The Burning Mantree Festival

Mushroom Engineer

The Engineer is like a cross between Team Fortress 2 and a Mad Alchemist

As promised

This previous and final Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2, I decided to ditch the Mesmer for the Engineer. I had wanted to do a better Engineer write-up than the previous quick-hit on the profession that I did before. So, I rolled a Sylvari Engineer with a mushroom top, and grouped up with my friends.

I had a few simple goals with this playthrough: get a better feel for the profession, spend more PVP time with the Engy, and see how the Engineer worked in large scale combat. The third part is important, because large scale combat is a heartier part of Guild Wars 2 than it is in other MMOs.

I Am The Midnight Bomber

I suspected from my previous experience with the Engineer that the profession really opens up once you acquire some kits to use. This proved to be very true from my experience, as the Engineer’s weapon choices are limited to just three choices.

By level 4 or 5, I had gained every weapon the Engineer could use and gotten their skillbars filled out. Last BWE, I really enjoyed the pistol and shield combo, but unfortunately, the Magnetic Inversion aspect of the shield was broken in BWE and the shield far less effective and fun. This ended up pushing me towards the Rifle weapon, but this was not a sad turn of events. The Engineer’s rifle plays more like a shotgun than a Winchester. You fire of hip-shots from a distance, shoot nets, but most of all, you use the mighty kickback and force of a shotgun-feel to launch yourself in the air, spray buckshot in an enemies face, and then fly backwards off the kickback of the gun.

The first kit I obtained was the grenade kit, and as mentioned, this opened up my playstyle. While the pistol and rifle gave me basic offense and some wacky fun, the grenade kit became the AOE choice, allowing me to lob grenades that froze, dazed and shredded my opponents. Of course, with all Engineer utility skills, the grenade kit gave me a new Function key skill that allowed me to lob a large mass of grenades.

The interesting bit about the grenade kit is that all five weapon skills are aoe targeted. There has been some debate upon this, and I can understand making at least the spammable 1 skill target-based, but being able to spam an AOE does have some advantages of its own. For one, if you throw grenades at a player, and you suspect the player may dodge backwards, you can aim your grenade behind them and hit them at the end of the dodge. A target-based grenade lob would always miss on a dodge, but a ground targeted grenade can anticipate a movement and negate a dodge.

The second kit I obtained was the Flamethrower and this is where the real fun began. I didn’t expect to like the Flamethrower as much as I did, but the ability to swing a stream of flame back and forth over a group felt great in a MMO. I rarely used targeted attacks with the flamethrower. The kit also includes a projectile flame burst that can be detonated with a second click. This was quite hard to pull off at close range, but with some range the ability made for a lot of damage. It hits a target when passing through and then does aoe damage on detonation. Overall, the Engineer featured a good amount of skillshot abilities.

The final kit I attained was the Bomb Kit and this kit, along with the Flamethrower, became my go-to tools. The Bomb Kit is held back by all of the bombs being a dropped skill, meaning there are no range abilities with bombs. Each time the player uses a bomb, the explosive is laid at the players feet. The F-skill for this kit is The Big One, which is a large, hard hitting bomb. Combining The Big One with the flamethrowers F-skill, and a few more of the bombs in the kit, creates a little pbaoe nuke. Every Dynamic Event and enemy zerg rush at my friends and I resulted in an oppurtunity to blow things up.

Outside of the kits, there were turrets that I used a bit of, and elixers and strange tools like a battering ram. Overall, everything had a sense of wacky, explosive fun to playing the game.

Flamethrower Action

Sometimes a plant just wants to watch the plant life burn down

Blowing Up Other People

For PVP, I had picked out a healing based Engineer build. Namely, I was using the bombs heal allies trait, along with a lot of vitality, toughness, healing and touch of condition damage. The skillbar was highly similiar to my PVE skillset, and this was done to be familiar with the tools I was using. The build itself was moderately successful. In group situations, the constant bomb laying provided many combo fields and some aoe damage, and the small heals helped my allies, as did the med kits I would drop. Outside of group combat, I was able to last for a long time, but struggled to take down enemies on my own. The build was mostly a cap holding and group support build.

I did want to try a power based build, featuring the rifle and flamethrower, but never got to trying it out. If you want to see some good use of a power-based Engineer, then I suggest watching Quark’s sPvP engineer Twitch video here:

Quark’s Engineer sPVP

The Toolmole Tailor

The only drawback to my Engineer time was that the medium armor I got access to was far less enjoyable than the style my Mesmer had. I got a lot of cool looking weapons, but for some reason, the Sylvari starting area had less exciting medium armor aesthetics. For a good while, I was being teased for looking like a fishmonger.

Having seen some of the dungeon sets, I imagine the dredge-based Sorrow’s Embrace armor would look scary and scary fantastic on an Engineer.

A Convincing Experience

My time with the Engineer made me reconsider my primary class choice for the start of the game. I had been set on Mesmer, but the profession still has a lot of issues with its mechanics, and has honestly gotten progressively worse with each BWE. Meanwhile, the Engineer seems improved overall, and I greatly enjoyed playing it even though the shield skill was broken.

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Crystal Blue Aggression: Beta Weekend Event 2 Impressions

underwater combat

BOOM!

Small Town Hero

I have these moments during the beta weekends where, after I have just finished a few Events or Hearts in a small area, I stop to look around and ponder what to do. I am mindful of the idea that if I talked to more scouts in the world, I’d have somewhere marked out on my map as a next destination, but I have avoided scouts for my own reason. I like to explore. The times where I’ve filled up my tasks and think I have nothing left to do tend to lead to my favorite moments.

Fighting Moa Birds

Blurred Frenzy versus the poor pink Moa

At a certain point in the beta, I turned off the UI and began fighting moa birds without the UI to assist me, taking screenshots of the combat without the combat text or UI to explain what I was doing or what was being done to me. I did this to have some clean combat shots for this blog, but I also did it to become better at reading combat and using my skills.  This was a moment where I was not pursuing a quest-like goal, but doing whatever I wanted. It just so happened that I was fighting Moas by the lake in Kessex hills. This is where a fishing village had been repeatedly attacked by Krait slavers. I knew I needed to learn more underwater skills, so I took my blind combat into the lake.

I quickly found that I actually liked the Mesmer’s trident weapon skills more than most of the Mesmer’s land-based skills. The Trident is about the only thing in game that makes the Confusion condition matter. I noticed that the lake had an opening on the far end, at the opposite shore from where I was fighting the moa birds. I swam off in that direction, picking off krait slavers along the way, and learning my trident skills.

At the lake opening, I found a shallow tributary with some fish and crab, along with those kraits. I swam my way through this watery avenue until I came upon an even greater lake than the previous one from which I had came. I turned my UI back on, and saw that a heart had opened up somewhere near me, along with a skill point challenge. I tried to find a way back up on land, finally locating a low ledge to my left. When I got onto the ledge, I noticed a watery cavern was just below me. I hopped down into the cavern and found a Hylek waiting for me.

Piggy Time

I am going HAM on them truffles.

What I had come across was the “pig quest”, a heart in which the Hylek shaman turns you into a pig and you forage the cavern for truffles. I had seen youtubes of this event before, but had no idea where it actually was. I was excited to find it, and found the heart a nice bit of fun. While doing my little piggy truffle shuffle, I heard some Hyleks talking in the water. I hopped into the water, found an underwater passage and followed it all the way down and around, until I came up into a hidden cavern that was home to a tiny Hylek encampment.

After finishing the heart, I found my way back out and tried to find the skill challenge nearby. It took some climbing, but I did run across a stinky Asuran engineer who had some weird stink bomb contraption. He challenged me to see if I could handle his invention and we proceeded to battle. His “stinky” contraption lobbed poison all over the ground and the fight was rather challenging. I did manage to take him down and receive my reward. Looking over my shoulder, I saw what looked like an Asuran outpost on the beach.

I swam over to this outpost and found that it was full of strange races, some new and some from the first game. There were Asurans, but there were also Caromi, Sylvari and Quaggans. The Quaggan seemed to be the locals of the area, and a rather annoying one kept begging me to do something about the Sea Witch. I finally said yes, and a boss Dynamic Event popped up in the middle of the lake.

Hylek Village

Frogs live in the coolest spots.

After selling off my junk items, I dived back into the lake in search of this Sea Witch.

Inside the lake was another heart, and another Quaggan. This task consisted of checking crabbing traps and fighting crabs, krait and the rest of the things that probably scare Quaggan. Given their perosnalities, I think everything scares the Quaggan. While i could handle the previous lake’s Krait warriors, this lake was decidedly more reinforced with Krait militia. As I tried to complete the heart and find the Sea Witch, I kept running into more and more foes. Once I finally found the mouth of the Sea Witch’s cave, I saw that it was guarded by veteran Krait that proceeded to run me out of town. A nearby player helped me escape, but I decided to put the Sea Witch on hold.

After I went back to the crabbing work, I found another opening in the underwater geology. Wandering in, I came to a new dynamic event. I had found a Quaggan town underwater that was being attacked by slavers. This was one of my favorite events, but also one of the more vile events, and for the same reason. First, I was doing it alone, and I was doing it all for the Quaggan. I fought off wave after wave of Krait, stopping to free the Quaggan that had been shackled by the slavers. This event allowed me to use all the underwater skills I had just learned, and my reward for completing it was hearing a chorus of Quaggan conversation.

The Quaggan look like manatees and talk like rejects from a really bad children’s show. When I had run off the Krait, the town mayor remarked “Stwoopid Kwait!” The villagers looked to blame someone and rambled on about recovering something. They celebrated and discussed what next to do. I felt like I had, by myself, saved these poor Quaggan townsfolk, but then again, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hang around and hear them talk like babbies.

Major Tests of a major issue

I was not happy to hear about the change to traits that ArenaNet had made for the Beta Weekend Event. I am a big fan of the previous system which allowed you to pick any major trait in any major trait slot. In Guild Wars, I was a build maker and tester. Even when my guild was not doing any PvP matches at the time, I was busy testing out ideas and theories. Even to this day, I try to break the system and find something crazy to do. This means that tiering and restricting traits is not something that fits my playstyle, nor is it something that really, truly helps balance. You either are good at balance or you’re not, and you don’t really know what your balance is until the public gets its hands on your game. This BWE2 was a prime example.

In the previous BWE, there were at least a few good Mesmer builds. I messed with a staff build that high survivalbility, and I played around with creating a Mind Wrack shatterbombing build, trying out a couple variants on that same idea. I tried to create confusion based builds, but the condition was and is still lacking.

This BWE, I wanted to try out a new Glamour+Confusion build idea that I had made in the various build calculators available on the web. The new trait system had changed some things up, but I was still able to replicate the

Forest PvP Results

Being able to solo Forest bosses equals easy points.

build. Unfortunately, the build required I take three glamour utilities and I quickly became aware how much I depended on kiting people through those glamours. It wasn’t horrible, but it was extremely situational. My glamours blinded and confused foes entering them, and my blinds also applied an extra confusion. As I played, I noticed my Duelist from my pistol off-hand was doing some good damage. It was mostly the Duelist and my Confusing Images that were being effective.Word was getting around that Phantasms had been buffed. After a few runs with my first build idea, I reworked the idea and sacrificed all the blind and blind creates confusion traits for pure Phantasm pumping buffs. I started to see obscene numbers from my Duelist, and then I tested it out on the Golem dummies, seeing the obscene damage numbers replicated. As it turns out, Phantasmal Haste was basically removing the cooldown from Phantasm attacks and turning my illusions into machine guns. By the end of the day, I had adjusted everything into a build that most would call “broken”. I still retained the Glamours cause confusion and longer lasting glamours, but now they worked with my Duelists by their strength as a combo field.

Anyways, by the end of the first night, the public had found an overpowered build in the new trait system designed to mitigate such things. Not a damning thing, but not an impressive thing.

Speaking of the Mesmer..

I thought they were reworking the Mesmer, but ANet hadn’t really changed much, and what they did change, I am not sure anyone likes. Clones now do zero damage, but can take an extra hit. This makes them slightly more durable for shatter purposes, but also makes them even less a deceptive tool. Phantasms now pose legitimate threats, but still get overwritten by the weaker clones. As for shattering, the previously powerful Mind Wrack was nerfed through its traitline, deep into the ground. A mind wrack now hits the same as my MH Sword attack. Not all that impressive or worthy of consideration. Since Phantasms outwork shatters, I stopped using shatters in PVP and used them less in PVE than I had in the previous BWE. Overall, the Mesmer is in worse shape now than it was in the previous BWE. They have all the same major issues, but feature fewer viable builds and tactics.This may be why I began my second character this BWE while playing Mesmer for the entirety of the previous betas.

That Finale

The finale for this BWE was bewildering and awesome at the same time. What was going on wasn’t as apparent as I expected, but once I figured out what was going on, it was one of those “AWESOME!” moments. Unfortunately, the finale really needed two hours instead of 45 minutes. Many servers had the event start late, and no server that I know of took the event to completion.

Crystal Assassin

I became a crystal assassin.

The basic premise of the finale was this: The Crystal Dragon has appeared in the sky and sent in its forces. The Flame Legion has joined the dragon legions and begun to set up camp outside The Black Citadel. The first part of the event featured fighting off the Flame Legion, but after about 10-20 minutes, these crystal shards started showing up around Waypoints in the Charr starting area. Our massive zerg ran from Crystal to the next, fighting corrupted Charr legions. At a certan point, strange crystal creatures started showing up with names that looked like player names. My event notifier told me to destroy them, so I did. I still couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. Our zerg kept going from Crystal spawn to Crystal spawn, while Rhytlock roamed through the Ascalon Foothills, looking for a fight. Finally, I died in one of the giant battles. When I clicked on resurrect, I showed up at one of the crystal corrupted waypoints and found that I had been corrupted and turned into a crystal creature. I had a new set of skills and a new job to do: kill and corrupt all the remaining players. Now the game had turned into a giant game of kill-tag. We got to about 80% of the playerbase corrupted before the event ended.

It was fun, but I really would have liked to seen what happens at the end. Do we fight Rhytlock? Does the dragon come down from the sky? I mean, come on!

Finale Chaos

Absolute Chaos.

Other things

I did do a bit more WvWvW this weekend, but again, our server was severly outmatched and running into a meatgrinder was in no way or shape fun for me. At a certain point during the first night, we had taken 60% of the map and I was part of a group that was clearing keeps and killing Keep Lords. This was enjoyable, though it didn’t involve much fighting other players. Once all of us Americans went to bed, the second place server went to work overnight, capturing about 90% of the map and never looking back. There needs to be something done about the way every WvWvW turned into a pure domination. The third server in this matchup was never ever a factor. We wiped their zone out and then the other server wiped us out.

I did play some engineer and found it to be a supportive, wacky, fun little class that I can see functioning in the background of combat. I’ll have more thoughts on it later.

I got my crafting p into the 80s and made myself some gear. I also got some cool threads from wandering into the new zone and fighting higher level mobs. I got a good amount of dye drops and don’t have a problem with the drop rates or the dye system so far.

I unfortuantely didn’t get to 30, which is what happens when you try to do everything there is to do. This means I still have no dungeon experience to speak about. I hope they don’t reset characters for at least the next BWE so that I may be able to experience the dungeon and finally do a write-up on the game’s dungeon design.

That’s it for now. Long live the Moletriat.

Bank

Looking good.

Guild Wars 2 Open Beta Impressions

A Dredge Mole

Guild Wars Beta Impressions

Well..

Well I am admittedly hooked on ArenaNet’s yet to be released MMO-crack. At least I am familiar enough with this dealer to have some confidence they will not drive me into the poor house. Oh wait, I am in the poor house. Still, that cash shop doesn’t allure me. Except for the pirate costume. Did anyone check that out? I’m building canons and firing canons; a pirate’s life for me.

The beta itself actually opened up an hour early. I woke up to check to see if there were any new updates to download before the beta went live and suddenly found myself at the server selection screen. As I had planned to do, I created a Human Mesmer and cycled through the appearance options until I had created the bearded man that I am. I would have liked a couple more beard options, maybe one a little less Oregonian hiker looking, for later my beard choice and my class choice would turn me into a bit of a scary clown.

I went with a commoner background and the regret of not recovering my sister’s body for my character background choices, along with Lyssa as my patron god. My girlfriend went with the street rat option and the missing parents, and our third adventurer friend went with being a noble. This allowed me to see what variation exists from your choices in the story quests later on. After finalizing my choices and choosing my name, the game breaks into a painted storyboard cinematic. Images swoop across the screen, providing dramatic movement to what are essentially art stills. Your character voices the introductory narrative of their story and finally appears at the end against a dramatic backdrop. This intro is a well done and gets you pumped to play, which is why it is disappointing that the later story segments lose the dramatic movements for a static art still behind two characters making simple gestures as they chatter. Having played SWTOR, I am familiar with Bioware’s approach to story presentation and I actually did not feel it fit the MMO genre. People do not want to wade through multiple dialogue segments to accept a kill-ten-rats quest. The storytelling in that case became intrusive to the flow of the game, but Guild Wars 2’s story segments don’t fully convey the emotions of the situation due to the lack of dramatics in the talking head moments. While not a huge concern for me, the story segments are marked as works in progress and I would suggest that ANet tries to use some more dramatic angles and art piece movements in their personal story exchanges. For example, if my story conversation begins after I just ended a bar fight in my friend’s bar, it would be interesting to see my character sitting in front of an art piece depicting the injured bartender or a disarray of broken bottles, then swooping up to show the character with whom I am about to exchange words.

A swordsman and his beard

But let’s get to the real good stuff: the events system.

Ironchef Zebes talks out the Centaur Battle

Story segments play out against an artistic backdrop.

After the instanced introduction fight, you arrive to the Human starter area named Queensdale. Here, the game opens up and a scout marks out people in the area who need help. Most, like myself, go straight to the cow and corn farm. Here I began feeding cows and watering plants, letting the rest fight the worms sprouting up in the cow pen. Suddenly, a giant queen worm appears and I drop my bucket of water for my sword and focus. By this time I had learned two sword skills and working on the worms had brought out the third skill that creates a clone. The sword and the staff were two Mesmer weapon options that didn’t interest me before the beta, but became my favorites after the beta. I feel each served their purpose well, with the sword allowing good melee damage and control. The staff provided great group support and defense, which worked very well in the giant zerg that was the opening moments of beta.

Speaking of that zerg, the one at the farm finished off the queen worm pretty easily. It was at this point that most of us had filled our renown bar for the farmer and were ready to move on. I chose to take the path down the road to a Moa ranch. Other players split off towards the river or up the hill. At the Moa ranch, one of the farmers himself ran up to me and asked for help with some bandits. I began checking bushes for his Moa birds, but most were hiding bandits. Twice, I was doubled by hidden bandits and on the second encounter, the two bandits eventually took me down. It was at this point that a helpful ranger player showed up and helped me finish off the bandits from downed state. When I got back up, I saw a couple of players heading into a cave and followed them in.

Inside the cave, I discover the bandit hideout and a pen where those bad dudes and ladies have been rustling up some moa birds. With the few accompanying me, I take down some bandits and begin destroying their supplies. I attempt to jump into the moa bird pen, but get jumped by five bandits. They make short work of me and I have to respawn back at the first farm. By the time I get back to cavern, there’s a larger group and they’ve set the moa birds free. I get credit for this due to being the sacrificial lamb. Guild Wars 2 is a game that is punishing in that it will knock you to the floor, but rewarding in that it gives you credit for trying your hand at a challenge.

Meanwhile, I’ve found myself in the middle of another small zerg heading through the bandit cavern. We exit through the initial area and find ourselves in another section of the cave filled with bats. After the bats, we find a path up the rocks that leads to a spiraling bridge. As we ascend the bridge, bandits attack us and fire some explosives. Eventually we make it to the top where a bandit lieutenant awaits us. Again, I die at first until I find my sweet spot behind the boss. I may be a Mesmer, which is a magical trickster, but with just a sword in hand, I play more like a street magician thief.

After some time and teamwork, we take the big man down and one of his bodyguards cowers in fear, offering up some goods for sale in exchange for putting the beat-down on his commander. We all get some nice loot off the boss and I exchange a bow to someone for a staff. As you may be able to tell, the Guild Wars 2 experience is friendly and cooperative. I never found myself getting in the way of others or found other players as an obstacle towards my goal.

At this point, I’ve grouped up with this crew and joined their guild. We make our way back out of the bandit cave and towards a nearby orchard. The orchard owner is asking folks to get rid of the spiders and bats pestering her apple trees. We begin on this task, but our mighty size spawns a second event and spiders begin swarming in around us. I have switched to staff and begun learning my staff skills which prove helpful when positioned in the middle of the technicolor furnace of Guild Wars 2 combat. Yet, in the middle of this fight, that Moa rancher comes running for me again because those bandits we whooped got pissed and are attacking his home in waves. Our group splits for a few, with myself and some others taking out the bandit waves.

Attacking spiders in the apple orchard

Time for a caster to act like a caster.

Arachnapwnia and other mind wracking puns

With my return to the apple orchard, the event scales up again and soon a giant spider queen spawns. Did I just mention the technicolor furnace? Well now that color show is on full blast. I’ve also learned all five of my staff skills by now and unleash a giant chaos storm on top of our good friend Fat Charlotte the angry apple munching spider.

The spider goes down and I’ve just completed three events in a short span of time. I’ve jumped from level 2 once I got to Queensdale to level 5. Again, the group begins to splinter towards different destinations and I go exploring. I find a river dam under attack by harpies. I try plugging holes and fighting off the earth elementals and harpies, but harpies don’t roam around without friends. They are also a couple levels higher than I am, so I wander back down to the river to take care of some crab cages for a fisherman. I decide that this whole crabbing thing isn’t the life for a Mesmer and wander off towards a downed player on my map. Once I arrive to the downed player and help him back up, I realize I’m at the first farm again and bandits have begun attacking and setting the hay on fire. Yes, we’ve really pissed these guys off. All we do is keep killing them, so I guess they have a right to be angry. Everyone has a right to be angry or at least that’s why my crazy ex-roommate told me. Of course, if you keep attacking farms then I’m going to keep having to beat your behind. It’s nothing but a vicious cycle.

Erstwhile at Old McDonalds!

Players are grabbing buckets of water to douse the flames and I’m fighting the bandit waves, feeling confident with my new found levels and weapons. Unfortunately, fire still burns you and I get dropped hard by five bandits and their ring of fire. Burn, burn, burn and event scaled higher.

We still defending the farm, so I had yet to see an event fail. I wander back down to the river and realize a giant drake has appeared to defend its eggs. I am not sure if this drake was overscaled or if the mob fighting him just wasn’t as good, but the drake boss took longer to take down than any other boss. I then proceeded back towards the dam and used the drake zerg group to finish off those harpies. After this, I returned to the farm to spend some of the karma I’ve earned for doing all these helpful slaughterings. I notice that the sprinklers in the background have begun shooting out poison. When I was last here, the sprinklers were water a farm and a few worms were strolling about. Now the farm was being poisoned. This was my first time encountering the consequences of a failed event and didn’t feel like dealing with the consequences. It was about time to head back to the city and start the next segment of my personal story. I only mention this to mention that the little township outside the city had a well and it was a poisoned well. A couple villagers tried drinking the water and got sick, and the NPC by them advises me to talk to someone about fixing the situation. So even though I was trying to avoid the issue, the ramifications of the failed event had spread across the bridge and to the foot of the city.

And the city? Daunting.

Yet, city talk is another entry to be had. I would call this my first run with the game for it was around this point I took a little break. Was it fun? Yes. Was it different? Yes. Did it all make sense at first? No, but yes. People began rezzing each other right off the bat. Groups of zergs formed naturally and the map truly became player versus environment. You couldn’t just ignore the quests in the area because the “quests” came at you. The combat worked and was an active element. Everyone moved and learned to dodge or die. Putting up a Chaos Storm, people leaped into it and gave themselves a Chaos shield by the combo interaction. My Winds of Chaos bounced off of enemies and on to other players whether they were in my group or not, buffing them with random boons. The general interaction with the world lead you places and the world itself was vast.

And in the end? The Molerariat shall prevail.