Taking Down Bosses in Guild Wars 2′s Flame and Frost Retribution Content
After I finished the new temporary dungeon content that concludes Guild Wars 2′s “Flame & Frost” story arc, I had an unfamiliar feeling. I wanted to do it again. Mind you, I haven’t felt this way after finishing a Guild Wars 2 dungeon in months. I’d become so accustomed to Guild Wars 2′s numbing practice of equating damage sponges with difficulty that I’d somewhat forgotten the potential for fun locked away in the MMORPG’s focus on movement and the absence of the so-called trinity of tanks, heals, and DPS. We jumped, we dodged, and we fought what I like to think of as the Tyrian version of Bebop and Rocksteady. And it was all part of a surprisingly satisfying content patch released yesterday that delivered many more surprises besides these.
The Molten Weapons Facility, as the dungeon’s rather prosaically named, was described by ArenaNet as standing somewhere between their comparatively easy dungeon story modes and the more challenging exploration modes. For me, at least, that translates into “just right.” I initially played with four random people who happened to be waiting outside the (initially bugged) entrance, and I’m pleased to report that we wiped only twice despite lacking the synergy that comes with guilds or overfamiliarity with old content.
The dungeon features two NPCs named Braham and Rox (the “stars” of the Flame & Frost storyline) who help players along the way. NPC companions aren’t uncommon in Guild Wars 2′s story dungeons; what’s surprising is how helpful they actually were. In the Ascalonian Catacombs, for instance, it’s not uncommon to see the Charr hero Rhytlock Brimstone mindlessly charging to his death while the player group’s still recovering from a nasty pull; in the Weapons Facility, Braham and Rox continually work to revive fallen players while exhibiting enough brains to get out of the way when an enemy interrupts the process. All the more surprising, then, that Braham and Rox apparently share the same AI as Rhytlock, but the extra “beefing up” for the duo makes a massive difference in enjoyment while sacrificing only a little of the challenge.
The majority of that challenge springs from the boss fights, and not from the slightly overpopulated trash mobs. Too many dungeon boss fights in Guild Wars 2 rely on a lazy burn-’em-down approach; here, it’s all about avoiding mechanics. One of the bosses, the Thermal Core, isn’t even an enemy proper — you have to beat on the core while periodically fighting Veteran Dredge, as well as dodging shockwaves and rows of flame. But nothing’s so fun as the last boss, which features a Molten Firestorm who flies around flinging fireballs and a Molten Berserker who teleports about while releasing devastating shockwaves that you need to jump over. (Couldn’t we have given these guys names, ArenaNet?) It’s hell as melee–as a warrior, I spent the whole fight with my longbow equipped–but successfully jumping over the flood of shockwaves left me feeling as though I’d accomplished something. And when we defeated the Firestorm first and watched a cutscene that left him flying off into the rafters like a deflating balloon, we all typed out a heartfelt LOL.
Guild Wars 2 needs more dungeons like this. Much like the stellar (and similarly temporary) Super Adventure Box that vanished yesterday, it made me want to return to an MMO I’d kind of burned out on. Mind you, it wasn’t the dungeon to end all dungeons, but the story content, sprinkled as it is with smirk-worthy one liners from Braham and Rox, was entertaining without relying on the tedious cinematics of GW2′s story mode dungeons. Finding mining nodes within hidden pockets of the dungeon was also a nice touch, as were the visuals and unique boss battles that even managed to make ArenaNet’s race of mole men interesting.
It’s worth noting that that the Molten Weapons Facility wasn’t even designed by the usual dungeon team, but rather by the team in charge of the Halloween and Wintersday events, as well as the entire Flame and Frost storyline. At the risk of hyperbole, I’m going to call the Weapons Facility the best dungeon content we’ve seen since Guild Wars 2′s release, and I’m hoping that we get to see more from this talented bunch. A pity, then, that the Molten Weapons Facility’s only going to be around until May 12, when, presumably, it goes away forever. ArenaNet’s shooting themselves in the foot by letting such a well-received dungeon go to waste, and I’m hoping we’ll see it return as an explorable dungeon or (in shortened form) as a new addition to Guild Wars 2′s popular Fractals of the Mists.
An awesome dungeon also makes up but one part of the patch. Other additions include a host of class changes, new additions to World-versus-World PvP, new guild missions, and an option to make custom matches for structured PvP (think: battlegrounds) that’s still limited to a tiny pool of players. In time, you’ll be able to buy the kit to make custom matches through the gem store. I was also able to try out the new Spectator Mode for structured PvP, which essentially lets you see exactly what another player sees while playing. Alternatively, you can watch the action from a number of preset vantage points across the battlefield.
We’re told that the primary goal of Spectator Mode is education, and as a warrior (a notoriously subpar class in structured PvP) I admittedly learned a lot more from clicking on the names of skilled warriors and studying their gameplay and equipped abilities than I ever would have from studying build templates on the forums. If there’s a problem, it’s that it’s ripe for exploitation in that spectator players could watch enemy movements and alert their in-match friends of them via voice chat. Worse yet, the current system begs for such exploitation since there’s no time delay on the spectator feed as there was in Guild Wars 1. It’s also unfortunately limiting in that spectators count toward the overall match count, meaning that watching a match featuring the game’s best players is completely out of the question. The more people spectating, the fewer the number of players who get to play.
That’s a severe limitation, and one that dashes most realistic hopes that Guild Wars 2’s structured PvP tournaments will catch on with the eSports crowd. It’s even more limiting than it initially seems, as players can’t spectate on the matches that actually matter–Guild Wars 2’s ranked tournaments. In the words of programmer Evan Lesh, the limited spectator mode springs from concerns about performance. “We’ve been very clear on the limitations of the in-game spectator mode and how it is not a global observer mode,” he said on the official Guild Wars 2 forums earlier today. “An observer mode that allows thousands of live viewers is much more difficult and complicated technology. What we have will still go a long way in fostering community building, learning, and shoutcasting.” A reasonable answer, perhaps, but it seems to go without saying that the spectator mode should allow more spectators than players, even if they don’t number in the “thousands.”
Still, the patch as a whole is good news for players like me who initially worried that Guild Wars 2′s endgame wouldn’t be enough to retain players long after they reached the level cap. Patches like this (and earlier releases such as the Fractals and the delightful Super Adventure Box) show that they’re learning the right way to use their buy-to-play model as they go along, and this is particularly good news since the structure of Guild Wars 2 poses greater challenges than they saw in Guild Wars 1. Now if only we can convince them to leave their best content in the game instead of continually taking it out.
Leif Johnson is a freelance writer from Chicago who likes archery and writing with nib pens. Chat with him about Guild Wars 2 on Twitter at @leifjohnson.
By Leif Johnson