I just got back from vacation. Zubon held down the fort in fine manner. The Guild Wars 2 players assaulted another while I was gone. Apparently sky pirates, a guild/faction known as the Aetherblades, were docked right next to Lion’s Arch (and under the Tengu wall!) thanks to the evil asuran Inquest corportation’s help. The good people are on the assault taking out Aetherblade caches across Tyria and attacking their Aetherblade Retreat dungeon head on.
In a way this story is interesting. The Aetherblade are themed around lightning, and indeed they have appeared out of nowhere. More of the story of Mai Trin, and how she tied in to the Dragon Bash assassination will be revealed next week. For now we are left with Inspector Kiel pondering her first engagement with the Inquest and their pirate lackeys. I feel like the Aetherblade kind of got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and the response by Lion’s Arch was impressive.
There are a few ways to kill these new Aetherblades. The worst is randomly happening upon them near the Dragon Bash holographic emitters out and about in the field. There is some chance of the pirates appearing if a player walks near the emitter, but it is mostly frustrating either wasting time or waypoint money.
The current achievement grinder way is to hunker down at an Aetherblade cache and tag the respawning Aetherblades as they succumb to the effects of a thousand greatsword blades. I had a lot of fun visiting new mini-dungeons and jumping puzzles I hadn’t completed yet, and there was some fun and frustration in revisiting others, like the “dark room” jumping puzzle. Overall I consider it the cache achievements a success as far as the devs using and showcasing content already exisiting in the game. Next weekend this is how I plan on knocking out some achievements, but I am in no rush to compete for kills right now.
Finally, the grand entrance is of course the new dungeon, the Aetherblade Retreat. Jeromai covers this dungeon very thoroughly. It’s a really fun dungeon with a difficulty more for somewhat experienced dungeon runners than “Living World content is easy for all”. The achievements are all in place to make it just a touch harder, even if some are rather unclear and/or buggy. Players are always going to find the path of least resistance regardless of developer intention or unintention.
I feel the biggest issue with Aetherblade Retreat is that it is simply not rewarding enough in comparison to core dungeons to hold the interest of dungeon runners. Dungeon runners attention is needed to maintain a good active population for late-comers. I popped in Thursday night, and checked GW2LFG. Surprisingly the Aetherblade Retreat calls were among a far minority. This is not right in my opinion.
Like farming at Southsun Cove, I feel for ArenaNet to move the community around difficult group content, the rewards should be unquestionably good. Unlike the last Living Story dungeon, the Molten Facility, the unique rewards just don’t seem to have that same pull. And for profitability, the core dungeons just seem to be far better. I feel that as achievements are gained, the population of gamers interested in Aetherblade Retreat are going to diminish at a too-rapid pace.
I know ArenaNet is still learning a lot with how to farm the community, and I know there is a fine balance to walk for reward determination. Right now it is very exciting to be part of the constant updates right at the time they release. I loved seeing random players run towards Tears of Itlaocol with me. I hope that ArenaNet can continue to improve on these releases so that there is more of a sustained feeling of the content. Being too late to the party is never fun when everybody else is done eating.