Flameseeker Chronicles: Round two - Fight!

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Round two - Fight!
Soar Honorclaw
Winds of Change part two has arrived to Guild Wars, and there was definitely much rejoicing. I've been looking forward to this content for a while now for many different reasons. Many of you probably know I dived in headfirst with a nice-sized audience with a livestream event an hour after the update arrived, and let me tell you: There's nothing like stumbling through unfamiliar high-level content with a few hundred people watching. Including some of the people who created that content.

That's right, ArenaNet team members John Stumme, Andrew Patrick, John Foreman, and Joe Kimmes joined the livestream chat room. They watched the livestream, offered tips, talked Winds of Change with the viewers, and answered questions. I want to take a moment to extend my thanks to these guys. They were incredibly gracious and wound up staying in chat for not only the entire livestream event but over an hour afterwards as well. I think everyone attending really appreciated that they took those hours from their busy schedules for this.

What about the rest of Winds of Change? Follow along after the jump and let's talk!

I'm going to be honest -- part of the reason I was looking forward to part two so enthusiastically is because I hoped it would be better than part one. I know a lot of people loved it, and I know the team worked hard on it, but it didn't click for me. There was a definite and steady progression from "I can see why they want us to do this" to "This is an unbearable grind and can I please be done yet?" during the chain of quests.

The cleansing quests made sense to me; I appreciated that the quest text took time to explain that others were working on different areas of Cantha but that we were needed to pitch in on certain places as part of the overall effort. Still, there's only so much you can dress it up. In the end, we were still going to nearly a dozen different places and doing the exact same thing: facing off against giant mobs of high-level enemies with anti-meta builds. Rinse, repeat. Sometimes they came to you, and sometimes you went to them, but that was about the only variety.

I was so excited when I finally finished those and my attention turned to the Am Fah and Jade Brotherhood. Finally, some variety! Unfortunately, it didn't take long before I realized what I was doing: facing off against giant mobs of high-level enemies with anti-meta builds. Rinse, repeat. These just happened to be human-shaped.

By the time I got to What Waits in Shadow, I was miserable, frustrated, and literally forcing myself to do something I didn't like at all so I could be ready for the next round. Every time I came up against a locked gate I became more frustrated, as did my guildmates. At one point, I said, "Wait, I think we need to go this way," to which a guildie replied, "I know that's not the right way because there aren't a crapton of level 26 enemies that way." We were being forced to get from point A to point B via the most circuitous route possible, slogging our way through giant mobs at every step. That is the opposite of fun.

Before you say it, yes, I'm being a little harsh. But I am not used to experiencing content in Guild Wars that is actively not fun. Even the Kurzick and Luxon faction titles, arguably the biggest grind in the game, can be achieved in a wide variety of ways. And there were a lot of upsides, most of them on the side of story. I did appreciate the concept of making a huge effort to clear out the last of the afflicted. And my growing sense that the Ministry of Purity maybe wasn't as "pure" as it claimed to be progressed nicely through the story. I'm a fan of quest text (yes, I might even miss it a little bit in GW2!) and found the story fascinating. I even laughed at some of the "accept" or "decline" options -- they were great! Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that I let out a little squee of joy when I came to ArenaNet's answer to The Operative. Seriously, ArenaNet. That brought a huge smile to my face at the very end.

Tracking the Corruption was probably my favorite quest because there was some basic thought and strategy involved. I had a lot of fun running around chatting with the NPCs, and I'd like to extend a big round of applause to whoever wrote their dialogue. It cracked me up.

Given all of this, I'd say my excitement over part two was a roughly 60/40 split of "please please please let this be more fun" and "let's see where the story goes," and I am thrilled to report that I found this content vastly more enjoyable than the last round. Where I spent weeks slogging through part one, I blew through part two in two days -- I enjoyed it that much.

Miku, a character that I associate with a lot of the enjoyment I got out of War in Kryta, is back, so it was exciting to see her as an integral part of this storyline. I happened to have Gwen in my party when Miku showed up, and her snitty little comments toward this girl who flirted with her honey were a fine example of the small touches that ArenaNet puts on things to make a truly enjoyable overall experience.

Honestly, I was off and running with a smile on my face pretty much from that moment on. Events continually surprised me, and lots of little things stood out. I groaned at the first quest when I realized hordes of foes were barreling toward us, but when Miku instructed me to follow her, then split off as a distraction, I was interested again.

You see, it's all in the details for me, and part two is filled with little twists, turns, and surprises to keep things interesting. For example, a couple of my guildmates were introduced to Jade Brotherhood Demolitionists the hard way. I happened to see one of them activating Jade Brotherhood Bomb, hovered over the skill out of curiosity, and had just enough time to yell "Back off, they have..." on Vent before my two melee friends got blown to bits. OK, it was probably less fun for them, but we certainly weren't bored!

Things continued in this vein, and throughout all the content I had to pay close attention, learn, and adapt to what was happening. There were party wipes and failed quests several times, and we had to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and rethink our strategy. The Rescue Attempt was an excellent example of this. I didn't pay enough attention to the quest text and didn't realize that we were only knocking the enemies unconscious rather than killing them outright. I also only half paid attention to what Miku was saying about the switches.

Of course, the foes regained consciousness relatively quickly, called in reinforcements, and came charging through the gate I'd left open, so I found my group pinned between two enormous mobs. We resigned, restarted, and kept our eyes open this time. It was a piece of cake after that.

That's the thing about this round of Winds of Change. You've got to pay attention. Read the quest text, listen to what your allies and enemies are saying, and follow their instructions. Part two isn't just a mindless, endless grind. It requires you to be alert and engaged, and to think and strategize. I absolutely love it and can't wait to do it again on hard mode.

Well done, ArenaNet.

P.S. No, seriously. What happened to Evennia?

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 rubi@massively.com.
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