The first part dealt with the really good entry in to the Heart of Thorns’ map metas. Now we get in to territory that I feel could use some smoothing.
Tangled Depths Overview
Much like the first two maps Tangled Depth is about the outposts. There are four, similar to Auric Basin, and again like Auric Basin building them up helps the final meta event.
The map itself is not as lore heavy as Auric Basin since the presence of the Exalted is gone. The overarching theme is mostly the chak, xenophobic insectile species that are resistant to Mordremoth’s corruption (just like the sylvari) and are able to control leyline magics. Unlike the Exalted, the chak don’t like to talk much.
The story of the map’s meta is blowing a hole through some wall to get to Mordremoth’s domain. This wall is of course underground (don’t have to deal with nasty vines anymore) and in the middle of a leyline chak party zone.
The boss meta event starts conveniently at the central point near that darn wall. From there 4 NPC commanders, complete with snazzy NPC commander tags, head down the four lanes. Each lane has it’s own mega-chak boss called a gerent, and accompanying that is a mechanic to weaken the gerent.
In the charr lane, for example, players have to protect charr using a ground pounder giving the gerent a headache. In another lane players have to pop mushroom spores to add to the air, etc. The better done, the weaker the gerent is when it pops up out of the ground to get smashed on by and kill players, allegedly. To be honest, I have not noticed a difference between tier 1 and tier 4. I might need to see it side-by-side.
Each gerent must be popped up at specific intervals, and each gerent must be ultimately killed. If a single lane fails to pop up it’s gerent at that interval, say because they didn’t pop enough mushrooms, the whole meta loses.
Tangled Depths Review
I’ll be frank. This is the poorest map of the bunch in terms of meta. For a soloer, like Verdant Brink, it is a fantastic place of exploration. It is not like Auric Basin where places are just closed off depending on outpost advancement. So it becomes already at the start sort of a wish-wash of amazing place to solo explore, but needs meta-level population for the meta.
The outposts have neat stories to them. In Rata Novus players are reprogramming ancient asura tech to fight chak. In the Nuhoch outpost players are training beetles to fight off chak. The other problem is that these outposts seem to be completely finishable in a small portion of the 1.5 hours given to upgrade the map. Last night I signed on near the charr quadrant, and already within 1/2 hour the charr was complete. I checked the timer, and yup, there was still an hour to go. The ones that I have done seem decently soloable, unlike Auric Basin’s champion-strewn meta.
There are events that repeat after the outpost is upgraded, but it seems geared towards mobs of players that want to go around and champ farm as a pack. I have never seen this happen in Tangled Depths. This is another weird dichotomy of very easy outpost events coupled with group-required after-outpost events.
Finally, the meta event. I know it’s beatable with TTS-level coordination, but for PUG’s I haven’t seen it gone much past the first gerent interval. All that build up. All that time. For failure within minutes. What’s worse is apparently people could grief by upscaling the event making it impossible to beat. Thankfully, not many are going to waste their time griefing in Tangled Depths when failure is the go-to.
What I first want is a fix to scaling the meta’s lanes. It should be very easy to call up the gerent, and very hard to get it super-weakened. If there are active, dedicated players it should be no problem to pull it out of the ground. The players still have to burn the gerent down, which is not an easy task. It doesn’t need to be doubly difficult, especially with auto-fail feature.
The other thing I would like is no more auto-failure. I am fine with a lane failing, but yesterday I was in a tier 4 Tangled Depths with every outpost completed, and we only pulled about 20 players together in the map for the meta. Okay, so we can’t do the whole event ourselves, but could we at least be able to take on a lane or two?
Auric Basin and Dragon’s Stand already both have meta failure mechanics. I feel we don’t need 3 of the 4 maps to have them. In my opinion, I think Tangled Depths could benefit from more of a Verdant Brink-like meta where players can beat down one boss (in VB that would be the wyvern momma) to feel good about themselves, and hit all 5 bosses for a fantastically coordinated map.
The final thing is that unlike Dragon’s Stand where players are going to need gobs of the reward to get the best Heart of Thorn’s PvE rewards, there isn’t much carrot to do the very hard Tangled Depths event. I am fine with ArenaNet making another Triple Threat level event, and in fact I relish in more of those. However, don’t make it the map’s focus.
Tangled Depths is a fun and frustrating zone, but I think it could benefit the most from ArenaNet looking at it a bit more. I hope that Living World upgrades could occur here because it needs more meta-content during the build-up phase, and I feel it needs another pass for the boss phase.
Dragon’s Stand Overview
Dragon’s Stand is the final Heart of Thorns map. It is the attack on Mordremoth. The starts a new every 2 hours. On top of that it needs 15 players evenly split between 3 lanes to begin. Then begins a slog down each lane to two boss events. The map must beat the first boss within 2 hours of the map’s start or the whole map gets destroyed.
Each lane has a movement phase and a camp phase. The lane starts with a camp phase, and then there are two more. Each camp phase has two events to build up the next movement phase, such as adding beetles or bats to your troop’s allies. Many of these events require players to be resistant to poison through Itzel 4.
During the movement phase players must protect the Pact allies slowly walking deeper in to Mordremoth’s territory. Just as slowly are squads of mordrem, the lane boss, and other mini-boss fights. The lane boss keeps getting resurrected by blighting towers, which are the first boss fight. So, 3 camp phases and 3 movement phases to get to the gate.
Inside is the gate where the blighting tower resides. Each blighting tower is protected by three pods around a wide circle, and each pod has a Mordrem Preserver that periodically respawns to bring about a new pod. The lane boss is invulnerable if any pod is up, and if the lane boss is killed and a Preserver manages to rebuild a single pod, the lane boss respawns anew.
The current meta is to have a boss group of 5-10 players attack the lane boss while a zerg runs around the outer edge killing Preservers just as they respawn. The problem with the current meta is that modrem keep respawning to protect the Preserver’s area, and it becomes this weird mad dash through a sea of red to attack a barely targetable Preserver before it respawns the seed. I hope the meta changes. Mrs. Ravious and I have talked a lot about strategy, and we both feel a single zerg for each lane completely circling the blighting tree wastes a lot of time.
Anyway, each lane has to have each of their lane bosses dead at once. If one lane is super good and kills their lane boss quickly. They still have to run around the donut killing Preservers because if one Preserver comes back, the lane boss comes back.
Once that is won, it’s time to fight the Mouth of Mordremoth on 9 islands floating amidst ley line energy. Gliding is a must here (although I can’t imagine anybody not having it), and the last Gliding mastery tier helps a ton.
There are many, many different phases. Some require people on each island. Some require a lot of people stack on one island while people from another island frantically rush to drop bombs on Mordremoth’s head. Some require a split to deal with the lane bosses (who just won’t f’in die!) on each island. It is very well designed, and should be a seminal piece for ultimate expansion world boss design.
When Mordremoth is dead, the zone gets 15 minutes to rapidly run through the zone to get the chests.
Dragon’s Stand Review
The bad thing first. It’s not the design of the events or the, in my opinion, bad donut meta which is a player issue. It’s the mega-server. The mega server is very bad at finding active maps, and it is really good at making sure players join in on maps that haven’t even got their 15 players put on the 3 lanes.
Last night Mrs. Ravious and I were dutifully in a dead map right around map reset time. This is a must because people only seem to ferry in to active maps right around map reset time. We were in the same map and party when our dead map was destroyed, and then we weren’t. The mega-server somehow decided that we needed to go in to separate starting maps?!
I feel that not only do we need better megaserver, or active map joinability (one preferably not reliant on good souls using the “Y” find a group mechanism), but I feel the map would be better if it started in waves. The mechanism is already there. It starts with 15 people. Then start the 2-hour map countdown. This will make it more like Silverwastes, but it will also allow for more of a rolling population start.
I am of the mind though that perhaps this isn’t a good idea long term. If everybody knows that the map starts every two hours, which I guarantee they don’t, then having that moment to check on whether a map is going to be active or not will be good. On the other hand, players that pop in after 1 hour are going to find a map with only 1 hour to go and no started meta.
Has the whole map really been balanced for only 45 players (5 players per island)? That would be amazing if it was. It definitely leans me more toward wanting a rolling start, ala Silverwastes, than the current setup.
I also want to comment on the brilliant design of the Mordremoth fight. Why is it briliant? Because it allows for players to stand around and defend their island, but it also allows for heroic players to fly around like a shock team getting to the islands that need the help the most. Every level of skill has a role. I really like that.
As I am learning the meta’s I am having a harder and harder time choosing where I want to play. I like Tarir’s all-in-it together feeling. I like Dragon’s Stand’s slog (although last night we beat the map in an hour). I like Verdant Brink’s more solo’r attitude. I think I would like Tangled Depths with some tweaks.
It’s all so active and fun right now, and I feel that player skill keeps improving, which just improves the whole experience. I admit I am a little worried about future scaling, and hopefully ArenaNet knows or has ideas on how not to have their zones become a wasteland. Perhaps it just goes F2P? Or, perhaps they are ready to downscale the heck out of it? Who knows? (A: Hopefully, ArenaNet).