Casual hardcore

Over on her new blog, AJ wrote about things that she’d like to see added to Guild Wars 2.

Most of it I agree with. Guild Halls would be very welcome.  A group finder, while not useful to me (I refuse to PUG), would be greatly helpful to a lot of people. Data center integration would be great – that would mean I could actually play with my friends that are on Euro servers. Yeah, I do have an EU account…but due to forgetting the password to my main account and having issues changing it, I am hesitant to log into my EU account, and then not being able to log into my main account again.

Some of it I care less about. PvP/Esports is not something I have any interest in seeing. PvP is just something I find very unfun and unrewarding by default; there is basically nothing enjoyable about it. It is not something that will keep all players interested when their interest is waning in PvE, only those who were already interested in PvP in the first place. The lack of a standard endgame is another thing I am perfectly fine with, and I can say with some certainty that if this game did have a typical endgame type thing I probably would have lost interest some time ago. Fractals are bad enough – the difficulty is based on nothing more than trying to beat numbers, the rewards are really not worth it at all (rings…yeah, good luck ever getting ones you want. Fractal weapons…maybe if more than one or two of them actually looked good), and it’s just not content I find fun in any way. A more typical raid-like endgame feature would just be another thing that people would want to farm repeatedly (like fractals), which I have no interest in doing.

I feel like I fall in an odd place between being a casual and a hardcore player. I enjoy doing dungeons, having completed my Dungeon Master title. I’ve made a legendary weapon. I have seven characters at level 80, and an eighth about to hit level 50. I’m working on a second world completion and a second legendary. These are all the sorts of things that most people would look at and go “that is hardcore play”.

But at the same time…a lot of the things I enjoy most? Are things that would appeal more to a more casual player. I love leveling alts. I like going through areas and simply exploring for the sake of seeing something pretty. I like the fact that I can spend as much or as little time as I want on something. I genuinely enjoy most of the hearts in the game, and I like doing them.

What I don’t like is farming and grinding content. I like doing dungeons, but I do not like Citadel of Flames farming. I do not like running fractals repeatedly. I enjoyed Molten Facility but I was rather glad when it left because it meant that we could do other things than just run that. I like doing meta-events, but watching timers to try and make sure I hit every single one in the most efficient manner is not something interesting to me.

I have definitely felt like most of the new content that has been added to the game, though, has been aimed more at the people who do enjoy farming and grinding things. Fractals are really nothing but a grind. Flame and Frost culminated in a dungeon that was only available for a short period of time and dropped items of a new stat type (exclusive to it), as well as the chance for the Molten Jetpack backpiece, encouraging people to run it as much as possible to try and get those items. Secret of Southsun, thus far, runs out of story almost immediately, and then all that’s left to do there is farm the new events that repeat incredibly quickly.

These things, while I’m sure are fun for a lot of people, are not fun for all. And I feel like people like myself, who enjoy more casual pursuits in-game, are being left by the wayside in favor of trying to capture the more typical MMO gamers. And I would like to see more things added to appeal to those like myself who don’t want to just farm.

I would like to see more zones added to the game – and not just level 80 zones. There are a bunch of zones at level 40+, and the starter zones are great. However, I feel like between levels 15 and 40, the number of zones and amount of content is a bit thin, and you’re really funneled towards a specific path that you must take. I love leveling characters, but I generally wind up crafting my way from 30 to 45 now, simply because there’s not a whole lot to do in those levels. There’s only so many times I can explore Gendarran Fields, after all, before that area becomes unbearably boring. There’s tons of unfilled space on the maps. I’d like to see some use made of it.

I’d like to see updates made to open world content to bring a bit more challenge and fun to it. The short of it is that open world boss fights are extremely boring. I would really love seeing more to be reworked to be like some of the bosses in dungeons are. Obviously the open world ones should not require the same amount of coordination that some of the dungeon bosses need to defeat, but having them be something more than just “mash 1 to win” would be nice. The changes made to events in Cursed Shore were great – they’re far more challenging now, and that makes them more enjoyable to do. I would like to see those changes extended to the other zones.

I’d like to see meta-events revamped more. Ever since metas were changed to guarantee a rare reward, people have flocked to them, and that causes them to be far too easy, which makes them boring. I am glad that the Jungle Wurm in Caledon was fixed so that it wouldn’t die before it could even be targeted, but even with that, it’s an easy fight. The pre-events to most of these metas are a joke; there is no chance of them failing. It is very difficult to even get credit on them most of the time; I have not managed to get credit for any of the pre-events for the Wurm meta in weeks, because of the number of people doing the events and the ease and numbers of the mobs involved. The metas themselves are also a joke; I have not seen the Ice Elemental that will spawn when the Svanir Shaman at Frozen Maw is not defeated in time in months. I have no idea if any of the others even have fail states, as I have never seen it happen. I would really love to see these events get overhauled; I think that the pre-events especially would benefit heavily from the changes made to events in Cursed Shore.

I would like to see more story added with new events. Or rather, I would like to see a substantial amount of story added, not just a little bite that’s done with immediately. The Guild Wars world has amazing lore. The world-building in these games is great. The stories themselves are quite good, even though the storytelling has fallen short. There are so many things that start getting explored and then they just…don’t ever get touched again. I’d like more of the lore to be explored, more of the things we encounter early on to come back. Even if they were optional (that would be the ideal, in fact), I’d love to see more personal story quests. I’d like to see all of the biography options selected during creation to have an impact. I’d like to see Living Story updates to be much heavier on the actual story, since that is part of the name, after all.

I want to see more, and better, rewards. Drop rates are very low, which can be very discouraging. The changes of getting anything that’s worth anything are very slim, which is what leads people to farm fractals and metas instead of doing other content. I’d like to see the rewards from dungeons brought more in line with fractal rewards. I’d like to see open world content give better chances at stuff that’s actually worth getting. And related to that, I’d like to see more variety in what we can get. New stat types would be great – trying to find armor with a stat type that matches my builds can sometimes be very frustrating, and adding new types would encourage people to try new builds. I’d also like to see new skins. There are plenty of nice skins available in the game, but there’s been no new armor added yet, and for the most part I haven’t been too impressed with the new weapons added. There was a certain style aesthetic that Guild Wars had that Guild Wars 2 is lacking in a lot of ways, I believe, and I’d like to see more armors and weapons that resemble ones from GW1.

There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to see, and this isn’t all of it. But what it comes down to is that there is more than one type of gamer out there. And ultimately, I’d like to see more stuff added to Guild Wars 2 that appeals to multiple groups.

Back to Southsun

This week, the newest part of Guild Wars 2’s Living Story, the Secret of Southsun, was launched. New events in Southsun! A new storyline! New items, both in the gem store and as drops! A new activity!

Of course I went to check it out as soon as I got home from work the day the patch went live.

The first thing you will notice, if you haven’t been back to Southsun Cove in some time (which I had not; I stopped going there for anything but Guild Bounties when they removed the rich orichalcum node), is that things have changed some. Actually, you’ll notice that before you even get there – when you talk to the NPC near the ship in Lion’s Arch, you will no longer get a choice of waypoint to be transported to, but instead you will arrive through a waypoint located on Pearl Islet. An asura gate there back to Lion’s Arch is certainly a very welcome thing.

The biggest thing is the island is far more built up now – settlements for the refugees are all over the island, the previous outposts are larger, there’s a fancy new resort on the southeast part of the island, and Sawtooth Bay is now dominated by a Crab Toss arena. There are also a number of new NPCs around, and talking to certain ones will get you different buffs – talking to a Consortium Negotiator gets you a gold find buff, while talking to a Settler Negotiator gets you a 200% Magic Find buff. These only work while in Southsun, but are handy to have – and not just for the buffs themselves!

Part of the achievement list for Secret of Southsun.

Part of the achievement list for Secret of Southsun.

Several (well, many) new achievements have been added as part of this section of Living Story, and this is the main way that players are guided through the content. This part I actually dislike quite a bit. Let’s be real – the achievement list here acts as a standard quest log, but with less information about what you’re doing and why you are doing it. And the fact that it is presented in such a way means that players will simply treat it as a checklist – okay, need to do five events with the Consortium buff, done, move on to the next. It’s an easy way to keep track of what there is to do, yes, but I am not a fan of the way they chose to present this.

That said, the rewards you get for two of the achievement tracks are worth it, in my opinion – backpieces that have unique skins and an infusion slot. For collecting ten of the eleven samples, you get the Fervid Censer, and for completing 25 Southsun achievements (a far easier accomplishment than you’d think), you get the Sclerite Karka Shell. Both are account-bound, which is quite nice.

I won’t lie, as a sylvari lover, the Fervid Censer is my favorite new item added to the game. I promptly transmuted mine onto my ascended Fractal Capacitor so that I could wear my pretty flower and keep the correct stats, too! Sure, I can’t infuse it further…but as I didn’t want to anyway, no loss there!

Liusaidh is a pretty pretty flower <3

Liusaidh is a pretty pretty flower ❤

Among other things, it’s worth checking out the diving goggles in the karka hive again – they have a hilarious new achievement of their own, the resort south of Pearl Islet will have you encounter a certain noble from the human personal story wearing not a whole lot (with some very interesting conversation), and crab toss is entertaining, if not completely confusing. The Southsun Supply Crates are a rare drop that are quite neat – I got one as a drop the first day and got a mini – and they can also be bought in the gem store. Veteran karkas are now guaranteed to drop karka shells, and there are new Blooming Passiflora that are guaranteed to give Passiflora flowers.

That said, it isn’t all perfect. First of all, I feel like Secret of Southsun has fallen into the same trap that the previous Living Story releases have, which is too little released at one time. If you’ve got an hour or two to spend in-game, you can power through what’s available so far – I had 25 achievements completed and both backpieces in no time whatsoever. The content so far is very story-light – certain things are happening but thus far there’s no hints as to why they’re happening. You get some backstory from talking to NPCs, but not a whole lot. There are new events around the island…but the ones I’ve seen consist of “destroy the crazed creatures”, “defeat the instigator”, and “protect the victim from attack”. They really don’t differ from that at all, and they’re all on very short cycles which will often lead to multiple events going on at the same time in the same area – not always a fun experience. The events scale pretty well, but you will be fighting a lot of veterans and champions, and they hit hard, so events crossing each other can be quite painful.

The other big issue I have is one I had before with Flame and Frost, but I think it bothers me here more. Once you complete the achievements, you’re left going “okay, what now?” The frequency of events, amount of drops, and the fact that you’ll be running around Southsun with either a high gold find or magic find boost has effectively turned the entire island into one big farm. Follow the events, kill the things, get your money and loot, rinse and repeat. It’s highly reminiscent of how groups will follow events through Orr, or do nothing but chase metas. As someone who does not enjoy farming, and gets bored extremely fast hopping from event to event and meta to meta, I do not enjoy this at all. The next part of the Living Story release is on the 28th, but having completed what’s on Southsun so far, I don’t see myself really going back there a whole lot between now and then.

Overall? I do quite enjoy the Secret of Southsun. They’ve certainly learned from our previous trip to Southsun Cove, and things have improved quite a bit since then. At the same time, though, I wish we had more meat to this story, as right now it feels like we’re just snacking on sweets – it’s tasty, but ultimately it’s made of nothing. It’s definitely worth making your way down to Southsun if you haven’t yet – if for nothing else, to get those backpieces! What do you think of the Secret of Southsun so far?