Saturday, February 2, 2013

Victory at Last


So it's been only, what, six months now since the game has released, and just last night I finally finished my personal story with one of my characters.  I gathered four brave companions.. okay two brave companions and two complete strangers, but still, five of us ventured into the lost city of Arah, and took the fight to Zhaitan himself.  The ensuing experience was both extraordinarily gratifying while at the same time somewhat disappointing.



I'm going to post just a few screenshots from the dungeon here in the blog, and none of the dragon himself.  In story mode, I think a huge part of my gratification comes from actually seeing Zhaitan, and brother do they do a fantastic job of presenting him.  However,  I'll also put up a public album with all of my screenshots from the dungeon, so if you don't mind spoilers and just want to see what you're in for, you can head on over to the album.

The Good
I didn't participate in the dungeon of Arah before the most recent round of balance changes, and the introduction of the new waypoint change, so I can't speak to how the dungeon originally was.  For us, last night, overall it felt fairly well balanced.  I took the time beforehand to read up on the boss fights, just to have an idea of what to expect, and was really glad I did.  I think we would have sussed out what was going on fairly quickly anyway - none of the boss fights were particularly crazy or obscure in their mechanics, but not having to spend that time figuring it out, and just going into the fight knowing somewhat what to expect allowed us to get through the entire dungeon without a full party wipe - though we did get mighty close at one point.

During the second half of the last part of the dungeon there are quite a few cinematic moments - and they are, in a word - fantastic.  Seriously.  My entire family stopped what they were doing and started watching during this part.  Your jaw will drop.  I know mine did.  I also very nearly died a number of times turning off my interface and trying to get some good screenshots during the battles, lol.

The Not So Good
So this next part is a bit spoilery, but here goes.  The last battle - the battle against Zhaitan himself - the culmination of the entire story - is a complete and utter disappointment.  Granted, the designers are faced with a monumental task.  How do you tackle the idea of battling a creature the size of a Manhattan and bringing it down in such a way that seems even the least bit reasonable.  Well, having watched my son do raid after raid against Deathwing, participating in giant battles on the back of the dragon himself, tearing out corrupted scales while beasts and demons erupted from the dragon's corruption itself to thwart the group - I gotta say, in the battle of the dragons, WoW wins hands down here.  To defeat Zhaitan, you and your group of heroes are reduced to cannoneers - doing what any Bloodcoast Pirate could do, pushing a single button over and over until the dragon is dead.  The worst part, is that you're not even using your abilities and skills.  Yeah, the things that you spent the last 80 levels developing and honing.  No, to defeat Zhaitan you just need to fire a cannon.  My son, watching, threw up his hand and walked away in disgust, and quite honestly I couldn't blame him.  It's a disappointing ending for what is otherwise a fantastic dungeon.

In Retrospect
The hardest part about finishing your personal storyline, is, to be honest, putting together a group to do it with.  I think it was a mistake to require a group to finish your personal storyline, when the other 99.9% of it you did solo - in fact was encouraged to do solo, as you couldn't simultaneously complete other player's personal story quests even if you wanted to.  But I'm not the first to say so, and it is what it is.  And once you do get a group together, overall the experience is a lot of fun.  It's challenging without being impossible.  And the amount of gratification you feel for completing it - not to mention the awesome victory celebration and cinematics you receive upon the conclusion - more than make up for the somewhat disappointing final boss fight.  So don't let that deter you from doing the quest.  As soon as you can get there, I encourage you to put together a group, and do it.  I think, overall, you won't be disappointed.

One other final thought.  Last night I went back and re-read my posts from when I finished the Nightfall campaign and the Eye of the North campaign in Guild Wars 1.  And I was reminded that this is a kinder, gentler ArenaNet.  And despite what some may say, I believe overall that this is a good thing.  The next to last mission in the Nightfall campaign I must have attempted  at least some 20 times.  And that was with reading every guide I could get my hands on and trying a variety of hero and skill builds.  I have yet to encounter anything in Guild Wars 2 as tough as that mission was.  The story line ins Guild Wars 2 is made for  ordinary people - people like you and me - to actually be able to complete.  And that's a good thing.  If you haven't yet, I encourage you to give it a shot.

If you wish to view the entire album, you may do so here.