Even though ArenaNet is dead to me and I almost never actually enjoy playing Guild Wars 2, I decided to log in again. I’ve been hearing some good things about the new Icebrood Saga thingy, so I wanted to try it out. It’s free, after all. That’s the best thing about new content in Guild Wars 2 by far. Also it’s kind of a tradition at this point that I record my gameplay of these Living World episodes.
Mild spoilers below if you’ve somehow managed to avoid the story for the last six months.
Before I can try the new thing, I have to finish the old thing. It’s been about eight months since I last logged in to play Living World Season 4, Episode 5 “All Or Nothing." Since then I’ve only logged in long enough to collect Episode 6 so I didn’t have to buy it later. I haven’t played any of the maps, any of the events, I haven’t moved a single inch from the exact spot I logged out after finishing Episode 5.
It’s taken me this long to psych myself up to play GW2 again. I hate feeling like this. There are some good things about GW2 after level 80. Sometimes there are some fun and interesting story beats. I generally like the “Dragon’s Watch” characters. It’s like NCIS: The stories are meh but it’s fun to hang out with the characters along the way. That and the fact that it’s free are the main reasons I even still have GW2 installed. Actually those are the only good things.
The game mechanics? Ugh. It’s usually a huge hassle and a tedious slog to play through the mechanics of the Living World episodes to get to the story beats. Everything feels random and nonsensical and chaotic to me. I usually can’t see any useful information on the battlefield, so for me, it’s all just a wash of lights and colors that blend together, I just mash ability buttons in fairly random order, dodge circles on the ground, and call it pro gameplay. Most of the time I can’t even tell which enemy I have targeted.
So when I go in to play a new Episode of the Living World, I feel like I’m getting ready for a championship boxing or a tennis match. I have to mentally and physically prepare for the experience. I have to keep telling myself, “Okay, you can do this! You’ve got this! Don’t let this game get into your head, don’t let it get under your skin. Play your game. Don’t let the game dictate the points. Control the net! Keep your left up! You can do it!” I may have mixed up my sports metaphors there a little bit.
That attitude keeps me going for a few minutes at best. Then something happens and I start groaning and whining and complaining about having to slog through the game’s mechanics again. This time, I made the mistake of opening my inventory. I had just opened the email with the gift for buying Heart of Thorns. I wanted to see the new glider skin. This is my very first new glider skin, as I have not used anything but the default since the beginning of Heart of Thorns. I opened my inventory. It was full. Completely full. Every single slot full. That’s seemingly hundreds of items with different color icons and I don’t have the slightest clue what any of it is, nor do I particularly care to learn it. The temptation to simply destroy every single thing in my inventory without even looking at it is extremely strong.
I spent about five minutes selling things, either to a vendor or to the Trading Post. I sold a bunch of Mystic Coins. I think those are important, but I don’t know what they’re for or how to use them. They go for a lot of gold on the Trading Post. (A lot to me, at least, who at this writing has I think 45 gold, which sounds like a lot more than I usually have. I don’t even know what to spend gold on in Guild Wars 2.) I opened up some bags of Laurels and Luck which are easily consumed. I freed up a little less than a single row. Then I gave up and moved on with the story.
The story is what it is. I don’t remember being spoiled by this, but I still wasn’t at all surprised by what happened, because I simply don’t trust ArenaNet to tell a good story. The impact of a death is always entirely undermined when they just pop back to life in the next chapter. I felt a real emotional impact at the very beginning of this episode as everyone grieved, and then somebody hit the undo button and I felt completely cheated. Death is in stories to teach us frail humans that death is real and part of life and has consequences and we need to process that. Death isn’t a chapter cliffhanger. Ugh. What a tremendous letdown.
The new map is the same as every other Guild Wars 2 map since Orr: Impossible to casually explore by yourself. Whatever events or local flavor exists on it will remain forever unknown to me, just like most every other Living World map since the very first one defined this “zergs only” exploration style, because the only reason I’m there is that the story forces me to be there. As soon as the story ends I’ll never see it again. Especially this one, because I kind of hate it. It’s all canyons and walls and obstacles.
Amazingly enough, I went on to finish Episode 6 and Living World Season 4 without much hassle. There was one notable exception during “Bleed.” I was directed to “spear Kralkorandomletters.” The instructions, as per usual with Guild Wars 2, were anywhere from vague to non-existent. I’m one of the last remaining MMORPG players who relies entirely on in-game information and does not have a wiki open on my second monitor providing step-by-step instructions, so these things are very noticeable to me.
There was one green arrow pointing to a spot on the map. By random coincidence, it just so happened that there was an event going on in that spot, so I assumed that’s where I had to go. It took me way up to the top of the map. It was near the green star that showed the exact spot I was supposed to go. I tried to get there. I died instantly because of a “Brandstorm” in the area. This happened repeatedly. Utterly befuddled, I figured I had to complete all the map events to clear the Brandstorm, so I got swept up in this huge meta event to kill Kralkorandomletters, which ultimately failed 45 minutes later. I quit the game in disgust and went to bed.
I couldn’t believe GW2 would make us complete a complicated meta event to progress the story, so the next morning, I looked at the wiki. It turns out I was supposed to go down to the bottom of the map where there’s a hidden cave entrance at the green arrow. I walked in there and 2 minutes later I was done with Bleed and on to the last part.
I braced myself for the final boss fight of the season, which I assumed would be long, boring, and irritating (like the one at the end of Season 2, oh man, what a nightmare that was… it took, what, 45 minutes?). It actually wasn’t that bad. I mean, it was long, because there were three phases I think. Each one was basically a repeat of the previous phase. All I did was dodge around a lot, spam my ability keys in my patented random order, and throw out those special Dragonspears now and then. But I didn’t find myself irritated because it was mercifully straight-forward, for a change, and for some reason I never took much damage.
The end of the story was actually nice. I didn’t understand a word of the lore, but it had a nice feel to it. The cut scene where Aurene “ascended” to Elder Dragon status (which was not at all clear during the cut scene, and only explained later) was quite good. In retrospect it occurs to me that Aurene is basically Jesus. I guess Guild Wars 2 is proselytizing Christianity now.
On to the Icebrood Saga! Which, as of this posting, I’m already in the middle of.
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