Guild Wars 2: The Lost Shores, A Lost Opportunity?
By now you’ll know all about the shiny new content that The Lost Shores update has brought with it the Fractals of the Mist dungeon, the Temple of the Storm PvP map, the introduction of the Consortium and the new Ascended tier items, which have been received with mixed feelings from the player base. But what I want to talk about the weekend event surrounding this new content.
We were promised an event spanning three days the likes of which we’ve never seen before, an experience not to be missed, a bold statement of “A one-time weekend-long event that permanently changes the world in some places”. I was pretty enthused by the talk coming from ArenaNet, they had managed to pull off their week-long Halloween offering relatively successfully last month, what hiccups they had we’re more or less smoothed out in a timely fashion. I had high hopes for what was coming. I made sure that I was free for the evening of the 16th so I could participate and check everything out; my guildmates were all pretty excited about the event too, we started to try and organize groups of us who were interested, which was were the first sign of trouble showed up. Lion’s Arch on our server was full, if you weren’t in the main instance you weren’t getting in any time soon because the entirety of the server population had turned up for the start of event. I stood in Lion’s court for a good hour before the event and found that only two of my guildmates had managed to get through and that my client could only manage showing me a quarter (if that) of the players amassed there. Guild chat was full of people in parties who couldn’t join each other, scattered across at least 3 or 4 different overflows and main Lion’s Arch.
They came from beneath the waves—the karka, a monstrous new species bent on destruction!
Around the advertised start time the Guild Wars Twitter feed suggested that we might want to relocate, for a better view. Queue hundreds of players, most of which were invisible, making their way to the area near where the Consortium have conveniently decided to set up shop. A mass cut-scene surprises us all and gives us our first good glimpse of the new terror we’re tasked to face, the Karka. With the cut-scene over, an event started and several massive Karka appear all around, along with many veteran ‘Young Karka’ in tow; the player-base explodes into action and with it the most horrific lag I have ever experienced in a game. Mobs were teleporting around, I was teleporting, my skills queued and did nothing… It was chaos. One minute I’d be on full health, looking like I was doing pretty well against the tide of armoured crab-beasts, the next I was dead and being revived by some kind soul I couldn’t even see. There was no conceivable way you could keep track of anything or anyone reliably, my computer graphically was fine as it’s relatively well kitted-out, but I could see that others weren’t faring so well with reports coming in of people’s laptops over-heating amongst the ensuing mess. The only thing I or anyone else I know could approximate Phase 1 to was the opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj in World of Warcraft in 2006, it was unmitigated chaos just like this. Eventually amongst trying to turn in samples to a struggling NPC, battling teleporting Karka and dying a lot, the event eventually either succeeded or failed. Whichever outcome you got, the net result seemed to be basically the same, the Karka gets miffed and breaks the lighthouse out of spite and swims or scuttles away… And that’s it. Okay, that’s not strictly true, a couple of what we’ll call scavenger hunt quest’s from a couple of NPC’s (Inspector Ellen Kiel & Miyani) become available and a donation system appears (Again, gathering war supplies for Gates of Ahn’Qiraj anyone?). The “Invasion of Lion’s Arch” leaves me feeling a bit cheated out of an hour of my time so far, it hasn’t felt epic or unmissable, in fact I missed most of it due to an overloaded server.
Disappointed with the meta event, I resolved to try out the quests that had opened up to see if they provided me with more excitement or insight into what was actually going on, I was going to stay positive. I talked to NPC’s, gathered some items, then discovered that two of the NPC’s I needed to interact with for Inspector Ellen Kiel’s portion of the mystery were broken, my positivity started to crack. Other reports appeared that key NPC’s for Miyani’s quest were broken too, so I logged out for the evening feeling slightly dejected about how I’d spent the evening interacting with broken and buggy content and getting little out of it. The next day there was talk that suggested that despite NPC’s being broken on the two quests, they would be shut-down once Phase 2 of the event started, ArenaNet made attempts to fix the NPC’s with mixed success in some cases. They decided to extend the completion window of Inspector Kiel’s quest if you had reached a certain stage, but completely shut-down Miyani’s quest-line much to the annoyance of the players. All they could manage in reply to the outrage from the community was a token apology, a veiled ‘tough luck’ and said that lessons had been learnt and feedback had been taken on-board; I understood, but was equally unimpressed by Anet’s cookie-cutter response.
At this point I wasn’t overly looking forward to Phase 2 of proceedings, but in the interest on fairness and full-coverage, I decided to put myself through the process of waiting again. Another day, another packed overflow, thought this time it seemed like there were less people packed in to the same space. This time the Guild Wars Twitter didn’t direct us anywhere and left us to our own devices, with people wandering all over Lion’s Arch, until a few people stumbled upon a tiny construction team up near Fort Mariner building a rather pitiful catapult/trebuchet looking device and a few harpoon guns on the docks. The Guild War Twitter dutifully informed us that the event would commence when the construction had finished, which seemed that in some instances it started and finished at wildly different intervals, the one I was in took over 20 minutes to ‘finish’. Guildmates reported that in their instance they had to repel the Karka and retake Lion’s Arch, even the GW2 Wiki refers to it under it’s description of Phase 2, but it didn’t happen in my overflow which meant another aspect of the event I missed out on through no apparent fault of my own. The Lost Shores event tracker and quest information text changed, without event, from “The Lionguard are preparing to test their alchemical weapon on the karka in Lion’s Arch.” to “The Lionguard are launching a counter offensive on the karka colony. Speak to the transport facilitator to board a ship to Southsun Cove”.
The karka must be stopped at all costs, and the Lionguard needs your help to defeat this threat!
Slightly puzzled by the missing fight other people got, I headed off to the transport, picked a landing point and was unceremoniously dumped on the new island. Things from there were a bit more interesting with a series of event’s chained together to get you travelling around the map into different areas, full of incredibly deadly Karka, that sometimes seem to appear from nowhere or drop out of the sky. The pace is frantic across Southsun Cove, where the NPC’s are trying to create a foothold and roads until you hit Camp Karka and the story comes to a screeching and unnatural feeling halt. All Phase 2 is really about is snooping around the new island, which is actually relatively small and a little lack-lustre in comparison to a lot of the other areas. No new scavenger missions to be had or delving in to any mysteries, which was another disappointment for the rapidly mounting pile. Don’t get me wrong, there are nice touches on the island, like the alchemical weapons lying around in crates that are highly effective against the Karka, a new jumping puzzle, Passion fruit plants for you to gather from, but it doesn’t quite feel like enough to fill the space.
I was still in for the long haul, I was resolute in at least attempting to attend Phase 3, which was billed as the one-off, one-time-only portion of the weekend. Though I’m not sure how the rest of it wasn’t one-time-only given that there are portions of the weekend event you could only do for a day, after which you could never do again… Nevertheless, I parked myself in an overflow for Southsun Cove to await further instruction regarding the final assault on the Karka, which at this point I’m feeling a bit bad about given they only attacked us because some idiots poked around in their nest and disturbed them and made them angry. So obviously the measured response is to wipe out these ancient creatures completely. No sooner than I had finished pondering this moral quandary I was sent a mail telling me the assault had already begun over at Canach’s Folly, I could already see the little orange shield icon hurtling toward what I assumed was the Karka nest/hive at considerable speed. I hauled myself over there from Camp Karka, running through and around several different sizes of the sea-spider-crab-things, desperately trying to get to the event before I died to the surrounding wilderness. Once I got there and saw the effects on the ground, I knew I was in trouble again, there were way more spell effects than there were players that I could see and true to form so far, the almighty lag hit. Obviously at this point I started to suspect that maybe this was a new ability that the upper-end Karka had or maybe this was what the new ‘Agony’ condition was, lag so bad it was agonizing.
Now I was there confronted with the Karka nest, it was sort of the point of no-return. Escorting NPC’s up and down the spirals of the nest, whilst being attacked by invisible Karka was not exactly what I’d call fun. Patches of poison would suddenly appear from nowhere and seemingly kill you instantly, because due to lag you’d probably been standing in in for a few ticks even if it didn’t seem that way to you. Sometimes you wouldn’t know if a target was there unless it was right on top of you and, once again, one-shot killed you and that was just the first hour and a half. The other hour and a half was spent trying to encourage the even larger Ancient Karka (thought the model used was still the same just bigger) from one side of the map, back to it’s nest by felling trees on to it’s head, causing a rock-slide to hit it, throwing rocks at it using geysers and triggering explosive gas vents that at one point surrounded it; all whilst fending off waves of it’s siblings that possessed all previous special teleporting and lag powers. Once the monstrosity had been coaxed back to it’s lair, it was another round of going up and down the spiral, this time with invisible head-crabs, I’m not even joking. By the end of it where we had cornered the creature over what looked like a pretty precarious section of floor I was ready to see the thing dead, morality of it be hanged. It eventually goes down amongst explosions from the explosives set earlier, the floor gives way to a conveniently placed lava pool into which the Ancient Karka drops and is cooked. Deep fried sea creature for all!
Maybe I’m taking away the wrong lessons from this weekend and parts of my post may seem vitriolic and angry in places. You could try and accuse me of being ungrateful for the new content that ArenaNet have bestowed upon us for free, but you’d be wrong to do so. I am grateful for the new zone, dungeon, PvP map, items, mobs and all the rest; what I’m not grateful for was their woefully inadequate preparation for the weekends activities that were pushed so hard at us as events not to be missed. When a game entices you with one-time only content, they better make sure that everyone who wants to access that one-off content can access it, because if they can’t they shouldn’t offer it up in the first place. I think ArenaNet have some hard lessons to learn from this weekend and I hope they learn them well and take them to heart if they ever want to run anything remotely like this ever again.