The Lost Shores events have come and gone in Guild Wars 2, but parts of Tyria remain changed (our poor lighthouse) to remind us of the karka invasion.  ArenaNet’s content updates have been a massive undertaking as they provide special one-time events to go along with the new additions.  In Lost Shores, they added a new dungeon, PvP map, and a max-level zone, which everyone would agree is a hefty update especially considering the lack of a subscription fee.  However, ArenaNet aims to add context and story elements to their patches and for the Lost Shores, they created a three act weekend-long event that would run simultaneously on every server never to be repeated again.  Despite their intentions, did they bite off more than they can chew?  Let’s take a detailed look at what transpired to find out!

The patch landed last Thursday, though most of the content was held back until the weekend.  Players were able to try out the new PvP map, Temple of the Silent Storm, and the feedback has been mostly positive on the kodan-themed iceberg dojo.  Lion’s Arch was also updated with two new points of interest and a new merchant organization called the Consortium settled in and got cozy.  Thanks to a bug, Consortium Subdirector Blingg will be immortalized forever in Guild Wars 2 canon with his incessant spouting of the word “Citizen”.

The Lost Shores Phase 1:  Defend Lion’s Arch

On Friday, the first phase of the Lost Shores event kicked off promptly at the designated time and players in Lion’s Arch were treated to a brief cutscene before battling the deep-sea karka for the first time.  Unfortunately, this event was mired in extreme lag for most players.  Some players reported extreme framerate choppiness, while others (like me) had input lag with spells and abilities not firing off when pressed.  Apparently, zoning out of Lion’s Arch and back in made the battle run smoother, but for many players the karka invasion left them crabby.  *rimshot*

After the over-sized crustaceans were driven back, players were sent on two separate investigations.  Inspector Ellen Kiel sought the truth behind the karka attacks while Miyani sent players to various locations seeking a way to penetrate the karka’s thick shell.  Unfortunately, many players got stuck during various parts of these scavenger hunts when NPCs bugged out or wouldn’t spawn.  ArenaNet responded to these reports and said they would extend parts of these quests into phase 2 so players impacted by these issues would be able to complete them once they were fixed.  When the game was patched on Saturday, Inspector Kiel’s quest was fixed; however, the NPCs from Miyani’s quest were removed and unavailable.

ArenaNet responded to upset players stating, “There were some events that we could not extend past Phase 1, unfortunately. Extending all events in Phase 1 would have been a much more extensive fix, requiring much more time to thoroughly regress. Given the time sensitive nature of the event, we extended what portions we were able to effectively.”

I was not able to complete the Miyani quest, but at the end of the day all I missed were a few events, a bit of lore, and a few commendations which were easy to obtain elsewhere.  It’s clear that ArenaNet built this event to have certain events become unavailable as the story progressed throughout the weekend and unraveling that code to keep content around must have been a massive undertaking.  I hope going forward that these events can be built independently, making it easier for the development team to pull an audible if issues arise.  I do, however, appreciate the amount of work it must have been to at least allow players to see the end of the Inspector Kiel chain.

Fractals of the Mists Dungeon

The Fractals of the Mists dungeon was also opened on Friday and players began climbing an endless ladder of difficulty in search of increasingly rewarding loot.  The Fractals are an eclectic mix of nine not-so-short mini-dungeons that are strung together in random sets of three.   Despite last week’s drama of the new Ascended tier of gear, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  The Fractals are challenging and pit players against a variety of challenges with inspired mechanics.

Unfortunately, if a player gets disconnected while running the dungeon, they are unable to rejoin their group which is frustrating.  ArenaNet is working on this issue and already the Fractals of the Mists is proving to be some of the most popular content to hit since the release of Guild Wars 2.

The Lost Shores Phase 2: Defend Lion’s Arch…Again!

On Saturday, phase 2 of the Lost Shores event was delayed for close to an hour on some overflow servers which caused panic and confusion.  Cries of “Where are we supposed to be?”, “Did we miss it?”, and “Are we supposed to do something?” filled up the map chat box.  On my server, the boat to the Southsun Cove appeared before the Lion’s Arch event even kicked off.  This resulted in many players going to the new zone leaving only a smattering of people to defend Lion’s Arch.  I stayed to witness a second lag-free karka attack, but died many times due to the lack of players.

Fortunately, the Lionguard was more prepared this time and equipped us with a shell-melting super solvent.  After driving the karka out of the city (again), I sauntered off to Southsun Cove to find that many of the base-establishing events were already completed.  I did find one overflow server that had events still going on, but during one of the escorts, the NPC bugged out and prevented progress.

Despite the issues, Southsun Cove is a gorgeous zone sporting some of the most amazing landscapes in the game.  It features two new jumping puzzles, including Skipping Stones, which has elements reminiscent of the non-stop action found in the Mad King’s Clocktower.  Southsun Cove also contains new enemies to defeat, such as reef drakes and reef riders, and new areas to farm rare orichalcum ore and ancient sapling nodes.

Lost Shores Phase 3: Ancient Karka is Ancient

On Sunday, the finale of the Lost Shores event started on time and lag-free on my particular overflow server.  It was made clear that if we wanted to put an end to these attacks, then we’d need to destroy the king crab itself: the ancient karka.  We began by escorting the Lionguard demolition team into the karka’s hive in order to plant bombs at strategic locations.  While this event got a bit repetitive and took over an hour, I believed we were near the end after it was complete.  I’ve never been so wrong.

The Lionguard realized that we needed to lure the ancient karka into its nest before we could detonate the explosives.  So a new event spawned to “Maneuver the ancient karka back toward its nesting grounds.”  Those words would remain splattered on my screen for the next seventy minutes.  First we knocked down a tree onto the beast to scare him towards his web-filled home.  Then he summoned an unending group of karka reinforcements, including a champion karka that proved to be more resilient than Big Uncle Franks’s belt during Thanksgiving dinner!

Next we caused a rockslide which forced the ancient karka to scuttle a few feet towards our goal.  At this point I was hoping we were nearing the end, but instead we were treated to another round of brutal reinforcements with two champion karka at the end.  We were fighting adds for so long that I became elated when I died, so I could massage the cramps out of my hands and go for a quick bio.  After the second reinforcement phase, things moved at a better pace.  We pushed the ancient karka back by releasing pockets of explosive gas (thanks again Big Uncle Frank) and finally forced the giant lobster to its creepy lair.

There the event changed to killing the ancient karka, which meant we had to chase it all the way up and then down its nest while destroying different areas of webbing.  After over two and a half hours, we finally engaged the ancient karka and took him down.  While watching the awesome cutscene, where the ancient karka flailed helplessly in a vat of lava, I felt a great sense of relief.  I was tired and I ached all over, but that overgrown crayfish was history.

There was a chest at the end of the event and the rewards it contained surprised me.  I was expecting some sort of cosmetic item that I could show off as a participant in the event.  Instead, I found a 20-slot bag, three exotic items, and two rare pieces of armor.  I stared at the screen slack-jawed when one of my guildmates linked that he had gotten the legendary precursor sword, Zap.  Holy snickerdoodles!  While I was thrilled that this extremely long and arduous event was at least appropriately rewarding, I knew that we were about to experience a new wave of drama.  Checking the forums confirmed my suspicions with many players arguing that it was bad enough to miss a one-time event, but having extremely lucrative rewards was like rubbing salt in a wound.  Furthermore, many players reported that they got disconnected before the end of the event and couldn’t rejoin the overflow servers because they were full and were therefore couldn’t get the rewards.  Thankfully, ArenaNet is working on a way to send rewards to all participating players that missed out on opening the chest.

In Closing…

It’s difficult to summarize my feelings on the Lost Shores event this weekend.  While much of my experience was laden with bugs and issues, I managed to enjoy myself immensely.  I explored a lush new zone with my friends and giggled with glee upon finding a rich orichalcum node.  I completed a set of Fractals with my GuildCast co-hosts and cracked up each time one of us got blown off the colossus ledges.  There were even moments during the ancient karka event that made me feel like I was a part of something special, even though I’m extremely glad that it was a one-time event!  I think ArenaNet is trying to push the boundaries of what people expect from their MMO and it has certainly been a challenge for them.  And while the Lost Shores was messy in spots, I’m hoping the data they’ve collected will serve them in the future and better prepare them for upcoming events.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that our life experiences are rarely all positive or all negative.  In fact, some of our fondest memories were probably riddled with moments of strife that fade through time.  Months and years from now, I may not recall all of the hang-ups and hiccups from the Lost Shores, but I will remember that I was part of something special.  So in the spirit of this week’s festivities, I’ll wrap up by saying, “Thank you, ArenaNet!”