Scrying Pool Feature

Scrying Pool: The Grind

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the next in a series of reviews for Heart of Thorns following articles where I have talked about the personal story and the open world maps and their metas. This time around I’ll be focusing on what the players get for their time with the rewards that players can earn in HoT.

Something I really like with HoT was how each of the maps feel very different. The content and environment changes from map to map, from the despairing Verdant Brink to the hopeful Auric Basin and the heroic struggle of Dragon’s Stand. But it isn’t just the content that ArenaNet made each of the maps unique as each has its own formula for dishing out rewards.

One of the similarities is that each of the maps uses its own unique currency. The first three maps—Verdant Brink, Auric Basin and Tangled Depths—use a currency that is deposited straight into the account’s wallet—Airship Parts, Lumps of Aurillium and Ley Line Crystals respectively—while the Dragon’s Stand map uses the Crystalline Ore material as a currency in its map specific vendor.

While each of the maps are similar in having their own currency, the method of obtaining the currency, keys to open their unique chests and the availability of the merchant is different for each. Auric Basin and Tangled Depths reward their currencies through the completion and progress of the meta-events on their map. The currencies for Verdant Brink and Dragon’s Stand on the other hand are obtained almost solely through opening up the map’s chests.

Continuing the trend from Dry Top and the Silverwastes, each of the four maps comes with their own chests that contain unique materials and rewards. In Verdant Brink you get the keys only as a reward from completing events. Both Auric Basin and Tangled Depths let you buy keys with the map currency and reward them for successfully completing the map-wide meta event. Lastly Dragon’s Stand lets you buy keys—using the other map currencies as the cost—and rewards them from meta event progress on the map.

Then you can look at the availability of that map’s merchant. At least one merchant is available on Verdant Brink and Tangled Depths at all times, Auric Basin has it’s sole vendor available only when the map-wide meta is not active or about to start and the merchant for Dragon’s Stand is only available for a short time after the map-wide meta is completed.

The combination of these differences create four very different maps just in terms of the pathway to rewards. If there was one map that I liked the most out of all of these setups it would probably be Verdant Brink. I like getting the keys for these chests without having to go and buy them. For the other maps it feels like I am wasting my currency by buying the keys when there are other things I want to use the currency on.

One thing I don’t like about Verdant Brink is the map reset after night time. Chests will appear after nearby events are completed with a few added across the map as the daytime meta finishes and the map transitions into the nighttime meta. I like this setup as a map that is actively doing the events will end up creating more chests to open. To make this work however, all of the chests are removed from the map when nighttime finishes up so that the next round of events spawn new chests. This makes the reward for the nighttime meta feel a bit annoying. “Have a bunch of crowbars to open those airship cargos, but good luck finding any to open as they are all gone now.”

Then because nighttime has all the chests built up throughout the day with a few more added just by being night, the map feels too split into the work half and the reward half. During the day I am doing events to progress the map, building up the keys to open chests and nighttime is all about going and reaping the rewards. Dry Top had this same feel and it was one of the improvements I liked about Silverwastes. When the reward phase pops up in Silverwastes—the underground maze full of chests—and Dragon’s Stand’s Noxous-Pods-a-plenty there isn’t really anything to progress. There are some events but it is irrelevant to the greater map’s progress. Verdant Brink still has the desire to have the map do well which makes the nighttime chest raiding slightly counterproductive.

The other thing I don’t like about the Verdant Brink isn’t with its reward structure, but in the amount of rewards I am getting from it. Now that Auric Basin and Tangled Depths metas are getting progressed, it feels like Verdant Brink is the slowest currency to get built up by playing on the map. Opening the airship cargos have a chance to give a nice chunk of currency, but typically give 3 Airship Parts per cargo. I’d like to see this slightly higher as killing mobs for a chance to get nuhoch stashes almost feels more rewarding on the map. Having a better chance to see bladed armor drop from the cargos would also be nice.

Going into the actual rewards, each of the four maps features its own weapon or armor set. Verdant Brink and Dragon’s Stand have the Bladed and Ley Line armor sets respectively while Auric Basin and Tangled depths have the Auric and Chak weapon sets respectively. I like this symmetry where there are four maps and half give armor sets while the other half gives weapon sets. This continues off the two Living World Season 2 maps where Dry Top gave a weapon set and the Silverwastes gave an armor set.

Before we get too much into obtaining these rewards, I should mention I have 12 characters and have run them all through the Heart of Thorns personal story. The personal story in HoT rewards players with items relative to each story instance’s location and one of the story steps in each map will reward one item out of the map’s armor or weapon set. In Verdant Brink this is a choice of one of the Bladed armor helm pieces, Auric Basin and Tangled Depths offer a profession specific choice of the Auric or Chak weapon sets and Dragon’s Stand offers a Ley Line armor box that can be used to select any piece of gear from the set.

Dragon’s Stand’s selectable Ley Line armor box might be a bit too impressive. While most people will probably think that taking 12 characters through the HoT story might be a bit excessive, this box makes it possible to complete the entire Ley Line armor collection without ever actually doing the Dragon’s Stand meta if a player has 18 characters ready to take through the story. Combine this with the heavy RNG of collecting the Ley Line armor pieces from the Noxious Pods on the map and the selectable box is incredibly impressive as a story reward.

Verdant Brink is the exact opposite with a woefully unimpressive story reward by comparison. Whereas Dragon’s Stand offers a selectable box that can pick any piece of armor, Verdant’s Brink choice of one of the helm skins makes only the first 3 characters rewarding as any after that will no longer be unlocking a new skin in the wardrobe. Unlike Dragon’s Stand, Verdant Brink isn’t dependent on RNG and the incredibly low chance of getting the armor to drop from the map’s chest makes the armor set more about grinding out the map’s currency.

While I have the Ley Line armor collection completed and no where close for Bladed armor, I actually like the setup for Bladed armor more. I like that it isn’t so focused on the story rewards and only 3 skins obtainable from the story for Bladed armor essentially puts players who haven’t bought extra character slots on more of a level with those who have.

That doesn’t mean I like everything about the way Bladed armor is obtained however. FIrst is the incredibly low chance to get Bladed armor as a drop. For an armor set tied to a map like this I would like to see the path of progression first start with RNG. Players would gather keys and open chests, slowly gaining skins for the set. As more skins are collected, players can then start looking toward the merchant to grab those last few skins. A system like this puts more control on the player as that turning point of going from RNG to merchant will be different for each player.

The other thing I don’t like about Bladed armor is the blanket cost of obtaining skins off the merchant. Each piece is 500 airship parts, which feels a bit odd to have larger pieces like the pants be worth the same as smaller pieces like the gloves.

The only piece that is an exception to this is the chest piece which isn’t available on the merchant at all and are only available through successfully completing the map’s meta. The better the map does, the higher the chance of getting the chest armor. Get to the highest tier in both of Verdant Brink’s map metas and you are guaranteed the chest armor. This is my favorite part of how bladed armor is rewarded and I hope we see more of this in the future.

Having the chest armor be the meta reward really fits the feeling of achieving a reward. Being one of the larger, more important pieces puts some significance to earning it. This is partly why I don’t like the helmet being the bladed armor reward from the personal story. Maybe it is because I typically don’t show helmets on any of my characters, but the helmet feels like the most unrewarding piece of gear out of a set. Having something more significant like the pants would be better, as the two largest pieces could be earned through a non currency method.

Alongside the armor and weapon rewards, the merchants have cooking recipes, new runes and sigils, recipes for new stat inscriptions and insignias, items for collections, a minipet and a tonic. Across the board I think that the pricing is good for just about everything. The biggest exception are the runes. Runes are meant to come in sets as players will typically want 6 of the same rune to get its full effect. The runes on these vendors however, are sold 1 at a time for a pretty high price.

I wish some of the other items were not as expensive as well. The minipet and tonics are a bit expensive at 1000 of the wallet currencies and a staggering 250 crystalline ore on the Dragon’s Stand merchant. Chak weapons in Tangled Depths are also a bit crazy with the need for up to 750 of the map currency and 5 chak eggs to get a single two-handed weapon. While the items for collection are not too bad, these quickly add up for anyone trying to complete multiples of them such as collecting all of the machined weapons to finish the Ex Machina collection.

Which gets into the idea of grind. While I am going to try to get everything non-legendary, I don’t need to get them all today. I could try to rush getting them completed, but it wouldn’t be that fun and would leave me without any other goals to pursue.

I really like the collections for most of HoT. I don’t need to decide to go after that big huge accomplishment all at once. Instead I can look at the ingredients and slowly whittle my way through the collection. The Ex Machina collection is a good example. I want to complete that, but that isn’t my goal. My goal isn’t even to complete the machined torch skin that I recently unlocked. My goal is to get 250 airship parts to buy the collectable item that is part of the machined torch collection. After that my goal will be the Aurillium collectable and finally the Ley Line Crystal collectable. After all of that the machined torch will be done and I’ll be one step closer to Ex Machina.

A lot of it is about mentality, but it is also about expectations toward completion. Recently I complained about the Festival Imbiber achievement and how it was too much of a grind. A big part of this was the expectation that I needed to finish the achievement before Wintersday ended. Because there was that time limit I knew I needed to continually be doing Wintersday non-stop to farm for the alcohol. I gave up on that because it was ruining the game for me and they had announced that the achievement will carry over through next Wintersday. I won’t have the Winter’s Presence skin until December of this year, but that is fine as I know I will get there one day.

The same goes for the rewards in HoT. This content isn’t going away. If I want a reward I know I will eventually have it. I don’t go into it with the expectation or desire to get it as soon as possible, just to play the game and look forward to having those rewards at some point.

I love GW2. I like that I will log in tomorrow and still have rewards I can work toward. Getting these rewards will take some time, but I don’t consider any of that time to be a grind. It is just me playing the game I love.


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