A house of leaves
The boss battles in season two have been excellent so far, but I had a hard time enjoying the first instance of this chapter. Most of that comes down to the Mordrem teragriff's huge HP pool, which makes the phases feel repetitive. These are the same issues I had with the Shadow of the Dragon fight previously, but the teragriff lacks that fight's atmosphere and sense of urgency. If it were a bit shorter, I would have had more fun with it, especially since the phases cycle quickly and emphasize survival over clearing trash.
I did not like the Tangled Labyrinth at first because it was twisty and confusing and there was a scary wolf there and I couldn't find my way around very well. I cheated via the Flames of Kryta. You see? Queen Jennah does support her people.
The Labyrinth gets easier to navigate as you recover more of your scattered companions, which quickly brought my opinion of it up since it's a really cool setting. The story encounters have done a good job recently of not only teaching the mechanics leading up to the major boss fights but also carrying those boss mechanics out into the open world Silverwastes content. The open version of the Labyrinth is actually quite a bit more dangerous than the instanced version, and I had no idea what I'd be in for later as I merrily slew the Mordrem wolves on my way to pick up the rest of Team Awesome.
Storywise, this chapter feels like a bridge episode. Bridge episodes are often (but not always) followed by wham episodes, and we have a cliffhanger on our hands, so there's a good chance the next installment will drop some more lore bombs. I was never irritated with Braham for cutting off Scarlet's "let-me-tell-you-my-master-plan" rant at the end of living world season one; I thought it was a wise response to her transparent attempt to stall for time so the Breachmaker could finish its catastrophic work. But when Caithe grabbed Glint's egg, said, "There's no time to explain!" and ninja-stepped off to spirits-know-where, I was admittedly ready to chase after her with a Salad Shooter and a colander. Caithe, I love you, but there was plenty of time to explain. We were all standing around the Master of Peace's corpse afterward feeling silly when we could have spent his last minutes learning something new and exciting, or at least comforting the poor man as he made that final Assisted Leap off to see Grenth. The only thing taking the egg right then accomplished was making sure the Master died before he could tell us anything else, which was super convenient.
I don't think Caithe is evil or possessed by Mordremoth. Rather, I think she's showing exactly the level of tact and subtlety she employed when Cadeyrn's feelings of inadequacy pushed him toward the brink and she basically told him, "Mom doesn't love you as much as she does the Firstborn; get over it." No single member of Destiny's Edge is a wellspring of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, but Caithe is on the shallow end of that pool, regardless. Most of her plans involve not telling her allies what she intends to do and then slipping off on her own to do whatever it is while everyone else fends for himself, so this is perfectly in character for her, and I'm still going to weave a reed basket out of her hair when I catch up to her.
The most recent Points of Interest livestream featured a teaser image of two Sylvari who look sort of vaguely like Caithe and her awful, Nightmare-corrupted ex-girlfriend, Faolain. A fellow player insightfully suggested that it might be the two of them when they were younger and traveling, which could mean some incoming clues about Caithe's deep, dark secret -- the one Scarlet tormented her over -- pretty soon.
One of my guildmates is wary of a possible return to the Caithe and Faolain plotline, and I can't blame her because it's honestly not a fun story. It's a little strange to look back on now, but in the time before GW2's launch, the inclusion of openly gay or bisexual characters in a mainstream MMO was a much bigger deal than it is currently. Caithe wasn't a blink-and-you'll-miss-her quest NPC, either: She's one of the game's iconic characters, and she featured heavily in marketing. Faolain is abusive and manipulative, and the two of them aren't together any more (thank goodness), but even as short as a few years back, any acknowledgement was at least something and got people excited for the possibility of further representation. We have a healthy, stable relationship in the form of Kasmeer and Marjory now, both of whom have gotten quite a bit more screen time and development than Caithe and Faolain's relationship ever did, and it's nice to see Caithe rejecting the woman who, despite her declarations of love, has tried to make her life a living hell. I would like nothing better at this point than to see Faolain and her saccharine sweet talk booted off a cliff into the nearest sarlacc pit, but we probably won't be so fortunate.
Must love dogs
's open world reward structure that it's sincerely a pleasure to be enthusiastic about it. The Silverwastes feels like the culmination of every lesson ArenaNet could have learned from previous farm-heavy content, to the point that I had a little trouble describing it to another player. Is it like the first incarnation of the Queen's Pavilion
? Well, a little. Is it similar to World vs World
or Edge of the Mists
? Kind of! There's a dash of Tower of Nightmares
and some Mad King's Labyrinth
and a bit of Southsun
, but the strongest comparison I can draw is to Cursed Shore
Like Orr, Silverwastes is an area structured around pushing the Pact's front line forward into an Elder Dragon's home territory. There are bases
to capture and defend, there are special vendors who offer rewards unique to the area, and a large part of the experience is running a series of smaller events until bigger events with better rewards happen. The difference is that Cursed Shore, as heavily farmed as it is, has never truly felt as though it was meant
to be farmed all that heavily.
In the past, the players' idea of what constitutes a good rate of return from farming has been considerably more grandiose than what most zones are designed to provide. The history of farming in Cursed Shore is full of enemy buffs, event nerfs, event buffs, enemy nerfs, reward buffs and nerfs, waiting for events, waiting for enemies, a lot
of waiting for rewards, and stubbornly finding ways to make the whole process run efficiently. Even then, in its smoothest and most rewarding form, the goal is mostly to get in the middle of a ridiculous pile of Risen monsters and hit your AOE skills as quickly as possible to tag them before they die a half second later. As environments go, it's still my favorite place
, but as group content, it can be a little mindless. Granted, that's not an entirely bad thing: There's something satisfying about watching enemy hordes melt like so much morning frost so you can loot the corpses.
The Silverwastes reproduce that experience on a tighter and more polished scale. Instead of three sprawling zones, we have one, and it's small enough that the action is easy to find and reach. There are nearly always events running. The cycle of activities is easy to work through on a populated map, and accessible enough that you can jump in and get at least something for your time even if you can't make it through the whole thing. The rewards seem almost ludicrously generous, but nearly every method for obtaining them involves completing objectives rather than slaying mooks en masse. Because those objectives are timed and the rewards measured out, that probably gives ANet a little more leeway to be open-handed.
I'm especially fond of the open-world version of the Labyrinth, which plays to me like an over-the-top game of laser tag
. You know: dark hallways, glowing things that can take you out of the game in one hit, people getting obliterated left and right. Of course, in traditional laser tag the losers don't get eaten by plant dogs
, but tradition can only take us so far.How I spent my winter vacation
My wife and I flew out to Seattle, Washington, last weekend (for personal reasons, on our own dime!). It was a great trip, in large part because I was invited to visit ArenaNet's Bellevue headquarters and had the privilege of meeting some of the greatest video game heroes in the industry. I took only one photo -- from the roof -- because Elder Dragons are notoriously camera shy and I didn't want to risk catching one of them on film. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Although I'm bound by blood oath not to discuss any specifics (it's a Necromancer thing), I can say with certainty that, yes, ArenaNet is working on stuff
. It is working very hard on stuff. There is no internal catastrophe or barren office lurking behind the studio's policy of limited communication as some fans have feared
. There are a lot of highly organized developers there doing things I was mostly not allowed to see up close because there are probably nuclear fallout shelters less secure than ANet HQ. But it's safe to say that they didn't pull together hundreds of people and tell them to look very busy and enthusiastic and excited about their game just because I happened to be in the vicinity.
I'd like to thank ArenaNet for inviting me to tour the studio, as well as the folks who took time out of their schedules to chat with me, show me around, and say hello. It was truly an awesome experience.
How are you enjoying the killer flower dog party? Or are you less than enthused by small, dark spaces filled with monsters out of a survival horror scenario? What do you think Caithe is up to? And for the fashion-conscious: Glowy armor, in or out? Let us know in the comments, and I'll see you in the Mists!Anatoli Ingram suffers from severe altitis, Necromancitosis, and Guild Wars 2 addiction. The only known treatment is writing Massively's biweekly Flameseeker Chronicles column, which is published every other Tuesday. His conditions are contagious, so contact him safely at firstname.lastname@example.org. Equip cleansing skills -- just in case.