I finished up the Living World Season 4 episode Daybreak over the weekend. This post is going to contain story spoilers, so if you haven’t finished it yet, look away!
My thoughts are pretty similar to Bhagpuss’s.
But I’m going to start with the things I liked about Daybreak.
I really liked the quality of the cut scene at the end of the first chapter, Eye of the Brandstorm, when Aurene showed us that vision. It was one of the best cut scenes produced to date, I think. Naturally, I didn’t understand a single thing in the vision, but it looked neat.
I saw this on Twitter sometime before I reached the end, so the seed was planted in my head and it’s possible this is just some confirmation bias happening, but: Taimi’s voice acting was really good. She seemed like a person with thoughts and feelings instead of the standard cardboard-cut-out “quirky kid on crack.” I am just now reading that she is voiced by Debi Derryberry, or at least she was in Heart of Thorns, the most recent entry for Taimi I can find on IMDB. She is a veteran voice actor, so it makes sense it would be a good performance. (Incidentally, Canach is/was voiced by John DiMaggio aka. Bender!)
There were some good one-liners among the various cast members. Although I’ll be honest, I quickly tire of the jokey-jokey stuff in fantasy games. GW2 especially has a bad habit of using modern Twitter-esque slang in their jokes, which makes it impossible to stay immersed in the Guild Wars universe. (Eg. “It escalated… quickly.” Ha-ha-ha! That’s what millennials say! In those memes!)
I liked that I didn’t die 50,000 times. I was only “defeated” once by the Branded Wyvern, but you respawn literally right next to it so it wasn’t a big deal. The practice I’ve been putting in with my character over this past year has finally paid off! So if you’re coming back to GW2, take heart, because it only takes a solid year of practice before you can have fun again.
I really enjoyed recording my videos for Daybreak.
That’s about it, I think. The rest was a firm “meh” or “what the actual hell.” It’s good fodder for a blog post, though. :) And hey, it was free!
I was very excited to dive into Season 4. It was the first time I’ve been “caught up” enough to play one on launch day since the early days of Season 2 I think. The future looked bright, as I watched the download status bar on Tuesday.
All that optimism died about twenty minutes into the Brandstorm. It’s the same Living World as before.
Gameplay-wise, I thought it was par for the GW2 course. It was more of the same GW2 that we’ve all come to know and despise–I mean, love. Made peace with? Something like that. I was right in my prediction that there would be a ramping up in difficulty from the Path of Fire gameplay. Not as bad as Living World 2 and 3, but definitely harder than the bosses in Path of Fire.
There were no weird new mechanics to deal with, although there were a lot of Branded Crystals inexplicably laying around to pick up. There was a new mastery skill thingy but I never needed it so I guess it wasn’t important for the story. The new map is not bad, although I didn’t spend a huge amount of time exploring it. I don’t care about new achievements or mastery points or whatever. I don’t feel any compulsion to complete all the hearts and vistas and events on this new map, at least not at the moment. (I’m more into Guild Wars 1 right now hehe.) What time I did spend, I enjoyed, though. There were some beautiful sights, particularly around the Astralarium.
I absolutely hated the first chapter of Daybreak, Eye of the Brandstorm. I wrote a lengthy post about it that I’ve since scrapped. The gist of it was that you had to suffer through forty-five continuous minutes of high-energy combat, complete with flashing screen effects and blaring music. Forty. Five. Continuous. Minutes. It was exhausting, and the only real story payoff was Aurene’s vision.
Fortunately I know from Living World experience by now that even if one chapter is awful, it doesn’t mean the entire thing is awful, so I pressed on ahead even though I would have been fine never playing GW2 again after that ghastly abomination that I would rank among some of the worst combat experiences in Guild Wars 2 history. I had to take a day off from the game after Eye of the Brandstorm. Fortunately there were no more combat death marches, although the final boss fight in the last chapter had plenty of annoyances.
Now let’s start the litany of issues I have with the story. In short, they are continuing the Living World tradition of using random dice rolls to structure the plot. “This time we’ll be going to *rolls dice* the City of Fahranur! And the player’s healing companion will be *rolls dice* Rytlock! And the character who will deliver the important dialog will be *rolls dice* Agent Kito! And the surprise appearance will be from *rolls dice* Braham and Rox!”
Speaking of Rytlock, at no point did he use his incredibly powerful flaming sword, which has the power to wipe out huge swaths of enemies. I kind of wish he would accidentally break that sword, just so I won’t constantly look at him for the rest of the life of this game and think, “Would you please help me with that uber-powerful sword??”
I think the first odd thing I noticed is that everyone experienced Aurene’s vision. Previously, I think in Living World Season 3, they established that our character had some kind of special bond with Aurene, so that only we could see her visions. Not anymore, apparently.
At first, it seemed like they were setting up Order of Shadows Agent Kito to be a major new character and our “man on the ground” in Elona, although we barely knew him from Path of Fire. (I had to look up who he was. He had about two lines of dialog near the beginning of Path of Fire, and helped us get from the first map to the second map.) Agent Kito recognized a place in Aurene’s vision as a city called Fahranur (not Faramir), which set up the majority of Daybreak. Then he disappeared again, and so did his dream of becoming a major character. But then, a few chapters later, Agent Kito LITERALLY APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE to deliver a few lines, then vanished again, never to return.
Most of the rest of Daybreak was spent trying to find this city of Fahranur. Why? I have no idea. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik is about to destroy the world, we just had a vivid demonstration of that power in a Brandstorm, but we decided we needed to drop everything to find this city from Aurene’s vision. The only thing I can figure is that we implicitly trust Aurene to know what to do about elder dragons, so we do whatever she tells us, even if it’s vague and obscured in visions. There is also that issue where we’re still waiting for Taimi to figure out how to kill elder dragons without destroying Tyria (she has been working on this since the beginning of Living World Season 3, so no hurry or anything), so I guess we have time to kill chasing down secret cities.
We were told repeatedly that there’s only one person who knows how to get into the city of Fahranur, and his name is Spearmarshal Zaeim (the “Hero of Istan”). We spent quite a lot of time finding this guy. First nobody knew where he was, then we found out he’d been captured by pirates, so we needed to fight a guy to get a coin so we could negotiate with the pirates, then we found out the pirates had already turned him over to Joko, so we had to break him out of prison.
I’ll get to Joko in a bit.
The point is, Spearmarshal Zaeim was supposedly the only way to get into the city of Fahranur, and they dragged out Daybreak for quite some time to drive home this point. Imagine my surprise to see this quest directive up in the corner of the last chapter:
“Find the entrance to Fahranur,” it said. SPEARMARSHAL ZAEIM IS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO ME! Why can’t he just tell me where the entrance is? Why doesn’t he lead me to the entrance? I’ve literally just spent the last several game hours tracking this guy down for the express purpose of getting into this city!
By that point I had given up on a coherent story, though, and just said, “Whatever.”
Now about Taimi. Again, the game spent quite a few chapters telling us that Spearmarshal Zaeim is the only guy who can get us into this super-secret city of Fahranur. But then out of the blue, at the end of chapter 5, here comes Taimi saying she’s in Fahranur and Joko has her. How did she get into Fahranur before we did? Why was she even trying to get into Fahranur? I thought she was researching how to kill Elder Dragons without destroying Tyria? They never explained that.
Also, why does it always seem to be Taimi who needs to be rescued? She was a bit of a “helpless damsel in distress” character in Daybreak.
Also, how is this Palawa Joko guy able to reprogram Taimi’s golem to suffocate her? Did she not use a strong password on the administrator account? Why can’t she override Scruffy’s defense protocols to tell it not to kill her friends? She was right there. Did Palawa Joko change the password on her? How does a dead lich king know more about programming golems than Taimi, the Prodigy? The more I think about this, the more questions I have. :)
(While editing my video, I noticed that Taimi was surrounded by “Awakened” asura right before the fight, who delivered a difficult-to-hear declaration of war from Elona on Tyria in retribution for “the Commander’s crimes.” I suppose the inference is that those golem-saavy asura are the ones who hacked Taimi’s administrator password and reprogrammed Scruffy. There is no way that I would have been able to figure that out without a video instant replay of the event.)
(While further editing my video, I wondered why Scruffy’s defenses did not activate against Palawa Joko or the Awakened Inquest Asura that hacked her password. They were, uh, formidable.)
Also, why does Taimi have a limp when she’s not in her golem? I noticed that at the very beginning, before the Brandstorm wiped away any interest in the story. Have they ever explained that? Is she disabled?
Okay, now about this Palawa Joko, the character with the name I vote most likely to have been created by a random name generator. It was not at all surprising to find that he had returned from the dead by the end. (Although now that I think about it, I don’t think we ever actually saw him. Only Taimi saw him. So maybe they’re going to pull another one of those it-looks-like-this-one-guy-but-it’s-really-this-other-guy moves like they did with Lazarus.) Every person that we encountered said, “Oh, I recognize your face! Joko is looking for you!” They made a point of having your character say, “Oh, I left Joko back in the Land of the Dead or Whatever, so it can’t be him.” So obviously it’s going to be him.
I don’t have a problem with Palawa Joko as a bad guy or anything, but again, it just seems like a huge, massive distraction from what we should really be focusing on: You know, the huge dragon destroying the world. By the end of Daybreak, Kralkatorrik is completely forgotten, and we’re off and running on Palawa Joko’s plot to send his army of minions to attack Tyria. (Well, at least, I assume that’s what we’ll be doing in the next episode.) It’s like, can ArenaNet please just finish a story? Maybe once? Without getting interrupted by some other seemingly unrelated plot line?
Then again they might tie these two plot lines together at some point. We’re probably going to find out that Palawa Joko is in league with Kralkatorrik, or vice versa, or something. Way, way back at the beginning, before the Brandstorm-of-doom, I think it was mentioned that Kralkatorrik had some “new tricks,” and it seems plausible that Joko could be one of those new tricks.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot about Braham and Rox literally dropping in out of nowhere to join the fight at the end. By then I was firmly in my “okay, whatever” mode and not really caring what happened in the story anymore. They sort-of-kind-of explained their presence, I guess. Apparently Joko has opened “portals” from Elona to Tyria in order to attack with his armies, and Braham and Rox just happened to find the one portal that led directly to us and our boss fight.
They did not explain why Braham was so mad at the Commander, so I guess anyone who didn’t play Living World Season 3 is probably scratching their heads about that. (*Cough* Braham’s angry outburst from my Living World Season 3 video *cough*).
Oh and one last thing, I’m starting to get on board with Bhagpuss’s conspiracy theory that they are going to bring back Scarlet:
I think that would be pretty cool actually. I barely even remember her from Living World Season 1. It would be cool if they sort of re-did the first season so we could experience it again. :) From the perspective of recently playing seasons 2, 3, and now 4, I might be prepared to say that season 1 was the best one (even though I barely remember it–I at least remember being excited to play it, as opposed to feeling like the current seasons are mandatory homework).
I’ll be honest: I’m a little worried about Guild Wars 2’s future, given Path of Fire’s poor performance, and ArenaNet’s fairly obvious and unapologetic gambit to try to get people to buy more stuff in the gem store with these mount skins. I don’t think they are doing very well financially, and this game’s days might be numbered, at least under the current business model. So it pains me a little to ding Daybreak. But yeah, it could have been a lot better.