Choose My Adventure: Following a god in Guild Wars 2

To my absolute lack of a surprise, the fact that your abilities are so aggressively limited once you pick an Elite Specialization in Guild Wars 2 came back to make this week a bit harder than it needed to be. But not, perhaps, as hard as it could have been. That’s something to discuss further on, though; for the moment, what’s more important is progressing along with the story of Path of Fire and figuring out who to support, who to ally with, and what Balthazar really wants.

Let me get my one complaint about the story thus far out of the way immediately: the game is bad about filling you in on what’s going on. I hit this a little bit last week when dealing with what I called the second reel of a film, but this week I actually had an easier time following along… because of existing knowledge about the world. Which is nice, certainly, but you should not need to functionally be a Tyrian historian just to understand the events taking place. The full weight? Sure. The meaning? No.

Yes, I did spend some gems, funny you should ask!The bright side, though? When you do understand all of the meaning, what’s going on is really cool. Starting with the debate about whether or not Amnoon should ally with Palawa Joko, the remnants of the Sunspears, or absolutely no one. Everyone present at the argument has a strong viewpoint, and there’s exactly one person who espouses a sensible viewpoint: “All of these choices are suicide.”

Amnoon isn’t meant to stand against the forces of the Forged. It’s not meant to stand against anything, it’s a built-up oasis mostly used as a refugee port with all of the military might of, well, corsairs and pirates. Palawa Joko’s offer of the Mordant Crescent, as unsettling as they may be to some, is a genuine offer of aid, and considering that this is a setting with lots of heroic necromancers it’s hard not to see it as a reasonable offer.

Of course, then you remember that historically, “accept help from Palawa Joko” is why he’s now in control of so much of Elona in the first place, because players had to accept his help some centuries beforehand. And that’s where it starts to get really interesting.

Accepting his help protects the city now and probably further dooms Elona. Denying all help means Amnoon will fall. Accepting help from the Sunspears means making an enemy of Joko. There’s no option that doesn’t feel like it has major consequences.

Assuming, of course, you know all of this. Otherwise, it just feels like “choose between the support of Proper Name, Other Name, or neither.” With the full weight of history, you can believe this is a major decision that will have impacts you may not see now or even in the future; the actual story doesn’t give you enough information to feel that impact.

I went with the Sunspears, for the record.

Moving on, the story has you meeting with what amounts to the local color, getting a sense of the danger that Amnoon is in as well as the delicate dance it performs to avoid being crushed. From there, the plan becomes infiltrating one of Balthazar’s Forged camps in hopes of finding the god himself and taking him out, because Elona is just the place to kill deities.

Most of the mission went all right; I had taken the time to unlock the first trait, allowing access to the Photon Forge and all that it represents. It’s a fun take on the otherwise modal gameplay of Engineer, so that’s good. It was only when it was time to infiltrate the main camp that I started really running into problems, because, well… I don’t have a full build. I have part of a build, and this was meant for a full build.

And it’s here, I think, that serves as a good place to dissect why the Elite Specialization thing is a problem. There were a lot of comments last week of “well, Elite Specs are meant to be horizontal progression,” but they’re kind of missing the mark for multiple reasons.

I'm running down the deity.First of all, horizontal progression is about new options, not about new playstyles. The original Guild Wars had a good system of horizontal progression with new expansions, since every profession got new skills to use; the new skills weren’t necessarily more powerful than your existing skills, but they might fit better in your build. Elite Specializations, by contrast, represent an entirely different way to play the class, right down to even changing how you’re marked as a character.

And quite frankly, no one likes to be attracted to a new option only to be told they can’t have it. Saying “here’s a totally different way to play, but you can only do it toward the end of the game” is not actually enticing to anyone. The option should not feel like a football from Peanuts.

More to the point, the problem isn’t that Elite Specialization skills are locked behind a need to hunt down Hero Points, the problem is that even the traits are locked, leaving you significantly weaker until you can pick those up. Which is a problem when the game already has several horizontal systems in place, starting with Mastery points.

It’s not game-breaking. Really, it only became an overwhelming problem toward the end of the mission, when there was no real way to control the flow of enemies all over the place, no good way to slow the stream of deaths, and a very real sense of being low on options. But it’s annoying just the same.

The core of the mission is still cool, though, culminating in a fight against a nasty Forged siege engine and a mess of adds; it’d be more fun without the adds, but it’s still cool. Balthazar’s still not there, but that gives you a reason and opportunity to head over to the Temple of Kormir, only to meet up the the Herald against and get a face full of the Order of Shadows, the Even More Secreter Than The Order of Whispers Group. I haven’t yet fully explored the implications there, but it feels simultaneously like a nice way of tying things back and a bit of a saving throw to offer more allies.

Overall, though? I’m liking it, albeit still feeling a touch annoyed at how much of it relies on story elements you can easily bypass without ever understanding them. That, of course, is as much my fault as anything for not playing the game before now, so it’s not entirely the game’s fault… and the fact is that the game itself is still proving to be relatively fun. Mounts are still fun, the world is vibrant, and the story has clearly advanced a lot from the days of the original release.

Yes, there are still problems with the story, and yes, it’s still not my Favorite Thing Ever in terms of presentation. But when you understand the stakes and what’s going on? It’s interesting, if not personally moving. And it makes for an intriguing world to explore.

I might be having an easier time without trying to unlock Holosmith in the same breath, but the polls are the polls.

There’s no poll this week; as mentioned last week, I’m going to be spending time exploring maps a bit more and advancing the story as a secondary thing, so that’s my next main focus. Feel free to leave commends down below or mail them along to eliot@massivelyop.com; I’ll be sure to see what you’ve got to say.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. Especially if that fate involves lizards and cats.
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9 Comments on "Choose My Adventure: Following a god in Guild Wars 2"

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Nathan Aldana

Honetsly the big problem with elite specs is not only are they underpowered until you have the Hp to finish it out, but even once you do that you have little idea without outside help how if at all they can be made viable for the content you wanna do.

kalamari_
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kalamari_

when you would read the traits and skills and then think about the content you want to play you should have no problem whatsover to skill your char properly. dont wait for other ppl to spoonfed it to you. learn it yourself.

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jaif13

Elite Specializations, by contrast, represent an entirely different way to play the class

They can, but not always. People confuse the spec with the new weapon a lot. I think Deadeye, for example, has unleashed pistol/pistol. You don’t play it that differently (3-3-3-3-3 ), but the new steal spec line really synergizes well.

I do wish they didn’t make you earn the spec. Many people want to play the new content with the new spec.

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Sally Bowls

I also have concerns over elite specializations:

1) like so much, it seems like PoF is designed for existing players not new players. Existing players used stored HP to max their new ES within seconds of PoF. There are so many things that AN would do if they were targeting new instead of existing players – advertising, Beta, more than 7 weeks from announce to launch, tutorials, …

2) I feel ES hurt the concept of a main. How many who enjoyed “the” most mobile spec in the game, Daredevil, want to play the least mobile spec in the game, at range? How many who want to play a crouched sniper want to level 80 levels as melee? It’s not the 36 specs; it’s them being tied up with base profession. 36 separate classes or 36 jobs that any toon can play would feel to me less messy than this.
3) I roll my eyes at “horizontal progression.” When devs are meeting and someone says that the marketing message to players is “give us $40 and you will be about as powerful as before giving us $40” IMO even ANet devs might think that the ES might need to be somewhat non-horizontal.

—–

I think the story can’t be significant due to ANet’s choice of monetization. A LS can cost as much as a non current expansion. Will new players starting with the 2020 expansion want to buy, along with three expansions, LS2,3,4,5?,6? If most don’t pay for LS, you can’t assume the players know that history. Will someone who starts GW2 next summer school break pay for LS 4.1 and perhaps 4.2? Since you can’t assume the players know the story, it has to be relegated to be some voiced fluff before the next boss or mount jumping puzzle.

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TomTurtle

I think they’ve done a fair job of having a somewhat self-contained, understandable story while also incorporating long-term story elements for veteran players. I will agree though that throwing in GW1 story elements throws off even primary GW2 players. While I greatly enjoy seeing those elements return to the plot, I can understand why others are left scratching their heads. But I feel plot confusion is common in MMOs that have stories that build up over the years. I agree with others that it wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of story compendium to help keep track. At the very least, there is the story journal, but that only counts if you’ve done those stories.

They’ve improved the trait acquisition to make more sense in PoF in comparison to HoT. I don’t know that I’d mind if specs were completely unlocked from the get-go. The unlocking process is over relatively quickly and forgotten. I don’t mind it myself, but I’m also a veteran player who can quickly unlock some of the elite specs. At the very least, you’re not forced to use the elite spec right away and you still have access to your core trait lines to use or previous elite specs if you have those.

Line
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Line

I still think that an ingame compendium of all the stuff going on in the story (which actually already exists… once you’ve finished the related quests), as well as important concepts, allies and ennemies is a much needed feature.
I do like that in the Warhammer games (it was pretty cool in the MMO, and in many of the other games by now).

A library for your home instance would be a big deal too, there’s tons of books and lore to find in the game, but nowhere to stash them.

For the new elite specs… they were smarter than in HoT, so you do unlock a full trait line with your first points before getting the others as options. It’s just a matter a completing a few hero points (or having some leftover from other areas – that’s pretty useful if you want a change of scenery, I did that for my Mirage).

Not sure how that’s really a bad thing to not be completely tooled up until a few hours in.
Doesn’t seem to be a problem in other games, like a certain recent one where some classes are agony until level 68.

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Arktouros

Saying “here’s a totally different way to play, but you can only do it toward the end of the game” is not actually enticing to anyone.

Oh my God what a drama queen. I had the new Elite Spec unlocked the second the Expansion went live because I had 300 something Hero Points just sitting there. You used an instant level 80 boost not an “instantly caught up on all the content until the expansion” boost. You’re the one choosing to sit there in POF with 2/3rds a spec because you want to CMA in POF exclusively (according to the last one). That’s on you.

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BalsBigBrother

I must admit that as a returning player non regular player of GW2 a lot of the PoF story went over my head. More so as I hadn’t finished S3 living world stuff before I ran through the expansion stuff on my Necromancer. So essentially my experience was a series of boss fights for “reasons” what those reasons are …. um they are baddies and that is as far as I got.

Now I have got the first run out of my system I am going to casually do the map completion of the new zones with the Necro. In addition though I will go back on an alt to finish up the S3 living world stuff before doing another run at the PoF story. Hopefully the second attempt will make more sense and I might pick up on some of the story nuance I know I have missed.

As for the specialisations that was something that annoyed me in HoT and continues to annoy me in PoF. In an ideal world I would love to see each specialisations tied into a story arc of its own and separate from the main story arc. So instead of hunting down hero points you unlock the specialisation by working through said story. However, that would be a ton of extra work that I don’t see ever Anet being in a position to do. So I guess I will just continue to be annoyed and get on with playing the game :-)

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blah blazh

Some good points here. I’m not a 100% with you on the specialization part but I am with the story background point. I do think there needs to an easy way for new players or casual returning players to be updated so that they aren’t lost in what is going on.

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