PR-praddle and silence coming out of their offices.

Part of the reason this has not happened yet is because ArenaNet has been poor at communicating with the public. A Public Test Realm like server would do the game a great good in bug testing and in letting the public in on what’s going on and what will be going on. Seeing is believing, so let the public see whats in store, and take it hands on for themselves. I imagine the PR disaster that Ascended has been could have been avoided if the Public had a chance at Fractals and seeing the stats themselves. The great misinformation that exists about Guild Wars 2 can be blamed a lot on ArenaNet’s dismembered communication lines. Not everyone is going to read the forums, reddit, twitter and random in-game chats to figure out what exactly is going on.

After that, the traits need an overhaul that sweeps the vertical progression and functionality traits off the table and replaces them with new interesting options that reward smart combinations and builds.

Once these things are done, the game will smooth out and the audience will be a bit more sure of where they should be. T

Halloween Event Tips

The Mad King Clock Tower

The trail of tears

How To Mad King

Halloween draws near and that means the last handful of days of the Halloween event are drawing near. I know many players play Guild Wars 2 at a more casual pace, so I thought I’d offer some tips on how to finish up some of those Special Event achievements.

Only missing Bowie and Connelly

The Labyrinth is found inside the Mad King’s realm. In order to gain access to this realm, you must enter it through an unlocked Haunted Door. In order to unlock a Haunted Door, your server must have cleared the pre-event chain involving the pumpkin power sources. If you’re looking to get into the Labyrinth quickly then Queensdale may be your best bet. Due to the community’s population numbers, there are more human players than that of the other races and this means Queensdale normally has better activity levels than the other starting zones. Gendarren Fields may be a good bet as well due to its nearness to Lion’s Arch.

The Labyrinth has three things that will help you get your Halloween achievements: Pumpkins to carve, events to do, and Halloween creatures to hunt. On top of this, there’s plenty of Candy Corn to mine and then devour for the October monthly achievement. If you haven’t finished off your creature hunting achievement then running the Labyrinth for an hour might take care of that rather quickly. In addition, if you so happen to need to do the pre-events to open up the Haunted Doors, you’ll knock out more creatures and events. As for the events inside the Labyrinth, they tend to pop up every 5-10 miutes on a small scale and then a Champion boss event shows up ever 20-30 minutes.

In an hour’s time, you may be able to finish off the entire Halloween creature hunting achievement and bang out four or five events. As an added bonus, the Champion boss chests have a chance to drop exotic level items.

You can also enter the Labyrinth at any level and be up-leveled to 80. Some use this to do a couple of events on each of their characters, get two treasure chests for each character and call it a day.

The Scavenger Hunt

The Scavenger Hunt is a quest that runs during the Halloween event. You may have gotten an in-game mail from the Asuran NPC that hangs out by the Lion statue in Lion’s Arch. Though somewhat vague, the general gist of the scavenger hunt is to find ghosts and use the clues they give you to find the other ghosts. Doing this will assemble a collection of stories that you can hand in for a book. The first half of the hunt goes up to Gendarren Fields and may be done by more adventurous low levels. Since the entire community is doing this hunt at the same general time, you may find others to be quite helpful.

The keys to finding the ghosts are the hints provided, the use of the magic device your given and the mass of other players. Once you find out what the clues are hinting towards and you get yourself to that general area, following the rest of the playerbase can often lead you right to the ghost. In WoW-parlance, this quest is not phased. If one player finds the ghost and makes it appear then all nearby players can interact with the ghost.

As for deciphering the clues listed on the history collections, the best strategy is to look for key words in the clue that are close to the name of places on your map. For the first half of the hunt, the areas you will belooking in are limited to the city of Lion’s Arch and the first three human zones. This includes Queensdale, Kessex Hills and Gendarren Fields. Since it’s more fun to figure out the clues yourselves, I won’t give a step-by-step guide. I will give one correction for one of the clues. The clue referencing Provenric is not in the “hills”, but in the “fields”. This means that it may be near a hill, but the previous Hills clue is aimed to reference Kessex Hills, while this other “hills” clue is actually in Gendarren Fields.

The second half of the scavenger hunt requires venturing into higher level zones and will require a higher level character. While this is unfortunate for new players at low levels, the reward tied to the second half is of higher level than the first book you are rewarded with for the first half of the scavenger hunt.

Mad King Tower of #$#%@@!@

My only advice for the Mad King’s Tower is to look up youtubes, watch them, learn them, and be prepared for many attempts. Like the Labyrinth, the Tower jumping puzzle is accessed by entering a Haunted Door to gain access to the Mad King’s realm. If you know exactly what to do this event is quickest achievement to get, but by no means is the Mad King Tower easy.

The Mad King Rises

The Mad King pays a visit to Lion’s Arch

The Monster Himself

By the time you’ve done the scavenger hunt and faced the hordes of trick-or-treat based monsters, you will have come to learn that old Oswald the Mad King is quite the heinous being. In Act 3, the Mad King himself appears by busting through the Lion statue in Lions Arch. This opens up an instanced dungeon where you fight the Mad King.

There are two things to know for this encounter. One: Yes, people can solo it, but I would recommend at least three players on your first try, but ideally five players if you want a successful run. If you have someone who knows what they’re doing, its easily doable with three players, and those that feel like challenging themselves can try soloing the instance.

The second and quite important note is that there is a treasure chest that appears at the very bottom of this dungeon once you beat the Mad King. Many players miss this chest due to its placement on the very bottom of the dungeon. At a certain point, the Mad King will teleport down to this lower level and then likely teleport back to the level above him. Getting to this bottom rock requires some daring jumps that will inflict fall damage, so don’t try these jumps unless you’re at full health.

There’s always people around the Lion Statue who are forming groups to do the Mad King and this makes completing this achievement rather painless. Just follow the others when its time to jump down to the lower levels and you’ll be okay. Never be afraid to say, “this is my first time.” The dungeon itself is a mix of fighting the boss, fighting adds, and moments of platforming. Also, for a treat, you can see the clock tower whirl around you at the bottom level of the dungeon.

It’s Candy Day

One of the achievements listed for the Halloween event is “attending the Mad King’s party.” This event is Act 4 of the Halloween event and will open up on Halloween. So log in o Halloween and check out what the shindig is about. I imagine it will be less combative and more nonsensical fun.

Sorrow’s Embrace: A Quick Look

The Dredge Alert

The Dredge Alert!

Welcome to Mole Talk!

Yes, I am honoring the emblem of my blog with some more Dredge discussion. This first piece is on the story mode of Sorrow’s Embrace. I have more to say on the explorable mode and the stories within, as well as more of the visuals associated with the Dredge in game. (My Mesmer is sporting a transmuted Dredge Blaster currently.)

So, let’s get to it by discussing one of the longest dungeons in game.

Leave My Dredge Alone!

The plot of the Sorrow’s Embrace dungeon can be roughly summed up as the Inquest are involved, and the Dredge are being used as their workforce.

Yes, the Moletariat prevailed right into another subjugation. Like you did with Molenin before, you will be facing armies of Dredge as they toil away underground for someone else’s grand scheme. Due to the Inquest presence, you will also be facing Golems and Asuran technology, and as well, the strange Dredge technology, and, finally, a monstrous hybrid between the two.

Remember the Past

One of the more captivating set pieces of Sorrow’s Embrace is Molenin’s Tomb. Yup, that’s a lore reference. Molenin’s tomb is the sight of a Dredge Public Assembly. The tomb itself is a colliseum of sorts, and large groups of Dredge stand in formation at the bottom of the tomb as a military leader shouts out a speech from a high ledge. In story mode, you don’t fight the military leader, but he seems like a prime tool for explorable mode plotlines.

See No Evil, Hear My Sonic Death Ray

The Dredge mobs of Sorrow’s Embrace are range heavy and feature the use of sonic rifles that shoot ground rumbling, directional projectiles. There are touches of the Dredge’s mechanical tech here and there, but many can also be found outside the dungeon in Dredgehaunt Cliffs.

Subtarrean drill-cars often sigbal the arrival of a new pack of Dredge. These vehicles drill up and out of the ground, and the Dredge forces pop out the back. The dredge themselves also have the ability to tunnel underground (much like Wurm mobs) to travel from one point to the next.

Another interesting note about the Dredge mobs is that since they are mole people, they are naturally blind and effectively immune to the blind condition. This provides a nice change of strategy for typical dungeon setups that may rely heavily on blinds to mitigate damage in other dungeons.

Bosses of an Epic Nature

The Sorrow’s Embrace dungeon features some of the most tiresome boss fights, but also some of the coolest fights, and coolest bosses. The Story Mode contains one of each. The next to last boss is actually interesting  in design, with three different phases, but suffers from too high health pools on its various meta-bosses. The encouter became too tediously long a fight at the time of my running the dungeon. It’s beatable, but really extends the encounter time of an otherwise smooth flowing dungeon. I hear they have done some work to tone down the health bars of the bosses you fight in this encounter in the past few weeks and that should help turn the fight from work to play.

The last boss is a treat. I won’t spoil what it is, but it’s likely that many people have seen this boss before entering the dungeon. It’s featured in one of the game’s early trailers, and the fight itself confused me at first, but then quickly made sense. I suggest to not stand on the bridge looking at the boss unless you like death rays to your face.

Next Up

Explorable Mode and Dredge Art design!

Welcome to Launch!

Lion's Arch

It’s a big world out there

 Tres Bon Voyage

If you’re a pre-purchaser like myself, then you’ve been in the world of Tyria for a few days already. Officially, the game launches today and that means many retail purchasers will be joining the rest of us. Apparently, the game has already reached over 400,000 concurrent users in pre-launch. With over a million players to boot.

Though I have played many MMOs, this is my first launch-day experience. Overall, it’s going about how I expected. Launches of online games are always a rougher experience than playing that same game six months after launch. Current issues are server backend problems that have limited access to the Black Lion Trading Post and Commerce Page, an issue with Guilds and their rosters, and grouped players not being able to stay grouped and within the same shard.

ArenaNet has started to relieve the difficulties created by Guild Issue, though I hear invites are still not working properly. I was locked out of my own guild that I created for most of Sunday, but had access to it again by Monday. The lack of a Trading Post has turned Lion’s Arch into Trade Chat spam, but that’s nothing new to Guild Wars 1 players. I thought they might fix the Black Lion Trading Post for the real launch, but its still currently unavailable.  The biggest issue is the grouping problem, as it really works against the social and cooperative nature of the game. From what I hear, it is also making dungeons a pain to do as well.

Despite these issues, this has been a pretty decent launch. MMOs have a long history of nasty launch problems. Even ARPGs like Diablo 3 had major problems at launch, keeping people from even playing the game. At least ArenaNet has managed to keep the game up and running. There was one period of maintenance downtime in the middle of the night on Saturday of the pre-launch, and Europe, I believe, had another period of maintenance over the weekend. Outside of these times, the game has been fully playable and I’ve had little issue with lag on the server’s end. The one real annoying bit is trying to keep grouped with my friends.

First Impressions of the Real Deal

I have several beta impressions on this blog, but my launch impressions will likely be different due to playing the game entirely different at launch from how I approached the beta. There are a few key differences that make the experiences different, but the main two are that I have all the time I want to do whatever I want and that now all my friends are here in game with me.

This change in approach from beta to launch has given me a much better experience. In Beta, I was testing specified elements of the game, and namely, I focused upon the elements that concerned me. Now that I’m adventuring with friends at our own pace, I have come to feel that levels and experience aren’t my major concern. Progress in the manner of levels is something that just comes along with the adventure of the game, but it’s not the meat or the point of the game. It’s just the side salad. I find my exploration percentage to be a more adequate test of my progress. It’s not a concern that going to the Plains of Ashford is returning to a starter zone. It’s a concern that there might be something cool in the zone that I haven’t seen yet.

If it’s one thing that I would entice others with about this game it would be these adventurous discoveries. Whether it’s a waterslide dive through a cave that looks like a skull, or a game of stealth with the Ash Legion, or a family of giant frost worms at the bottom of a cave, or the jumping puzzle and treasure chest after those Frost Wurms, or just a Privateer’s secret hangout full of drunk ornery pirates and their singing captain, or a hidden waterfall with a vista and skill point, or a hidden cabbage farm defended by bandits, or a Quaggan city off the edge of the sea shelf, or just a nice mansion in the city of Divinity’s Reach, I simply smile and say, “you got to go see it.”

Seeing the Rest

Of course, beyond these elements of the world, there are more standard faire such as instanced dungeons and story quests. These two parts of the game also represent the most difficult part of the PVE game. My first dungeon run escalated my /deaths to three times its former modest number. The story quests aren’t much easier, and some are frightfully hard to do alone. Difficulty doesn’t bother me, unless its unfair difficulty. I’ve only run into situations that felt unfair two or three times so far.

Not a Closing Thought, but a Rejoinder

This last paragraph I chose to delay until a week had passed since official launch. Many launch issues have been resolved in that time, and the Trading Post is functioning most of the time now. It’s first return was a laggy version of the TP, but it’s much quicker since another fix. I haven’t had grouping problems in a long time, but I did discover adding someone to a in-progress dungeon run is a big mess. The game just doesn’t seem to be able to put anyone outside the instance back into the same instance with the rest of the party.

So, fixes are coming along pretty quickly, but not very quickly. There have been issues with bugged story quests that get resolved in 24 hours most often. I have been able to use the Trading Post with ease the past couple of days, but there’s always the worry that it will go down again. The sPVP side of things has had some downtime and reward delays. My tournament winnings arrived to me hours after I had finished the tournament, but others have waited days for their rewards.

Still, the game is playable and nothing has really gotten in the way of being able to play the game. Those that still needed to setup their email authentication did have this trouble though and were kept from playing the game for days. That one pissed quite a few folks off. I hope to see issues weeded out by a month’s time.

Bring Res Sig: The Origins of Guild Wars 2 Concepts

The Old and The New

A Meeting with the Past

Old Ideas for a New Audience

A debate on what’s all that inventive within Guild Wars exists. The argument exists out there on the static, binary-bound teeth of the internet’s Badlands. This isn’t a new idea. Well, often, it’s not. What is overlooked in this debate is that it’s not even a new idea to the Guild Wars franchise.

The entry is going to go over some key concepts that will feel new to a lot of players trying out Guild Wars 2, but have origins rooted back in the original game.

Niche to a Degree

The original Guild Wars has a non-sub-based claim of 7 million sales. Is this made up of individual box sales or accounts? I have heard conflicted reports. I also don’t care in regards to my point. The real issue is that Guild Wars was a successful game and it helped fund sequel, but within the general discussion of MMOs, it’s far more niche than you would think a 7 million seller would be. The knowledge of what the original game was about is still somewhat limited in the press and enthusiast community.

One occasion of this that I’ve run into multiple times surrounds the call-target function. When talking to one friend about their experience playing the game, they were having issues with keeping a target and being able to follow their target in the chaotic mess of the early betas. This player was looking for some visual cue that outlined their target a bit more. After struggling to think about whether or not Guild Wars 2 did anything to make your target stick out, I remembered control + T.

So, I asked, did you call target? I then realized this concept is entirely new to most players. It’s a product of the first game’s PVP focus, and is a very valuable tool. One player calls a target, and everyone can follow by pressing T. This target can be switched on the fly and everyone can follow the “target caller” along. It also places a big red crosshair over the target in question.

I began my response to the problem by trying to offer a traditional answer and then realized the Guild Wars answer was already there.

Res Your Friends

The Res Sig was a signet skill in the first game that every class had access to. In the Prophecies PVE campaign, one of your earliest quests is to group with another player and go out into the world. For doing this task, you are given a resurrection signet that can be used to resurrect another player. There were restriction on how often you could use it, but it introduced the concepts of anyone being able to res from the very start.

This concept is improved upon and expanded with the sequel, where the process of resurrecting a friendly ally is a simple F key press. While this feature is attributed to the game’s move away from the holy trinity, it really is just a continuation of the first game’s approach to cooperative play. It’s nothing new. It’s just done in a more obvious way this time.

About That Trinity

The original Guild Wars had a healer class or two, plus a tanking class or two. In the early years, PVE content was tackled through the traditional means of the holy trinity. A warrior or two to run in and pull aggro, some dps doing their thing, and then a monk in the back dropping heals. It was simple and very easy.

Then ArenaNet decided to change up their PVE experience. They took what they learned from the PVP experience of the game and began to change the rules of their mob’s A.I. and behavior. You could no longer gather and aoe down groups of unfriendlies. Tanking started to become more about blocking off pinch points, hampering mob movement, and gathering up mobs in various ways. Healers and damage dealers had to learn to kite stray mobs while still performing their functions as the game featured no taunt mechanics.

The PVE game continued to grow in this way, up until the point that traditional trinity builds became less standard. Personally, I completed the War in Kryta line of missions and quests without a monk or traditional heal setup. I used the popular and almost necessary Discord-way build featuring Ritualists and Necromancers. The Ritualist is a support class with heals spells, but less direct heals than the more traditional monk. In this build, whether a Ritualist or Necromancer main, nearly every class had a major damage attack called Discord. So all my A.I. partners were to supply support and damage reduction through spirits or items, while also shooting out Discord spells on my target calls. For myself, I ran a Dervish tank build that also cleansed conditions off my entire party every time I dropped an enchantment. Effectively, everyone was performing multiple roles. I was doing damage through spreading conditions, body blocking mobs and absorbing hits through my enchanted armor and high health pool, while also supporting the entire team by being the major condition removal for my party. My Hero henchies provided damage spikes, party wide damage reduction and buffs, and a few targeted heals. The Necromancers provided control through their minions eating up mobs and creating walls between my team and the enemy mobs. When the minions died, they exploded in an AOE damage effect, and provided a group heal through a monk enchantment cast upon them by one of the Necromancer with a Monk secondary.

It was a complex and effective team build that was able to function in more situations due to its flexibility and grouped interdepence over singular class dependence.

If that sounds a bit like the Guild Wars 2 combat experience then that’s no surprise. The heritage of the anti-trinity began years ago in the original Guild Wars, but it was not a major talking point until the Guild Wars 2 hype train got going. There is evidence that ANet was already moving towards this goal in a game designed with the trinity. Now it’s all grown up and refined.

Story Time

Bioware, good or bad, garnered a lot of attention for adding an emphasis to story in their MMO, and making story in an issue of importance, and a hot feature to be found in MMOs. So, the fact that Guild Wars 2 features story quests that are based on character creation choices and which feature branching paths, the natural instinct will be to draw comparisons to SWTOR.

But this is a blog about Guild Wars influencing the sequel, so, surprise, and then more surprise, the original Guild Wars featured a story, an ending and even a credits roll once you beat the final boss. The original game’s strengths were seen as being an online RPG with an actual story, the PVP focus, and the lack of a sub fee. The return of a story focus with cinematics is not a big surprise, but the story quests also share some influence with the older PVE design. Much of the story in Guild Wars Propechies was done through what was called Missions. These were instanced adventures where you followed a path, fought enemies and bosses, and saw the story unravel. They were considered, in some sense, the dungeons of Guild Wars, but they share little with the Eye of the North dungeons, and a bit to do with Guild Wars 2 dungeons. The story quests of Guild Wars 2 are like these Missions, but broken up into small segments. How?

The missions in the first Guild Wars lead you through the game, and took you across the map, from point to point, and eventually up to the final area. The story quests of Guild Wars 2 accomplishes this same task. They will begin in the opening zone of your race and then proceed into higher level zones, asking you to go to certain spots on the map where an instance prompt will greet you. The story quests can also be done cooperatively or individually. This was done in the original game through henchman and heroes, but is done through difficulty scaling in the second game. A major difference between Missions and Story Quests is that GW2 does not allow you to repeat your story quests.

Some Repeated Notes

One of the comments that I’ve made about dungeon design in Guild Wars 2 is the element of traps and how they are a carryover form the first game. These traps didn’t really come into play in a heavy manner until Eye of the North, and that expansion was the first to feature what could be traditionally thought of as dungeons. Beforehand, most instances were either wandering through a zone, or completing the previously mentioned Missions. The other carryover that I’ve mentioned is the Structured PVP format, where the original game worked from the same concept of putting everyone at max level with access to max level gear. The second Guild Wars furthers this concept by giving players access to all item mods and skills, while the original made you earn these either through PVE or by spending the game’s PVP currency of Balthazar Faction.

Another carryover is the Waypoint travel system that functions much like travel in the original Guild Wars. Once you get to a to a Waypoint, you can travel back there at any time for a small fee. Visiting towns and outposts worked the same way in the original game.

A Waterfall

A Waterfall Vista

A Final Point

All this time, many companies have been trying to copy World of Warcraft to recreate Blizzard’s success for themselves. My contention is that company’s probably should have been trying to copy Guild Wars and expand on its ideas and models instead. The first Guild Wars was more ready for the current gaming environment than any WoW clone could be. Many things that excite people about Guild Wars 2 are extensions and advancements of ideas and features found in the original Guild Wars.

 

If Guild Wars 2 ends up successful, and more successful than other MMO attempts, there will be many companies kicking themselves over ignoring that little niche title with the seven million sales while going after the old beast of a diku-clone.

Atop a crane in Skrittsburgh

The Heart of Skrittsburgh

Welcome to Skrittsburgh!

No, wait, get out of Skrittsburgh you unworthy foreigner. Oh, nevermind, come back in.

This is life as a visitor to the Skritt city. Sometimes the doors are open to you and sometimes they’re sealed shut. Is it because you smell? Do they only let humans in on Thursday? The Charr on Monday? Maybe the Charr get in on Caturday. Of course, Asurans get in on the winter solstice, to celebrate the shortest day of the year.

Actually, Skrittsburgh is the central cog of an ongoing, large dynamic event within the Brisban Wildlands. When the city feels protected, the gates of the city are opened to outsiders. When the city is under siege and the Skritt King has fallen, then the doors and gates close. Foreigners are only let back in when any nearby threats to Skrittsburgh are eliminated, and the Skritt have chosen a new King. Total access to Skrittsburgh is not entirely denied, as the cavernous city also has outer boroughs that offer the player hearts to complete, and some peculiar lost goods thrown around, as well as a beautiful waterfall area. It is normally these outer boroughs which are the key to entrance into the inner sanctum of the King, his treasure chests, and the special Skritt vendors.

A Dynamic Circle

Asuran Tech

The Skritt have taken Asuran technology for their own use.

The Skrittsburgh center is sort of the mini-city reward of the greater circle of dynamic events within the area. When the city is closed, you can normally find a dynamic event going on in one of the outer boroughs. These events will wipe out the NPCs in the area if not stopped, but if you turn the invaders back then you’ll please the people of Skrittsburgh. Invaders are the key word here, as Skrittsburgh is walled in by various threats. From the east, the Nightmare Court may arrive to take over the city. From the north, human bandits have set up camp right outside the entrance, and to the southwest, the Inquest is looking to regain some of the disassembled technologies the Skritt have claimed for their own. Worst of all, the Destroyers are still lurking below the surface and may rise up at any time to do what Destroyers do: look ugly, make lava, and destroy everything.

Things don’t calm down for long once you’ve defended and freed the city. There is normally a quiet handful of minutes, until some new dynamic event alert pops onto your screen. Yup, more invaders, but this time if you don’t stop them, they’re heading straight through that open door to take the city or to slay the King. I helplessly tried to stop a Destroyer army and its giant crab boss from eating the King, but I just sort of ran around from the

Destroyer boss until one of his minions gave the King a killing blow. Immediatly after that, all the friendly Skritt NPCs became hostile, and shouted to kick the foreigners out. Next thing I know, I’m booted out of the city and back to one of the outer boroughs.The end effect is that keeping the city open to players will require players to cooperatively push back invaders. It’s tough to stop two invasions at once. Whether it’s the bandits up north or the Nightmare Court coming from the east, it’s more than one player can handle.

Skritt Throne

The Rat King has moved out of the sewers.

Tell Me Of Your Rat-nest Usul

Once inside the heart of the city, you’ll be treated to a town made out of junk. Yes, junk, and I mean that in the nicest way. The Skritt love shinies, and shinies seem to be everyone else’s actual shiny things, or everyone else’s forgotten old junk. It looks like a refugee camp in some ways, like something out of District 9. Still, Arena Net managed to make a junk city look visually interesting. Some parts are even little creepy, with the weird carnival costumes laying around, unused and for no purpose of being there.

What the city offers the player is a full set of crafting stations, a thankful Skritt King with two treasure chests behind him (Don’t miss these!), a skill point challenge or two, some basic merchants, repairs, and special Shinies merchants. The Shinies Merchants have what seem like junk or perhaps crafting goods, like a bunch of wooden planks. They also sell necklaces and weapons, and pretty good weapons in fact. Their offerings have a level 20 requirement, but should be an upgrade at level 20 over anything you have. I bought both the Skritt Pistol and Skritt Rifle for my Engineer.

Odds and Ends

Creepy Canrival

These things freaked me out.

The heart quests in the boroughs offer some nice distractions. I wasn’t a big fan of the Heart in the grub area. It’s basically a kill grubs and collect trophies off them, then hand in the trophies sort of deal. There’s some defective security turrets you can mess with, but those are few and far between compared to the amount of grubs and grub holes waiting to be stomped. My favorite of the various Heart quests in the area was a soldier that needed help near a Destroyer den. In this area, you can kill Destroyers, stomp out Destroyer burrows, or, best of all, pick up fallen Skritt and carry them in your arms back to safety. Your can see the fallen Skritt in your character’s arms when you do this, and carrying the Skritt works like a weapon bundle that offers you a speed boost. I call this the Forrest Gump quest.

Skritt activity continues outside the city as well. A group of Skritt will ask you to escort them on a scavenging mission. This is codeword for stealing Asuran tech from an Inquest lab area far beyond the Skrittsburg borough. Normally, the escort quests in Guild Wars 2 are quite enjoyable. (Yes, you read that right.) This one proved to be the hardest escort quest I’ve had though. I am not sure if it was my relative level or the fact that the Inquest lab was swarming with Inquest soldiers. You can also run into a second dynamic event in the nearby area if someone else has decided to help out a Golemancer at the Asuran secret weapons lab. Completing the Skritt escort leads to another Dynamic Event back at Skrittsburgh, but I’ll keep that scenario to myself.

East End Waterfall

The East End of Skrittsburgh reveals a wonderful waterfall.

A Show of Things to Come?

What Skrittsburgh reveals is some of the depth and options that the Guild Wars 2 dynamic event system offers. If they can hide a small city behind the outcomes of dynamic events, then they could also hide a dungeon or a mini-game. Considering what the developers have spoken of in regards to the risen city of Orr, it seems like endgame could play out like a far crazier and larger version of the Skrittsburgh DE system. It has also been recently revealed that the city of Ebon Hawke is in the game, and they haven’t specified if this a zoned city or an open world city. Considering that there are heart quests within the city, I am likely to believe that is open world part of the larger zone its within, much like Skrittsburgh.

The key factor to this is giving the player a sense of bigger, greater, and more wonderous things to do as they level up. I don’t want WoW-raiding in the game. I don’t want gear treadmills. I do want a bigger, badder challenge set before me, and these sort of DE systems can be a part of that.