Lots happened in the world of GW2 on Dec 10th, not just the arrival of Wintersday! There’s been big balancing changes to each class, new healing skills, ascended armour as well as the new story/events/achievements. I’ll try and sum some of these changes up here without making a mega long post.
None of the changes that came in on the 10th were a particular surprise. Nearly all the changes for every class had had their details released by Arena Net well in advance as part of their “collaborative development” initiative – getting the players a bit more on board with development. The healing skills were kept relatively under wraps, but these were found pretty far in advance by data miners, so no surprises at all really.
The new healing skills are ok, they’re pretty balanced compared to those that already existed. No class will be switching to them wholescale, and that’s a good thing generally.
One thing I have noticed with the new heal skills is that they’re pretty group focused. What I mean by that is the Ranger Water Spirit, for instance, is mainly designed as a group heal (and with such a short radius, a well coordinated group heal when players stack up), and also the Thief heal shares with allies in certain circumstances (although I’m no expert on thieves). The Necro, Elementalist, Engineer, Warrior and Guardian new heals all excel when the player is under attack from a large enemy group and is taking many hits. So all in all, very group orientated heals.
Looking a bit deeper into the new heals they’re not only probably designed with World Versus World players in mind, but at least subconsciously I think the designers were aiming to add in a bit more balance. The designers have tentatively accepted that some WvW servers are in a bad place, such as Vabbi in the EU which is always massively outnumbered just because of the arbitrary division of player numbers.
Heals which benefit group situations, especially where your taking a lot of damage (specifically when outnumbered like servers such as Vabbi regularly suffer from) might well be of more benefit than to a high flying mega server like Vizunah Square, the champions of EU Season 1 Gold Tier.
All in all that probably makes these new heals pretty decent; they don’t upset the balance too much and provide a potentially very handy bonus to outnumbered players in WvW. That said, the WvW match ups and generally broader server population imbalances needs some serious attention; this change alone won’t solve unbalanced WvW match ups!
As for class specific changes I won’t go in to too much detail – you can find them on the GW2 officially website as well as Dulfy’s excellent GW2 website. Both will help you out on knowing exactly what has changed and what hasn’t. On the whole, not a lot has changed though; none of my builds have changed since the 10th.
Ascended Armour & New Faces
There’s been quite a few cosmetic changes as well in GW2. New Ascended armours have been added, which cost a fortune in both time and money to make. I’ve not yet come across anybody with one piece, let alone a full set. It’s probably a good money sink for those with huge gold reserves, but the real important thing is how do they look?
Its all well and good if the stats are good, but everyone might well end up transmuting those stats onto their existing armours if the looks aren’t well received. In that case they might as well have just bumped up the stats of exotic armour.
So, for a full gallery have a look at Dulfy’s gallery on her website.
One thing that’s really noticeable is the human focus on new armours; yet again. This has been a long running theme of armour releases by Arena Net, with other races getting re-sized versions of the human optimised skin that always looks odd. Here’s the human female medium, probably the only ascended armour I like the look of:
Then compare that to the pretty odd looking Charr Female version of the same armour:
I really feel for the Charr, probably the most unloved race of all by the developers. Thing is, the ascended armours in particular seem to show the Human racial bias. Usually armours will cross over into Sylvari and Norns fairly well as races which are just differently sized humans, but even these races don’t seem to have the ascended armour sitting right.
Lets face it, when you’re expected to put so much time and effort into ascended armours, getting a skin which doesn’t even fit your character very well is not a good showing. More attention to the skins would have been good, but for now I’d only recommend going for an ascended armour if your a really committed stat maxer or find a skin you really like.
There’s also been new character faces, available with a total make over kit. Arena Net had added new hair styles and colours before, but this is the first face update we’ve had. Again, Dulfy has a great gallery of them all.
I don’t think I’ll be splashing out 350 gems (roughly 30 gold at current prices) on a total makeover kit for any of these new faces. I quite like the scarred male Sylvari face (middle one below), but all my characters have their look pinned down now. Also, with the Sylvari in particular I find the new bug-eyed male and female faces (male version on left below) really scary personally, and I’ve heard a lot of people saying that. I don’t suspect we’ll see a lot of these new faces around at the moment.
Last but not least there’s the new Living Story with the 10th of December patch!
Unexpectedly the Nightmare Tower story line is still lingering, with what is best called the Nightmare Mop-Up. A quick story instance and then a bunch of achievements, with very little reward, in the newly altered Kessex Hills.
The story, the final destruction of the tower, is mediocre really. Very short, with a quick puzzle section which can be by-passed with tough combat for those who prefer that (an optional mechanic which I actually really appreciate) but then a generic mob fight (again which I do appreciate) is all that there is. I like the individual bits, but it needed more and it needed them tying together a bit better rather than a pretty arbitrary story sequence.
The cut-scene showing the destruction of the Nightmare Tower has been much lauded as one of Arena Net’s best. It was relatively good, I’ll give them that, but it didn’t knock my socks off as much as the comments I’d heard suggested it would. Frankly, I found the whole scene a little too reminiscent of Sauron’s destruction at the end of the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy, and as old as that CGI is these days it had a damn sight bigger budget than Arena Net did – and it shows.
All that’s a bit picky about what is essentially the 10min introduction to the Nightmare Mop-Up Living Story, but there isn’t much else as far as Story goes to the rest of it. The rest is an arbitrary achievement point hunt in the newly altered Kessex Hills.
As for the changes to Kessex Hills, Why I Game did a fantastic blog post on the good and the bad of the new Kessex and sums up how I feel about the changes pretty well. Give it a read!
Wintersday also arrived, with a repeat of Wintersday 2012. Well, its slightly updated, but its essentially the same for the most part. There’s still bell choir hero, the same seasonal jumping puzzle, the same loot drops, the same skin rewards, the same mini unlocks. A lot of that makes sense, its all very good content – but I did most of it last year, so have no motivation to dip in to any of it again. It would’ve been nice to have something new, but there just isn’t enough interesting new content on offer to tempt me in.
So that’s the very long winded ins and outs of whats been going on in Guild Wars 2 since the 10th December mega-patch. A mega-post for a mega-patch, it was bound to happen. The funny thing is, for all the big changes nothing has really changes for me, the Digital Salad is still doing exactly the same things out in the world of Tyria in exactly the same way. Not much has changed for all the fanfare.
In other news, I’ve been dipping in to the Eye Of The Mists test and will be revealing all my findings soon. For now, here’s a teaser screenshot from it:
Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com