Guild Wars 2, Log Three: I Made A Thing! Then Another Thing, and Another Thing...

Illustration for article titled emGuild Wars 2/em, Log Three: I Made A Thing! Then Another Thing, and Another Thing...

Oh, dear. I have begun crafting.

I put it off until I reached level 20 with my main, and truth be told it's just as well. I've never yet sold or traded away any of the crafting materials I've come across (though I should really put the ones I can't use into the guild bank), and I still ran out remarkably quickly. Ah, well. One basic set of armor that I didn't need, and a couple of eight-slot bags that I did, and it was back into the field with me to acquire more leather and jute.

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Why couldn't I have picked a crafting discipline that relies on easily-mined metals or readily-chopped trees? Silly me. Still, half a decade as an Assassin-Tailor in EverQuest II seems to have prepared me remarkably well for putting in time as a Thief-Leatherworker in Guild Wars 2. In fact, a lot of what I see in GW2 reminds me, pleasantly, of a more streamlined version of EQII.

"Streamlined," though, is the operative word. The "Discoveries" tab is a great addition to crafting, but I'm a particular fan of the "craft all" button that lets a player refine a huge stack of stuff into a smaller stack of more usable stuff almost instantly. That, right there, is a fantastic feature that makes crafting feel almost fun, rather than punishing like I'm used to it being from other games.

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I really needed a crafting break for a while too, because group events on the overland maps had been wearing me down. It's one thing to zone from a safe spot in the overflow to the middle of a melee on the "real" server when there are plenty of players at hand. Suddenly to find yourself alone, surrounded by an event appropriate for 5-15 players? I'd like to say that at least I made my deaths count, but I really didn't. Two dozen level 24+ monsters, to one level 19 me? It feels profoundly unfair, and while the penalties for death are at least minimal, I began deeply to resent the incessant, repeated events that made up the war between the Seraph and the centaurs in the Kessex Hills.

Illustration for article titled emGuild Wars 2/em, Log Three: I Made A Thing! Then Another Thing, and Another Thing...

Indeed, the repetitive nature of the large overland zones began to get to me this past week. I enjoy collecting vista views and points of interest, and heart quests and skill challenges are worth completing for their rewards. The pattern, though, grows stale fairly quickly, especially given how many of the heart quests I've completed are utterly interchangeable with one another. (Surprise! Whenever a trap needs checking or a rock needs turning over, it'll have an angry creature in it!)

I do now wish that the first available dungeon zone were at level 20 or 25, instead of level 30. While I've settled into a groove that gains me about two levels per day, it's a groove that's in danger of becoming a rut. Exploring the world still motivates me—particularly now that I've been able to walk from my starting area, through a higher-level area, to other races' starting areas—but when a map's uncovered, it's uncovered.

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At least the maps I'm uncovering remain beautiful, though, and fun to explore. And once a character hits 20 and has amassed some weapons expertise, skill points, and skill slots, playing a class really starts to come into its own. The ability to swap out my preferred pistol/dagger weapon set for a bow at pretty much any time is enormously useful, particularly when I find myself standing in the midst of a massive event, with attackers drawing in from all sides.

Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week, we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them. Catch up with log one and log two.

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DISCUSSION

Chrystolis
Chrystolis

Good luck with Ascalonian Catacombs (AC) when you hit 30. A harsh introduction into what's generally a trend of overtuned story mode instances. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the story mode encounters are where they should be, but most dungeons have at least one boss that is very difficult or requires advanced tactics that a pick up group, especially first-time GW2 dungeon goers, will have a very hard time with.

If you ask me, AC's story mode should be tuned extra low to introduce players to GW2's dungeons. Instead, it starts off with some very difficult trash packs, and has one one of the most frustrating bosses of all the story mode dungeons I've played. As a cherry on top, that boss encounter is actually tougher from the 2nd attempt on due to the 2 boss mobs not returning to opposite sides of the room after a wipe.

In general, I think the dungeons in the game are one of the most prominent areas that ArenaNet really mistepped. Most of the dungeons are interesting, and also very aesthetically pleasing, however the balance is typically all over the place. It's almost as if they didn't make a second pass on the bosses to tune them. You'll run into some that are laughably easy, and then the next boss will be group-shattering-ly difficult. Most of the difficult bosses end up requiring specific and/or advanced tactics to topple. This is great in explorable dungeons, frustrating in story dungeons. Unfortunately, most of the tough bosses also feel like they have way too much HP. You can end up spending upwards of 15-30 minutes whittling down some of these dungeon bosses with a combo of rezzing downed party members and runs from the nearest waypoint for those who couldn't be saved. Sure, a proper strategy works, but some of the bosses I've done could have their HP chopped in half and it'd probably still be set too high, at least for what I'd consider a fun, but seriously challenging fight.

I don't doubt that many of these bosses will be balanced as time goes on, especially after they've sorted through the more critical issues, but it just seems odd that some of these punishing encounters, primarily the story mode ones, made it through QA intact.

If your urge is to respond to this with a thickheaded "If you want easy dungeons, go back to _________", take a moment and consider that just because something's stupidly difficult doesn't mean it's a well designed challenge.