Saturday, 20 October 2012

Dragon Down : GW2

I wasn't planning on doing any dungeons in GW2. The little notes "my" Herald insists on sending me, where he strongly suggests I should consider it, those go straight in the bin, so it was a bit of a surprise last night when I found myself in The Ruined City of Arah.

The Ruined City of Arah (let's just call it Arah, shall we? We'll take the ruining as read) serves both as the highest-level dungeon in the game and the culmination of the Personal Storyline. Ah yes, the Personal Storyline. That'll be that other thing I'm not doing. The last time I touched it on any of my characters was back around level 40. Mrs Bhagpuss, however, has been steadily working her way through hers, delayed only by bugs (courrtesy of ArenaNet) and disconnections (courtesy of our flaky router).
Wait for me!

I'd barely had time to log in and report my first half-dozen bots of the evening when I got the call to come to Cursed Shore. There I joined Mrs Bhagpuss and three others, all from the same guild, waiting to go through the big blue portal to Arah. The group comprised two rangers (us), an Elementalist, a Guardian and I forget the other.

I won't go through the instance in detail. If you don't know it, Zubon gives an excellent account of how it plays out here. Suffice to say that, as a story, it really isn't very good.

As far as gameplay goes, from reading that and several other accounts, I was expecting it to be a lot harder than it turned out to be. Maybe it's been tuned down or maybe our group was better-geared (Mrs Bhagpuss's ranger is head-to-toe in fully upgraded exotics. Mine, um, isn't). Whatever the reason, I thought it was actually easier than several of the earlier Personal Story instances I'd done.

Ultra-rare!  Logan Being Useful
Destiny's Edge, Tyria's ultimate elite fighting force, spent most of the evening lying on the ground waiting for us to do their job for them, thereby following their long-established gameplan. Injury was added to insult when ***spoiler alert*** Zojja got to fire the Big Gun that brings down Zhaitan and all we got to do was stop yet more Risen killing her while she did it. (They did kill her, too, but we revived her and she blew Zhaitan's tail off with a laser cannon. It was quite exciting, actually).

So much for the story. What about the combat? With all that's been said about the supposed difficulty of GW2 dungeons and the chaotic gameplay that arises from having no dedicated Tanks or Healers, was it really that bad? Okay, it was a Story dungeon, which is easy-mode as I understand it, but even allowing for that I have to re-iterate that it was really a lot easier than I was expecting.

Yeah, yeah, now just fall over, already!
Other than a bug which meant we had to do the first third of the instance twice, everything went pretty smoothly. The bosses (I hate that expression but I can't call them "Nameds" - they didn't have names, just "Champion" this and "Champion" that) seemed to have a lot of hit-points but that was about all. Apparently they do have various tricks that you are supposed to avoid, but I didn't notice them. We just piled in and kept hitting them til they fell over. A modicum of running around and moving out of red circles was advisable, but only a modicum. We didn't wipe, didn't have more than the average number of "downs". It felt rather like doing a small-scale Event anywhere in Tyria.

Was it fun? Yes. Was it as much fun as a traditional Trinity-style group? No.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in High Fantasy any more
There's a very good discussion in the comments following this recent TAGN post which brings out some of the difficulties of the new group model. For some people, removing a more formal structure and replacing it with much greater freedom of action is going to add excitement and interest. For others it just risks pulling out all the bones so the saggy old skin flops around all over the floor.

On balance, I think I'd prefer more structure. The current "everyone is DPS, everyone heals, no-one tanks" is fluid and fun in big crowds but in a 5-person instance it seems odd. I'm certainly not suggesting we need to go back to the Trinity as-was but I don't think this version is a complete replacement. It's an alternative, sure, but someone will do a better iteration than this. They'd better.

One thing it did do, though, was remind me how much fun it is to play in an actual group. Got to do more of that.

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