Yesterday was a rollercoaster of emotion in playing the Origins of Madness update in Guild Wars 2. There was good; there was bad. There were shouts of joy and tears of rage. And, it all happened on the hour. Every hour.
The basis of the update are a Tequatl-difficulty wurm battle, a less difficult Marionette battle, a story instance, and a secret lair instance. The two battles happen on rotating hours (Wurm = odd server hour, Marionette = even server hour), and the two instances are player invoked. I’ll run down the line.
The wurm battle, Triple Threat, is… good. It’s bad for a pick-up player filled Living World, but I feel that it is a fine accompaniment to Tequatl and dedicated guild/commanders heading forward on these challenges. The map needs to split up into three equal parts, escort one snappy Asuran triplet to the wurm site, and take down their wurm. The wurms are invulnerable until a burn phase, and each has a different mechanic to opening it. Crimson is easiest, Cobalt is just a tad harder, and Amber is going to be the hellgate.
Crimson and Cobalt both have relatively direct mechanics to get the wurm into a burn phase. In Crimson, players find a colored spore cloud, cover themselves in spores, and bring it to the correct machine. There are red, blue, and yellow spores, and there is no penalty for loading up with all three colors to bring to each machine. Once each machine is filled the wurm can be burned. Cobalt takes away the three-colored possibilities and makes it just grab exploding barrel and run exploding barrel to the wurm before exploding barrel explodes. I think Cobalt is just a tad harder because unlike spores, the barrels can be destroyed en-route by enemies, falling in to water, or taking too long. The barrels at the wurm’s base also decrease in number as time goes on, and it is not clear if the collected spores similarly dissipate. Anyway, these are rather direct mechanics with only personal failure possible.
Amber, by comparison, is where guilds like TTS are going to want to send their pros. The mechanic is much more convoluted with Amber having multiple steps of group failure. What should happen is players cover themselves in goop from an explode-y Risen, at least 20 of them stand near the wurm to get eaten, at least 20 of them grab harpoons in the wurm’s stomach and expunge their way out, and at least 20 shoot the wurm with the half-digested harpoon to trigger a burn phase. Notice the possibility of failure all along the way. A few people miss with the harpoon; no burn phase. A few people die in the wurm’s stomach; no burn phase. That wurm is going to be the toughest of the three.
The part I really like about the wurms is that each of the three parts should also have two coordinated defense teams. Husks are a troublesome enemy going around and just knocking players about, and they are nearly invulnerable to power damage. Condition damage destroys husks, and a group of 5 condition-oriented players should be rounding these up because the wurm keeps regurgitating them (I’ve seen 8-10 on a screen for one failure). The other defense team needs to have 5 DPS (power) players on egg duty. Ignore the eggs and the screen is filled with lesser wurms and larva that hatch out. With a coordinated defense, I think people trying to do the mechanic (including Amber’s) are going to have a much easier time with the event.
Overall, I really like this open-world raid, and I can’t wait for it to become part of the TTS portfolio. I think it is a clear advancement from Tequatl.
The Marionette event is supposed to be more on the Living Story difficulty level. Players have to split up into five lanes to defend – tower-defense style – Watchwork enemies from getting up to the top of the lane. Starting with the bottom lane, each lane opens up to fight in the “arena”, where players from that lane are split up into five groups to fight a champion each. If all the champions are defeated, a chain is severed, and the event phase moves onwards. There are five chains to sever, whee the number 5!
Defense is easy. I’ve seen overflow servers with sub-normal IQ levels set up defense. This was actually a surprisingly great thing seeing communication before the event. Players were counting off in their lanes and trying to shift resources around so that each lane was approximately equal. Most of the defense should be at the bottom of the lane with a few players scattered behind to pick up adds. There are siege weapons in some of the lanes too that can be utilized including a siege golem. (Protip: leave the siege golem before you die, and other people can pop in the siege golem with full health. If you die in the siege golem the siege golem dies.)
The hard part is definitely the “arena” where players in a single lane run in to be split into 5 arena pads. At each pad is a champion to kill. There are two big non-player issues. The first is that the random assignment to each of the five arenas seems off. There have been accounts of 1-2 people in one arena and 5 in another instead of more even splitting. Usually the 1-2 people can’t take down their champion, and the entire lane loses. The other issue is that it takes non-negligible time for players to warp in to the arena, and the fight starts immediately. Slightly late players warp in to the arena and land on a mine, and then they are out. There is no gathering period inside the arena. Both of these issues lead to lots of lane failure.
Thankfully there are about 5 tries. As the event goes along a laser counter continues to rise. If Watchwork creatures get to the end of a lane, the laser rises. If a chain sever attempt fails, the laser rises. That means if lane 2 fails at severing chain 2, lane 3 still gets a chance to sever chain 2. The punishment for lane 2 is giving less chances for later lanes. All is not lost because of one horrible lane.
Apart from the issues above, this is a really fun fight, and I feel that my server will have a good handle on it by the weekend. However, my server is a high-pop server…
Event Scaling Tangent
What I don’t like is that there seems to be relatively no downward scaling going on. I understand it’s a “big” group event, but why can’t the event scale properly to accommodate smaller groups. If only 2 people warp in to an arena, that champ should become a virtual veteran. Lanes should respond to having less people. I don’t understand why ArenaNet is not lowering the bar for player requirement.
Tangentially, look at Scarlet Invasions. Mrs. Ravious loves them, even to this day, and No One Does Them. Why? Because they don’t scale. Without an entire map hunting them down in a very coordinated fashion there is no point. Better to just go join one of the many farm trains and actually do something worthwhile. What if Scarlet Invasions did scale down so that 1-2 groups could attack them? I think people would still be doing them. A single guild could decide it would be a fun guild event.
Going back to the Marionette, I do feel for low-pop servers here. I don’t understand why Marionette can’t scale down farther, especially for the “arena” portion. I hope that as ArenaNet continues with world events like this, which they should, they significantly lower the player activity bar. Either that or move along with underflow servers. I do not feel like guesting to a high-pop server should be the default answer.
My favorite parts by far were the player instances. The first instance occurs in Lion’s Arch between the NPC’s of the Living World story. Whoever drafted the “indie cinematic” approach deserves an extra donut because I was tickled at the flow of the instance.
It starts with one conversation between Rox and Rytlock. Rytlock leaves and Braham joins in. Braham leaves and the player follow Braham to Logan and the new Taimi character (an Asuran kid obsessed with Scarlet). And so on, ending with Marjory and Kasmeer holding hands by the bay. The conversations were good, the story telling was good, and the direction was great.
I would say that if this is the new bar for ArenaNet, the storytelling has come a long way. A quick sour note and sweet note. Kasmeer’s story about her father was a bit too much, but it was a fine way to tell some of Kasmeer’s backstory. I also really appreciated all the prop characters scattered around the edges of the instance. It made it feel like a snapshot of everyday Lion’s Arch.
The other instance has no characters to talk to, but it has plenty of story. After players roam the countryside taking down Scarlet’s energy probes to gather 40-50 orbs to make an energy key for her hideout, they can enter the secret hideout. Scarlet is, of course, long gone, but, man, did the artists win here. The small chamber is so rich with drawings and storytellings. It is just so good. I must have spent a good 15 minutes in there just looking around, wondering how things fit together, and soaking it all in. Make sure to look up at the crude mural on the ceiling.
Overall I am pretty pleased with the update. I’m sure I will start doing raids with TTS on the wurms pretty soon, and I will keep doing the Marionette until we fail because of player population. Overall it’s a good start to the end of Season 1, but ArenaNet still has things to smooth out. There is too much idle waiting before the events, and scaling/balance concerns are pretty high on the rage list. It is pretty clear that ArenaNet is learning, polishing, and advancing their unique way of playing an MMO. And for that I’m grateful. And hey, if nothing else we’re back to “don’t like it; wait 2 weeks”.