GW2 – Season 3, Episode 4, The Head of the Snake

Episode 4 is entitled The Head of the Snake, and by the end, I was hoping someone would cut off my head to put me out of my misery.

It began innocently enough, with a party at Divinity’s Reach with Queen Jennah. It reminded me of another story instance I vaguely remember from the distant past, perhaps in another Living Story, where you had to walk around talking to party guests. This time, White Mantle forces crashed the party by attacking Divinity’s Reach, which miraculously created a new map right next to the city where we’ve never seen one before. (Or was that little space there the whole time? If so, did they plan to put a map there all along?)

The new map is all right I guess. I didn’t hate it. Any map that isn’t a jungle at this point automatically makes it better than average for me. I even had some fun roaming around doing Logan’s dirty work (since when do I work for him?), doing the events necessary to progress the story. The fact that you can wander around is a big plus.

Then I got to the final part of the episode, Confessor’s End. My apparently randomly-assigned companions for this mission were Anise and Demmi Beetlejuice (Caudecus’s daughter if you didn’t know because how could you). We assaulted Caudecus’s Manor to finally bring the dastardly Caudecus to justice, and that’s when the fun ended.

His manor is filled with White Mantle of course, which are annoying but I can deal with them. (It is absolutely true that the more you play Guild Wars 2 the easier the game gets–assuming you stick to one build and learn it intimately.) There were also a pair of Jade Armor Thingys that you could either sneak past or fight. I foolishly thought they were regular Jade Armor Thingys and didn’t work very hard to sneak by them and ended up fighting them. Countless deaths later, I had to exit the instance in a huff, repair my armor, and start over again. The second time I took special care to sneak past them. I didn’t know it then, but they had an extra attack which had to be countered with one of those new situational special abilities.

After fighting through some White Mantle we got to Caudecus in the heart of his manor and a boss fight commenced (Canach also arrived for this). It was a bit annoying at first but I finally figured out through painful trial and error that I needed to hit my special ability action whenever I got a sniper target thingy over my head, which negated the worst part of the fight. (I still don’t know what that special ability is or where I got it or why it negated the attack. I never had time to hover over it and read a tool tip.)

Someone named Valette was there too. I don’t know who she is. But she’s apparently really important to this Caudecus story. I think she was an ally of Caudecus but then decided help us?

Anyway, I should have suspected that the boss fight was too easy, because instead of dying, Caudecus ran away again. Anise, Canach, Valette, and I chased him through some dumb riddles to an inner sanctum and another boss fight.

The second Caudecus boss fight took place in a very small room that made it difficult to see because of the camera bumping up against the walls. The ground was bombarded with orange circles so you had to move and dive constantly. I’m sort of used to that now, so that wasn’t the worst part. (Incidentally, I despise the fact that you can only dodge twice before running out of energy.) He had shields so you had to pickup bloodstone from the floor and throw them until his shield blew up. Then you could attack him and actually do a minuscule amount of damage. Once his shields were down he threw all kinds of attacks at you that you had to dodge, and you had to use your special ability to avoid the sniper attack things, and move around and avoid all the little bloodstone creatures that exploded all around you. Of course his shields would come back fairly quickly so you had to repeat this dance roughly fifty times.

Not only that, but the walls would spin around periodically, and loud, bombastic music blared at you the entire time. Later I realized that the frantic music probably contributed to my overall annoyance level, as it sometimes does in Dark Souls boss fights.

I’ve figured out the formula for GW2 boss fights: You start out not really knowing how it works, and you spend the first 10% learning how to fight without getting killed. During that time you’re frustrated and confused and cussing a lot. After that phase you figure out what you’re supposed to do, and you slowly become proficient at it. At some point you get into the rhythm of the fight and feel confident that you’re going to win.

At exactly that moment, they throw in some new element that wrecks everything and you go back to the frustrated, confused, cussing phase again until you learn the new patterns. Sometimes it doesn’t take long. Other times it makes you want to throw your mouse at the monitor and storm away from the computer.

This last Caudecus fight was the latter case.

Just as I was getting everything under control, after what seemed like an hour of frantic running, dodging, dying, and repeating, they threw a Jade Armor Thingy into this little room with me and Caudecus. I died a lot. I mean, a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever died so much in a boss fight before. By the end I had no pants. The only good thing about this fight is that you don’t have to restart it every time.

Typically I would think you’d want players to feel elated and happy after finishing a boss fight. But I usually feel exhausted and traumatized and angry by the end of GW2 fights, none more so in recent memory than this Caudecus fight.

I wanted the episode to be over, but then things got worse because after the boss fight you’re supposed to investigate Caudecus’s room. Instead, I somehow got lost and spent 20 minutes running around his manor unable to find it. (It turned out to be literally right next to where I started, which made me even more angry.) Even after the boss fight his manor is still full of White Mantle folks and I died a bunch more times. My chest piece was the only unbroken piece of equipment by the end.

In the end, story-wise, Canach finally got to deal with Caudecus (even though I did all the work) and was freed from Anise’s service. (I don’t remember when that happened or why it was important.) Now the mysterious Valette took his place as Anise’s … I don’t know, servant? Apparently people who commit crimes around Divinity’s Reach are punished by having to hang around with Countess Anise.

In plot developments that actually matter, we learned that Lazurus is an imposter. (Surprise, surprise, given what I know from the Path of Fire demo weekend.) Also Canach didn’t want to join Dragon’s Watch.

3 thoughts on “GW2 – Season 3, Episode 4, The Head of the Snake”

  1. That boss fight was very unpopular with a lot of people at the time of release as i recall. I don’t believe I had a too-terrible time with it (I actually can;t remember it very well and I can usually remember the really traumatic ones) but I do very much recall how godawfully long and tedious the entire Caudecus Manor sequence was and how i couldn’t wait for it to be over.

    Your description of how you;d want to feel after a boss fight and how you actually get to feel in GW2 is spot on. I think there are – finally – signs that someone at ANet is starting to get a glimmer of an understanding about this. The PoF storyline boss fights are significantly less awful and there’s isn’t a single one that struck me as being as bad as a typical LS boss fight. Maybe that’s just because the A Team worked on the Xpack though.

    As for the story in that chapter I totally agree – it’s an utter shambles. I had to go and look Demmi up to remember who she was and when i did it just annoyed me that she was reintroduced to be arbitrarily killed. As for Valette, I still have no idea who she is. Anise, though, fascinates me. I have literally never trusted her from the moment i first met her. There were theories going around that she might be the goddess Lyssa in disguise (Lyssa also optionally being Queen Jennah) but I think PoF has scuppered that. If she doesn’t turn out to be something other than she claims I will be very disappointed but then that’s not a new experience when following GW2’s storyline…

  2. I remember being very badly blindsided by the final Caudecus fight. I walked in, immediately strode up to him to fight like normal, and got turned into paste on the floor. Repeat once or twice more.

    When I respawned, I was thinking, “wtf, casual players are going to absolutely die here, the forums will be one entire long whine, and I can really feel for them in their shoes here… evidently I am missing some really crucial mechanic or strategy, hrm…”

    Then I alt-tabbed out (sorry Valette, stay dying on the floor, no rush), and went to go read one of the whine threads, certain that someone would chime in with a workable strategy.

    Sure enough, it turned out that someone managed to do it near flawlessly by running in circles and not stopping for a second.

    Huh. Like, how is one supposed to know that when entering for the -first- time? Evidently not me. Or anyone else, realistically speaking.

    The next attempt, I teleport in, and -immediately- take off in a circle. It takes 5-10 seconds of nail biting adrenaline to figure out the safe path is a circle about 600-800 range from the madman, after which I could focus on taking him down steadily. Finished with no more deaths, but I was still a little cheesed off with the assumption of mind-reading.

    It felt like someone had tested the fight so much that they forgot about a players’ -initial- experience of walking into a fight sight unseen and learning the mechanics phase by phase. (If you’re going to do that for a final boss battle, the previous battles should at least teach parts of the mechanics. If not, the fight should start slow and ramp up, not “overwhelm the player with everything turned up to 11” non-stop frenetic action in a small room.)

    1. Agreed. They definitely tune the boss fights for veterans, at least they did in Season 3. Circle-strafing constantly has actually become my default behavior for boss fights these days.

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