If you’re paying any attention to Guild Wars 2, you have, by now, no doubt heard the debate over the Battle for the Jade Sea meta event. On paper, it seems like a fairly standard meta event: It runs every two hours, requires a significant number of players who need to split up into groups who spread out across the map to work together to complete multiple events, then merges those groups into a big, zergy, lagfest of a boss fight.
To make matters worse, it also just so happens to be the original prerequisite for obtaining the siege turtle, a mount which was touted as one of the tentpole features of this expansion. Other mounts like the skyscale and griffon have been locked behind long, drawn-out scavenger hunts or heavy financial investment, but, as punishing as those grinds were, many players see this as worse. ArenaNet claimed that obtaining this mount would be a similar amount of work to obtaining the roller beetle, which seems laughable in retrospect. Not only that, but the upgraded, ascended quality version of elite spec weapons, which have typically been relatively easy to obtain, are locked behind succeeding the event on a character of the corresponding class, meaning you will have to complete this event nine times if you want your whole set.
Before we go any further, I just want to note that, while the meta is basically one big story spoiler, there really isn’t any reason for me to go into any of those details here. My complaint has nothing to do with the nature of the lore or characters involved; it’s the difficulty of the encounter. So, apart from the mere existence of a meta map at the end of this expansion, this article will be kept spoiler-free (and if you haven’t been spoiled on that by now, then you probably aren’t interested enough in GW2 to be reading this column).
I get it: MMORPGs, almost by their very definition, need to cater to a wide audience. That means accessibility for casuals and those who may be new to the MMO genre, an interesting challenge for the hardcore, speedrunning, world-first raider types, and something to please everyone in between. While some level of hardcore content is expected, even arguably necessary, for a game like Guild Wars 2, it never belongs in the open world.
Guild Wars 2 already has a selection of hardcore content, including raids, challenge mode fractals, and soon, challenge mode strike missions. Those all have one thing in common: They take place in instances, where players who walk into them know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. If you made a choice to enter a raid, you did it because you wanted there to be a possibility of you getting beaten down.
Open world maps, however, have always been accessible to any random players who wander in. If an hour of work can be for nothing just because a few AFKers stood in the wrong spot or casual players with suboptimal builds or mediocre gear happened to join your map instance – or, perish the thought, there are people who simply want to complete the story in that zone while the meta is going on – that content needs to be nerfed. That, or it needs to be moved to an instance.
I’m not saying that the game should just hand out money just for showing up, but there’s a big range between trivial difficulty and a boss fight that I, a player who has been around since vanilla and running a Snow Crows raid build and ascended gear, have attempted and failed a number of times in the double digits.
I’m honestly a little mystified about how this happened. In thinking about other meta events – from Dragon’s Stand to Drizzlewood Coast – I’ve only seen those events fail rarely, and then almost always due to a lack of people, not a lack of skill or coordination. The closest thing I can think of is the Drakkar world boss, but even that was nerfed more quickly than this.
So at first I just thought that the Battle for the Jade Sea event was simply overtuned and undertested. It seemed logical that, taking place on the final map of the expansion, this meta was perhaps developed last and therefore tested the least. Maybe its designers simply underestimated how hard it would be. It’s why I held off so long on writing this article.
Yet ArenaNet’s reaction in the first week was to nudge the difficulty down only ever so slightly by reducing its randomness, and this week’s patch didn’t address its difficulty in any significant way. Sure, there’s something to be said for not overreacting and nerfing content into the ground right away simply because players haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but that really isn’t the case here. This leaves me believing that this meta was this difficult on purpose.
It’s bizarre because this is such an un-ArenaNet thing. This studio has, in my opinion, consistently done a fantastic job building meta events and keeping them relevant, more so than any other content type. It has years of experience with it at this point. Even the other three meta events in this expansion are constructed more thoughtfully than Jade Sea. What made ArenaNet mess it all up at this point?
Maybe the toxic min/maxing crowd, the type who are soloing strike missions and doing raids with no pants on their characters just for fun and mocking anyone who can’t do all that, complained that the open world wasn’t Soulslike enough for them. There sure is no shortage of toxic people shouting in the chat about how every failure is the fault of the filthy casuals who don’t know what they’re doing, or the commander for not calling the right things at the right time. Whether it was aimed at these people or not, that’s certainly who showed up. These types of people have existed in MMOs since the dawn of time, but it’s unusual for Guild Wars 2 to cave to them.
At least ArenaNet reacted quickly to feedback about the event’s lackluster rewards. The final boss’s drops were originally pretty weak, especially when held up next to rewards from metas of similar length and much lower difficulty. This pretty much guaranteed that once people had their turtle, they would never come back to this event. The addition of a hero’s choice chest including an Antique Summoning Stone – a rare and valuable legendary crafting material with an acronym that’s competing with Star Trek: Discovery for the “you really need to think about acronyms before you name things” award – has gone a long way toward making completing the event actually worthwhile.
Of course, that assumes you can ever actually complete the event to get the chest.
In the same patch, the egg that starts the siege turtle collection, which was previously only obtained upon a successful completion of the Jade Sea meta, was given an alternative unlock for 200 Writs of Dragon’s End, which are rewarded for completing events in the zone. That’s a lot, but at least, while you’re failing that meta over and over again, you’re making some kind of progress toward your turtle, I guess?
Writs can also be bought for karma, imperial favor, and the writs from other zones, but only seven per day, so that’s not really a viable option. It’s nice to know that there’s a fallback way to get the unlock if you continue to fail constantly, but given how steep the price is, I question how many players will actually make it to 200 writs before burning out. Now, if only there were an alternative to the turtle collection’s strike mission requirements for players who have qualms about group content for one reason or another.
Now, I know that there is a faction of players who really like the idea of an open world raid who don’t want this event to be nerfed, and many of those people are not the toxic jerks screaming at everyone in chat every time the event fails. Let me reiterate that I’m not opposed to this kind of content existing; I just take issue with the manner in which it was delivered and what was locked behind it.
The solution here seems obvious to me: Make a “hardcore” version of the final boss as it is right now and put it in an instance, similar to Dragonstorm or the Twisted Marionette. Then nerf the open world version down to the difficulty level consistent with the other metas in this expansion and previous. Decrease the rewards of the open world version accordingly if you must, but reward the turtle egg for either. Everyone’s happy.
It’s a real shame that this meta has caused such a kerfuffle because I think this has stolen the joy of a lot of players over an otherwise fantastic expansion. Honestly, that’s part of why this meta is so mystifying; everything else in this expansion is so well-crafted that it’s jarring to run into such a huge misstep right at the end.
To ArenaNet, I can only ask that this meta be nerfed, or at the very least no further attempts at metas with this level of difficulty be made in the future.
To players, I say that even if ANet doesn’t nerf it, just be patient if you really want your turtle. If you are, understandably, tired of wasting your time failing the boss repeatedly, run events in the time between and leading up to the boss for the writs, then go do something else while the boss fight is up.
But please, however frustrated you get, don’t fall into the toxicity trap of telling casuals to get good or hardcore players to get a life, and certainly don’t harass random ArenaNet employees over it. There is room for all types of players in Tyria, so let’s try to be respectful of those with different preferences from our own.