Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Game Still Surprises Me


So last night, I sat down to a bit of Guild Wars 2, expecting nothing more than to knock out a few karma hearts, and to advance my way a bit through Mount Maelstrom.  Low key, casual gaming at its best.  Towards the north end of the zone, there was a dynamic event entitled Defeat the Keepers of the Earth, and you had to take out these two veteran Keepers of the Earth, that are just standing around, chillin'.  Now I'm a mesmer - defeating two veterans isn't trivial, but still doable.  But I put out a map call all the same, and sure enough, several people showed up within moments, and we handily defeated the mobs.  Once the mobs were defeated though, a portal showed up behind them, that wasn't there before.  Upon interacting with the portal, you're given the opportunity to pass through it.  When you say yes, it follows up with..

"It could be dangerous.. are you sure?" 

Heck yeah!


A mini-zone deep within the Maguuma Jungle
So through the portal I went, and found myself in a gorgeous, waterfall lined zone with towering vistas, and deep shimmering pools.  I immediately set off exploring this little mini-zone.  Somehow, I completely missed this event when I came through here with my thief, and so this was completely new to me.  It's hard to describe the satisfaction that comes with the feeling that you are truly exploring something that is completely new.

There was a high promontory in the middle of the zone, so I made my way towards that.  And a short ways up, I found a sylvari sitting on a large mushroom pad.  She explains that she doesn't get many visitors - typically only people that are lost.  Or cartographers.  Or lost cartographers.  I got a chuckle out of that.  A short way behind her was a chest.  And upon talking to her, and interacting with the chest, I learned that the chest could be opened if you gathered four elemental cantles.  Now, I had suspected already that this was a jumping puzzle.  But it was more than that.  It was a four part jumping puzzle!  With a healthy dose of exploration thrown in!

Just beyond the chest was a very obvious beginning to one jumping puzzle, so though I couldn't see my objective from there, I set out.  First step - turn off double-tap to evade!  This has you climbing to truly dizzying heights, walking along narrow roots, and leaping from location to location.  Of course, the truly challenging part of this zone is that there are no waypoints anywhere in it.  One misstep, and I was going to have to go all the back to Mount Maelstrom, and I didn't even know if I would be able to get back.

Oooh goggles!
I finished that puzzle without too much difficulty, and was looking about for a way down when I spotted a tiny pool of water far below, a large mushroom pad, and diving goggles.  Diving goggles!  Did I dare?  I couldn't even hardly see the tiny pool so far down! Of course, I did.  And survived!  One cantle down, three to go!

The next cantle was down in the bowels of the earth, and surrounded by earth elementals - many of them veteran.   And they have a nasty area of effect earthquake attack that does a knockdown and obliterates my poor illusions.  Now here's the weepy part of the story, as I died here.  I got overwhelmed by these earth elementals trying to get to the next cantle - which isn't a jumping puzzle at all, just some challenging foes.  However, upon beaming back to the waypoint that was close to the portal entrance, I found the event that spawns the portal right back up.  So I tackled the two veteran keepers, defeating them handily, which respawned the portal, and back I went!  This time I opted for the better part of valor - discretion.  That is, I ran in, grabbed the cantle, and ran out, leaving my illusions to occupy the nearby elementals.  Two down!

From this windswept promontory, you can see the Cantle of Water.
Also, bugs..
While at the very top of the zone, retrieving the first cantle, you're afforded a sweeping view of the entire zone.  And from there, you can actually spot the other two cantles.  So I had a general idea of where to go next.  Now this next cantle was actually the one that gave me the most difficulty. I found a small cave against the edge of the zone, and figured that was the entrance I needed.  As soon as I entered the cave though, spiders began dropping from the ceiling.  No problem I thought.. clear the cave of spiders, then make your way up.  So I killed those spiders, but some other, smaller ones joined. And then some more dropped from the ceiling.  And oh yeah, in the fighting I aggroed some giant mosquitoes too! Suddenly I was overwhelmed with spiders and bugs!  After defeating over a half-dozen, I eventually fled, as they didn't seem to be getting any less.  Once they returned to their lair, I came back.  I wanted to at least see if this was the start of the puzzle indeed, or just some nasty red herring.  I entered the cave, ignoring the spiders as they again returned, and ran to the back.  Sure enough, some very obvious pads leading up.  And that's when I realized the trick here.  The spiders aren't intended to be defeated.. they're just there to provide encouragement for you to get on with the puzzle.  Oh, and if that wasn't enough, half way up the puzzle, another group will spawn.  Again, encouraging you to get quickly about the business of leaping from one tiny floating rock to another over vast gulfs of space.  But some mercy is shown here.  A giant pool resides below much of the puzzle, and if you fall (which I did once) you land in the deep water.  Again through the cave of spiders, up the puzzle, leaping from spot to spot, and again at the top, I ran in, grabbed the cantle, then flung myself over a dizzying cliff edge, to land in the pool below.  One to go!

The most challenging part of the last cantle was just finding the start of the puzzle.  I might have remained stymied, or forced to resort to the internet for the solution, when another pair of adventurers showed up, and for this part at least, they sussed it out quickly.  I will offer only this clue - it turns out leaves can provide as much support for jumping pedestals as mushroom pads can!  A short time later, the fourth, and final cantle was retrieved.

Achievement Unlocked!
Immensely satisfied with my accomplishments, I made my way back to the sylvari and her chest in the center of the zone.  Of course, the chest rewards were trivial.  If you've ever done these things at all, you know that you don't do them for the chest reward.  But most importantly, I was rewarded with the Hidden Garden jumping puzzle achievement!

One final footnote to the story.  After over an hour of successfully navigating precarious leaps, narrow catwalks, and battling angry mobs, flush with excitement I began making my way to one of the portals I'd spotted about the zone that undoubtedly led back to Mount Maelstrom. And of course, failing to pay close attention to my footing..

I slipped through a crevice and plummeted hundreds of feet to my death.

I'm totally not kidding.

Ah well, even the quick death at the end couldn't dampen the enjoyment I had at discovering this hidden gem, and spending time exploring it and solving its riddles.

Wherever you're gaming, I hope you're having a blast!