[GW2] Fractured Storytime

With the Guild Wars 2 Fractals update, there is also a bit of the Living World going on. The first time players enter the Mistlock Observatory (fractals hub) they get to go in to story mode to experience the new Thaumanova fractal. It’s story mode because Kiel attempts to commandeer Mistlock Observatory and make Dessa use the technology to figure things out. Story spoilers abound beyond.

The fractal itself, even though I have only done story mode, is well-designed. It’s a big puzzle that is mostly combat light. The goal is to cool down or shut off the Thaumanova reactor, which is being invaded by Scarlet’s (proto-?) armies. The end boss is an anomaly, which appears to be a godlike energy being. The fight is all about keeping as much of the disappearing platform available as possible as players get hit with the energy and cause the platforms beneath their feet to disappear for a short time. Spreading out is the key tactic. I think I will enjoy it as part of the Fractals lineup.

However, as far as the story instance goes… it was a mess. I will give a nod to the pain caused by a bug, which prevented wiped parties from reviving, but only a quick one because this bug has been fixed. Otherwise, it was really tough to get pieces of the story. Here we are in a puzzle dungeon that we’ve never played before, and story dialogue is happening while we are racking our brains with in-game mechanics. Who knows how much conversation I missed.

Then players seem to have been able to complete puzzle portions on their own (good in an actual Fractal) causing me again to lose context and perspective, especially when I am face-planted somewhere else. Finally, I see Scarlet at a control panel. Was she there the whole time? When did she come in? She starts talking but we are trying to fight a puzzle or enemy again. It was ironic that at least 3/5 players in the party were parents that had kids arguing in the background during our time in the story instance because that was how it felt. There was too much to pay attention to, and unfortunately the thing I wanted to pay attention to was lost in the fuzz. Jeromai already gives a kind of real-time writing of his similar experience.

I am kind of surprised that ArenaNet didn’t utilize their party scaling technology just for the story instance. Sure a puzzle or two would have to be reconfigured to be solo’d or duo’d, but the same story presentation would have been better. Alternatively, it would have been nice to have a cutscene in the story instance (not actual fractal dungeon) to pause and get the Scarlet thing all together. I am grateful for the valiant efforts of the wiki community to record these bits of all the gray text and speech I missed. The other thing is that I made sure to do the story instance last night because I cannot imagine people getting a group for it next week.

Lorewise, I am liking Scarlet more and more as her goals are skittishly moving out of the shadows. It feels like it’s about manipulating energies. Every one of her armies has a distinct energy created from often-times a strange amalgamation. Scarlet is super colliding Tyria trying to find something. Not knowing that “something” is hard. I hope that after Scarlet ArenaNet tries to be much less clever in their approach. It’s cool to get that “ah-ha” moment when it all comes together, but keeping the audience’s attention to that point, getting them to come to it, and making it more worthwhile than all the confusion is tough. ArenaNet likes to walk the hard roads.

Speaking of “ah-ha” moments, the one with Dessa was quite an amazing and obvious discovery. Basically, the Mistlock Observatory is itself a fractal. All its denizens are themselves locked in time. This is why Dessa is brand-new each time the fractals are entered, and it is why she can’t go to Lion’s Arch. She might not exist anymore. That was a very cool moment for the players that stuck out the entire story instance (we had two people rage quit before Kiel and Dessa finished speaking because one person didn’t get the Thaumanova fractal achievement).

After months of getting fairly polished updates, this feels like a little splash of unwanted winter water. Even with Fractals getting quite a nice long-term jump there are still issues all over the place. Dredge is still too long. Mai Trin becomes unbeatable at Fractal level 37. Something something Colossus. Then this update is coupled with a weird advertising campaign. I personally thought the Tyrian Cab Driver bits were pretty humorous, but the whole taking an oath thing… “cringe” was the word thrown around by Guild Wars 2 fans quite a bit in response. It just gives the feeling of shaky ground. Perhaps I am a bit feeling salty too since our WvW week got off to a horrible start since supposedly half of our WvW population was off playing Elder Scrolls Online.

Given the initial reactions, I really do like Fractals, and of course the bi-week focus is now on it. I am excited to play a bit of this dungeon over the T-day weekend. For those out in the Lion’s Arch cold, in two weeks we’ll have the wintery glee of Wintersday that will wash down this fractal’d little pill like a spiked egg nog.


17 thoughts on “[GW2] Fractured Storytime”

  1. I ended up scrolling back over the chat box and reading it all when I finished the fractal.

    When Scarlet was giving her speech every one else I was with was up on the end-boss platform, I went up too and I could still see and read Scarlet’s speech bubbles going on down below. It was an odd (or time-constrained?) decision not to go with a cutscene at that point.

    Then after the boss defeat it is not obvious that you must step into the light orb and then watch the dialogue between Kiel and Dessa, but I could hear it from way across the mists while still in the room with the chest. Better notifications on the LS UI would have helped.

    I don’t think they are giving enough clues to hint at what Scarlet’s motives may be, it’s ‘something’ to do with dragon energy possibly, and that is likely frustrating a lot of players for it doesn’t seem to building to anything that can be speculated on as it seems to be too disjointed. I think a strong episodic narrative needs at least one thread that propels the story from beginning to end. With the dragons it is simple, they are a force of nature, a mystery. With Scarlet, all we know is she is a prodigy that is good at creating alliances and causing mayhem, she’s not a mystery just random.

  2. Scarlet? Again? All enthusiasm to check out this new fractal just evaporated. It’s honestly remarkable that ArenaNet seem to have simultaneously hired the world’s hardest working developers, and the world’s laziest writers.

    1. Yeah, I’ve long since run out of Scarlet enthusiasm. The joke/grumble has already been made 1000 times: if the election had gone the other way, Scarlet would have killed Abaddon or something.

      1. Scarlet saunters in casually into the Fall of Abaddon fractal, watches the Five Gods remove Abaddon’s godhood, makes a gobbledygook comment about it happening on a place of power and leylines of dragon energy, cackles that “it’s all going to plan, later taters, here, have some extra steampunk stuff to deal with while I saunter right out again.”

        At this rate, I don’t want them to even touch GW1 lore any more.

  3. Story mode for a fractal – this should be introduced for ALL fractals. One of the biggest hindrances to getting people doing these is the nervousness about being that one person who doesn’t know how each fractal works. Given < 10 fractals are pretty easy, but they still have plenty of insta-death/fail type mechanics for the first timer, and are confusing just getting from point A to point B in some cases. If it weren't for WvW at this point, GW2 would only exist on my HD to occasionally walk around Queensdale and Divinity's Reach.

  4. “Scarlet is super colliding Tyria trying to find something.”
    YOU make her sound interesting. Nothing much else (like what’s actually in the game) has done that for me.
    Part of me is happy to see them keep using her (even though I don’t like her and find her appearances to be cheap and unsubstantial), because it would have been really weak to introduce her and then not back up the implied plot. However, I’d like to have had some hint of her motives a lot sooner, or at least a suggestion that someone (Marjory for instance) was working on the question. One thing the Toxic Alliance arc has done much better than the previous Scarlet visits is to have NPCs speculating aloud, making connections between incidents, and generally showing signs that people in-world are asking the same questions we are and there might be some answers eventually.

    1. The issues with Scarlet is really her motive (still completely unknown, for months) and Mary Sue-like levels of power and ability. I personally don’t mind the Harlequin personality, it’s a little deranged but fun.

      Players are given no reason to care about whatever she’s doing. Is she trying to take over the world? Well, all her invasions have been repelled, her attempted assassination defeated and she still claims it’s all going to plan somehow. Whatever she’s done appears to have left no lasting impact besides new faction of the week, she hasn’t built herself up to be a credible threat beyond refusing to die via one hologram or clone or another.

      If the ramp up actually escalated – Molten Alliance scars left in Ascalon, charr bogged down fighting off dredge and Flame Legion, causing Rytlock to send a contingent to investigate and stop Scarlet (and assure humans the peace treaty is still trying to come along,) humans made restless about charr war-like buildup, Queen Jennah dead (with a charr emissary present, poor Rox), Logan swears bitter vengeance (possibly on the wrong target while players and certain NPCs are trying to convince him that Scarlet is to blame), Kessex Hills turned into a toxic swamp, etc…

      …then there are a lot more story reasons to care about whatever that joker is up to.

      Right now, it’s all “poof” “new thing appears” (out of character reason: this design team thought it was cool) in-game story reason: “Scarlet did it!”

      Why? Dunno. It’s building up, gais, don’t worry! (Two months later) We’re almost there! (More months pass.) Any second now! Really, honest, just you wait, it’ll be awesome, really!

      Sometimes it’s better to give away the motive and reason at the very beginning and let the buildup be about the process getting there, rather than trying to conceal a mystery with no real breadcrumbs or clues for eons. Look at the Mad King, we know his motive, he wants to come back to Tyria and continue his deranged reign.

      1. “Right now, it’s all “poof” “new thing appears” (out of character reason: this design team thought it was cool) in-game story reason: “Scarlet did it!””
        – You nailed it. It’s not satisfying to follow along with.

        After some thought, I decided that while I don’t actually mind a zany Harley Quinn character, Harley is a sidekick for a reason. She’s not stupid, but she’s someone you can point in a direction and say “wreck havoc.” That’s what the Queen’s Jubilee felt like – a distraction. The plot is currently trying to convince me that Scarlet is the mastermind with the plan here, but I just don’t buy it, she doesn’t seem the type the way they’ve written her. Then again if they try to reveal ANOTHER power behind her, it’s going to seem cheap.

        Agreed, some idea of her motivations earlier might have helped make her more credible.

    2. No one sells enthusiasm for GW2 content quite like Ravious does. Seriously ArenaNet should hire him for the community team so he can do that full time. As you say, he’s a stronger advocate than the in-game content is.

        1. I get that a lot too, and for one living story update (e.g. Queen’s Jubilee) I will almost always defend the concept to others and optimistically speculate on where they could go from here. After a while, though, it just becomes extra disappointing that it COULD have been interesting, but what we get is nowhere near the potential.

          1. oh Yeah – I know the pain.
            I was defending Anets writers for quite some time – remembering what they did in GW1, I was expecting them to hit the bottom and rise to really decent level.
            But its taking them too long. Heh, took more time than I had patience. Funny – I find more joy from reading forum threads than actually from playing GW2. Well, it would be quite funny if not for the fact it’s really sad.

            If You still can find magic in what they do and defend it from time to time… I really envy You!

            1. I roleplay with friends. We take solace in what WE make of the world (our sylvari are hella complex) and enjoy that, and the living story only has to bother us if it gets it the way of our headcanons :P
              At least the recent updates have been enjoyable to play, even if the story is questionable.

  5. Yh. Forced myself to log in again.
    Still waiting for my “ah-ha” moment, but so far – everything is still 1 to 1 copy of bad ideas from Anets blog, with poorly execution (as it goes for storytelling).
    Did the “story” version of fractals and again – I feel like I have enough. After what? 30 minutes in FotM, I need another 2 weeks break :D

    It’s too damn hard, to watch how the “story” “emerge” or “evolve” while You personally did some writing for living stuff. I know, I could never get away with such low quality, bad ideas and extremely high amounts of cheese and fluff in my work. Which leaves me wondering… I need a raise!

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