Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guild Wars 2 - Back to School!

So keeping up with their absurdly good rate of content releases every two weeks, yesterday the Back To School Content Release came out in Guild Wars 2.  The highlight of this release is ostensibly, the return of the Super Adventure Box - affectionately known as the SAB.  But the other signficant part of this patch is the raising of the max level of crafting for three of the professions (hunstman, weaponsmith, and artificer) to 500, and the added ability to craft ascended weapons.

The Return of Retro
You remember the Super Adventure Box.  This was the 8 bit retro-styled zone that started off as an April Fool's joke, and was so beloved by the community that they've brought it back, and added a ton of new content to go along with it.  There's a new trio of zones, collectively known as World 2, which supposedly makes the old trio of zones look like a cake walk.  I've actually heard that they made the original trio of zones a bit easier this go-around, but I haven't yet jumped in to test that out.

I personally don't find the Super Adventure Box all that appealing.  When it was first released, I thought it was extremely novel, and an interesting sort of cool, side thing they did for April Fool's.  But the 8-bit aesthetic wears on me really quickly, and so after I got my initial set of achievements and meta achievement, I dropped it.  For this patch, I honestly don't imagine I'll spend much time at all, if any, inside Moto's fun house.  It's also a bit of a departure from the main Living Story, if you will, so I really don't feel like I'm missing on any crucial lore by giving that content a pass.  Instead, this gives me some time to work on the stuff that I find really cool about this release - the new ascended gear.

My Newest 400 Weaponsmith
Ascended Crafting
Of course, as is always my luck, the three crafting classes they choose to first grant the level 500 cap raise to, are three classes I haven't leveled at all in my characters.  I have 400 each of tailoring, leatherworking, and armorsmithing, but yeah, nothing really in huntmsan, weaponsmith, or artificing.  So I grabbed my guardian, plopped her down at a crafting station, and threw gold at the trading post until I had everything I needed, crafted my way to 400 weaponsmith.  It took about 2 hours and around 20 gold, but I'm glad I did it when I did, because prices for those materials are going through the roof right now, and the longer I waited the worse it's going to be.  Of course, it is the nature of the beast that having exhausted my supply of gold to reach 400, I had precious little materials and money to actually get to 500, but that's okay.  I have time now, and can work on that gradually over the next few days.

Ascended weapon crafting is a timed unlock type of thing anyway, where various pieces will take a day to craft, so it's not like people are going to be cranking out ascended weapons wholesale in the next few days.  There are already quite a few guides out there to get to 500 quickly, but the short version is craft exotics to get to 450, then use the new materials that drop from champion boxes and the like to craft new recipes that will take you to 500.

Quite a few people stockpiled champion boxes from the Clockwork Chaos events until today's patch, and it turns out it was a good thing to do, as it netted those people a hefty quantity of the new materials.  Of course, I was not so forward thinking.  But it's all good.  There's no real hurry, and as the crafted ascended weapons are account bound, you'll have to spend time actually making these items yourself if you want them.

Gear Progression - It's not Evil
I think the important thing to sort of recognize out of this patch though is the continuance of a gradual but definite gear progression.  And though ArenaNet suffered the verbal lashing of a vocal portion of its community when they introduced Ascended items in the first place, I personally believe this is the absolute best thing for the game, over the long run.  ArenaNet has said in the past they absolutely have always intended for Guild Wars 2 to have some degree of gear progression over time, and they are providing exactly that - albiet at a much more gradual pace than what most MMO's do.  A lot of people really wanted Guild Wars 2 to always remain with a flat itemization model, but a whole lot of other people have also left the game because they felt like once they got their exotics, a relatively trivial thing to do once you get to level 80, there was nothing more to work for.  For many, many players, myself included, they now have new, tangible goals to work towards.  And the fact that these things (ascended items) are achieved through a variety of ways means that you should be able to find a way to get this gear through whatever play style fits you best.

The New Magic Find Stat
Magic Find Overhauled
Speaking of getting gear, another thing they've been talking about doing for some time and actually implemented in this patch is changing the way the Magic Find stat works in the game.  ArenaNet has said for some time that they didn't really like the way magic find was working, as a stat on your gear.  It didn't make sense for players to have to give up valuable play mechanic stats in gear in order to gain increase their chances of getting better gear.  They laid the groundwork for this change a few patches ago when they introduced the magic find account-wide stat.  And they completed the transformation in this patch when they removed magic find from your gear.  People that had magic find gear were allowed to change that stat to the stat of their choice in the existing gear they had - a pretty equitable modification if you ask me.  Additionally, you can now salvage fine and Masterwork armor pieces for a chance to gain various Essence of Luck pieces, which are a consumable that will add to your account-wide Magic Find stat.  All in all a pretty clever overhaul, and one that I'm happy with.

The Slow Emergence of Hard Mode
There's one more thing I wanted to comment on, and this is more of a trend I've been noticing over the past several updates.  In Guild Wars 1, the ArenaNet developers were not afraid, at all, to throw ridiculously hard content at the players.  Sometimes too much so, for my tastes.  Besides the actual addition of a Hard Mode they added to the game, which allowed you to repeat pretty much all of the game's content at a much more difficult level, even many of the normal mode instances, battles, and missions required extensive time commitments, lengthy mission research, and a significant amount of time putting together the exact right party of heroes and henchmen, combined with the exact right set of skills.

When Guild Wars 2 came out, it was a much kinder, gentler game.  Only a few of personal story missions offered really true difficulty, and of course, some of the various dungeon paths.  But now that people have sort of settled in, I'm seeing the old ANet developer mentality start to emerge a bit, and the introduction of harder, and more challenging content.  We first saw it in Southshore - a zone that dwarved other zones in terms of the sheer difficulty of mobs you found there.  Then came the Aetherites - a villain group that in numbers will absolutely tear you up, and condition you right down to the dirt.  And both of the last two content releases have introduced - purely optional mind you - new gameplay geared specifically at the hard core player - the Queen's Gauntlet, and with this latest update, the Tribulation Mode in SAB.  I like that they're adding some stuff that will truly test your abilities - or at least your perseverance.  But only so much as it remains optional.  I like to choose when I'm challenged, and hopefully would prefer to not return to the days of some of those last missions in The War in Kryta, where I spent entire Sundays just trying to beat a single mission.  It's something to keep an eye on.

In any event, if you've been away from the game, this is a great time to return.  There is no real story update here, so you can take or leave the Super Adventure Fun box entirely at your pleasure.  And if you left the game because you felt like you'd reached 80, had your exotic gear, and there was nothing left for you to do, well now there is!

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