With my tongue-in-cheek rage dissipating, I wanted to talk in a more rounded way about the three new activities that came with the latest Guild Wars 2 update, Cutthroat Politics. The official site lists these as “activities”, and they are all repeatable mini-games of a sort. Two are of a PvP nature, and one is PvE.
Last night I spent way too much time playing Southsun Survival. Of the three new activities that came with the Cutthroat Politics update, Southsun Survival is the only one that appears to be a permanent fixture as part of a rotating daily activity. Southsun Survival is best explained as Hunger Games on Southsun Cove. It is one of the best PvP experiences I’ve had in a while, and each round lasting almost 6 minutes on the nose each time (out of possible 15 minutes) feels different. In one sense it feels very rogue-like, which is something I am not sure I would ever apply to an MMO.
Players start with nothing and have to scavenge for limited resources. Each scavenge gives a chance of certain items like arrows or traps. There are also passiflora bushes, which is key to survival as everybody gets an ever increasing hunger debuff that drains life. In one game I might be Rambo having 7 arrows and a sword. In another game I might be planting traps everywhere. In another game I might be trying to avoid the ghosts.
So if a player dies (after the 2-minute free death phase), they become a ghost that can follow players and generally make the remaining players’ lives hell by planting traps and summoning champion karka. It definitely speeds the game up, but rarely does the final survivor win with the blood of second place on her hands. Usually one has hidden from the ghosts better than the other.
In the only game I have won as sole survivor, I stuck around main camp (I play very aggressive because its better for points), and three of us were constantly dancing around each other. Ding, Gnashblade tells us all to kill each other for good, and my two local enemies duke it out. One drops, the other is quite wounded, and I swoop in for an easy bow kill. And between those two deaths I now have 8 rations! I make up my mind quickly to go hide and see if I can out-famish the rest. I go to my favorite hiding spot (inside a ship), and just stand there. Unlike ranger traps, the ghost’s traps cannot be triggered if placed on a player. A player has to walk in to a trap’s circle. So I stand there. If there’s a wisp on me, I’m not going to trigger any traps. And, I eat. And, eat some more.
Two players left, I am close. Then some enterprising ghost summons a giant karka right there in the ship! I am not going to push my luck with karka clipping through the ship, and I dive in water opening myself up to the possibility of entering traps when I need to head to land to eat. I make it to the edge of the water, no traps, and I stand there pushing my luck against an undoubtedly angry swarm of ghosts buzzing around me. But, I out eat the other survivor!
Aspect Arena I played heavily on patch night. Players are on a team of 5, and they select a “role” to play by choosing wind, sun, or lightning as an aspect. Wind seems to be the long-range harasser, lightning is definitely the in-your-face melee-control, and sun is somewhere in the middle. What was surprising to me was how well balanced all the aspects where to each other. Surely, I felt, there would be a clear winner that everybody chooses, but I didn’t see that. In fact, I was choosing new aspects throughout the match depending on current mood.
The best part about the skills, for all three aspects, is that each has a way to control and a way to break control. In wind, for example, players get a kick that knocks players back and hopefully off the platforms to their death below. Wind also gets to go in to an invulnerable mist-form with a short speed buff. The best players will know exactly when to pop both. The kick can interrupt, and the mist-form can waste an enemy’s attack. Each aspect has this, and I feel each encounter is like a short chess match to see if I can outplay the opponent, not just with damage, but with all the skills. It’s a very fun activity, and I think each match is about 5 minutes.
The final activity is a PvE defense-based activity where players are tasked with killing Aetherblade pirates (increases event rank and loot drops) while defending piles of gold from Aetherblade plunderers. I did Tiers 1 and 2 legit, and it was fun, but not something I would want to repeat. It was more on the level of “phew, survived that”. Unfortunately, it also comes with many issues.
High praise has to be given for a completely scalable soloable or group activity. Players can do it with a duo or a full five-person party, but it doesn’t feel like it scales appropriately. The pirates begin to feel like meatbags of hit points, which isn’t fun. The fun of having more people doesn’t seem to increase, only the futility. I understand that at Tiers 3 and 4, tighter groups are going to be required, but it feels like ArenaNet designed it as a linear difficulty increase in scaling (i.e., 100% solo to 500% five-player). It also really does not feel clear as to what is necessary as far as builds.
This is something that the community could easily crack, but instead all of the guides I have been seeing have been playing for full-cheese (possible exploit) method where players hide behind spawns to take out only the pirates that plunder the gold. This results in highly-reduced loot drop chances, but it can be beaten then. I think at least partial blame for this is due to the pressure felt by players in completing the achievements.
I like having difficult content, but for things like this where it becomes a “statistical” increase in difficulty (rather than an inherent challenge in the content, such as Faster Than Light’s don’t touch any lasers in Aetherblade Retreat), I think it should be left up only to a rewards increase instead of an achievement/ content checkmark.