Let's try and keep it short, unlike Anet, who opened nine dedicated comment threads in the hope of containing the howls of anguish from nerfed berserkers, crashed trains and other disgruntled customers. I'll stick with their categories.
Some people were really stoked for this. I wasn't one of them. GW2 is one of those annoying MMOs where you step out of character creation looking, there or thereabouts, like a regular Joe or Jane, at least in the context of the imaginary world you're about to explore, only to find yourself descending the spiral staircase of surrealism until you end up in a Daliesque daze, dressed like the third runner-up in an Ace Frehley lookalike competition. The recent flurry of screenshots from TESO on various blogs serve as a disturbing reminder of just how garish and tasteless GW2 has become. Roll on WildStar so we can go back to feeling all sophisticated by comparison, like we did back in 2012.
Never mind the ethos, what about the implementation? Not bad. Slightly odd that you can only access the Wardrobe from the bank, but given it works the same way as the Crafting and Mini bank tabs that kind of makes sense. Also odd to hear the little zinggg! sound every time you salvage some eminently forgettable item, thereby adding an equally forgettable appearance to the invisible, intangible wardrobe, when all you meant to do was grab a scrap of Luck, but, hey, it's a nice little sound sample, don't mind hearing it twenty times a minute. And of course as the Wardrobe fills up you'll hear that sound sample less and less often. Probably going to miss it in a few days.
With the five free Transmutation Charges and the twenty or so I got from converting the old stones and crystals clogging up my bank I now have about five times more conversions in hand than I've used in total since the game began, so I think I'm set. It's neat that they're now a Currency, too. What with that and Wardrobing all the unused skins I was hoarding, even though I knew I'd never use them because if I did I would have to play blindfolded, I've regained a dozen or more bank slots. On balance I approve of the Wardrobe although probably not for the reasons I'm supposed to.
Well, that was hardly keeping it short. Must do better. On to
Don't PvP. Pass. Wow, that got things back on track!
World Boss Synchronization
Immediately after the patch last night I logged in, arriving in Wayfarer Foothills just as The Frozen Maw was starting. I helped send the Shaman packing, grabbed my rares and retreated to Krennak's Homestead to try and make sense of my new Traits. Ten minutes later Brogun started yammering on about the Grawl and the whole thing started up again. And ten minutes after that. And ten minutes after that...
When Brogun kept getting as far as destroying the Svanjir totem then declaring the threat over and stumping back across the snowfields to reward himself with a fine ale everyone on the map assumed the event had bugged. Not so. Oh no, that would be infinitely preferable to the truth. After the cycle had repeated several times I went to check the immense patch notes , which I'd been avoiding on the grounds that I wanted to get in and play sometime before the sun came up. Here's the relevant section:
"If the event to destroy the dragon totem has succeeded when the boss is not activated, Scholar Brogun will declare victory and return to Krennak’s homestead without fighting the shaman."
In other words, in order to make this whole fixed schedule work, ANet have chosen to have the pre-events run on a continual loop (in the case of The Maw literally once every ten minutes). It's like watching Groundhog Day on fast-forward. I have yet to go see for myself but apparently the same is true of Gamarien's stroll, the Karka Queen pres and for all I know every other series of events that could, potentially, result in the appearance of a chest-dropping Boss.
Even in a "virtual world" that already resembled nothing so much as a series of animatronic tableaux, this takes some beating. It's one of the most openly cynical revisions to content I think I have ever seen in an MMO. Pragmatic, yes, I'll give them that, and at least it works, unlike the changes to the Shadow Behemoth event, which were supposed to increase the difficulty in preparation for the upcoming Megaserver population focus, but which initially made the event very hard to complete with the unmegaservered map population we still have and then bugged out entirely, so the event is currently not completable at all.
The feedback thread on World Bosses is extremely critical. Indeed, all the threads I read were. The forums have a reputation for negativity but in this case almost all of the commentary is well-reasoned, coherent and seems justified. I won't re-hash all the valid points in detail, such as the effect fixed timers have on people with jobs and families or the prohibitive costs of the Guild Event option that might otherwise be used to restore some flexibility. They're all there on the thread if anyone's that interested. I'll just observe that I don't think you'd be taking too much of a punt if you bet on quite a few tweaks to some of these "Features" in the coming days and weeks.
Guild World Events/Megaservers/WvW
Bit of an odd bundle. There are four people in my guild and one of them doesn't play any more so we won't be starting any Events. Pass.
As for WvW, that was one unalloyed positive for me. I'd been saving all my drips, tastes, and thimbles just for this day. I even had a keg. Drinking them all was good fun, even if every rank chest was stuffed with nothing but greens (I got one Exotic between two accounts and about 25 ranks and that was a speargun...). Ended up Rank 204 (I think it was) on one account and 115 on the other. Now I just have to decide where to spend the points.
ANet made two threads out of that but I've conflated it because I don't have anything to say, at least not yet. I was mostly already using full sets, not mix-and-match, and a cursory check suggests nothing much has changed. Browsing the Rune thread, the word that comes up most often seems to be "underwhelming", while the Sigil thread barely gets started at all and even when it does it mostly contains off-topic comments. Confirms what I always suspected: no-one gives a damn about Sigils.
This is arguably the biggest Feature in the Pack. A full revamp of the Trait system, everything from the traits themselves to when and how you acquire them. Sitting on nine level 80s, all of whose traits have been grandfathered in, it doesn't seem terrible, just very confusing. I began this post by saying I was glad I have the week off work and this is why - it's going to take me a week to get all these traits sorted out.
It's not really my thing, though, nor Mrs Bhagpuss's. We decided we'd just bang something in for now and wait til the theorycrafters come up with a new meta.Then we can
Reading the forum thread, however, the most poignant and heartfelt comments came from new players, all of whom felt thoroughly shafted by the new system. This comment by Robert sums up the issues very well and looking at it from the outside it's hard to argue with his conclusion "If this is somehow supposed to make the game more enjoyable for new players, I fail to see how this is accomplished.. Sadly, for me, the opposite is true."
I'm very tempted to buy a new character slot, go try it for myself, see how "bad" it really is. It's too long since I leveled up and I never did get around to making that Charr Engineer I wanted. I suspect that the new, slower version of leveling, with its requirements to unlock traits by doing content might suit me rather well. I also think I'd be in a very, very small minority if that turned out to be the case and I fear this move could be commercial suicide when it comes to persuading new players to stick with the game.
The new Elite traits that my characters will have to unlock if they want to use them don't look like being any kind of an issue. Two reasons: firstly, most of them look like they wouldn't warrant a slot anyway and secondly the price to buy them from the trainer is much, much cheaper than I was anticipating. I was guessing at 50g per unlock. I wouldn't have been surprised to see it pegged at the same as a Commander tag - 100g. When I got to the trainer it turned out to be 3g. Three! Oh, and 20 skill points. My ranger has nearly 500 of those, plus another 200 skill scrolls in the bank. Not seeing a problem there, other than it spikes the whole idea of going out to search for the things as a form of new content. Why the hell would anyone bother if they're only 3g a pop?
Yada yada yada...
Every MMO does this all the time. Never worth getting worked up over. If you enjoyed something it got nerfed. If something was broken it didn't get fixed. A's still better than B, C's overpowered and D is gimped. Next time round move one place to the left. I treat class changes on a need-to-know basis. If something seems weird in play I'll investigate. Otherwise they generally pass me by.
That's the gist of it although there's a lot more grain in the detail. There's the derailment of the Champion trains and the Contested Waypoint debate for a start, and dyes, but the change that got Mrs Bhagpuss the most irritated was one that's barely been mentioned anywhere: consolidation of Daily Achievements.
She took it as slap in the face for casual players, a demographic to which she somewhat confusingly aligns herself despite her thousands of achievement points, hundreds of WvW ranks and eight level 80s, half of them already kitted out in full Ascended. This pruning of dailies that limits choice and drops the old standby, Gathering, is more of a slap in the face of the hardcore than the casual, I'd say, since they're the ones chasing the Laurels, and whether it really will take longer to do the dailies now I'm not sure but, hardcore or casual, I can't say that I'm any more thrilled at being funneled into fewer areas to do them than Mrs Bhagpuss is.
Looking at the Feature Pack as a whole I'd say it's exactly what ANet claimed - an expansion-size patch with none of the content you'd find in an actual expansion.It's a bit like going to the cinema and having to sit through all the commercials, trailers and safety warnings without ever seeing a movie.
I read the motivations behind the whole enterprise as a combination of three things:
- A desire to drive substantially more business through the Gem Store
- An attempt at avoiding the negative marketing hit that comes from server merges
- The perennial inability of MMO developers to leave anything well alone.