GW2 – Season 3, Episode 3, A Crack in the Ice

Episode 3 of the Living World Season 3 takes us to Bitterfrost Frontier, another new map north of Frostgorge Sound.

The episode begins with some “challenges” in Tarir to train baby dragon Aurene how to be a good dragon. I cringed at first but it turned out the challenges were fairly benign, if somewhat tedious. It seemed like filler material to extend the length of the content, to be honest.

Then we went to Bitterfrost Frontier to find Braham and do an errand for Taimi–something about pitting the two dragons Primordus and Jormag against each other. Except we had to make an Elixir to survive the cold first, which took up most of our time and took us to all corners of the map. We killed a minion of Jormag, then found Braham and helped him find a scroll. Braham then had a huge whiny meltdown when I tried to convince him to join Dragon’s Watch instead of going off to kill Jormag.

I was a bit stunned by Braham’s outburst. I’ll admit it was one of the most memorable character conflicts in the game, but it seemed–stop me if you’ve heard this before–completely random and without cause. Correct me if I’m wrong, but did he not even know his mother back in Living Story season 1? Now she is the driving force for everything he does.

Besides that, though, I actually enjoyed playing on the Bitterfrost Frontier map. And overall, I found the gameplay in this episode to be much more casual, even the final boss fights with the Jormag minion and the scroll guardian. (The last fight was incredibly confusing, but somehow it sort of resolved itself without much interaction from me.) Looking back now, I realize it was just the calm before the storm of Episode 4, but it was nice while it lasted.

UPDATE – The Video

GW2 – Season 3, Episode 2, Rising Flames

Bhagpuss recommended that I skip the Living World Season 3* and go right into Path of Fire, which by all accounts is far superior, but I’m stubbornly persisting in my efforts to complete the whole season first. Partly it’s because I’ve been recording this adventure, so I’ll have videos of it all. And partly it’s because I want to experience it “as it was intended.” I see a lot of people using their new mounts to get to places which seems like cheating. :)

Lastly I’ve found that Living World Season 3 actually isn’t too terrible, compared to the Heart of Thorns story. I’m not sure what it is but I’ve been a bit more engaged and less ragey about it. (At least until I got to the end of Episode 4, but that’s another story.) I think the fact that the story moves to different locations helps a lot. After the first episode, it’s not just the same accursed jungle setting every time. There is a genuine feeling of, “Hey, this is actually new!” I cannot overstate how much new scenery influences me to stay in an MMORPG.

Episode 2, for example, moves to another new map called Ember Bay, an island at the edge of the Unending Ocean. (Some day they are going to feel dumb for naming it that.) There’s a lot of rocks and mountains and fire and brimstone there. I’m hard pressed to remember why we went there at the time of this writing, but the most important thing about it is that there are no trees anywhere to be found. It just looks different, and that’s a big plus for me.

I’m writing this after I’ve finished Episode 4, so I have to dig back into my recordings to remember what actually happened in Episode 2. That’s how much of an impression the story made on me. :) It started out with a weird simulation that Taimi created for us to fight things for no apparent reason. Then Taimi sent us to Ember Bay, where we have to fix a bunch of dwarven spheres before the island blows up. (I don’t even know what to say about “Stone Face.”) Then we had a vision, so we had to go back to Tarir in Auric Basin and protect a dragon baby. Lazurus showed up to help with this.

The overall story did not get any easier to understand. I’m pretty sure this episode was created entirely with a random number generator. I guess the main takeaways were that Lazurus tried to convince us that he’s a good guy, and there’s a new dragon Aurene in the world. Marjory randomly volunteered to keep an eye on Lazarus. I say “randomly” because it always seems completely random which of my Dragon’s Watch companions show up and/or volunteer to do things.

It was very cool to see the return of hearts to the Ember Bay map. They are more like daily achievements now, but it’s still nice to see them again.

UPDATE – The Video

Next up, Episode 3!

* I’ve been calling it the “Living Story” forever but I only just realized when I actually read the text in the story journal that it’s supposed to be “Living World” Season 3.

GW2 – Season 3, Episode 1, Out of the Shadows

I bought the Path of Fire expansion on Friday morning, about four hours before launch time. Not that it matters, but I hope that my purchase was late enough that it doesn’t “count” in the video game industry’s pre-order shenanigans. It was early enough that I got the bonuses, though. (Not that I’ll ever use them.)

When I logged in around 11:30, I realized that I had not yet started the Living Story Season 3, and I remembered that I had planned to finish that before going into Path of Fire. (I actually meant to finish it before buying Path of Fire, but I forgot about that part.)

So while everyone else is checking out the Crystal Desert or whatever, I’ll be bringing you up-to-the-minute reporting on the Living Story Season 3.

The first episode is called Out of The Shadows and contains six chapters. I was surprised that there were so many. It took me around two and a half hours of game time to complete it over the course of three days, not counting grinding for the Mastery Point.

It starts with Eir’s Memorial in Hoelbrak. (When everyone toasted, “To Eir!” I, of course, responded, “Is human!”) Then we pay a visit to Taimi in Rata Novus, and take an airship to the new map Bloodstone Fen, where a giant bloodstone exploded. Kind of.

As usual, I don’t fully understand the story. At this point I mentally hear static whenever people try to explain what’s going on because it never makes any sense to me. I feel like there’s some foundational piece of Guild Wars lore that I just don’t get or never heard that renders everything after it nonsensical. As if I’m reading Game of Thrones but I don’t know that the seasons are longer than normal.

Anyway, the new map is another Heart of Thorns-style map, full of verticality. There’s an entirely new set of Ancient Magics Masteries added with this map, the first one of which (“Counter Magic”) is required to finish Episode 1. I ended up going back to Verdant Brink to grind out the majority of that Mastery, as there weren’t very many people in Bloodstone Fen doing events. (In fact I didn’t see very many events to do.)

When you first get to Bloodstone Fen, you are required to visit several places in the zone before you can continue the story. During this part, I rage quit twice. :) There was one particular point, the Colosseum of the Faithful, that I tried to fight my way up to twice, and both times I gave up and concluded, “Screw this. This is impossible. I’m just going to start Path of Fire.” But on the third try I figured out that you can glide over to that spot without having to defeat the hordes of Veteran Angered Spirit mobs. That was the most irritating part of the episode for me. I get very irrationally angry when I encounter difficulty simply running from one point on the map to another point on the map to continue a story.

The inevitable tedious, drawn-out boss fights occur in the final chapter, Confessor’s Stronghold, where you confront this guy Caudecus. Allegedly we are supposed to know him, but when I hear the word Caudecus, I only know of the Caduceus Rise dungeon in Rift. (I know, I know, different spelling.) Then some guy named Lazarus shows up, and Caudecus gets away. Then Taimi tells us Primordus is active and the episode ends, as if we’re supposed to know who or what a Primordus is. (Spoiler: It’s a dragon.)

So by my count there are three different foes to deal with by the end of the episode. Since I played the Path of Fire demo weekend, I can already sort of guess who one of them is and which one will end up being the most important.

Curiously, I noticed a lot of people have gone into Path of Fire to get their mount, and then returned to older areas. I saw a lot of raptor mounts jumping around Heart of Thorns maps and Bloodstone Fen.

UPDATE – The Video

Lockbox Expectations

While the rest of the world is probably posting about the Destiny 2 open beta today, I’m going to post about lockboxes, because I wrote this yesterday. I think it was Roger that said we bloggers could get a lot of good topics out of MassivelyOP’s Daily Grinds, so here’s another one:

What Do You Actually Expect To Get Out Of MMORPG Lockboxes? This particular Grind was inspired by Bhagpuss boldly claiming to like lockboxes (in a way).

I’m pretty sure that I’ve never purchased a lockbox in any game in my entire life, so I may not be the best person to ask.

But some games give out lockboxes as game rewards anyway. The most notable example that I can think of is WildStar’s Boom Boxes which they gave out like candy during open beta, but I think you could only open one a day after launch. I still have 63 Boom Boxes left to open. They sometimes have fun stuff in them but most of the time I was disappointed after opening them. They may not technically qualify as “lockboxes” though since I don’t think you can buy them anymore.

In GW2, I have a stack of Black Lion boxes and keys, but I gave up opening them years ago. I just drop them in the bank or ignore them entirely. I have no idea what might be in them, but I have a reflexively negative view of all boxes and bags in GW2 and I try to avoid them as long as possible. They explode into useless loot that fills up inventory slots and forces me to work to get rid of them. Bhagpuss’s description of spending a half hour clearing out inventory before and after any kind of event is very familiar to me, and one of the many things I could cite that drives me away from the game.

As for what I would expect to get from a lockbox: If such things existed in, for example, FFXIV, I would expect a (good) chance at receiving a reward similar to what I might receive as a drop from a dungeon or raid boss. I would also expect to see the odds of getting that reward before I bought the lockbox.

By the way, I think that it’s implied when we talk about “lockboxes” that we are referring to lockboxes bought with real money, directly or indirectly. I certainly don’t mind opening them if they are acquired through in-game means (subject to the above inventory management woes).

But I don’t buy lockboxes (or keys) and have no plans to ever buy one.

Getting Lost In MMOs

A recent MassivelyOP Daily Grind asked the question: “Do you like being lost in MMOs?”

My answer is generally no, I never want to my progress to be impeded by not knowing where to go. But it depends on the situation and/or the game. Here are two recent examples:

When I think about my experience playing through the remainder of the GW2 Heart of Thorns story, I was lost a lot in the Maguuma Jungle, and it was aggravating. The flat 2D map helped little because the world was extremely 3D and while the map might show you standing on top of your destination, in reality it might be way above you or below you with no discernable path to reach it.

On the other hand, I also spent a great deal of time lost in LotRO’s Mines of Moria, but I don’t remember feeling any frustration over it. The problem was identical: The map was flat and 2D, while the environment was 3D with ramps and stairs leading up and down all over the place, and you could never really tell whether your destination was above your head or below your feet. Yet I don’t remember ever grumbling about it in LotRO.

In these two cases one difference might have been the combat difficulty. In GW2, it was such an effort to reach anywhere on the map that if I didn’t get to the right place on the first try, I thought, “Ugh, now I have to fight my way someplace else! What a pain!”

Whereas with LotRO, the combat was ridiculously easy, so it was more of a sightseeing stroll to walk around the environment if I got lost. Also in Moria there were plenty of interesting things to look at while I tried to work out the right path. The color palette varied dramatically from place to place: There were blue areas, brown areas, gray areas, red fiery areas. Whereas most of Heart of Thorns looks roughly the same (like a big jungle).

(Updated with link and I actually read what I wrote to fix the mistakes.)

Dimrill Dale and Eclipse Jealosy

One thing that happens when you make a conscious effort to post every day is that half of your blog posts turn into diary entries. “Dear diary: Here’s what I did today. Well, yesterday.”

Yesterday I completed the Moria Epic Story and officially returned to the world under the sky in Dimrill Dale, attaining level 60 in the process. I got to revisit the Watcher in the Water deep in the bowels of Moria. Volume 2, Chapter 5 ended with having to complete three different skirmishes where you defend various places in Moria from Orc invasions. They were ridiculously easy to the point of tedium. In the end, the dwarves got their precious mithril axe Zigilburk back so I guess they are happy now. (That’s a terrible name for a legendary axe by the way.)

Chapter 6 begins with seeking out Galadriel.

I’m not entirely sure where the Moria Expansion ends, but I still have quests available in Dimrill Dale so I guess I’m still in territory that I’ve paid for.

Meanwhile in GW2, while watching Netflix, I worked on map completion in the Brisban Wildlands, something I almost never do because it’s a bit dull. But after my experiences with the Heart of Thorns story, it was a relief to be able to walk around a map without getting killed every ten steps. (My main Necro has 66% World Completion, by the way.)

In other news, I am SO JEALOUS of everybody who will be in the path of totality for the eclipse tomorrow. When I first thought I would drive down to experience it, I thought it was just a two or three hour drive away, and it would be no big deal to get there, find a vacant parking lot somewhere, and watch it. Then I learned it was a good six hours distant, not counting traffic concerns. That’s too far to impulsively drive for a two minute totality experience. Still, I keep hearing the siren call: “It’s just six hours. There will literally–not figuratively, literally–never be a closer opportunity in your lifetime.”

It’s not that I particularly care to see the eclipse. There will be plenty of clinical but completely accurate images on the Internet to look at, not to mention all the images we could look at from past eclipses. And where I live, the maps suggest the sun will be about 90% eclipsed anyway, which is pretty impressive.

It’s just that you can’t physically look at it unless it’s totally eclipsed. That’s the siren call of it: To look upon something so rare with the naked eye. To experience what people in history have looked upon as “dragons, dogs, and demons,” is pretty compelling. It’s a way to viscerally connect with past generations and the history of humankind on Earth.

It reminds me of the Hale-Bopp Comet from 1997. I vividly remember looking up one night and seeing that comet hanging up there in the sky like a … like a I don’t even know what, because I’d never seen anything like it before. It was stunning. In that moment it was easy to understand why people in history viewed comets as magical portents. That picture I linked is exactly what it looked like from my house. But it’s one thing to look at a picture of a comet online–it’s quite another thing to see that comet actually hanging up there in the normally changeless sky like a harbinger of doom.

Well, that was pretty dramatic.

Anyway. I’ve got my home-made eclipse viewer box ready. Have fun and stay safe!

Random Friday Tidbits

Another brief post just to post something today.

GW2. I did in fact retry Chapter 16, “Hearts and Minds,” and beat it after two more attempts Thursday night, which took another hour. If you leave the instance for any reason, by the way, you have to start all over. So take my advice: Don’t rage quit if you die to the last boss. :) I’ll probably start Living Story Season 3 this weekend although I’m kind of burned out on GW2 already.

LOTRO. I’m continuing to wander around in the Mines of Moria, slowly chipping my way up from level 58 to 59. I’ll probably be working on that today. I spend a lot of time lost, trying to find my way to the quest markers. I have completely forgotten that the Mordor expansion even exists. The “huge MMORPG cultural event” of entering Mordor that I thought would happen didn’t really materialize and everyone is just like, “Meh. It’s Morder. Whatever.”

FFXIV. Nothing much to report. I keep forgetting to login. I only got 360 of the 450 Tomestones last week. The times I do login, I queue up for an Expert Roulette, look at the wait time, then log back off. So yeah, I’m behind on Creation Tomestones. I don’t regret it. The Creation Tomestone Bard gear set looks awful anyway.

Eclipse. I’m not quite in the path of totality but it’s really tempting to jump in a car and drive a couple hundred miles southwest on Monday. Undoubtedly it would be a huge mistake to try. I don’t have any solar eclipse gear anyway. But it’s literally never going to be closer in my lifetime. I’m old enough now to appreciate what “once-in-a-lifetime” actually means. :)

Politics. *deep breath before writing a huge novel* Oh nevermind.

GW2 – HoT Chapters 15-16

Just a brief GW2 update, mainly to keep up my streak of daily posts this month:

I completed HoT chapter 15, which went okay, despite the AI bugs and random weirdness that always goes along with GW2 story instances. (My crew ran across an invisible bridge to join a fight on the other side of a chasm, so I glided over to follow them, but the fight was just for show and I couldn’t actually kill anything. Turns out I was supposed to stay on my side of the chasm and free Zojja, which whom I never even saw the first time.)

Then I started chapter 16, presumably the last one, which begins in exactly the place where chapter 15 ends.

The last chapter is, not surprisingly, a boss fight. It’s one of those kinds of boss fights… the GW2 mega-multi-phased kind which are incredibly long and tedious and if you mess up just a little bit, it’s back to the beginning to start over again.

Again, I’m reminded of Dark Souls. Except Souls bosses are much less tedious.

I tried that last GW2 boss twice, and it took 37 minutes from the beginning of combat to the end of the rage-quitting for the night. That’s 37 minutes to try a boss fight TWICE. ALMOST FORTY MINUTES.

I’m actually over-simplifying it a little bit. It was two bosses, which I got through, then a third boss, which I tried twice. Thankfully if you die during the third boss, you only have to retry that third boss. My last attempt took 10 minutes, and at the end of that 10 minutes when I died, the boss still had a bit over 50% health.

So in the end, my final award for most annoying HoT chapter, hands down, goes to: Chapter 16, “Hearts and Minds.” Even the title is annoying. :)

I might try it later on the weekend or something, when forty minutes doesn’t seem like such a huge amount of time. But otherwise, I’ll just move on to the Living Story Season 3.

Update PSA: DO NOT rage quit the instance if you get killed fighting Mordremoth like I did. You’ll have to fight your way ALL the way back to him again.