It has been well over a month now since Guild Wars 2 was released, and despite all the hype that has been built up for however many years, it actually turned out pretty good. The usual pattern the past few years for new MMOs has always been: hype, hype, hype, release, die. Nothing seems to last long in the MMO genre nowadays – for new games at least. The spectacle and wonder of the new game certainly draws people in, but they can’t seem to hold them. Guild Wars 2 is holding people. It is living up to all the hype, and people are still playing in large amounts – and this is great, because it really is a wonderful game. I say all this just to preface the following story – I really do love this game, and despite what I’m about to talk about, I will still play and love this game for a long time to come.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains spoilers from the GW2 Vigil storyline. If you don’t want the story spoiled, you may now leave.
On my personal story, I am a Sylvari elementalist who has joined the Vigil. We’re tasked with beating shit up, and generally being hard-asses. To start off this specific story, I was told that something was up with Lions Arch. All the Lionsguard were going missing in the sewers, so we were told to go in there and sort shit out. So far so good.
I get into the sewers, and we have to find out what happened to the Lionsguard that went missing. Naturally we come up against forces that would rather see us dead, and fight our way through them. There is a problem here though: a lot of the combat in game is designed to be ranged combat – sure there are melee attacks, but when you are a glass cannon elementalist, getting close to the enemy is generally the last thing you want to do – so you stay back and shoot great balls of fire from afar. This works well in every part of the game except for tightly enclosed spaces…such as a sewer. The sewer tunnels are long and generally narrow, so you can only have your camera at one certain angle, inevitably causing headaches when the enemy decides to target you and get right up in yo’ grill. It makes it incredibly hard to actually see what is going on when your camera is jiggling in and out to avoid going behind walls when you are turning to face your attacker or run in the other direction.
First problem: 3rd person camera in enclosed spaces = bad.
[mantra-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”33%”]Its not like it is hard to miss – generally-solid NPCs flying through walls should ring some alarm bells.[/mantra-pullquote]The second problem is more of a glitch than a generally bad design – multiple times while fighting jellyfish in the sewer system (I know), my Vigil mentor would manage to fly off through the walls, towing the enemy with him, and fight off screen where I couldn’t help at all. Seeing a character fly through a walls kind of breaks immersion, and is a bit of a large bug. I later spoke with another person who did this same quest, and they said the same thing happened to them. How do you miss a bug like this? Its not like it is hard to miss – generally-solid NPCs flying through walls should ring some alarm bells.
Further on in this section, when fighting the boss for the quest – a giant glowing shark (in a lake beneath the sewers no less) – I died, thanks to the horrible skills that an elementalist gets to use when fighting underwater, problems with these skills that are just magnified when your space to fight in is very limited. When I revived, I was back at the start of the sewers about to head back in, when I round the first corner and see our good friend the glowing shark just swim through the wall. As if this isn’t strange enough, the area that it was now in was air. The shark was swimming through walls that are not underwater.
Second problem: Glaringly obvious and immersion-breaking bugs = bad.
The quest after the sewers sends you off to an island out past the Lions Arch harbour to stop an attack of undead that want to take over the island so they can then attack Lions Arch. You arrive at the island, and are greeted by a lovely Charr that is in charge of the island. He’s a nice enough bloke, so you tell him about the attack so he can prepare his troops for a giant battle. Oh, he doesn’t believe you. Ok. I mean, I guess people would sail our here pretty often and try to tell him than a horde of undead were about to attack. Must be another one of those pranks – silly kids.
Whatever, he’ll come around. So you go off to a guard on patrol and tell her what’s happening. She’s a bit sceptical (darn pranksters), but after a small undead attack on her beach, she believes you and decides to come with you to the Charr tell him that it’s for real. Oh, he still doesn’t believe you. I mean, you have the word of one of his trusted soldiers now – not to mention 10 other soldiers that were there for the small beach attack – but nope, the Charr doesn’t think you’re telling the truth.
[mantra-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Most of you may be dead, but the 10 people left can fight off 100 ships and a dragon. It’s cool.[/mantra-pullquote]Oh look there, a giant undead ship has just popped out of the water and is catapulting groups of undead to land on the island. Charr? Nope, he still thinks it is nothing. You might understand that by this point I was getting a little pissed off with this Charr – while his entire station of guardsmen are fighting hordes of flying undead, he is just hanging out by the gate telling everyone that they were silly for believing in the undead.
After fighting off endless hordes of undead (I’ll get to this in a second) and killing their ship – 100 new ships pop up out of the water. Surely the Charr must see all this and call the retreat, let’s go talk to him. What? Everything is fine? Are you fucking kidding me?! Oh look, a goddamn dragon is coming now. OH, WE CAN HOLD IT OFF. DON’T WORRY GUYS, MOST OF YOU MAY BE DEAD, BUT THE 10 PEOPLE LEFT CAN FIGHT OFF 100 SHIPS AND A DRAGON, IT’S COOL.
I hate that Charr so much, I hope the dragon ate him.
Third problem: Wanting to kill NPCs on your side more than the enemy = bad.
[mantra-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”33%”]”Oh hey, theres this huge attack that you need to fend off and stop, just kill everything. And by everything, I mean a few things. You know what, just ignore everything and run away.”[/mantra-pullquote]Going back to this undead attack on the island, there were a few problems that made me rather angry. The first is the the hordes never actually end, never let up, even after you destroy the ship that is firing them in, they still appear. I spent about 5 minutes working on one section of undead, killing them over and over because I needed to get past them to save someone vital to the quest. It took me this long to realise that the attack never lets up, and you’re just meant to run through them and hope you don’t die before reaching the NPC you have to save. This is not a good thing. You spend the whole game up until this point learning that you have to kill everything red that is in your way, then without warning that rule flips on it’s head and you aren’t meant to bother killing anything. This also goes against the whole story of trying to fend off this attack on the island too, causing utter confusion for me. “Oh hey, there’s this huge attack that you need to fend off and stop, just kill everything. And by everything, I mean a few things. You know what, just ignore everything and run away.”
Added to this disaster was the fact that the undead that you slay on this quest give absolutely no experience. You can sit there for an hour killing wave after wave and have nothing to show for it. I can only guess that they did this so you can’t abuse the unending horde that is flying at you for easy experience – but a better option to stop this abuse would be to not have an unending horde flying at you.
After I figured out that you get nothing for killing them, they keep coming, and you can easily run away from them all, I just ran from objective to objective on the quest, ignoring everything and just getting to the points I needed to. This shouldn’t be possible, you should have to stop and fight where the undead stop you, slow you, start bashing you – but no, just breeze straight through it all and hit a switch or two and you’re done. Not even a veteran or champion there to ensnare me, just piles of fluffy, slow undead.
Fourth problem: Badly designed fights, spawns and quest stages = bad.
[mantra-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]If I stopped for a second to cast a spell, I was beaten to death, so I kept running.[/mantra-pullquote]After flicking a switch to turn on some lamps, your quest moves on to tell you to go into the courtyard on this island and hold off the horde. As per the previous problem though, this horde is endless. When you kill one, two more spawn right in front of you. Kill those two, oh look, there are 5 on your tail. Seeing enemies spawn right in front of you is another immersion breaker, but it isn’t even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is not even having a chance – but that’s the point of the quest. You’re meant to feel overwhelmed and helpless, you’re meant to feel that you have no chance of winning – because you don’t. But once again there are better ways to do this. Being able to see the horde fly through the air at you would help – if that isn’t possible, then spawning them outside the courtyard and having them run in is a better choice. Having enemies just appear beside you is not a good choice. By the end of this part of the quest (which also has no marker of how far through it you are), I was just running around in circles with 20 undead running after me. If I stopped for a second to cast a spell, I was beaten to death, so I kept running.
At this point the dragon appears, accompanied by a cut-scene of it flying in from the south to perch on the wall of the courtyard. It was a pretty cool cut-scene, until it got to the end. Once it had ended I quickly found out that the action wasn’t paused at all while the cut-scene was playing, so as soon as it was over I found myself lying on the ground dead with 20 undead munching my face. I had no chance, and I don’t see how it is actually possible to survive when the game continues for 15 or 20 seconds while you are forcibly-paused. 20 seconds of doing nothing, combined with an unending insta-spawn horde of undead means you are going to die fast.
The worst part of all of this is that I didn’t get to see anything that happened after the dragon landed. Dragon came. I died. I resurrected. When I was alive again I was being told that the escape-ships are right there, we just need to fight past this group of undead. I’m sorry, what? We’re retreating NOW? Who decided this? There is a giant dragon right there that I want to fight! But no, suddenly my Vigil mentor is sacrificing himself and I’m off to run away for the boat.
This quest was absolutely horrible. It is a major plot point in the Vigil line of quests, and it is given a sub-par quest with horrible design stamped all over it and bugs that mean you miss out on half of the story.
Fifth problem: A bad quest for a major plot point = bad.
The third part of this quest series is returning to the island to beat off the undead and kill the dragon, and I’ll admit that this quest is a bit better. You get proper fights with veteran and champion undead, there are no limitless spawns, and there is a clear objective to strive towards.
[mantra-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”33%”]…50 comrades that are just standing there with their thumbs firmly up their asses…[/mantra-pullquote]The problem I had with this quest is the final fight against the dragon. It’s a dragon. It flew it’s way into this island and completely scared the shit out of you last time you were here, it shouldn’t be an easy fight. Your comrades should be dying left and right, you should be struggling to stay alive and take down the beast, right? Nope, just sit back and relax while mortars and trebuchets (that you cannot control) fire away at the dragon for 5 minutes to bring it down. You don’t even need to be near the thing and it’ll go down. What happens when you decide to go fight it? You get near it, do piss all damage, and then it casts fear on you so you run away. You don’t feel like you’re doing anything, and really are doing nothing when the game forces you to run away for 10 seconds every minute.
Your comrades seem to have the same feeling, too. There are about 10 brave souls that run forward and attack the dragon, all piling up around it’s feet and swiping at it with their sticks, presumably doing less damage than you’re doing. In the field in front of the dragon is another 50 comrades that are just standing there with their thumbs firmly up their asses doing the same amount of work as you: piss all. The dragon even throws off attacks into the cone of warriors standing around in front of them – none of them react. None get hit, none die, none run in to counter-attack.
I should get the feeling that I am avenging my Vigil mentor, but I just get the feeling that I am insignificant, that anything I do has no bearing on the outcome. The whole battle just feels dull and unimportant. You’re meant to be taking down a dragon goddamnit!
Sixth problem: Not having to do anything to win a dragon fight = bad.
I have a strong feeling that there was one or two people that made this set of three quests, and this person or people had just given up – deciding to skate along and not put in the work that is very apparent throughout the rest of the game. The game is great overall, and other quests are wonderful to play, but when I get given quests like this that just feel broken, unfinished or plainly bad designed, I need to rant.
I hope this designer gets a slap from someone.