Monday, December 17, 2012

Wintersday: A Step Back or Forward?

I had a hard time gauging my exitement pre-Wintersday.  Yes, Christmas (and all of it's Wintery counterparts in MMOs) is my favorite Holiday.  I thought Halloween in Guild Wars 2 was the most well done holiday in any video game I have ever played, so my hopes were pretty high.  That being said, Halloween had some low points, most notably RNG cash shop items and quite a few people were ticked off by ArenaNet's jumping puzzle design.  (I however, loved the jumping puzzle by the way.)  Furthermore, with major content patches being released in both January and February that are said to be equal to the amount of content in an expansion, I wasn't sure how much time and care ArenaNet would put into Wintersday this year.  All in all, I had a mixed bag of emotions coming in... after all both prior content patches were met with mixed reviews, and I wasn't sure if this would be the patch that would break the streak.

Let's start with the jumping puzzle.  I think the theory of the puzzle was implemented brilliantly.  ArenaNet heard the communities complaints about character models cluttering up the screen, and split us off into several different starting areas.  The environment and staging was stunning, and also perfectly themed.  I loved the frostbite slowly ticking away my health, the bursting presents, the wintery winds, and even the terrifying boulder that has killed me more than once.  It really was set up to be a fantastic puzzle.  However, in practice, it just simply was too easy. Now you may call this subjective, because there certainly are people who are unable to finish it.  I am generally a very good platformer, I've completed every jumping puzzle in the game, and finished the Halloween puzzle in about forty five minutes.  However, it took me around 2-3 tries to complete this puzzle.  The exhilaration I felt after beating the Halloween puzzle was immense....this..this just felt like....well..yeah.  It was just too easy, and all in all not that rewarding.

ArenaNet did make some major improvements to the cash shop this time around. There were sets of weapon skins that could be bought straight out for 500 gems.  The price may be high to some, but I'd rather have a higher price than worry about RNG.  However, ArenaNet still left RNG chests to be opened by those who wished for the minis.  Among them was the rare Festivoo the Merry (a Quaggan in a Christmas hat)...really who could resist that?  You could even combine the three common mini's for the much rarer Festivoo.  The problem is that each mini is account bound, effectively making these cash shop RNG only items.  (Unless of course you get extremely, I mean extremely lucky in opening gift boxes) And while this time around, the cash shop was implemented better, there's still the basic moral question: Should RNG be present in a Cash shop?  My answer remains the, it should not.  However, I think we can all agree, a mini is hardly game breaking. 

The Infinirarium was masterfully crafted.  Tixx's giant golem blimp hovers above the major cities of the game, that houses the Holiday Dungeon.  It really is breath taking from the ground and the interior.  The dialog in the dungeon is witty and diverse, and the miniatures present within are adorable.  I loved coming across each major city in miniature form, and I think my favorite is the simple Grove.  Thus far, I've seen Toy Ventari, Dolls, and Miniature soldiers try to kill me.  And I've had fun doing the dungeon each day to see the changes.  It's really quite fun.  However, you can only craft two out of the five toys this holiday. I've even independently confirmed this by talking to a developer in-game.  And the only alternative available is to buy them through the cash shop.  A fair amount of the community has criticized this move by ArenaNet, and I am hesitant to do so.  One of World of Warcraft's holidays centered around orphans and you could only receive  2 out of 6 available toys.  (My memory may serve me wrong, it could also be 1 out of 6)  And I don't remember people being mad about that.  It seems silly to have so much arguing over minis anyways.  And finally, since when has collecting not been expensive?  I don't see why ArenaNet cannot just sell the minis in the cash shop.  At least they don't have RNG attached to it.

There were some other great additions to Wintersday.  I love both the Bells and the Snowball Fight mini-games.  Both were very cleverly designed, and extremely fun to play for Guitar Hero and PvP enthusiasts alike.  The siege weapons have also been changed in WvW, which look amazing by the way.  Nothing says Christmas like raining down Candy Cane death from above. There's also the smaller touches: the little snowball fights that break out in Lions Arch, the snowmen that can be made around Tyria, the new crafting recipes, and the presents full of skritt and toys alike that can be found in very aspects of the game.  

ArenaNet took the time to make Wintersday extremely memorable.  I'm impressed, especially considering the huge, looming content patches coming in January in February.  No one can dare say they aren't working hard.  I'd like to see them add more permanent content to the game, which will hopefully be the main focuses of the next few patches. Even with more holiday content left, even with the small let down in the jumping puzzle and RNG minis, I have to say I am enjoying this holiday even more than Halloween.  

See you on the snowy battlefields!  If you see a snowball send you to your death from the shadows, it just might have been me!

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