Preview: GW2's Stronghold of the Faithful Raid Wing Mixes Elements With Mixed Results
Yes, I'm a PvE Carebear. Dungeons and raids are my thing. Love them. Can't get enough of them when they are done well, and when they are done REALLY well...look out, I'll be spending a long time in your game. Maybe that's why I just play Guild Wars 2 very casually. I still remember my very first dungeon run in Guild Wars 2 way back when it launched. It was a chaotic nightmare. No trinity, no targeted heals, it was a mess. My pick up group died and died and died. It wasn't fun either. Yes, most of that was probably getting used to the "no defined role" nature of Guild Wars 2, but it never really got better in my opinion. It got a hell of a lot easier, but not more fun. Fractals then cemented the "not very fun" and "little incentive to zerg the content" thoughts in my head and Guild Wars 2 quickly became a game I play for other reasons, certainly not for the dungeons. Later, when the MMORPG went free-to-play and Heart of Thorns introduced raiding, my curiosity was piqued. "This game with no real "defined" role system and limitations on party buffs was going to implement raiding??? How was that going to look?"
Well, if you're a hardcore Guild Wars 2 player, the answer probably is a bit of a mixed bag. In the raiding introduced so far, reviews have been mixed. The mechanics and challenge? Most people enjoy those and give ArenaNet high marks in these categories. The fun factor? Depends on the boss according to most reviews and forum posts. And don't get trapped into the mistake of comparing raiding in Guild Wars 2 to other MMORPGs. It just isn't the same and likely is never going to be...nor is it meant to be. You'll either like it or you won't and if you don't, and today's update and new raiding content is probably unlikely to change your mind.
Knowing all of that, I headed into my raid preview with Jason Reynolds, Raids Game Designer, with mixed feelings. Seeing the latest content in a game is always exciting and seeing the third wing of Guild Wars 2's raid was even more so for me. Stronghold of the Faithful, Part 3 of the Forsaken Thicket raid, takes players on a romp to take out the White Mantle, an exciting prospect to be sure, and players jumping into that new content today are likely pretty excited about this "high profile" group being brought into the game.
So how'd it look? Well, what if I told you that your newest raid had elements of a MOBA and an escort quest thrown into it? That's not the most appealing sounding combination for endgame players eager to dive into a raid to hear, but it's essentially true. The quest starts off with your team picking up an NPC partner that someone in the group will have to control. You do this by clicking a button and shouting for them to move to a new location. Pro Tip: Don't let them die. You'll be starting over if you do.
With you new friend in tow, your group splits into two groups and each group ventures off into their own "lane." Moving through the lanes involves taking on waves of enemies that really want to roll right over you. For your group's sanity, kill the clerics first. These waves continue to spawn and move towards you (and the occasional Warg coming from both ahead and behind you) so your group needs to move fast. Each team is taking out objectives along the way up their lane that assist the group in the other lane so, yes, you'll be working together and voice communication is probably a big plus. Once at the top of the lane you'll regroup for your first "boss" fight.
I won't spoil the boss fights for you, partly because that would be wrong and partly because we didn't get to see them in great detail. Why? We wiped over and over on the "Gauntlet" style first phase. Just like other raids in Guild Wars 2, the difficulty is up there and teamwork is a must. Don't expect many chances to rally after you run out of HP, your friends are going to have to make getting you back up their priority. Fully die in a Guild Wars 2 raid and you're out watching from the sidelines (or more likely causing a full wipe depending on the scenario.)
Stronghold of the Faithful is divided into segments though so you won't come to lament each and every death and dread seeing the same cut scenes/dialogue over and over again. Opened the drawbridge already and then wiped? Don't worry, you'll still have to fight the original mobs again, but you'll be spared the NPC dialogue scene you watched the first time through that segment.
I can appreciate what ArenaNet is trying to do with this raid wing. Introducing elements of raiding from other games (like the MOBA style gauntlet) can lend a sense of familiarity to players and the difficulty is a plus in my book. PUGs will likely struggle a bit as they find the best group makeup and strategies while more experienced, dedicated groups will learn the ropes a little faster. On the content side of things though, I didn't find the portion of the raid we experienced to be much fun. That said, our group didn't do extremely well and we didn't make it very far. I would use my experience as a good gauge on how frustrating PUGs may end up being, but I would welcome the challenge with a group of guildies on voice chat.
If you liked the first 2 wings of Guild Wars 2's first raid, you'll likely have some fun in the latest wing. On the other hand, if you were frustrated by ArenaNet's first foray into raiding, this latest addition is more of the same with a few twists on delivery.
Our thanks to the team at ArenaNet for the early preview and let us know what you think of the new update in the comments below!
About the Author
Mike “Magicman” Byrne has been a part of the MMOBomb family for years and serves as the site’s current Editor-in-Chief. His love for MMOs and gaming in general has led him to covering games for numerous websites including Gamebreaker TV and XIV Nation where he proudly displays his fanboy flag for FFXIV:ARR.
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