In most MMORPGs, mounts are simple speed boosts. ArenaNet took a different approach with mounts in Guild Wars 2, instead using them to provide different ways to get around – giant leaps with the raptor (horizontal) and springer (vertical), water movement with the skimmer, short-range teleportation with the jackal, and flying/gliding with the griffon.
The newest mount, introduced in today’s Living World update: Long Live the Lich, fulfills that need for speed. The roller beetle is the fastest mount yet created for GW2, though it’s not as simple as pointing it in a direction and telling it to go as fast as it can. Well, you can do that, but unless you’ve got a nice, open area to zoom through, you’ll have a bit of a bumpy ride.
Ticket to Ride
How do you get your beetle? It’s a little more challenging than the base four mounts in PoF, but not nearly as arduous as the griffon. For our demo, we had the beetle unlocked already, but we got a quick look at the procedure that was required.
GW2’s roller beetles are related to the rock beetles from the first Guild Wars game. They went extinct, but an asuran scientist – one that you rescued in the last Living World chapter – has found a way to create a new strain that this generation’s heroes can ride. First, though, they’ll need to nurse a sickly beetle back to health, and then they’ll have to cobble together a saddle, a piece of tech that “floats” above the beetle itself and is held in place by [insert technobabble about magnetism or whatever here]. That’s a good thing, too, otherwise all the revolutions would make it difficult to maintain your seating. The beetle is unlocked using in-game actions, but won’t require significant expenditures of currency; in other words, money can’t buy you love (of your beetle).
Anet made references to both racing and skateboarding video games, and the beetle takes inspiration from both.
As with other mounts, the space bar provides you with a movement boost, and for the beetle, it really is a boost. You’ll cruise off at breakneck speed – ArenaNet estimated it at 130 mph – and crash through specially designated walls or soar off inclined ramps. During our demo, Anet made references to both racing and skateboarding video games, and the beetle takes inspiration from both. While in the air, you can hit space again to do a “trick,” while on the ground, you can actually drift and brake. A full-speed beetle can be difficult to control, so you won’t want to be zooming around everywhere, or else you’ll probably find yourself in need of some serious help when you go off course and into a pack of monsters.
The roller beetle started development as soon as Path of Fire launched, we were told, and it “pushed us to the limits on the physics engine side.” Just cruising around on it was a blast, in the limited time I had to play with it, and that’s a good thing.
Come Together (To Defeat Joko)
For the rest of our demo time, we got a glimpse of the story that accompanies this content release. It continues from the last chapter, as Palawa Joko, the aforementioned lich, is continuing his nefarious plots in the new zone, the Domain of Kourna. We were dropped into the middle of the story, which had us talk to someone, then talk to someone else, then talk to someone else, then burn some crops, then talk to someone else, then … you get the idea. Oh, and there a tiny bit of combat mixed in toward the end.
I took a few notes on the story but, let’s be honest. For the most part, two types of people are reading this article. Some already play GW2 and are going to play this story chapter, no matter what I say. Others don’t play GW2 and aren’t likely to play it based on my talking about characters they have no connection to. Maybe there are a few “tweeners,” like me, who play a little bit, but they aren’t going to be encouraged to play more by the story even if they do have some idea of what’s going on. It’s simply not the kind of riveting narrative that will have you wanting to play eight days a week.
It’s simply not the kind of riveting narrative that will have you wanting to play eight days a week.
In our last demo session, we got a chance to play around with one of the zone meta-events, and that was a lot more entertaining – and potentially likely to draw in players – than listening to NPCs drone on about their problems. I hope we get some more of that kind of stuff in the next demo. In fact, I’m not even sure anyone from the story team is needed. Go over the basics in about a minute and then move on to something interesting.
Another impression I got, especially from the trailer, is that ArenaNet is going way back to its roots (in a couple of senses) with the character of Palawa Joko in general, trying to make him funny-evil, much like the first major villain in the game’s story arc, Scarlet Briar. She was, suffice it to say, a controversial choice, and not entirely embraced by the players. Thanks to his ties to the original Guild Wars, it seems like Joko is less reviled, but I think ArenaNet runs the risk of making him too much of a joke(-o) if they play up his humorous aspects too much. As one of our guides said, Joko’s lines were “Some of my favorite voiceover that we have ever done.” I’d guess that Scarlet Briar was similarly adored by the writing staff.
The Long and Winding Road
This is what Guild Wars 2 updates are now: mostly “safe” gameplay, with a new zone, some story, and a new feature or two, like the roller beetle or the new fractal (Deepstone) or new legendary warhorn (Verdarach), produced on a regular schedule, every three months or so (though this one is a little behind schedule).
For the most part, though, ArenaNet doesn’t take risks anymore or try anything truly remarkable, not after getting negative feedback up to and after the Heart of Thorns launch. Financially, it seems to be working reasonably well, but I can understand that it’s hard for the marketing team to hype up each new entry.
I’m not saying that the game should go back to a two-week update cadence or do nothing but full-zone metas, but I also wish it could mix up the formula a bit and do more than run-of-the-mill, easily predictable updates. Interesting, semi-challenging content shouldn’t just exist inside raids. Yesterday, Guild Wars 2 wasn’t such an easy game to play, and I get that the formula needed to change a little bit, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.