The Shatterer has taken his lumps through the years, and not just from Tyria's greatest heroes pounding away at his front right foot. Ever since the Tequatl revamp, players have wanted a better, more interesting experience for something that's supposed to be one of the most dangerous monsters in all of Tyria. For many of us, the Shatterer holds a special place as the first major boss encounters we saw in Guild Wars 2, and it's high time he seemed dangerous again.
ArenaNet's update to the Shatterer, going live in this week's patch, does just that. Along with several other journalists and ArenaNet employees, I got a chance to try him out last week on the GW2 test server, and I can attest that he's a much-improved and deadlier – though not too much deadlier – epic encounter.
You can get the basics of the new Shatterer fight on the Guild Wars 2 site. Even having read that, the first of our two runs during our session was... less than perfect. In truth, it felt a little overwhelming; after years of just standing in one spot bashing the dragon, I suddenly didn't have a clue what to do, other than “shoot everything” and “try not to die.” I did OK with the first and not as well with the second. And there was a lot of “everything” to shoot. From Branded minions to crystals to the big guy himself, it was a chaotic mess that mercifully ended 15 minutes after it started. My death count was seven.
In between battles, ArenaNet's Andrew Gray, who was leading us all on Discord, told us a little more about the fight, specifically how important the huge crystals that spawned during the fight were. Those heal the Shatterer – and by no small amount – making their destruction imperative. They've got a hefty defiance bar players have to burn through, but very little health once it's broken, so pure DPS isn't all that useful. There's also a point at which the Shatterer himself will acquire a defiance bar, and if it can be broken, he'll stay on the ground, stunned, for us to beat on for triple damage for eight seconds.
With that information to go on, our second run was much more successful. While we never quite managed to break the Shatterer's defiance bar, we were excellent about clearing those healing crystals, as well as – from my point of view – sticking together in at least a few small groups and rezzing/supporting each other during the fight. You don't want to stick together too much, Gray told us, because of the Shatterer's AoE attacks and exploding crystals.
It was still difficult to see everything that was going on, so I took a turn at the cannons on the ridge with a perfect view of the Shatterer. (Nice of him to land there.) Alternating between mortar rounds on the Shatterer and healing rounds on my allies, I felt quite useful, though it was a little monotonous. When Branded spawned near the cannons and forced me off, I tried the major new addition to the Shatterer fight: gliding and bomb-dropping. This went as smoothly as could be – well, apart from that first bombing run, when I got zapped by lightning and dropped from the sky like a stone – though with such a large target and having to swing around my view, it was difficult for me to see if my bombs were having any effect. Some sort of better feedback, like maybe a larger explosion at the point of impact, would help me feel like I'm being effective.
All told, the second run went much better than the first, and we downed the Shatterer with several minutes to spare. As was the case with the new Tequatl fight, there were several new achievements, and I make progress on about half of them. Thankfully, my greatest fear – that I'd get a precursor as a reward on a test server – didn't come to fruition.
I'd say that the new Shatterer lies somewhere in between the Claw of Jormag and Tequatl in terms of difficulty. Gray said that was about where ArenaNet was aiming: to improve the Shatterer fight and make it more interactive, but not to make it a super-tough, massive-expertise-required kind of encounter. The fact that we were able to defeat it on our second try attests to that; this Shatterer will probably be on farm status before too long, with only rare failures from exceptionally uncoordinated groups.
I think that's an OK place to be. Even now, Tequatl is a near-guaranteed farm, so trying to build up the Shatterer as some sort of invincible monster would probably backfire. I think just adding a few new bells and whistles and “refreshing” the fight is good enough for now. There's plenty of extra-difficult content in Heart of Thorns, so core Tyria doesn't need as much of that kind of content. I'm definitely looking forward to taking some runs at the updated Shatterer in Guild Wars 2. Finally, he's got a little bit of his bite back.