[GW2] Arah

This weekend, I played The Ruined City of Arah in story mode. This is GW2’s final dungeon, where you and the reunited Destiny’s Edge fight Zhaitan itself. It is probably the worst instance I have ever run, second only to the collective, multi-hour pain of the City of Heroes Shadow Shard task forces that spanned entire zones. The two big problems I see are balance and boredom.

The fights are winnable, especially since the dead can run back to the fight (seems fair against the undead), but they seem balanced around an assumption of more experienced players. It is balanced for the state of the game a year or two from now, not how it is currently, which is reasonable except that we can expect some re-balancing over the next year or two anyway.

For example, the first boss includes a gear check. He has an area effect attack that hit my elementalist for 13,000, +/- 2%. My elementalist has 13,000 hit points. That 2% random variation really mattered, as did a few points of armor or toughness. The difference between being one-shot and two-shot is large unless the enemy attacks very quickly. (This one does, in fact, use that AE pretty quickly, and good luck dodging while downed.) Fully geared in exotics, I presume I could tank that lich without needing earth attunement.

I should note that these are balance issues considering that it is story mode not exploration mode. If exploration mode is the PvE endgame, story mode is the doorway to that, and the doorway cannot demand gear that is usually acquired by running dungeons in exploration mode. Oh who am I kidding, most people seem to acquire their exotics from the trading post, but someone must bootstrap into the dungeons.

The airship fight uses the other bit from that “balanced for” link, apparently assuming players who have completed it before. There are long pauses between fights, in which one might explain what is about to happen and what to do. (In a non-moving dungeon, you might just stand still and explain, but here the ship and your enemies fly at their own rates.) Once the fight is going, there is not enough time to type a sentence amidst the constant influx of attackers. Either you know in advance, everyone figures it out independently, or you suffer. (Voice chat would radically improve this experience for first-timers, but I was PUGging it. It is another problem to balance around out-of-game tools.)

I was not clear if those attacks were blockable. You get waves of damage and enemies on the deck of the ship. I had the sense that they could be blocked with proper use of the ship defenses, but if one person missed one block, the tide of pain began. I have little evidence for this perception, more of a metagame intuition. Again: everyone must either know going in or learn in less time than it take to type a sentence.

Assuming those attacks come in, we are back in a bit of a gear check. You can dodge, but the AEs are wider than the deck of the ship, sometimes larger than your dodge distance, and there are multiple and stacking. You may be standing in a good spot to start the dodge o’ doom, or maybe not. The waves with multiple exploding enemies were interesting: the first would one-shot you to downed, the second would knock you from downed to dead before the downed interface finished coming up. Again, in exotics or knowing the block/dodge pattern from the start, this is probably more survivable.

War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

The boredom side is that airship fight. When there are not massive waves crashing upon you, there is nothing. If you do not have an experienced player briefing you during those long pauses, they are just long pauses, but not long or safe enough for a beverage or bathroom break.

Using the airship weapons gives you two buttons, usually one because only shooting or blocking will be relevant for a phase. You do not aim the guns. You just hit 1 or 2.

For the big fight against Zhaitan, you just have the one button. Technically, you have three: aim left, aim right, and shoot. You click “aim right” once to point at Zhaitan, who does not move for the entire fight, at which point you click “shoot” when it refreshes. My teammates told me that used to be the entire fight; now there are waves of enemies for some people to fight while the others keep clicking “shoot.” That is it. That is the big boss fight for the entire game: non-mobile weapons being fired at a non-mobile target. It is an anticlimactic fish in a flying barrel.

Last night, I got to the last mission of the personal story. It is to kill Zhaitan. Not only is the worst dungeon required content for finishing the personal story, the personal story fails to recognize that you have already completed story mode and killed Zhaitan. This is a dramatically “bears bears bears” moment because the central quest line of the game fails to recognize that I have killed the name boss in question, which is definitely tracked on because I have achievement progress for doing so and received a polite letter about going back to Arah for exploration mode. One part of the user interface knows that I have killed Zhaitan, and another part is insisting that I go do so.

: Zubon

You are also told to get to the chopper in this mission. Literally. I have come to accept the occasional asuran mega-laser, I am iffy about the charr Mad Max tanks, but something just feels wrong about a fantasy helicopter … he said while flying on the airship, but that seems like a genre staple since Final Fantasy. The chopper does, however, lead to the best part of the dungeon: clearing three obelisks then fighting a Mouth of Zhaitan, which I found to be the most dynamic and entertaining boss fight of the dungeon.

25 thoughts on “[GW2] Arah”

  1. I am pretty curious how one has only 13k health at level 80. I have 20k health with rare gear, since I know speccing into vitality and toughness is more effective than just stacking precision, power and critical damage to infinity, disregarding my defense. That is a prominent factor of success to every story mode dungeon prior to arah, especially ascalon catacombs. So I do not feel the gear check is too much of an issue.

    I agree the fights were mostly boring and underwhelming. Fighting after the helicopter scene was great, but prior to that was not good. I liked fighting the small dragons, but not for the fighting that much, more for the multimanagement required and the visual awesomeness. Zhaitan itself was garbage. I hear they have changed it again with the last update, but I will wait to experience him with a new character.

    For the helicopter part: I wasn’t set off by that, mainly because I played fields of ruin extensively and one of my favorite events includes a prototype. You can either look for it yourself (look for kailani the foolhardy) or enjoy this video of the results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qftL35ZPvc

    1. Depends on class:

      L80 Warrior base HP + Vitality = 18,372
      L80 Necromancer base HP + Vitality = 18,372

      L80 Engineer base HP + Vitality = 15,082
      L80 Ranger base HP + Vitality = 15,082
      L80 Mesmer base HP + Vitality = 15,082

      L80 Guardian base HP + Vitality = 10,805
      L80 Thief base HP + Vitality = 10,805
      L80 Elementalist base HP + Vitality = 10,805

      (Thanks to F13.net)

      1. Wow, seems I was quite off there, I remembered the lower tier having 13k base health. 10k seems awfully low, especially with cloth armor. On the other hand, the easy regeneration and protection sources could still pinpoint this in favor of an elementalist. I don’t know, mine is still at level 15 :D

        1. There’s nothing flipped, the guardian is amongst the lowest category. And quite rightly so, given all his defensive capabilities.

        2. It’s an unusual design decision. Many people are taken aback by the necro’s odd role as a high hit point, cloth armor, melee, pet, debuffer class.

        3. Ha, I <3 my necro's health….sitting pretty at 23k right now.

          FWIW, those tiers also reflect how much health is gained per vitality. W/N get most health per vit, and G, Th, and El get the least.

  2. Aw man, now I know that there is an airship fight! (my fault I suppose, should just avoid all posts/threads with names containing content I haven’t played yet.

  3. Thanks for posting this; it was a really interesting read for me because my experience was pretty much the opposite. I pugged my way through Arah pretty early on, when I’m pretty sure nobody in the group knew anything about it (I think it was the second time we’d gotten the gate open on Yak’s Bend), and I thought it was laughably easy and a massive let-down. I liked the airship dragon fights well enough (and thought the group of giants was fine for teaching you about the blocking), partly because they were new and you had to do different things. My least favorite part was the obelisks and mouth, because those were just more boring zerging around and shooting things, and then occasionally throwing stuff at the mouth when it does the vortex, except even if you don’t do that it dies fast.

    Very early in that first run, I decided that they must have made Arah story easy so that everybody could finish their personal story without much effort. But this post makes me think I was coming at it from a very different perspective than I thought I was.

  4. The lich aoe (you mean the bolts of light right?) is meant to be dodged, and it’s fairly easy to do so from range.

    As for the ship fights with dragons, blocking doesn’t work (I think). you just have to shoot them, kill adds, shoot, kill adds, etc.

    I don’t feel like it requires particularly complicated strategy. The only fight that maybe does is the giant where you have to kill the grubs. Except he seems to be killable even if you let him eat most of them.

  5. Interesting article – I’d say this is the first KTR post I strongly disagree with.

    I play a pretty glass-cannon specced Ranger and the only part of the dungeon that was more difficult than ‘appropriately challenging’ was the fight on the first airship. However, once I moved away from the bow to the midsection of the ship, the battles were appropriately challenging.

    I had a blast on this dungeon, except for the final battle. Like Zubon I was disappointed with the ‘actually fighting Zhaitan’ mechanic. I liked the ‘fighting the big boss interspersed with adds’, but hated the ‘sitting in the turrets pressing “1” every two seconds’. For the great, dynamic, fast-paced combat of GW2, the giant final battle you’re building up to the entire game is a bit of a letdown. Why not have the giant superlaser temporarily ‘immobilize’ Zhaitan near the ship so you can chop at his many heads while they breathe various fire/poison/ice/etc at you?

    Not to mention that the ‘final boss falling into the abyss’ means it’s certainly not his end..

    1. “Interesting article – I’d say this is the first KTR post I strongly disagree with.”

      Just now the first? Boy, we’re doing something wrong then.

  6. I went through Arah Storymode and I had a pretty good time. The airship battle is a pain with the multiple knockbacks that you can’t get out of.

    As with all GW2 dungeons, once you understand the mechanics, the fights are pretty fun…but that’s the major problem with GW2 dungeons in my opinion. They almost expect you to go read a guide before running them or else you will have a pretty frustrating time. It’s one thing to know your class and try different tactics, but another thing altogether if you know a tactic isn’t working by insta-death…

    1. “As with all GW2 dungeons, once you understand the mechanics, the fights are pretty fun…but that’s the major problem with GW2 dungeons in my opinion. They almost expect you to go read a guide before running them or else you will have a pretty frustrating time. It’s one thing to know your class and try different tactics, but another thing altogether if you know a tactic isn’t working by insta-death…”

      I really don’t see it as much as a problem in other dungeons. I like actually dying and not being handed my reward on a silver plate when I have no knowledge of the fight. For example, in twilight arbor, 2 bosses are basically puzzles. You engage them and will die, since you have no idea what is going on. but everytime someone on my team had an idea and once we used that strategy it worked like a charm. The spider boss was immensely fun for me. I also enjoyed sorrows embrace and its golems. What I hated, was that one golem heals himself with conditions, which basically means I can only use 2 weapons as a mesmer and have to ignore their best attacks and stick to autoattack, since I will put conditions on him with every other skill.

  7. Heard back from customer service: anyone in my situation (completed story mode first) is welcome to repeat the dungeon in story mode again and hope it does not bug and fail to give credit.

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