Last week, MMORPG.com looked forward to 2015 and what Guild Wars 2 would bring. This week, I'm going to go in the opposite direction and talk about my favorite pieces of content from 2014. How do they match up with yours?
The new year started off with a bang, with the introduction of both the Twisted Marionette and the Great Jungle Wurm. I still haven't beaten the Wurm, but I loved the Marionette, and I wish that it had stuck around instead of its nefarious companion in Bloodtide Coast.
With the Twisted Marionette, we saw one of the first stages of what I've observed as a long learning process in the evolution of big meta-events. Instead of jamming everyone together to whittle down a huge boss, as is the case with most events, you had 100 or so players split into five lanes and then each of those lanes split further once they ascended to the platforms to fight mini-bosses with interesting mechanics. The “splitting up” technique would be utilized over and over again throughout the year and I think represents a great improvement over 100 players all unleashing their visual effects on a single boss.
I wish more could have been done to make the lane fighting more interesting – spending 80% of your time mostly working over champions while you wait for your turn on the platforms isn't the most scintillating activity – but I think most players would love to take another crack at that overgrown puppet.
Escape From Lion's Arch
A nearly hour-long romp throughout the ruined city to defeat bosses and rescue citizens inspired me so much, I thought it might make for a decent template for the equivalent of a Guild Wars 2 raid. Again, you had groups of players splitting up to accomplish objectives, but unlike Twisted Marionette, there was nothing as “forced” as lanes and platforms. You could go wherever you wanted in towns and contribute to whatever aspect of the instance you wanted. Even solo players could chip in, rescuing citizens while avoiding large groups of enemies.
Unlike Twisted Marionette, there was never that kind of “down time” you felt when you were in a lane; despite being longer than the Marionette, which ran for about 30 minutes, it never felt that long, and I was always surprised when the miasma finally kicked in and started wiping us out. That's a sign of good design, in my opinion.
Final battle with Scarlet Briar
No, not the really-final-curb-stomp in her lair. Rather, I'm talking about the battle with the giant Scarlet hologram and her minions aboard the Breachmaker. This one had the epic-battle, huge-boss, everyone-in-one-place feel that such a confrontation should, but it did a good enough job of dividing people to work on different fights within the relatively small area that it had to work with. The preliminary battle with the assault knights was a little “blah” for my tastes, and my computer pulled a hamstring trying to render the final battle, but it was a solid conclusion, gameplay-wise, to a year-long storyline.
I was especially impressed by how, with everything that was going on and the large number of people who had to work together, the battle was fairly easy to understand, with just a little “don't stand in the orange areas” mixed with “get the right-colored attunement” to add some variety. Requiring precision timing, coordinated between multiple large, pick-up groups, might be OK for some giant world events, but I think ArenaNet knew better than to require that for the climactic fight with the game's primary villain. For as short a time as it was active, they wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to experience, and succeed at, the ultimate battle.
The Queen's Gauntlet
The original Queen's Gauntlet was... well, it was there. A bunch of stuff crammed into a tiny space, kill it all, get loot. Nice for farming, I suppose, but not all that interesting.
The 2014 incarnation, on the other hand, was tougher, and required a fair deal of coordination between six groups of players to accomplish, all under a tight time limit. If you went in expecting a quick and easy clear like last year, you would be disappointed – and, as I could tell in chat, a lot of people gave voice to their disappointment in rather colorful terms.
On the other hand, if you found yourself in a coordinated group that took down bosses in the right order, like a well-oiled machine, then you'd be raking in the loot at a tidy rate and it would seem almost frightening at how easily you'd get it done. Once I got into an instance like that, I didn't want to stop. It was another case where splitting up a giant mass of people served the greater good – seeing a theme here? – and just mindlessly whittling down bosses with giant gobs of hit points wasn't the ideal strategy.
Season 2 of the Living Story hasn't had the singular events like Season 1 did, but the two new zones, Dry Top and the Silverwastes, each have their own zone-wide metas that I've enjoyed. After a rough start – as with most of the content listed here, failures on the big events bring out the worst in map chat – I'm finding that I like the Silverwastes more.
Dry Top is nice, but the various events feel random. The Silverwastes events feel more connected, and there's actually a theme linking them together, as well as that “final battle” feeling when you enter the Breach. The actual battles with Mordremoth's champions aren't necessarily my favorites; I get the challenge of fighting in an enclosed space, but I'd rather have “soft” barriers (like damage fields) that prevent me from moving around, rather than “hard” barriers (like walls). But as with the Queen's Gauntlet, if you can get in a solid instance, you'll really rack up the loot. Now if only I could put all those Bandit Crests in the currency wallet where they belong...
As I look back on it, it's really heartening to see Guild Wars 2 doing some different things with its big events, especially once ArenaNet unlocked the key concept of splitting players up. Just because you can have 100 people fighting a single boss doesn't mean you should. Here's to next year, and a host of new and exciting events!