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Flameseeker Chronicles: Love is in the air

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Last week was pretty busy for me, but I rewarded myself this weekend by jumping into Hearts of the North with both feet. Once I finally made time to indulge and play through the line, I enjoyed it for the most part. I had mixed feelings about a few parts, and I'll address those in a bit, but the reactions of a portion of the Guild Wars community as a whole were much stronger.

I think that Hearts of the North and everything surrounding it is a "love it or hate it" situation for many people. I've heard from many players who are ecstatic about all of this, and many who want nothing to do with it. So follow along after the jump and let's take a look at the ups and downs of all the new goodies in Guild Wars!

The costumes

Oh man, the costumes. If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know perfectly well what my take on them is. I lunged for my credit card and then was incredibly impatient when the NCsoft store broke. Two minutes after it came back up, I was tearing across Lion's Arch toward Khrysten. I'm thrilled with every item in the pack -- I found all the little details simply charming. The corset backs on the female costumes, the differences in the male top hats, the introduction of hairstyles, and even the way the costumes take dye all delighted me. (And yes, I made a few high-pitched noises when I found out that there were top hats for the ladies.)

Many of my guildmates felt the same, and in less than an hour there were about 8-10 very well-dressed characters running around the guild hall, exclaiming over color choices and experimenting with costume, headgear, and armor combinations.

It's strictly a matter of opinion, though. Cosmetic items like costumes are something that I absolutely love, so this stuff is right up my alley. I know that not everyone felt the same -- I heard just as much from those who disliked the sets as those who did. The top complaint I heard was that some of the male tuxes are identical. On one hand, I can understand the reasoning behind some of it. You get your traditional white wedding gown and black tux, which are both completely fixed with regards to color. Then you have a second identical costume that is dyeable. I personally like that setup, because it works well in the context of what it is: a full wedding party.

The males didn't get as much variety as the females -- two of the dyeable tuxes are completely identical -- and while I would have liked to see more options there, I suppose it holds true to reality. The poor guys never seem to have as many clothing options as the women.

The content

The actual storyline is a bit of a controversial thing to my eyes. Some players dislike the romantic part of the tale, some are completely bored with the whole mess and want to move on to Cantha, and still others resent that they have to finish previous content to get to it. (For the record, that last thing is as silly to me as saying that it's not fair you can't do Ruins of Morah before you do Consulate Docks.) The majority of players, however, seem to be content with the new events. It's a story that's been in the works for an extremely long time, and seeing it through to the conclusion is such fun.

I have mixed feelings about playing as Keiran. On one hand, I am a highly social player and I didn't like not being able to do these missions with my guild. It's the same reason my Bonus Mission Pack content goes largely ignored. Again, this is a case of personal opinion -- this setup did not cater to my playing preferences, but it doesn't mean it's bad.

On the other hand, it eventually dawned on me that I was getting a look at how combat will work in Guild Wars 2, and I was thrilled. It's just Miku the Assassin and you as Keiran. You have no dedicated healer, but you each have a powerful self heal. Even better, the two skill sets work together to deal some huge damage. The two of you are a devastating pair if you time things correctly and work with one another.

For example, Miku's Jagged Strike will inflict bleeding. Your Terminal Velocity -- when it hits a bleeding foe -- inflicts Deep Wound. Miku's Venom Fang -- when it hits a foe with Deep Wound -- inflicts an extra 80 damage. It's a fantastic back-and-forth with the potential to rip through foes extremely quickly. I haven't even mentioned the big combination, though: Promise of Death plus Keiran's Sniper Shot. Those two in succession will deal +900 damage to your foes. Miku calls it when she's using Promise of Death -- all you have to do is follow her call with the Sniper Shot. It is so much fun to see that "Snap! Headshot!"

I absolutely love this taste of Guild Wars 2 combat, and it was easily one of the most exciting things about this content for me. Unfortunately, it also leads us nicely into the next part of today's Flameseeker Chronicles.

The downside

There were several things about this content that snagged for me. Overall I am extremely happy with it, but that doesn't mean I'm blind to the flaws. The biggest frustration I ran into involved Miku herself. Miku, honey, I want to follow your calls. I do! But all of my t-spacing is in vain.

That's right, you can't t-space to follow her calls. Since she is set up to attack the closest target, it's no big deal at first. Just c-space and you're fine. After that it gets a little insane. Miku is melee and you are ranged. So after that first foe, Miku will attack and call the next closest foe to herself -- which is probably not the same as your closest target. Without the ability to follow her calls the normal way, you are reduced to pressing control to light up the enemy names and clicking to target. It's clumsy at best, and in a large battle you may as well forget it. When things got really hectic I found myself ignoring her calls half the time in favor of trying to kill the White Mantle Knight who was punching my face. The other half I was holding down the control key, squinting at the screen, and cursing.

I also spent a lot of time yelling at her to stop attacking the level 15 bone minion and help me take out the White Mantle Abbott, but I understand that AI may not always allow for that sort of thing. The fact that she is an AI is probably the source of our inability to t-space as well, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating. I want more Guild Wars 2-style play in Winds of Change and whatever the Nightfall content turns out to be, but I hope that some of the rough edges will get smoothed out.

Speaking of rough edges, there were a few more in this content than I'm used to. I was a bit surprised at the number of non-game-breaking-but-still-distracting little touches I saw. When I was doing the final quest, a distant fence seemed to be informing the villagers about the White Mantle's plan. I was panning all around and running back and forth trying to figure out who was over there before I realized that it was supposed to be me talking. The little speech bubbles were way out of place.

Gwen and Keiran are terribly confused about whom they are in love with. When we found Keiran at the end of Reunion, he went charging past our entire group and told a nearby snow wolf that he had some important things to say. Inside the Hall of Monuments later, Gwen got a bit turned around, emoting and speaking directly to me with her back almost completely turned on Keiran. Finally, her endless supply of bows was a source of much amusement to my guild. Where is she keeping them all, and why in heaven's name does she have his weapon in the first place? Doesn't he need that?

I joke, but these things speak to a lack of polish that I'm not used to from ArenaNet -- particularly when combined with the bigger problems like broken quests and looping dialogue. Please understand that I'm not saying it's horrible, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to go through the entire series several more times. I can love the content and still see flaws -- nothing is perfect and that's OK.

For me, what makes ArenaNet stand head and shoulders above other developers is its intense level of polish on new content. The developers don't usually turn something out with this many hitches, and it wound up feeling a bit rushed. (Maybe there is pressure to get a certain number of things released before Wintersday; I'm not sure.) Are we spoiled? Probably, but I think that speaks to the fact that ArenaNet has taught us to expect the best. That's a good thing.

So much of this is a matter of opinion that you really need to see it for yourself to decide how you feel about the story, the content, the mechanics, and so on. Haven't finished War in Kryta? Never fear -- I've got a solution for you. I'm anxious to play through the content again because there is so much I enjoyed about it, so I'm going to kill two birds with one sniper shot. Tune into Massively's Livestream channel this Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST and watch as I work through the Hearts of the North story from arrowhead to proposal.

We won't be streaming MVOP's adventures this Thursday because of the Thanksgiving holiday, so this will serve as a nice substitute and provide a look at the new content. I'll see you then!

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at

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