I'll admit, the Fractals have been pretty fun and I'm sure there is some way to make the Ascended gear work in some way down the line. Right now though both the Fractals and Ascended gear are carrying with them a number of flaws that create a worrying air regarding future content patches. Some might say it was the first content patch so cut them some slack, but I really can't buy that when they purposefully ignored systems that already worked in the current game.
Anet has already said themselves they dropped the ball with the implementation here, limiting it to strictly the Fractals when they want it to become available in other modes of play as well. That's all well and good, except they didn't even get it right with the Fractals. We have rings and back items, the rings are a random drop at levels 10+ after the Jade Maw, the back items come from Fractal Relics and the Mystic Forge.
Firstly, the back items. You have two choices; gather 1350 Fractal Relics (which you won't have by the time you hit level 10 and therefore 0 agony resistance) or hope a random drop allows you to make one at the Mystic Forge. The quivers and book items in the latter's case require 50 ectos, 250 T6 materials, and a bunch of skill points which you've no doubt amassed if you can afford those ectos and T6 materials. Again Anet has said the cost of these is too high, which I would think was pretty obvious as anything outside of "in bulk" food items bought with Karma is going to take a while to acquire 250 of. They also said they want Ascended items to be something to work on inbetween Exotics and a Legendary, which is a really silly thing to say. A single piece of Exotic level 80 gear is about 1-3 gold while a Legendary is in the ballpark of 700+. We already had something to work on outside of a Legendary that didn't require a rise in power.
Upgrading these items requires 250 more ectos and more random drops.
While the cost is bothersome I have an issue with the fact that we're using a resource already in a high demand making the progression even more difficult as the cost further escalates. If I don't get a ring drop as I progress to further levels I am a burden compared to someone with Agony resistance. Player skill is a factor yes but a simple 5 Agony resistance reduces that incoming damage by 50% for 10-19 if my understanding is correct. That doesn't just allow for a smaller margin of error that practically allows you to ignore any Agony inducing mechanic entirely. Anyway. The ectos I don't really have an issue with. Rares are dropping in plentiful numbers within the Fractals themselves, you can craft and then salvage them if you were feeling silly enough, you can exchange dungeon tokens to buy rares then salvage, complete high level maps, you get the idea. There are a number of avenues to attain ectos which is good. Basically they are the one high-end material I feel Anet actually got right. The T6 materials, while they may have a number of different ways to acquire (different mob types, bags), are just too rare from those different venues. It's poor design when the better option to acquire an item is to go off somewhere else and make the money to buy them instead. It doesn't feel as rewarding in the slightest. The same can be said for ectos true, but you'll still get rares no matter what you do. I can't help but feel making the karka have a 100% chance to drop T6 materials, instead of T5 and T6, would go a long way to improve this situation.
The rings, not only are they a random drop but the stats will be random too. My guardian is not looking forward to his first ring drop which will surely have Condition Damage. But, I will wear the ring, simply because of that Infusion slot. As previously mentioned, a 50% damage reduction is nothing to pass over. Admittedly, I might just throw it on for the Jade Maw, but that just showcases how flawed the system so very truly is. Later on, at levels 20+ I believe, you can get rings with Agony resistance already on them, but the other rings will still drop at that level as well. So you get three pulls at the slot machine (get ring drop, get right stats, get stronger version) for what is essentially a required piece of gear for one fight; the Jade Maw. In any case I don't understand why the rings aren't on a token system so we can pick and choose what we want when everything else has worked that way thus far.
Even if the RNG and cost elements weren't much of a concern what will future content that rewards Ascended gear look like? We no doubt will need other resistances besides Agony, so does that mean we'll need to stockpile different pieces of Ascended gear and swap according to whatever the content of the moment demands just for that resistance attribute? I can't see Infusions adding anything meaningful to the game unless they are permanently bound to our characters and not a piece of equipment.
Let's not even talk about how all of this applies to someone who enjoys playing multiple characters. Enjoy your grind.
They're fun, I'll admit. Exploits and bugs aside they're a pretty good addition.
If I could set duplicate skills to my 6-9 keys they would be "Stand Your Ground!", "Stand Your Ground!", and "Stand Your Ground!". Apparently the overarching theme of Fractals was that yes, you can dodge Agony and don't need the resistance, providing you're standing long enough to do a dodge roll. It's not just that but losing control of your character in some way. I wish I was exaggerating:
Aquatic Ruins - Whether you're the dolphins or using the lights those Krait will sink you. A lot. The jellyfish at end will transform you if you're eaten, basically rendering you useless.
Cliffside - 30 stacks of the hammer dazes you, the traps knock you over, the seal knocks you back when you hit it, the wind after the second set of seals, the bombs running to the top, the Legendary's auto-attack, the Legendary's pull attack from 75-50, the Legendary's constant caging from 50-0.
Snowblind - The Ice Elemental. They concentrated all of the control effects into this one fight, enjoy.
Swampland - Hold down your spacebar if you're running a wisp. Otherwise snare, cripple, knockdown, and sometimes those roots like to bug and perma entangle you (I hope that is a bug anyway).
Dredge - The Dredge in general have a lot of character impairing skills and that continues here. The last boss, if it's the Ice Elemental, has the adds that'll knock you around a lot too.
Urban Battlefield - I honestly haven't done this one enough to remember, but this one wasn't too bad I believe. Just high damage.
Grawl - Pulls and immobilize at the initial holdout, rocks from above for the next part and the run to the Legendary shaman, the ooze locking you in place constantly.
Asuran - 10+ those harpies have a knockback that can be difficult to see because of the size of the platforms. The Champion fight isn't bad as the bomb dropper is only a veteran, the ettin is easy to kite, and the charr has an obvious tell. I think the last fight has it too, it's just too hectic sometimes that I don't remember.
Jade Maw - Everything in here can knock you down except the tiny elementals.
Perhaps some exaggeration on my part but there are other issues still present in certain maps. The Agony application in the Swampland, Asuran, and Colossus fractal need some looking at. The axe of the Mossman is difficult to dodge as it is a small projectile, but it comes shortly after his wind-up attack. A minor issue, the bigger issue being he can throw the axe from stealth making it impossible to avoid. The Asuran endboss will throw out those Agony balls faster than my endurance can regenerate making Agony resistance a must here at higher levels. With the Colossus the red rings aren't the issue, it's the 75-50% health move the boss does. If you dodge roll the pull in attack, you better hope to have enough endurance to dodge a second time to avoid the agony (or get out of range/line of sight, when line of sight decides to work). So basically, what you learn from the previous 9 levels is ignored here because the pull in does far less damage than the Agony would.
The Jade Maw... surely I wasn't the only one who first read the information about the Fractals of the Mist and thought we'd be getting multiple boss fights. I was disappointed greatly when I discovered there is just one boss at every even level. His Agony application is frustrating; at level 10 you are not going to have Agony resistance outside of a lucky drop and a lot of wealth in the previous 9 levels. It no doubt caught a lot of groups off-guard initially as they (probably) hadn't even felt the effects of Agony at all until suddenly it was on them for 10 straight seconds sapping away their health.
The level system itself needs some kind of leeway. I've resorted to using a LFG website as standing in Lion's Arch looking for a group is the exact reason I can't stand doing dungeons in this game. While people can hate all they want on a LFG system I hate standing around in town doing nothing while I try to form a group. I could to be farming T6 materials afterall, or getting my 500 jumping puzzle, err, honor badges, but instead I'm sitting in town looking for a group. Made moreso terrible by the fact that it's in Lion's Arch. There is nothing to kill there so I can't work on anything outside of the jumping puzzles within Lion's Arch. Then, the level system itself restricting who I want to actually play with. Either the system should allow a range (say +/-3 levels) or make it work like an experience point system similar to crafting, where lower levels will still increase our level but we need to do more of them. However, level 10, 20, etc, would still have to be completed to move on. If you'll argue that Fractals are meant for a guild group to tackle then Anet really shouldn't have rushed out Ascended gear (read, the strongest gear in the game, even if it's only in a few slots right now) if it's only going to be available to groups of people with a consistent playing schedule.
Sorry about the wall of text. I enjoy Fractals but it wouldn't take much to make them a lot more enjoyable. Ascended gear... I don't know what to say in summary. I just can't see it working in the foreseeable future.