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Out of the Shadows: The Return of the White Mantle

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Warning: this post WILL have spoilers for Living Story Season 3 Episode 1. You have been warned

Ok, so I finally get the chance to talk a bit about the story episode that came out last month. This episode is mostly about resolving some loose ends or to following up on hints ArenaNet has put out such as the notes from Rata Novus. Let’s start at the beginning.

We start by going to Eir’s home for a wake; basically hanging out with friends in remembrance of Eir, telling stories and the like. There’s not a lot going on with this episode to push the story but it is a nice thing that ArenaNet added for Eir. We find out that Braham was not present but is out on his own at the moment in the Shiverpeaks. We’ll probably meet up with him in episode 2 or 3. Taimi send us mail about wanting to meet up about her discoveries in Rata Novus. We invite Rytlock who was at the wake to join us.

So Taimi has been up to some research keeping any and all but us out of the Dragon Research lab. Especially Plunt. Once Taimi, Rytlock and yourself enter the research room, Taimi goes over the ley line map and the organ she harvested from a chak that she put in Mordrem bile (yea, we all know that’s not going to end well). The ley line map does show signs that Glint’s egg has been “activated” in a sense. what this’ll mean will probably affect us in later episodes for the enemies we’re facing in this season. Or might be another problem, who know? There’s also signs of activity in the north so that’s where we decide to head. I’d like to point out one thing that ArenaNet did and that’s give Taimi independence. She was alone doing the research and even fought off chak that got attracted to the lab by herself. Glad she has gotten to prove she can hold her own just fine.

Once we exited the lab Almorra Soulkeeper was there to offer us the Marshal position aka the desk job. Of course we decline but another interesting thing that happened is that Soulkeeper handed Rytlock a message from the Black Citadel. Which he crumpled and threw away in an instant. It makes me wonder if there are some questions the Citadel want answers for that Rytlock doesn’t have, or doesn’t want to answer. Keep in mind that we still don’t know what happened to Rytlock in the Mists. Another encounter we have is with Canach as he’s in pursuit to “save” Caudecus from kidnappers. However, if the situation seems that Caudecus is deemed a threat, Canach has the right to handle him. Fortunately he is heading in the same direction as us so he tags along in the airship ride north.

Moving onto Bloodstone Fen. As we get closer to the area, a huge explosion followed by an implosion, which is important to note, occurred. This explosion and implosion was caused by a ritual the White Mantle were performing. Lazarus a Mursaat absorbed the energy of the explosion. This ties in a bit with raids as the Forsaken Thicket raid is all about going in deeper and essentially stopping a White Mantle ritual from taking place although we didn’t know why the rituals were taking place till near the end of the wing.

So before we find out about Lazarus, we do investigate Bloodstone Fen to see what caused the explosion. Turns out Caithe was investigating as well. She and your character survey the area where a ritual had taken place. Caithe also brings up what she’s done in the Living Story Season 2 & the HoT story apologizing for not trusting us and asking for forgiveness. Interesting no? We don’t give an answer right away but I wonder how that dynamic will pan out. If we do forgive her, there will definitely be some discord with some of our group members, especially Marjory.

During our investigation, Canach was able to track down Caudecus in Bloodstone Fen. We meet up with Rytlock and Marjory (who’s rocking some awesome armor) to take down the corrupted Minister who, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is the current leader of the White Mantle. We head into a bit of a bad bind as we get surrounded but in come Lazarus. He declares to everyone in the area that he should be worshiped as the White Mantle’s leader/god. The unbelievers would burn. And he did just that; Lazarus called down fire and torched a lot of the White Mantle. Caudecus was able to get away and Lazarus disappeared after asserting his dominance. So we have an escaped Minister who’s proven without a doubt he’s leading the White Mantle. A powerful Mursaat on the loose who is probably amassing his devoted followers. To make things worse, Taimi calls us up and declares that Primordius is awake. Yay.

Now we have a lot of issues to deal with Caudecus, Lazarus and Primordius. I feel the White Mantle will be more of the issue this season and Primordius will be used for the next big bad for the next expansion. What’s cool is that we might see the return of the dwarves or even more Tengu as they have some loose ties concerning Primordius. Of course there’s still the issues within our group that need resolution or answers so we might get some of that in next episode.

As I’ve said, this episode seems to lay out a good foundation for story in terms of where it can go. I’m very intrigued how the story will play out.

Age’s Site Update For August 2016

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Greetings friends! Here’s the monthly post for August!

Guild Wars 2 posts will start rolling out soon. First one should be about Living Story Season 3 Ep 1. Lots of pathways to discuss with that one.

League of Legends LCS summary post will also be next week along with playoff predictions. Some surprising results I must say. As for the LoL Seasonal guide, I decided I won’t do one this season. I postponed it time after time due to life stuff but it’s gotten to the point of not mattering if I started it now. Sorry if you were looking forward to it.

You might see less writing from me in the near future due to the plethora of things I’m doing: streaming, videos, podcasts. Factoring in extreme exhaustion from work and hanging out with friends and family to make sure they understand you aren’t ignoring them, it doesn’t leave much room for writing these days. I have been slacking a lot though so I’ll try to make an effort to get some good rest and try to get back on the writing horse again.

Speaking of content, I’ve started doing Let’s Play streams and upload them to my YouTube channel. Pretty fun to do. I started with Life is Strange (the image above is from a cut scene from the game) which is a fantastic game. The first episode is free on Steam I highly suggest you try it out.

For games of this month, Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 1 – Realm of Shadows is out and looks interesting. No Man’s Sky should be coming out on August 9th for PS4 and PC. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Xbox One, PS4, PC) comes out August 23. Finally, Attack on Titan (Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Vita, PC) & World of Warcraft: Legion releases on August 30th.

Think that covers things, catch ya soon!

– Age

Living Story Season 3 Starts July 26th!

Praise the six, some GW2 news! Normally I’d get this stuff out on the day of the news but it’s been a while. The story picks up from the end of the Heart of Thorns story. We’ll be back playing Living Story in 2 weeks time on the 26th! With said news is a few things to note.

  • You need to log in when the episode is live in order to unlock the episode for free on your account. You’ll have till the next episode is released (estimated to be around 2-3 months)
  • You do not need to have Heart of Thorns to unlock Living Story episodes as stated in the previous point but you will not be able to play Living Story season 3 without Heart of Thorns and is intended for level 80 characters.
  • If you buy Heart of Thorns later, any episodes you unlocked will become available to you

Living World Season 2 is currently 40% off if you do not have it and wish to play it.

Other News

The retired PvP map “Raid on the Capricorn” will be revamped and re-released as “Revenge of the Capricorn“. This map will be the regular 3 point capture style with no underwater point. The mechanic of the map will have a 4th capture point available periodically to be capped for extra points.

There will also be a new fractal called “Chaos Isles“. Elements of past fractals will be in this one and will be the start of an arc that will run in tandem with Living World Season 3’s plot line.

Major patches will now be six a year rather than quarterly (four a year). This includes the July 26th patch. So we might be looking at 2-3 more patches afterwards.

Now, the problem I have is that the July 26th patch also include balance changes which causes a few problems for PvP as it’s less prep for the Worlds qualifier tournament and 2 weeks prep for PvP Leagues. I am excited for living story again but that balance patch issue popping up could pose a problem for many. We’ll see how things go.

PvP League & Motivation To Play

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*The original post can be found on mattsta.ninja*

Hello everyone! Today I wanted to to talk about Guild Wars 2 sPvP—specifically, PvP Leagues and their rewards. I have always popped into some PvP matches every now and then, but when PvP Leagues were announced I was extremely excited to participate and see how far I could go. Over the past two seasons however, I’ve had trouble playing consistently during the season because, quite honestly, I have not been strongly motivated.

Motivation is the biggest problem for me and, from what I’ve seen, has been a similar problem for many during a ranked season. Motivation for playing the entire season just isn’t there. Right now there are two things to motivate players: 1) Get to a certain division and 2) finish ascension legendary back piece achievements. I do think it’s natural that people who don’t PvP a lot stop playing ranked after reaching a certain ranked or finished getting the rewards but I feel the system itself can be better. Going into the third season, the best or dedicated players have already finished the back piece achievements and getting tier and division rewards is the next best reason to play for these players.

The unique PvP tickets you get from these rewards however, don’t have much use outside of getting the back piece, unless you like mini llamas. Buying Shards of Glory with tickets is a waste as they are super cheap on the trading post and are relatively easy to get if you PvP. I guess you could technically make another ascended precursor back piece. It seems to me that if you do play for extra tickets, it is best to save these tickets for next year’s PvP back piece. But that could be a problem in and of itself if players continue to accrue these tickets without anything to spend them on.

Overall, I feel the motivation to progressively get better and to have challenging matches should be one of the major factors when playing ranked matches. It is the main reason why any PvP player consistently queues up.

Issue #1: Profession Balance

This is getting better every quarter but it’s still worth noting as profession balance for PvP hasn’t been the greatest. I can understand the difficulty of balancing across PvE, WvW and PvP, but that is a discussion for another time.

Specifically Thief and Warrior have had trouble in the past two seasons and even some time before that. This season you’ll see both of these professions more often than before, but I’m not sure how they’ll do in higher tier play. I think ArenaNet is slowly but steadily getting each profession in a decent spot to be viable to some degree in high tier play. While this should definitely be the goal, the issue is the slow progress it is taking to get there.

Major balance updates right now happen every three months. So it took 3 months to see Thief/Daredevil and Warrior/Berserker relatively used in Season 2 and another 3 months for them to be back in regular use in Season 3. Now Guardian/Dragonhunter is the profession on the decline and in need of some help. There’s also the issue of obvious “overpowered/broken” updates that are fixed either later in the season or after the season is over. One example that comes to mind is Season One’s bunker meta that was painful to play in and how it took about 2 weeks into Pro Leagues—which at the time was a month into the first PvP League season—before ArenaNet finally did something to balance that.

Issue #2: Queues

This is something that has plagued PvP Leagues—and even unranked for different reasons. Either way, queues have always been an oddity.

Ranked matchmaking has gotten better over time, but as it is still fairly new I can’t judge too much on it yet. It was quite evident in Season One—and a bit in Season 2—however, that queues were a major problem with organized teams fighting a mix of solo queue and duo queue players. It still happens every now and then, but it’s now less frequent. The population of players and the divisions players are in may play a part as well, but with no metrics to look at it is hard to say for certain on the matter.

The issue with three or four man groups usually causes a lack in communication with the other solo/duo players and, in some cases, one or two of the players in the larger group is less skilled but it brought up to a higher level due to how queues work. For those that don’t know, group matchmaking will work based on the highest division in the group. So if an Amber player, Emerald player & Sapphire player queued together, the matchmaking would be based off the Sapphire player. The results of this is that there’s usually at least one person who doesn’t react, fight or rotate as well because they’re playing against stronger opponents which is a liability solo/duos usually don’t want to deal with. On the flip side, people who solo queue don’t want to fight organized teams. If you duo queue, that’s a risk you take.

Then there’s the issue of class stacking with up to 3 or more of a single profession on a team. Someone needs to switch because in some cases it’s not the best thing to stack so many of a single profession. Then the person swapping may not be on a profession they’re as comfortable or skilled with. You probably already see where I’m going with this downward spiral into less than ideal matchmaking situations. So far in Season 3 though, this issue has also been better probably due to having more diverse picks available.

Issue #3: Divisions

“What about division prestige as motivation” you might be thinking as each player works toward getting to legendary or to that division they are personally proud of reaching. Sadly there are two parts to this issue as 1) any dedicated player can get to Ruby and 2) many players that reach legendary or the division they want either start playing whatever profession/build they want—which may or may not be good for those they end up queued with—or just stop playing for the season.

For those who don’t know, the ranked system is made of pips and tiers. There are a certain amount of pips per tier and a number of tiers per division. Both of these numbers vary per division, but once you complete every tier in a division you are moved up to the next division. In Amber—the 6th and lowest division—you can’t lose pips or tiers. In Emerald and Sapphire—the 5th and 4th divisions respectively—you can lose pips but not tiers. And lastly in Ruby—the 3rd division—and in higher divisions you can lose both pips and tiers. At no point are players able to lose and drop down to a lower division.

Division crossing is more of a time spent type of deal where any competent player can get into Ruby just by playing enough games. Keep in mind I’m not saying a fresh, new PvP player per say although it is not impossible. The reason it’s like this is that players who aren’t as skilled at PvP can finish the achievements for the back piece. It may take longer for said players but in the end they can obtain it. Ranked should be about progressive skill and a little luck. Making it easy to climb the ladder all the way to Ruby—which sits in the upper half of league divisions—doesn’t make either the games or the system competitive. In fact, it just means that the player were tenacious enough to play the games needed to move up a division irrelevant of their actual skill. I can see crossing from Ruby into Legendary being more of challenge due to having more pips and tiers to cross; maybe this is the trade off ArenaNet wanted.

Then the second of the issues I brought up—where players reach the division they wanted and are “done”—has two very real problems. First is when players start playing whatever they want, no longer caring for making meaningful progress through the divisions and making it harder for those players they queue with that are still trying to make progress or just have serious matches. For example, let’s say my Revenant PvP play is Diamond level but my Scrapper and Tempest PvP play, the only other professions I play in PvP, are Emerald at best. If I reach Diamond and then suddenly I need to play other professions to finish the League Professional, I have a problem. My team also has a problem because if I swap to a Tempest or Scrapper, I’m essentially handicapping my teammates. Then equally worse is that the players stop playing which can create longer queue times as there are fewer players queuing for matches which degrades the quality of matches that players get queued into.

Issue #4: The Ascension Back Piece Achievements

I have a few qualms with the Ascension achievements. The achievements are broken into four sections each of which reward an item for completing that section. Finishing all 4 sections and combining the 4 reward items will give you the Gift of the Competitor—one of the four items required for crafting the Legendary PvP back piece. The way the Ascension achievement completion works is that the more you progress the faster you’ll get the needed four items for the legendary back piece. While there are four PvP League Seasons in a year, players are able to finish the legendary in just two out of these four PvP seasons.

I strongly believe that you shouldn’t have been able to obtain all of these items needed from the achievements without participating in a full year of PvP League. Making it a yearly achievement creates a motivational end goal for all players where everyone has a specific end date to get certain objectives done. This would be much better than what we have now as it would promote players to continue to play and do well throughout all of the seasons and not rush through it in the first half of the year.

Then there is a part of the achievements themselves that inadvertently cause problems for players trying to progress. The League Professional achievements require players to win up to 10 matches on 2-3 different professions depending on which achievement section you’re on. The first problem with this is that some players do not want to play more than one or two professions in PvP. This problem is debatable, but understandable as many players may enjoy playing only one or two professions in PvP.

The second problem with these League Professional achievements is that a player’s secondary professions may not be up to par skill wise in the division they have reached with their main profession. This is going back to the example I used in the division issue.

As a whole, I don’t really like that the back piece—the best, most prestigious ranked PvP reward—is accessible by pretty much everyone with the drive to do so. Guild Wars 2 has always been casual in that sense, where you can get almost anything you want if you put in the work. That’s fine. However, I feel that PvP should be a measure of work and skill and that both should rewarded instead of just playing a lot of matches.

I wholeheartedly believe that anyone can get to Ruby if they play enough games. It all depends on how many games a person is willing to put the effort into to get there due to the way pips and tiers work in Amber, Emerald and Sapphire. Players that put in the extra games beyond this and have the skill to continue to progress higher should get something significant for their efforts. I don’t think that being able to make the back piece before a majority of players is enough and goes into the problem of what do leagues offer those players after they have finished the back piece.

It feels like ranked play in Guild Wars 2 isn’t motivating enough and it lacks drive. It may be due to the structure of PvP League or due to the population of GW2’s PvP scene, but I feel it can be better than it is now. ArenaNet is the type of company that they may miss the mark on their first run at a feature, but they work to vastly improve on it the next time around. Living World Season 1 to Season 2 is a perfect example of this. Hopefully we see the same improvement when ArenaNet works to make PvP Leagues better for year 2.

Guild Wars 2 April 2016 Patch Review – A Teaser

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I didn’t have time to finish an in depth post about the April patch, so I’ll be doing a brief overview based on each mode. So without further ado, here we go!

Edit: Didn’t have time to get to this and it’s a bit late at this point in time so there will be no extended review of the April patch.

PvE

So the main problem with PvE was the HoT maps being very grindy. Many players have stated that it takes away from what they liked about GW2 which is that they didn’t feel forced to sped hours upon hours to get something significance. Well ArenaNet went back and fixed that. They added waaaaaay more map boxes to open which means more loot and more materials you needed to make things for legendaries or scribing. They also gave out way more map keys and currencies so that you can buy more if you participate in a full map rotation that is. HoT events are more rewarding in this regard. Finally they updated some HoT NPCs to be frequently available rather than that required the map being at a certain stage in order to be accessed. All these changes were amazing and definitely reinvigorated players the first few days.

Fractals got some balances and tweaks. The mistlock instabilities are way better and are challenging but not to the point of super annoying. Players can finally craft the legendary back piece Ad Infinitum which was a long wait from HoT launch. Rewards got tweaked as well. They do feel a lot better and you definitely get a lot less rings which was not that rewarding over time.

Right now, PvE players are lying in wait for Living World Season 3 which is, at the earliest, July. In the mean time there are some current event updates ArenaNet added to PvE that slightly tide the lore hounds over about what could be happening to Tyria or some possible events in LS3.

PvP

It’s here with PvP that I’ll highlight the balance changes. So Thief and Warrior, two professions having trouble in the recent past are seeing more play. Mostly because everyone else got toned down. Thief in particular seems to be able to do +1 and decapping again in a fairly decent manner. Warrior I’m not entirely sure of. I think condi Warrior will be viable. Power warrior might be with the new Destroyer & Demolisher amulets but we’ll see.

Mesmer definitely feels like it’s one of the best professions right now. Revenant is still up there as well. Elementalist seems to have dipped slightly over Ranger as support but is still viable. Engineer and Necromancer got hit but is still viable. The profession that probably needs a bit of help now is Guardian. Guardian has little to no mobility whereas everyone else has something to get around.

PvP itself is still problematic with unranked queues being still up to par. Ranked should be better in this regard but then there’s the issue of motivation of playing for an entire season. This is something I’ll talk about in a more detailed post.

WvW

This is the last one I wanted to touch because it was the one thing ArenaNet had to appease a lot of WvW players with. WvW is getting better each week. The patch alone brought reward tracks, quality of life changes and an improved and more open Desert borderlands. This brought people back into the mode which made things more fun and active.

On top of that, post-patch ArenaNet has been putting up polls and getting feedback on players opinions. These polls are on features players would like to see or that players think ArenaNet should work on. It’s a very transparent approach to things. I’m glad that they took the time to accumulate all the issues players see with the mode. It’s interesting as ArenaNet try to merge player’s wants with some of the ideals ArenaNet want for WvW into a cohesive game mode every WvW player can enjoy and that ArenaNet can be happy with. Hopefully they keep up the good work.

And that’s the overview of things. Overall the patch was pretty awesome. The only exception is to some balance nerfs that I think weren’t warranted to the degree they were nerfed. Again, I’ll try to have a more in depth view of things once I get the chance. Hopefully this tides you over for now!