This isn’t really a spoiler for the players who have kept up with the Living World story, since this happened halfway season 3. If you haven’t played the episodes yet, stop reading since this post will be one big spoiler about my frustration with this one boss fight.
Patch Preview Privilege?
Some time ago, when the patch for The Head of the Snake came out, I was still writing for MMOgames and I was allowed to do the patch preview. I first thought this was marvelous. I was one of the few who could see everything of the new patch before it launched!
I didn’t care that I could only barely make it with my full time job, time zone differences and limited computer time. It was really fun to be able to see everything without risk of spoilers and truly experience the reveals as they came. And, I’ll be honest, I got a slight kick out of knowing something amazing that other players didn’t.
The previews that I wrote had to be as spoiler free as possible and it’s what I still try to do as much as possible when I’m writing about a movie, book or game. The upside of that was I wasn’t forced to complete the whole episode, but I did it anyways. I feel that I can’t comment on a story without experiencing it completely, so I always read/play/watch everything or I won’t write about it.
The Head of the Snake
The Head of the Snake is the fourth episode in the Living World Season 3, which off after the story of Heart of Thorns. I actually remember very little about how the story got there, only the big outline. It doesn’t matter much for this post since I just want to talk about this one man. Minister Caudecus.
It was obvious from the first time that I did the story mode of the Caudecus Manor dungeon, that this wouldn’t be the last time we’d hear from that weasel. After the explosion in the Maguuma Jungle, it is revealed that Caudecus is the confessor of the White Mantle, a group of extremists. He wants to rule Tyria and he needed the bloodstone for its powers.
Long story short: he wants to overthrow Queen Jenna and you, the commander, stop him during this episode.
Now, the writing for this season was incredibly. It has a lot of twists and turns and I really enjoyed the new maps. But. I hated how they did the progression of the story steps. One of the steps in this episodes was simply to do events in the new map.
Well. Eh. I don’t care? I’m coming here for the story. I already run around the map and heard and saw a ton of things without specifically being told to do so. The progression of that bar was slow as hell. It only made me dislike it even more.
Doing events in open world is never really a problem since there are always people around to jump in and help. This is not the case in a patch preview. Players are very limited and most of us were doing our own thing, making cool screenshots, figuring out where all the collectables are, or doing things totally unrelated to the story and/or new map.
Doing the events was a nightmare. Most of the enemies had some form of CC which made killing them in groups nearly impossible when you’re alone. Especially when you’re a super casual player who doesn’t know the optimal build and how to play the class the best they can. I’m a very average player. Maybe even below average.
I hated this. I also knew that I had limited time to finish the story, write up the article, sleep, eat, get on with my life, and work. I had a deadline and I don’t want to be late for a deadline set by someone else.
After I finally finished this step, I had to go back to Queen Jenna and the final plans were made to kill the head of the snake. I had to go to Caudecus’ Manor to deal with him.
Caudecus, a thing of evil
I hate you, Caudecus, with a passion. Not only for what you did, but also for everything that you’ve thrown my way in your manor. Your White Mantle friends, the bandits and jade constructs.
I hate you for what you did to Demmi. I hate you for sacrificing all those people. And I hate you for killing the parents of my main character.
But most of all, I hate your private dungeon. Covered in bloodstone, feeding your insanity. I hate your carvings on the walls that make it look like you’re staring at me from every direction. I hate the small size of it and you’re giant, flashy SFX for your skills. I hate how you make my camera flip through walls in a manner that gave me a headache. I hate how you summoned more of your minions while I tried to kick your ass. I hate how your jade constructs are tougher than you. I hate how you CC’d me with two skills and killed me. I hate how limited my mobility was in a small room with all your AoE. I hate that you killed me at least ten times before I managed to finish.
It took me over one and a half hour in preview to kill him. Last night I finally dared to do it on my own account and it took me 45 minutes. It was easier. Maybe they adjusted the battle a little so people like me wouldn’t have such a hard time with it.
I can genuinely say that I’m glad he’s dead. Not just because of his role in the story, but also because I know that I will never do this part of the story ever again. I managed to do two achievements and that’s more than enough. Should I ever want/need more achievements in this particular story step, I’ll be sure to bring others.
Not always good
After I finished the patch preview I could never get myself to finish this part of the episode. I knew what was coming and I hated having to do it again. That was one of the biggest downsides of being part of the preview.
A few weeks after I stopped writing for MMOgames and forfeited my right to be part of the previews, I started enjoying Guild Wars 2 again. Just a little, and only by doing certain things. But it was a start. I had my freedom again.
That’s when I learned that some (press) privileges aren’t always good. I do have to say that it depends on the person. I didn’t do well in these circumstances. Even without a full time job, I’d have to think twice before taking up such a writing job again.
I learned from this experience. I really enjoyed doing the previews and the dev team excellent in their support during those busy weekend. It’s just not for me.
This while Caudecus thing the reason why I didn’t play any of the following episode or the Path of Fire expansion with my main character. Not being able to do the story of my main, the character I’m most invested in, has hurt the enjoyment of the game. Now that I’m passed it, I’ll continue with her story, do the other episodes, the expansion story and the new episodes. It’ll take a while and I know that I’m playing through the story again. The big difference is that this progression is for myself.
If there’s one thing I wish game designers would learn, it’s that it isn’t their bounden duty to keep ramping up the challenge for players, Dark Souls style, until they frustrate all but the top 1% that will keep demanding more and more masochistic stuff to beat (for 11 hours straight if necessary).
Not unless their game is specifically built for and can turn a profit from that subset.
There are plenty of other game styles that can be designed for: games to relax, games to offer escapism and power fantasies, games to immerse players in a believable world, games that cooperatively tell a story, games that scaffold and teach players without leaving any behind, and so on.
To steal a metaphor from tabletop roleplaying, it’s like a GM that thinks their goal is to be their players’ direct nemesis and create total party wipes.
For the record, the Caudecus fight is a gimmick fight. I had a bad time when I first tried it; I got mauled when I revisited it years later… until I finally remembered the correct tactic to use. Once you enter, you run in a circle (of around medium range) and you never stop running.
I knew what I had to do in the fight. Grab the shards, throw them, kill the shield, shoot the guy. My main is ranger and my pet did a great job of distracting minions, but once he launched his unstable magic attack I was floored and he’d jump me. Even with food buffs etc I was downed quickly and the de buff stays. At the end of the fight gear was broken.
I do agree that devs shouldn’t design their fights to be ultra hard so only the 1% can do them. Not in an Mmo, and definitely not in a game with a huge casual player base.
The Caudecus fight was a one off IMO and I do believe they learned from the criticism about the whole episode. I know I’m not alone in this. Recent stories and fights have been so much better.