Thoughts on the War

Fort Marriner in ruins

Behold! We’re now all Heroes of Lion’s Arch!  With the city in ruins, Guild Wars 2’s first Living Story season ended on a bittersweet note with echoes of some of the major tragedies affecting many cities and nations in modern times.  While looters forage for goods, citizens mourn the dead and work to begin rebuilding their homes.  After all the hype building up to the confrontation with Scarlet, I felt a bit let down with the Living Story, despite the fact that we’re getting a new dragon and, if the rumors are true, an expansion in the (hopefully!) near future.  I really wanted to fight Scarlet herself rather than her constructs and minions; after all, she’s been toying with Tyrians for over a year now.  Stomping on her face just wasn’t enough.

Down for the count!

Down for the count!

But the Aftermath release feels very right to me.  The bulletin boards expressing grief and desperate pleas for missing loved ones are very powerful; as Star and I said to each other, a video game isn’t supposed to make you cry.

While I didn’t play all of the Living Story releases, I was excited by how it all began with Flame and Frost.  I didn’t gripe much as the seemingly disconnected parts of the story unfolded, since, as a student of literature, I figured they were just laying the groundwork.  By far my favorite parts of these early releases were the scavenger hunts for missing belongings and Whispers’ agent notes, and the Molten Facility dungeon.  I did gripe about that since it didn’t seem to scale and my guildmates and I weren’t max level at the time.  In the end, I pugged it with four level 80s with my level 57 Miko.  I had a ton of fun but felt like a liability to the group being lower leveled.  Then again, I remember there was a level 80 guardian who died more than I did against the final bosses, so maybe it was all right.

My schedule early last summer kept me from the Living Story, though, until the tail end of Cutthroat Politics and its overlap with the Zephyrite Bazaar. There were so many Canthan echoes there that I was sorry I didn’t have time to play more.  I did run into Southsun a little bit and pick up one of those mean reef drakes, though, a decision I have not regretted at all.  Now that Miko’s 80, that drake is her constant companion.

Once Scarlet revealed herself, the stalwarts in our little guild had a lot of fun hunting her from map to map, learning how to fight more effectively in larger groups as well as our normal small teams, and I learned how to better maximize my gear, builds, and knowledge of the different professions available.  I didn’t have one character I stuck to throughout the Living Story, taking my ranger into Scarlet’s invasions and Marionette fights, my necromancer into the Tower of Nightmares (and becoming quite the mighty duo with her ranger boyfriend and his reef drake), and leaving my mesmer to fight the Marionette as well and to save Lion’s Arch and become its hero.  Sometimes, being an alt-holic has its advantages. 😉

The Living Story also taught me my server’s strengths (coordination under good leadership, whether led by commanders or not), weaknesses (abandoned open-world content after week one of a release, and/or not during primetime), and let me experience the strengths and weaknesses of players on other servers too.  It also taught me that overflow servers do not mean insta-fail (I had the most success against the Marionette, for instance, on overflows, and lots of coordinated citizen rescues and event success in Lion’s Arch overflows).

New lions amid the horror of war

At times, though, I was most disappointed by fun suckers in map chat who’d ragequit when their loot was affected, or who’d bark out orders (sometimes without fully understanding a situation) and assume the map was full of idiots who weren’t trying their best.  Given that I’ve seen a fair amount of community commentary on the toxicity of map chat, I know this is not solely a problem on my server, so I’m curious what ANet has in mind for the last three planned blog posts on “Facilitating Friendly Play” leading up to April’s Feature Pack.

Overall, though, the Living Story felt like a success; it had its bumps and growing pains, to be sure, but the world does feel like an evolving and dynamic place.  I’m ready to help rebuild Lion’s Arch, with the hope of knowing that the stone lion statues of Old Lion’s Arch are still standing, and the ones watching over the ruins of the Trader’s Forum also stand tall. ~ Sandra

Old lions

There were times when I thought it would never end and there were times when I couldn’t wait for it to end.  Now that the war with Scarlet Briar is over, I continue to display the same batch of mixed emotions.  If we begin with the Flame and Frost alliance, which, honestly, feels a bit retcon to me, the Scarlet story arch helped me open a large number of maps that I otherwise might still not have visited.  For I am easily distracted and happily reach level 80 without leaving any of the low-level maps…hard to believe for a legendary cartographer, I know.  Given that, every stage of the war effort brought me new vistas as well as new challenges.

To begin, I see the opening of Southsun Cove and the fight against the karka as tangential but intimately related to Scarlet’s war, as it was the refugees from the Flame and Frost story who settled the island.  My main warrior alt learned to fight while battling those demonic crabs, and to this day it’s still one of my favorite areas to visit.

Divinity Al Shea catching some rays.

Divinity Al Shea catching some rays.

It is also home to one of my favorite ranger’s pets, the reef drake (more on him later).  But of course, no trip to Southsun is complete without a bit of a swim on a tropical night.  It really is the little things that count and being able to pull up a chair at a tiki bar, ignore the lurking horrors outside the arbitrary safe zone, and take a swim in the ocean, gives this map a bit of zest.

The minion battles were my first travels to many higher level maps and this same warrior alt who took on the killer krabs forged a path to Frostgorge Sound and the Blazeridge Steppes.  Quite the journey for both of us.  When the dust settled, and it did despite the continued minion attacks that few people paid much attention to, all I got was an endless watchwork tonic.  I carry it with me always and often ask myself, “Why is this in my inventory?”  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointed with the gift, and the drop rate during the main minion battles was sufficiently insane that I quickly amassed a small fortune on the trading post.  War is very profitable, I found.

Despite the thrill of map-wide battles, by far, my favorite Scarlet fights occurred in the Toxic Alliance tower.  When the Toxic Alliance began, I had moved on to leveling up one of my favorite rangers and he quickly rose from a mid-fifties level to eighty climbing the tower again and again.

Reef Drake for the Win!

Reef Drake for the Win!

With his reef drake and short bow, I learned the value of both condition removal and condition damage.  Working my way up the tower, I also learned the value of small group tactics.

These two lessons combined during the Marionette Battle with mixed results.  I think it was important that I had learned both large scale zerging techniques in the Watchwork invasions as well as small group tactics in the Tower.  Having experience with both of those led to a successful understanding of the two stages of the Marionette battle.  But my understanding did not guarantee a win.  And while it was frustrating at times to perform my role well and still lose, sometimes life’s not fair.  What I saw most often from unsuccessful attempts was a lack of ability to change tactics between the two types of fighting (zerging vs. close-quarter/small group).  Builds that were less versatile may have had a harder time of it.  Additionally, people inexperienced at one type or the other would often do alright as zerglings but then fall when the battle focused down to just a few people and a mad dash against the clock.  I had success with both my engineer and my Tower Ranger, despite my utter inability to dodge large red circles on the ground.

After all the build up to Scarlet’s attack on Lion’s Arch, the actual battle felt anticlimactic to me.  To be fair, I only made it to Scarlet once and spent the majority of my time during the war for Lion’s Arch farming blade shards and heirlooms.

My second ranger alt did climb from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies in level just in Lion’s Arch, so I spent a lot of time there.  Perhaps I was war weary or perhaps the trolls in map chat were of the especially vicious and fun-sucking variety.  But I was actually glad when the war came to an end.

Now we’re left to rebuild a city and I’m looking forward to that.  In the meantime, the destruction left in Scarlet’s wake possesses its own unique, chaotic beauty…and I didn’t even have to open a far off map to find it. ~ Star

Beauty amidst Chaos

Beauty amidst Chaos