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Well that was quite the rundown. I just got done with the preview of Guild Wars 2's upcoming build and I am swimming in changes. Changes to PvP maps, WvW linking, new legendaries, a Raid Lobby, LFG changes, and improvements to playability and rewards in Heart of Thorns. I don't have any sneaky tidbits of new upcoming content this time, but the existing content is getting some needed tweaks.

First off, I don't play PvP or WvW in GW2. As such, I can't comment too much on the impact of various changes being made in the new build. The changes sound positive, but I don't have my ear to the ground in that realm of play as I spend my time in GW2 running around in the underbrush and through caves haphazardly with reckless abandon. I don't have the experience and in game knowledge needed to make relevant comments on the potential impact of PvP style game changes. With all that in mind, I am going to focus on content changes to PvE. I do have to bring up the big new change in WvW first though.

The update rolls out World Linking for WvW. World linking was described to me as an attempt to create a population balance effect for WvW. Different worlds will be linked together to form temporary alliances for WvW in an attempt to improve matchups without increasing queues. The base description reminded me of the description of the megaserver system but unlike that system, world linking is done manually by the devs.

One of the downsides that had been brought up about the megaserver system was the fractioning of the communities that had developed on the servers before implementation. ArenaNet wants to avoid forcing the existing communities to rewrite and reorder themselves as these links are made and the system's manual nature allows them to stay cognizant of the interpersonal relations that exist between guilds and worlds. Honestly, I wish them best of luck. I don't envy those that take on the task of choosing these links.

WvW and PvP also have updates in the build to their reward systems and to some of the maps and borderlands. I suggest you check out the patch notes for specifics on those updates (though the update is going to be quite large). On to the PvE side of the world.

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Level 80 boost.

Yup, an item that boosts a character straight to level 80 has been added to Heart of Thorns with the new build. Double click it and launch yourself into the expansion's jungle (which has been re-balanced with a more friendly reward and progression system) to your heart's content. An interesting feature is a "try before you buy" state where you get to effectively preview the level up on as many characters as you want before choosing which one to level up permanently. The boost is only available to those who have the expansion though, so the preview is limited to the expansion content.

The goal of the boost is to get players into the content as soon as possible. Heart of Thorns has a lot of gating in it progression wise and the boost allows players to skip the level gate entirely. The mastery progression gates are still in place, but you only need one level 80 character to begin unlocking those so the level boost is there to ensure that all players are able to begin that process.

With the level 80 boost making getting to the content a little less painful, most of the build then focuses on increasing the rewards for content, or makes getting to individual content segments faster. The HoT maps have large overarching metaevents that had their rewards tied to them. The build is going to decouple the rewards from the metaevent (mostly) to make a player's reward less reliant on the map state and when they were able to play.

Verdant Brink, for example, is a map divided into a day night cycle where players prep for the night battles during the day and are then rewarded. With the update, the two cycles are going to be further separated with the day cycle rewards being separated from the metaevent's reward coordinator. The Night Cycle events will largely be the same but the actual start of the event will be disconnected from the progress players achieved during the day cycle. This is to reduce players feeling like they ended up in a "bad map" and trying to ferry into a map that did better during the Day Cycle.

This schism continues for the other maps in the expansion content as well. Separating the major metaevent cycle into a smaller time slot with progression rewards while the "main" time slot is filled with more "explorer friendly" content that metaevent progression rewards. Roadblocks in maps that prevent players from accessing certain fun areas of the map except during the metaevent have been shifted around some, once again with the goal of allowing players to access the fun more readily.

Some changes to Raids, Dungeons, the LFG tool, and Daily Rewards focus on making it easier and more rewarding for players to participate in the content. More gold for repeatable reward achievements, a central meeting area for Raids, more flexible and rewarding dungeon tokens, and some tweaks to fractal advancement are all included in the update (but talking about them would quickly skyrocket this write-up's length to that of the update notes itself.

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Flying around the new Raid Lobby.

Instead, what are the impacts? For an established player, the build updates are largely just going to make the expansion's content more rewarding. If you have level 80 characters, the boost is nice, but it I don't see it having a large impact on your play time unless you are lacking in alt characters just due to not wanting to grind out levels. For a new player, the boost makes purchasing the expansion more attractive. While GW2 doesn't have an ever increasing gear gate, leveling up and unlocking masteries does take a lot of time investment that the boost helps with and more rewards makes it easier for new or less active players to kit out their characters.

I myself found the structuring of the expansion zones to be somewhat stifling. I fall in to the traditional explorer archetype in how I like to play GW2 and I look forward to seeing if the shift in metaevents improves my ability to play the way I prefer to instead of training around the map completing metaevents that don't interest me as much as getting to the top of that tree over there.

The build looks for be a Quality of Life improvement that sweeps across all aspects of the game to benefit all players, which is good to see.

Oh, and the LFG tool is now getting a search function for roleplayers and new players looking for mentors to find groups. I look forward to seeing those uses of the tool populate in the weeks after the update. Back to Top

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Coming April 19th, the Spring update is about helping Guild Wars 2 players get to the fun of Heart of Thorns gameplay faster by reducing grind, clearing away some tedium and improving rewards. ArenaNet has always said Guilds Wars 2 should be about having fun rather than preparing to have fun, and the Spring update dropping on Tuesday is all about getting back to that core philosophy. Back to Top

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SAB is back!!! From today's patch notes:
  • Super Adventure Box has returned with the Super Adventure Festival!
    • Play World 01 and World 02 on Normal, Infantile, or Tribulation Modes.
    • Play through World 02 in record time, utilizing brand-new shortcuts.
    • Seek out new hidden furniture shops and collect Fancy Furniture Coins to purchase decorations for your guild hall.
  • Speak with Moto in Rata Sum and browse his reward items.
    • If you own the Infinite Continue Coin, speak with Moto to receive your free Super Bee Dog Mail Carrier.
    • The Infinite Continue Coin will now grant 99 lives when used in Super Adventure Box.
  • Moto has created a set of orange Super weapon skins.
    • Complete Moto’s Course Work daily achievements for extra baubles, and earn an orange Super weapon skin.
  • Festivities are scheduled to end April 19.
You can read more about the festival here. Back to Top

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Upcoming Changes for PvP League Season Two

Arenanet has announced the changes for the upcoming PvP season.  The finals for the ESL league also start this saturday, and during the Arenanet stream gifts from Corsair, Sennheiser, and precursor weapons from Arenanet!  You can view an overview of the changes in PvP below:
  • For matchmaking, groups of five people will no longer be matched with smaller groups or solo queueing players.
  • For matchmaking, the search times have been decreased a lot.
  • For matchmaking, pips and ranking will have a greater effect on the enemy players, meaning matches should be closer to your skill level.
  • For rankings, pips will always award one pip, and losing will always remove one pip.
  • Players that leave matches will always lose one pip, and teams that lose a player will not lose a pip.
  • Win streaks have been introduced, giving an extra pip per victory after three initial streak victories.
  • For rankings, multiple tiers have had pips added or removed to balance them accordingly.
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ArenaNet has released its Winter 2016 update for Guild Wars 2 and Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns players today, one of many free updates that we'll see throughout the year. In this update, we'll see many new features introduced to the game, including the ability for Heart of Thorns players to use their gliders throughout Tyria. For those that don't have the HoT expansion (yet), there are many other updates that will be available to them with this update. Here are some of the major features:
  • The Shatterer Unleashed: The Shatterer, champion of the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik, has powered up and learned new tactics. Accompanied by dangerous Branded forces, it’s ready to terrorize Blazeridge Steppes like never before. Stay on your toes and defend your siege weapons, and if you’ve learned to glide in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, you can even use your glider to attack from the air!
  • Squad Markers and Lieutenants: It’s easier than ever to keep your squad in shape! Commanders can now promote lieutenants to organize subgroups, invite or remove players, and broadcast messages. Squad leaders will also be able to place marker symbols, which will appear both in the game world and on your compass.
  • Lunar New Year: Celebrate the start of a whole new year in Divinity’s Reach! From January 26 through February 9, stop by the Crown Pavilion to shoot off fireworks, play the Dragon Ball PvP minigame, and earn rewards.
  • Mist Champion Tybalt Leftpaw: Order of Whispers Lightbringer Tybalt Leftpaw can now join you in Stronghold as a Mist Champion! Unlock him by completing his Player vs. Player reward track, and you’ll be able to summon him into battle to help defend your team.
  • Eldvin Monastery Brew of the Month Club: Speak with Master Brewer Desch Metz at Queensdale’s Eldvin Monastery to sample a year’s worth of handcrafted beers. Each brew is available for one month only--try them all and you’ll be rewarded for your adventurous palate with a title, a backpack skin, and a guild decoration.
  • Major Balance Update: Each quarterly update will contain adjustments to professions and their skills, weapons, and traits to keep gameplay fun and exciting.
Source: Press release

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Last week I had the opportunity to attempt to defeat the new Shatterer before it was released. I had some technical difficulties that limited the scope of my experience (my computer never handles world bosses that well), but we did bring this new version of The Shatterer down. I look forward to playing the content on my normal computer after the release.

The most important thing with the new update for me personally is that gliding is becoming a big part of the content. When I played through Gorseval last time, I had a ton of fun with the experience of using gliding to escape from the attacks and swoop back into battle in tandem with my squad members. I had hummed “Flight of the Valkyrie” to myself as we swept in like a flight of bombers. Well, now we get to be bombers.

The fire bases that The Shatterer so kindly fights in front of have a series of jump pads that launch players high above the battlefield so that they can deploy their gliders. Doing so during the fight unlocks skills that allow you to drop bombs and health packs to the ground below you.

The mortars and turrets are updated to deal more damage and be more responsive. I didn’t get a chance to check out the turrets, but the mortars are easier to use while still being difficult to hit moving targets with. They feel less clunky than the original implementation did. While we were fighting, it was mentioned that the health packs from the mortars assist in reviving downed players. Making sure that your allies are up as much as possible is a big part of the fight so that is a big plus.

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We met at the waypoint in game with a large collection of developers and other press members to prepare for the fight. We were going to get two chances at the fight. Sadly, this was where the first technical issue happened and I missed the first attempt completely, which failed. On the second attempt we set up with a basic plan. We split everyone involved into squads that would handle the turrets, man the gliders, and smash The Shatterer in the face. It turns out that a bit of teamwork helps out quite a bit.

I had planned to spend the fight raining death from above and using the stealth gliding mastery to avoid being frozen in crystal, but it didn’t work out that way. The Shatterer came down, I hopped on my glider, and that’s when the animations started. My computer just couldn’t handle the explosions and my frame rate plummeted. I saw The Shatterer’s hand come up and I tried to go into stealth mode, but I was too late and I crashed to the ground as a crystal. Splat. It didn’t help that I was distracted looking around to see if there were any updrafts that would let me stick around without having to relaunch.

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At this point, I am now between The Shatterer’s legs. I pop into the options menu to reduce all my settings while some kind (or foolish) soul worked to revive me. On the lowest settings the game became playable again, but there was no way I would be able to control my glide, watch for the crystal attack, drop bombs, and drop med packs with the stuttering frame rate I still had. Looks like it is time to upgrade again. So I demoted myself from Air Captain to Grunt and dodge rolled across what I think was a pool of corruption from a breath attack into the relative safety of the mob of other players smacking away at the left leg. Turret and mortar fire exploded around us as med packs from the mortars and gliders dropped in from above.

At about this point, the first healing crystal phase began where six (I think) large crystals spawn and start healing the dragon. This heal is no joke. Each tick heals a huge percentage of health for each crystal that is alive when the tick occurs. After the first phase he was almost back up to full HP. The group was surprised by just how much he had healed from that phase. We needed a better way to handle the crystals or we would never be able to kill him.

The second time, the ground mob split up better to take out different crystals simultaneously. I split off to run to the back right crystal, dropping as many CC spells as possible on top of it to get the break bar down so we could damage the crystal. This time he healed up much less and we started making progress. The last time he barely got off a heal at all and we burned him down. The run ended with a good number of the devs and press guests dancing in front of the reward chest. Sometimes the best part of these things is the goofing off.

World bosses aren’t really my type of content. Now, I have played the world bosses in GW2 but it isn’t the type of content that calls to me or that I hop on and run straight to. The new Shatterer is no exception to that experience for me. I had a good time, and I would say that the fight is more enjoyable than it was previously, but it still doesn’t hold an appeal as a repeatable form of content for me. I had much more fun with Gorseval and the raid than I did with the new Shatterer.

A lot of that has to do with the type of play involved. With fights as large as a world boss, I don’t feel engaged or get a sense of accomplishment. I am not doing something on my own or as part of a small team working together. I feel more like I am playing alongside people than with people. It just doesn’t fit. I want to feel like I am part of a team, not a mob.

Blasting The Shatterer with spells was fun and all, and I do genuinely look forward to experiencing the fight from the air, but I’m not part of the target audience here. That’s just the nature of a world boss.

However, for those that do like the world boss style content, the new Shatterer is much better than before. The mortars are more interesting, having multiple viable targets to focus on and the healing kit launches. The healing crystal stage has players scrambling out in different directions, dodging branded and aoe spells trying to get to the crystals in time to prevent the new huge heals and break bars. And as you know, the addition of the glider bombers is really interesting to me.

There just seems like a lot of different ways to participate in the reworked content. This should revitalize the fight for both those that actually like world boss fights and those that just fight them for farming purposes.

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That being said. Gliders! Woohoo! Back to Top

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ArenaNet has released a new blog post, this time going over The Shatterer's new makeover, which will include game mechanics that have been added over the years, such as:
  • Defiance Bar: The Shatterer has gained a defiance bar stage to help combat the "permablind" issue and add a new element to the fight.
  • Safe Zones and the Branded: The Branded have been buffed to give you more of a challenge during the fight. The Shatterer has also learned to attack those that fight at a distance as well as those right in front of them.
  • Siege Equipment and Gliding: The siege equipment has gotten some improvements, including making the Healing Rounds skill a separate attack with the ability to use it for healing or applying protection to allies. Launch pads have also been added, all pointing to The Shatterer's position.
  • Rewards: Rewards have also been buffed. The Shatterer has its own achievement category and the daily rewards chest will give two guaranteed rare items with plenty of experience gain to boot.
If you want the full run-down, you'll have to check out the blog post! Back to Top

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Guild Wars 2 gets first major release of 2016

Arenanet has formally announced (through a press release) and released a blog post outlining their plans and vision for Guild Wars 2 in 2016, including the announcement of the first major update of 2016.  The blog post can be found here.

Seasonal Game Updates

The first major game update launches on 26 January 2016.  This update is the first in a new seasonal game feature update schedule that focuses on enhancing the existing game.  Some highlights from this update:
  • Gliding in Central Tyria - You can now glide in the heart of Tyria!
  • Shatterer Redesign - The shatterer has new achievements, a new boss fight with gliders, new rewards including a unique back-item, and more.
  • New Controls - New controls for the action camera, new options toggling NPC name display, and more.
  • Event Rework - Events have been reworked behind the scenes to now provide rewards for boon applying, condition removal, and other support actions.
  • World versus World Revamp - Forts and bases are no longer manual upgrades, but, just like in the Silverwastes, are now upgraded based on the amount of supply dolyaks that arrive.
  • Fractals - Fractals of the mist will recieve many Quality of Life changes and reward updates.
  • New Mist Champion - Tybalt Leftpaw is now a mist champion.
  • Balance Update - The update will include a major balance update for all professions.  You can read more on that here.
Looking Ahead to the Coming Months

Arenanet has also outlined some of the changes and updates that are in store for Guild Wars 2 in the long run.  A major development shift has occured, where instead of either working on live updates or on the expansion, the resources are now split among them.
  • New Raid Wing - The next wing of the raid, Salvation's pass, will be released.  The fate of the pact squad is still uncertain, continue the hunt for new rewards.
  • Lunar New Year - Lunar New Year returns on 26 January 2016 and will run for two weeks.  Get ready for fireworks and dragon ball!
  • PvP league launch - On 23 February 2016, the next PvP league will launch.  Changes have been made to scoring and matching based on feedback of the past season.
Looking Ahead to the Coming Year

Beyond short term updates, Arenanet has revealed the following long term projects:
  • World versus World - A huge overhaul is being planned to world versus world, which has been worked on for a year.  This overhaul will go live later this year, and focuses on population balance, rewards, and more.
  • Fractals of the Mists - A focus will be placed on fixing the currently broken or missing items from fractals of the mists, including missing collections and rewards.  There will also be new fractals!
  • Living Story Season 3 - The third season of the Living Story will go live in 2016, which focuses on the next direction.  Which dragon will be focused on next?
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Gliding coming to central Tyria

On tonight's episode of Guild Chat, Arenanet revealed that gliding is coming to central tyria.  The episode also confirmed that Arenanet is working on the next expansion, and discussed the music of Heart of Thorns.  You can find the full episode here. Back to Top

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I was recently given the opportunity to play through a section of Guild Wars 2’s first raid alongside of some of the developers at ArenaNet. I have to say, that I had a lot of fun. Gorseval is the name of the boss I was being thrown in front of. Players will recognize it as the “Tongue Boss” from the Heart of Thorns raid announcement from PAX. And yes, gliders were involved in the fight... and in my death.

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Tally Ho!

The devs were familiar with the run so I was being brought along on the “smack the boss in the face” team. A task that the Reaper is quite well equipped for.

We jumped into the boss room and I immediately plunged to my death by hitting space three times instead of two, closing my glider before I could reach the updraft. Laughs were abundant while we reset the fight. The raid update comes along with a new party interface and Ready tool that allowed me to watch the team check in. Once everyone was good, it was time to jump in again.

I didn’t smash into the ground this time and the fight was on. It felt like total chaos at first. Sure, the leader was calling out commands, but I didn’t have the background knowledge to understand what exactly was going on, or why things were important. So I focused on what I knew how to do: slamming my weapon directly into the face of Gorseval!

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The reliance on positioning quickly became apparent as Gorseval leapt to the center of the area and started smashing the ground. The leader called for the group to break bar and stuns were spammed. I found a small sliver of “safe” area next to Gorseval’s foot and set to smashing buttons. The bar broke and I got a few seconds to wail on him before he got up and the real danger started.

One of the group split off in order to start damaging one of the walls that blocked us in on the main fight area. As he did this, the group had to pull in a bunch of small adds and slowly walk back towards the wall, pulling Gorseval and the adds with us so that we could kill the them (if any of them survived, Gorseval would gobble them up for a permanent stat boost) and damage Gorseval all at the same time. If you couldn’t manage to stand in the right spot or when the wall went down, Gorseval could knock you off the ledge to your doom.

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That's when the room nuke started to channel. We had a bit more time to wail on the boss again before turning and leaping off the platform to glide into an updraft and back around to drop in again. I couldn’t help but hum “Flight of the Valkyrie” to myself as 10 characters swooped around in unison. Needless to say, I crashed here once and we had to restart.

This process was repeated several times before we triggered the next phase of the fight when the group had to split up to take down four slow adds that approached Gorseval. If they reached him, we would die. The four Reaper DPS saved us here and we moved on to stage 3, where we quickly went down in a blaze of glory! At this point, we had to call the raid as there wasn’t enough time. Gorseval hadn’t even reached half HP yet and he is only a part of the raid.

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As a whole, I had a ton of fun. I was able to contribute without knowing what was going on, but it was obvious that I was helping more as I noticed what it was that each person was doing. I had to pay attention to the split and even the orientation of the map (one time we went to the wrong wall early in the fight, broke it down, and leapt off to escape the room nuke only to realize we were in the wrong spot and there was no updraft here).

Other than the use of gliding, I didn’t see any mechanic that I haven’t encountered before (break bars not being unique to the fight). We had a room nuke, DPS timers with the walking doom mobs and a limited number of updrafts to use to get to stage 2, adds that would buff the main boss if they weren’t destroyed in time and adds that would kill you if they weren’t destroyed in time. I know that stage 3 involves avoiding black spheres and running to the gold spheres if you end up getting a debuff on you from the black ones, but we died before I could really interact with it.

I did have to pay attention to my positioning the entire fight more so than I did in previous encounters. I know that the group had a good deal more focus on support than I have seen in typical groups; we had a Chronomancer, a Dragonhunter and a Druid all working to keep the group alive and smashing away. Control was hugely important both for downing the break bar attack as well as slowing the constant advance of the doom mobs. We also had four Reapers, so DPS was in abundance along with a good degree of control from them.

I don’t know how much team build prep the developers did before entering the raid. They did ask ahead of time what class I would be playing, and the default build I was set up with was a DPS build (which I tossed away in favor of my own DPS build). I can only assume that they did do some prep ahead of time based upon the fact that each of them had a role to play in the fights themselves, and several of those seemed like they would need some specialized builds (soloing the wall and pulling in the adds).

With only the small segment of the raid under my belt, I can't say how players will react to the content. I look forward to seeing if players work together before raids to come up with a cohesive group build and plan. I have always loved the planning stages of group content in games, and anything that encourages preparing ahead of time is a good thing in my book.

One thing that I hope does carry over is the attitude of the raid group. The primary sound in the comm channel was laughter. Joking about mistakes was the primary method of recognizing them, owning up to the mistake, and letting the group know it was your bad. ArenaNet has talked several times about how Guild Wars 2 has an incredibly welcoming and friendly community; raids are stereotypically known for not having this though. I think it would be great if the new raids managed to keep the attitude that I experienced while playing through the raid. I have played both ways and trust me when I say that having people joke with you is more fun than an angry tirade.

But seriously, play "Flight of the Valkyries" in your head during this fight. Back to Top