GW2: The Siren’s Song Calls Me Back

Back in the griffon saddle again

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about myself, it’s that blogging about why I’m not interested in playing a game anymore is the fastest way to end up playing it again. Not long ago, I blogged about how Elder Scrolls Online never holds my attention, and I’ve hardly missed a day since. More recently, I blogged about why I’m not playing Guild Wars 2, and not two weeks later I patched up, and, before I knew it, I was logging in every night again. As much as I love the story and lore aspect of Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2’s combat is just so much more appealing to me. It’s easy to pick up, builds are more intuitive, and tab targeting is just so much more accurate than action combat. I missed all of that.

The first thing I did was log in to a bunch of different characters and give them a try. I’ve got at least one of each of the nine classes at 80, so deciding who I feel like playing at any given time, especially when it’s been a while, sometimes takes some time. It’s also interesting how a little break from a game can change your tastes. For instance, I didn’t really care for the mirage mesmer when Path of Fire launched, but now it’s really clicking with me. After getting comfortable playing my characters again, it was time to catch up on the latest Living World story. No spoilers, but it was definitely worth coming back for! All of the feels! My next project is going to be braving World v World to get that new Warclaw mount. I’m not a big PvPer, but I’ll try anything if you reward me with a new mount. Gotta catch ’em all! Sorry in advance to anyone who happens to be in the same instance as me.

I was also reminded of just how pretty this game is, even though it’ll be seven years old this summer. Elder Scrolls Online might be more realistic and technically impressive, but Guild Wars 2 just has a certain style about it that is a lot more attractive to me. It’s colorful without being cartoony. It’s whimsical and doesn’t cling too tightly to the usual fantasy tropes, but not so far out there as to be unrelatable.

Coming back to Guild Wars 2 feels like coming home, and I hope I can keep coming back to it for a long time. I think my return had, in some part, to do with the mass layoffs that happened at ArenaNet recently, including some really long-serving ArenaNet veterans. I want to support the game, because I still think GW2 is one of the best MMOs on the market today, if not the best. I don’t think it’s going to shutdown next week or even next year, but it’s sad to see such a great game gutted of a lot of its talent. Hopefully they can recover gracefully and keep cranking out content for years to come!

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Why I’m Not Playing Guild Wars 2


For a long time, Guild Wars 2 was my go-to game. Those of you who follow me know that I tend to bounce around from game to game a lot, but Guild Wars 2 was a constant for a long time. It’s hard to pin down exactly how long, but I’m going to say it was more than five years. Then, suddenly, I realized that I really didn’t have much of a desire to log in. Normally when a game falls out of favor with me, it just sort of tapers off. There’s no moment that I can pinpoint when I am suddenly not interested anymore, I just log in less and less until I’m not logging in at all. With Guild Wars 2, however, it was fairly abrupt. There were a variety of factors, so let’s talk about them.

The first is that it seems like Path of Fire didn’t have as much to it as the previous expansion, Heart of Thorns. In retrospect, I think a lot of the reason for that is actually one of my favorite things about Path of Fire, and that is the much more reasonable difficulty. There are some masteries I still haven’t gotten in Heart of Thorns, and I didn’t have many of my elite specs filled out even by the time Path of Fire launched. PoF was a lot more solo friendly, so you didn’t have to beg zone chat for help every time you needed skill points or mastery points. It’s also a lot less grindy. It’s a weird paradox of game design that players don’t want to do boring repetitive tasks, but when those are eliminated, they also complain that they aren’t given enough tasks to do. It’s a balancing act, and I think Arenanet swung the pendulum too far in the other direction following negative feedback from HoT.

Second was that it was kind of replaced by The Elder Scrolls Online. I usually have one main MMO and one or two side games (online or off). ESO had been off-and-on one of those side games, but at some point it finally clicked and I really fell in love with the game. It’s not perfect–I voiced my ambivalence toward the combat last time–but no game is. Plus there is what seems like an endless amount of content in front of me, with most of the zone stories and some of the DLCs completely untouched. By contrast, I’ve seen and done just about everything in Guild Wars 2, aside from raiding, which doesn’t really interest me that much.

Finally, there was that one PR disaster. I don’t want to drag it back out, but the short version is that a story designer was chatting on Twitter about story design, and a player (who happened to be an Arenanet Twitch affiliate) said something in a way that was maybe a little insensitive, which she took offense to. She went off on him, which shouldn’t have happened, but Arenanet responded by firing her and another employee who got involved, which was equally excessive. Reddit trolls got involved (on both sides), and it was just a big mess. It seems weird that drama that’s completely tangential to the game like that could kill my interest in it, but it did. It made me not really like the company, and it made me like the players even less.

I can’t point to any of these things as the single root cause of my sudden, total lack of interest in Guild Wars 2, but when all of them happened at once, it made me lose all motivation to come back. That’s ok, there are plenty of other games out there, and the great thing about buy-to-play titles like Guild Wars 2 is that I can come back at any time if I feel like it. I’m sure I’ll be back next time there’s an expansion, if not at launch then when it inevitably goes on sale. But for now, Guild Wars 2 is going back on the shelf.

MMO Living Conditions, Ranked Worst To Best

A while back, my wife and I got into this anime called Log Horizon that involves thousands players getting trapped in an MMO world. Not in a virtual reality way, but actually physically there, having to work out how to navigate the intricacies and politics of a world where former players are apparently immortal. Since then, we’ve often joked about what it would be like to wake up one day in the various games that we play. Here are a few of the games that I play or have played over the years, ranked based on how much I would or would not want to live in them.

Tamriel (Elder Scrolls Online)
This game has finally clicked with me and I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately, but there’s no way I’d want to live here. There’s a three-faction war on, yes, but that’s the least of our worries in this world. Crime is rampant, everyone is racist, and daedra are constantly causing terrible things to happen all over the place. At least two thirds of quest stories end depressingly, usually involving people ending up dead. And can you imagine living in Vulkhel Guard with dark anchors dropping from the sky every five minutes about a hundred yards from the city gate? Sure, adventurers love killing the daedra there for the experience, but what happens if they don’t show up one day?

The Star Wars Galaxy (Star Wars The Old Republic)
There are a lot of cool places to live in the Star Wars ‘verse, there’s a hyperdrive-equipped spaceship in every driveway, and the prospect of having force powers is tempting. But in the time of the old republic, you’ve got about a 50/50 shot of living in the not-so-bad Republic, or on a world dominated by the Sith, or, perhaps worse, some Hutt gang. And then there’s the whole thing with the Eternal Empire coming through and wiping everyone out with their superweapons. Given the choice, I’ll pass on this one.

Gielinor (RuneScape)
Life in RuneScape is pretty simple. For the most part, catastrophically bad things tend to only happen when you go looking for trouble, and there’s no shortage of ways to earn gold for those willing to do a little menial labor. Even basic housing is pretty cheap! The only reason it doesn’t rank higher is because, quite frankly, it’s one of the least exciting MMOs I’ve ever played. It’s about as safe as real life because it feels a lot like real life, just with the occasional fireball thrown in.

Tyria (Guild Wars (2))
All things considered, life isn’t too bad in Tyria. Sure, there’s the occasional threat of elder dragon attack, but cities (other than poor Lion’s Arch) seem relatively safe, and travel is fast and easy (and cheap!). Also, anything you need help with, from your livestock getting loose to a bandit raid to a mordrem invasion, you can pretty much just yell until adventurers will wander by and help you.

Nexus (WildStar)
Aside from the fact that this world is about to cease to exist, Nexus seems like a pretty cool place to live. Sure, there’s the constant threat of random faction violence, becoming a Strain mutant, and danger from all manor of weird alien life forms. I’m not saying it’s safer than any of the other worlds on this list. But there are hoverboards. And space ships. And giant plots of land in the sky that you can get for free! What more could you ask for?

Middle-Earth (Lord of the Rings Online)
Middle-Earth has its fair share of places that would be terrible to live (forget orcs, I can think of way too many places infested by giant spiders), but for every one of those, there’s a place like the Shire, or Bree-town, or Rivendell (which, while beautiful, is infested by elves, who are almost as bad as the spiders). Pretty much everywhere is beautiful, apart from Mordor and Angmar and maybe a few other places, and most of the free peoples are pretty friendly and helpful.

Why Are Games So Depressing Lately?

The other day I was feeling kind of down–nothing major, just normal stressful life stuff–so I thought I’d jump on a few MMOs to escape reality for a bit. First I got on LotRO. I’m in Mordor and, well, it’s not exactly a cheery place, so that didn’t last long. So I logged off of that and thought I’d try Guild Wars 2. The character I’ve been running through the story on is just starting Orr… land of zombies, ruins, and undead dragon corruption. Not much better. The Elder Scrolls Online offered me a quest that involved a daughter murdering her father because he betrayed and murdered his son. Diablo III… well, everything’s depressing in Diablo, isn’t it?

I’m not looking for Rainbow Puppy Fun Times Online, but why does everything have to be so dark? There are even some games, like Secret World or Path of Exile, that I avoid completely because, while the gameplay sounds fun, one look at a screenshot or video is enough to tell me that I won’t last long because of the setting. So why do games get so depressing? I know I’m not the only one who has gotten burnt out on a game because they went from a starting zone that was colorful and cheery to one that was Fifty Shades of Brown. I think the idea is for the location to create a sense of desperate struggle against evil, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion has done a great job of telling a story of a desperate struggle in a place that is absolutely freaking beautiful. I used to log into Marvel Heroes at times like this. It was light and fun without involving much thought. But now that that’s gone I haven’t found anything else to fill that gap.

So what gives, game devs? Life is depressing enough as it is! Why do games have to bring me down too?

(Spoiler-Free) Path of Fire Launch Impressions

It’s finally here! Guild Wars 2’s second expansion is finally live! I’ve had so much more anticipation for this expansion than last expansion, despite the fact that the time between its announcement and release was really short. I think that’s due in large part to the change of scenery. While jungles like that of Heart of Thorns always feel cramped and frustrating to navigate, deserts are wide open and interesting to explore. Also I’ve been excited to play the new elite specializations. When we only had one choice of elite spec, you were pretty much always limiting your character’s potential if you didn’t use it in some fashion. Now that we have a couple of different elite specs to choose from, we start to get some real choices. Some of my characters are definitely staying in their current spec for now (revenant, warrior) and some will be switching ASAP (engineer, thief), and for some the jury is still out (elementalist, ranger). So far most of my time has been spent on my engineer with the new holosmith elite spec. The vanilla engineer ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me by endgame, and the scrapper spec didn’t do much to help. The holosmith’s lightsaber sword proficiency and holoforge mode gives the engineer a fun, in-your-face type of gameplay that really resonates with me a lot more than swinging a giant wrench or lobbing grenades ever did.

It occurs to me that this expansion offers a lot of returns to the old, pre-HoT Guild Wars 2 formula. The map is so much easier to navigate (again, open, flat desert vs. layered, convoluted jungle), and the mob density/difficulty is a lot more similar to that of Central Tyria than that of the Heart of Maguuma. Similarly, hero challenges seem to be mostly designed such that an average solo player can complete them instead of most of them requiring two or more skilled players. In short, it feels like an expansion to the Guild Wars 2 from 2012, not the one from 2015. And I’m quite happy about that.

While I’m glad that the gameplay structure of pre-HoT Guild Wars 2 is back, I’m a little frustrated that some annoyances are not fixed yet. In typical ArenaNet fashion, characters are repeatedly introduced as if we should already know who they are. I really don’t get how this keeps being a problem. I can’t go into more detail because I marked this as spoiler-free, but maybe I’ll write up a little rant about it in a few weeks when the people who care about spoilers have seen everything. Also, mandatory reminder that people want new dungeons. Raids are fine, but we still want dungeons.

I also wanted to mention how impressed I am once again with ArenaNet’s management of the game. To my knowledge, the servers went down for a total of maybe half an hour over the course of the launch week. That’s really impressive for an MMO of Guild Wars 2’s size. There were some problems with individual maps, but they were limited in scope and even those didn’t last terribly long. There were a few patches from time to time, but Guild Wars 2 servers can run two versions simultaneously, meaning that it notifies you that a new version is available and gives you two hours to finish what you’re doing and log out to receive the patch. I was also amazed at the seeming lack of lag I experienced. The only reason I could even tell that the servers were under heavy load at all was the fact that it took a long time to log into the game a few times (I’m guessing I was in some kind of queue, because switching maps or instances didn’t take a long time, just the initial login). Launch wasn’t 100% perfect, but it has gone better than some games with much bigger budgets than Guild Wars, and I really appreciate it.
EDIT: Apparently there were some problems affecting Europe, but this launch still went smoother than many I’ve seen in the past.

Overall, I would say that Path of Fire has been the most fun I’ve had in Guild Wars 2 to date, which is saying a lot. Great job, ArenaNet!

August in Screenshots

Sorry for being mostly absent during August. This was partly due to the fact that I was very restless in my MMO gaming time which meant that I messed around in a lot of games and didn’t get anything interesting or blogworthy accomplished, and partly due to the fact that I’ve been having that writer’s block/self confidence problem that I know writers much better than I struggle with as well. Anyways, I thought I’d catch you up on what I’ve been doing this month with a few screenshots.

The Elder Scrolls Online

I rolled a new warden. I’m not proud of it, but I did it. It’s mainly because I’m an altaholic, but also because I read about this cool ice-based magicka tank, and I wanted to try that out without respecing my stamina healing warden. Yes, I realize that I’m playing both of those roles with the stat opposite of what you would expect, but maybe that’s why the warden has clicked with me so much more than other classes in ESO.
Screenshot_20170803_233216While my first warden started out doing the Morrowind story, this one went through the main vanilla story. Because levels don’t really matter anymore, you can pretty much do it all as soon as you get to your faction’s first city where The Prophet is. I got all the way to the penultimate chapter by the time I was level 15 (apparently, even though it ignores level for the entire rest of the story, you can’t do the final chapter until you’re actually level capped), and I spent a few days doing that and a few other quests that interested me around Stonefalls, but, when it quickly became clear that my new tank warden was my new main, I decided it was time to start on Morrowind again. Some day I’ll go back and see all that the vanilla game has to offer, but right now I feel like I should experience the shiny new expansion zones while they’re still somewhat populated.

Guild Wars 2

Probably the most interesting thing about my August in Guild Wars 2 was also a new character. I, of course, preordered Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire. This time around, the more deluxier packages are actually really nice. I bought the cheapest Heart of Thorns package because nothing in the nicer packages were really that exciting (a mini, a PvP finisher, a guild hall decoration, and a lame glider skin… meh), but this time around, ArenaNet actually talked me into buying the deluxe package (Sunspear outfit, a character slot, a makeover kit, and one of those passes to one of those premium crafting area things they’ve been doing recently), and, of course, if you’re buying the deluxe package, you might as well drop the extra $25 to get $50 worth of gems in the ultimate package. I was planning on making a new mesmer anyway, because I really like the Heart of Thorns elite spec as well as what I’ve seen of the Path of Fire one. Couldn’t I have just switched back and forth for free? Absolutely, but I never turn down an excuse to make a new character, and if I didn’t make a new character, that level 80 boost would go to waste, so my new mesmer was born. His name is Random Axes Memory, which celebrates both my love of computers and my love of puns. The new Path of Fire elite spec, of course, gives mesmers access to axes, so I’m really banking on the fact that I’m going to like it, or this play on words would make no sense.
While Guild Wars 2 is in that pre-expansion holding pattern, I’m trying to turn some of that anticipation and impatience for expansion day (less than three weeks!) into motivation to finish finish up some things. First, I finally, for the first time, actually finished the Trahearne personal story chapters in Orr. That’s right, with all of my hundreds of hours in Guild Wars 2, I had never personally done the part of the story where you defeat your first elder dragon. And sure enough, it’s just as anticlimactic as everyone said it is. You don’t so much slay the dragon yourself as ride along while the airship does all the work. I’ve also put a lot of time in the Heart of Thorns zones getting hero points so I can hit the ground running in Path of Fire’s new elite specs. I’m getting really sick of these jungle zones, and I’m so ready for a big, new, wide-open desert to explore. I also put some time into the various betas that they’ve been doing recently, and I’m really excited to play the new story and elite specs. Mounts are going to be fun too! I’m probably looking forward to this expansion more than any other expansion I’ve played to date, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say come September 22nd.

Sonic Mania

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that I’m a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan. Modern Sonic games, however, have been hit-or-miss (mostly miss) and have generally failed to recapture the magic of the originals. I had a big post written up on how big game companies so often fail to realize what made their older games great, and how fans so often recognize it much more readily than the people who get paid the big bucks to design games, but it was really too big of an issue to tackle in a blog post, so I scrapped it (see opening paragraph). Anyways, along came a team of fans–headed by Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, whose claim to fame is that he wrote a a perfect, ground-up remake of the first level of Sonic CD in 60fps and widescreen for iOS, then got a cease and desist order from Sega, who then subsequently hired him to finish it. After doing a couple more iOS/Android remakes, they were then given the green light to make a (mostly) original Sonic game in the style of the classic Genesis games, called Sonic Mania. And the results are absolutely incredible. I haven’t been this excited for a Sonic game since I was a kid. I actually canceled my PC preorder because it got delayed and bought it on Nintendo Switch instead (honestly, though, the portability of the Switch is nice, and I can probably pick up the Steam version on sale a few years from now). The graphics are beautiful, the physics are perfect, and I couldn’t ask for a better soundtrack. I could probably gush about its perfection for a whole post, but no one is interested in reading it. Except for the Oil Ocean octopus boss, which is absolutely awful.

I also puttered around LotRO–my rune-keeper is still in Moria, and I’ve been tempted to bring my low level lore-master out of retirement, but I’m trying to resist that temptation–as well as Guild Wars 1–working on a Paragon to catch up on area lore for Path of Fire. I also gave Destiny 2 a try, and can’t say that I overly thrilled by it, but the beta was pretty limited. I might buy it on sale eventually, but it’s certainly not my next big thing. It did, however, remind me that I bought Mass Effect Andromeda at launch and barely played it due to some technical issues that are now fixed, so I’m back to playing that as well.

Anyways, here’s hoping that September brings lots of interesting new gaming experiences, and hopefully more frequent blog posts.

GW2: Looking Back At Living World S3, Looking Ahead To Path of Fire

Warning! Spoilers ahead.


Well, now we know. After a bizarre amount of secrecy, ArenaNet has finally announced their new expansion, Path of Fire, which comes out surprisingly soon at September 22nd. I’m really excited for this expansion!

Living World Season 3
Before I jump into the expansion, I wanted to talk a little about Season 3. The Living World content has always been a little hit-or-miss, especially for the first two seasons. I didn’t really play any of season one because I took my sweet time getting any of my myriad characters to 80 (I did a little bit of the Battle for Lion’s Arch, but that’s about it), and the fact that that means I’ll never get to be properly introduced to the main cast of characters for all of the content for the foreseeable future makes season one probably the biggest blunder ArenaNet has ever made. Season two was at least repeatable, but it felt super rushed, and most of the chapters had a lot of filler. Season three finally brought the Living World on par with the game’s main/expansion story, with each chapter bringing its own zone, and a new mastery. While the masteries are a little contrived (most of them only work in the zone they were added with, and it just hit me last night that I probably didn’t even need to train the Siren of Orr one from Episode Six), at least they fill up pretty fast. It’s also nice that they were added per zone, unlike the Heart of Thorns masteries that were just dumped on you all at once with no direction as to which ones would block progress in the story. At least the masteries themselves have some cool effects (I love the grappling hook from episode five! I hope that comes back in some form!). As for the story itself, it was good, if a little scattered. I like the idea of the mursaat and the human gods coming back, but it was a bit back and forth. Basically, the plot goes like this: There’s a bloodstone-splosion that summons an evil magical mursaat, who turns out not to be evil, except he’s actually neither of those, he’s actually an evil human god in disguise. Then we forget about the evil god for a while (until the expansion hits) and join the Shining Blade to kill the actual mursaat. The one that the evil god was pretending to be. Simple, right? Oh, and don’t forget the fact that some important pieces of that story were locked inside raids which I haven’t done, so I had to look them up on the wiki. Those complaints aside, I really like that they’re bringing back a bunch of Guild Wars 1 lore. While I’ve barely played Guild Wars 1, and only after playing 2, it always seemed strange that the sequel seems so disconnected from its predecessor.

Path of Fire
Finally, something other than dragons to fight! Desert zones, especially ones with varied biomes like Elona, have always been among my favorites, so heading to the Crystal Desert sounds good to me. I’m interested to see where they go with the whole Balthazar thing. What exactly happened to the rest of the gods? Are they going to make an appearance as well? I’m also interested to see where the whole Aurine thing is headed, since they’ve been building up to that one for a while.
The addition of mounts is an interesting one, since ArenaNet has long held that they’re unnecessary because of waypoints. For the most part they’re right, but waypoints in every zone added from Living World season two on have been few and far between, so they’re not an unwelcome addition. Plus the addition of faster travel allows you to open up zones and do larger, more interesting landscapes. I think my favorite so far is the Skimmer because it looks cool and allows me to avoid underwater combat (plus it’s probably the closest thing to a WildStar hoverboard I’ll get in this game… man, I miss hoverboards).
What I’m most excited about, however, is the new set of elite specializations. I like what I’m seeing for all of them so far. I’m excited for the thief to finally get rifle (mainly because they were lacking ranged options, but also because I have a bunch of cool rifle skins that I’ve never been able to use), and the dual-element, sword-wielding elementalist looks pretty interesting as well.
I think the pricing is pretty reasonable this time around. I didn’t think the price for Heart of Thorns was outrageous like some people did (isn’t $50 just what expansions cost? Isn’t that what WoW charges, with a subscription on top of that?), but given that there’s no new class this time around, it’s nice that they knocked a little off of the cost. The deluxe-ier editions seem like a better value too; I’d much rather have a character slot, a makeover kit, and a premium crafting area pass than a mini, a PvP finisher, and a boring glider skin any day. And, of course, if you’re going to get the deluxe edition, you might as well upgrade to the ultimate edition, since it’s got $50 worth of gems for only $25. Curse you and your marketing, ArenaNet!

Overall, this is a good time to be a Guild Wars 2 fan. Hopefully this expansion will be better received than the last, and the new zones will be less frustrating to navigate. I’ve started messing around in Guild Wars: Nightfall to catch up on my area lore. More on that soon? I’m really looking forward to this weekend, when we’ll actually get to get in and mess around with all of the new elite specs. And, of course, the expansion isn’t far behind that!