We Bathed in Moonlight, Drowned in Sorrow’s Embrace

They told me I had been dead for ten months when they pulled my lifeless blue body from the bottom of Lake Delavan. Why I was now staring at the dull brown ceiling of the hospital in the Salma Quarter of Divinity’s Reach instead of slumbering peacefully in the cool embrace of the Mists was not something the priests and priestesses were able explain to my satisfaction. When, after several hours, I regained the color in my face and the feeling in my fingers, I felt an anger that should have remained dormant forever.

I returned their dispassionate gazes, face up in my bed, as my cheeks flooded with uncomfortable heat. This is what the White Mantle looks like when they imbibe bloodstone, they told me. They’re dangerous. White. Mantle. For as long as adjectives and nouns continued to exist, humans would agglutinate them in endless permutations and use them as rallying cries in their idiotic wars against each other. The fact that my parents had once shared a bed in Kryta did not obligate their offspring to care about the kingdom’s politics.

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I don’t give a damn, I replied. Tell me how you brought me back, since you won’t tell me why. They offered conflicting answers: Engineers had concocted a potion that had the power to reanimate the departed; Rangers had called upon the spirits of the forest to imbue my skeletal frame with verdant life force; Mesmers had conjured up an illusion which was temporarily housing my essence; Lyssa had personally bartered with Grenth for the return of my soul until the Elder Dragons had been vanquished and the safety of the Six Gods’ human subjects had been secured.

I want to go back, I growled through clenched teeth. Tell me what I have to do.

Meet your old friend Logan Thackeray in the Upper City. He and the Queen will help you understand what needs to be done.

So I did. It was as if I had never been gone. The Pact still called me Commander, even though it was clear to me that I wasn’t commanding anything or anyone. Braham wouldn’t listen to me. Marjory wouldn’t be told what to do. Kasmeer was conspicuously absent. Anise had developed a thirst for blood, while Canach had developed an endearing brand of wit. Taimi and Rytlock were the only ones I felt I could trust – Taimi’s burgeoning genius needed an adult catalyst to ensure her transition from progeny to practitioner; and where there was a battle to be fought, as there typically was when I was around, Rytlock would be there to guard my back and tell everyone exactly what he thought of them.

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Logan was the one person who hadn’t changed. As much as we had been through, he wasn’t good for anything but commanding human forces. When he told me that General Soulkeeper had offered him the position of Marshal within the Pact, I stopped caring about the organization altogether. Call me what you will, friends. I’ll go where I need to go and do what must be done. The flow of time wraps itself around my sword and shield while Queen Jennah kills with a flick of the wrist and erects a reflective dome over the entirety of Divinity’s Reach by simply willing it to exist.

Tell me again: why do you need me?

Once we’ve slain the remaining Elder Dragons I am going to fill my lungs with as much of Lake Doric’s water as they will hold and return to Eir in the Mists. We’ll spend our eternal twilight leaving heavy footprints in the frosty snow beneath us as we make our way toward the sound of howling wolves on distant ridges.

Tribute

Three and a half weeks later I’ve reached level 80 and 100% map completion in Central Tyria. I whipped through Southsun Cove as well for good measure. At the end of all of it there’s a certain sense of satisfaction mixed with a measure of relief.

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Proof of heroics. Achievements optional.

We’re taking a break, Snow White and I, from the heady bustle of completion and exploration and combat and gorgeous scenery with varying degrees of ambient lethality. She’s a persona all her own with no back story to speak of and no character empires to rule over: a ronin Chronomancer. Our uninstalled break will last as long as it feels like it should. In the meantime, I have other depths to plumb to see just how much I like being in love with Lovecraft and Halloween. Is monogamy back in vogue? Only one way to find out.

She’s entirely from scratch. I used only what I earned during my leveling adventures. I did cheat once by buying an underwater spear off the Trading Post during a statistical drought; otherwise, supernumerary boosts were eschewed. I started off with my standard sword/pistol and greatsword combination. Somewhere in the mid-30s I switched out the greatsword for sword/sword. Thereafter, I forced myself to melee everything.

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If I had a bow like this, I wouldn’t melee either.

Hearts and Hero Points involving combat thus became fora for improving my visual parsing and timing memorization skills. I’m better at the former than the latter, on the whole. Nevertheless, I was only downed thrice and never defeated. One of those flirtations with defeat occurred when my guided exploration path took me straight through the middle of the Claw of Jormag event. I ran out of invulnerabilities and couldn’t remember the mechanics, so plop! I went onto the ground and lay there until someone ran over to revive me. They then flopped over and it was my turn to resuscitate them, thereby perpetuating the circle of life.

I’ve never been much for condition play, so scepter, torch, and staff went unused. The stationary wardens generated by a focus offhand were too much of a damage loss to offset the speed boost generated by #4. In any case, Signet of Inspiration (passive: random boons, i.e. swiftness, every 10 seconds) worked well enough until the very end when I had enough Hero Points for Time Marches On in the Chronomancer trait line (passive: 25% increased movement speed). Signet of the Ether allowed me to recharge my phantasm summons, Signet of Illusions made them tankier, and Signet of Humility made the really annoying loss of control mechanics slightly less annoying.

As things wrapped up, I started to become a bit lazy (except in Orr) as once I forced myself to pay attention to the world around me and did not succumb to fatigue, the vast majority of adversaries were no longer threatening. Obvious exceptions would be champions whose health bars require extensive whittling and anything with lifesteal spam, of which there are more than enough in Cursed Shore.

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Impossibly beautiful and improbably clothed. It’s the human female meta.

There are plentiful opportunities for screenshotting no matter what you’re doing or how long you intend to play. One item of note that I had forgotten about during my three-month absence was the extent to which the variegated, handcrafted landscapes of Guild Wars 2 surpass those of every other MMO I’ve ever played. There is simply no comparison.

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A lesser scene among the pantheon of milieux.

I’m setting it aside again for a while, at least until I wear out the trappings of The Secret World and play through the rest of Life is Strange and then eventually find myself wandering back to the same place I always seem to come home to.

Wintry Dreams

My desire for player combat requires a campaign and a kingdom. I seek now at my middling age a slow burning fire that warms the room as the tales of empires past are sung by a honey-voiced bard whose lyrics thread themselves between the weighty breaths of sleeping children. The dance of forces on the battlefield spins the threads of a living tapestry that reveals a rich history of power plays, deceit, treachery, and glory.

World versus World works well enough for its intended purpose. Game of Thrones it is not.

The art of siege trolling is alive and well but really doesn’t hold a candle to the sorts of things that go on in a game like EVE. I’m not saying that I’m looking for world-class backstabbing in my campaigns – it’s nuance and in-character intrigue I’m after. Guilds hop from world to world, commanders make controversial decisions, and servers move up and down the tiers. Yak’s Bend was the reigning T1 champion for 24 weeks and is now headed down into T2 by popular demand – eventually – as the upper-crust servers blob their way to victory. The king is dead, long live the king.

King of what?

Nothing inside the Borderlands that I can see. It doesn’t seem to matter except to those who make idle conversation in the down time between golem rushes and the flirtations of scouts who put swords on the map and then run off into the hills giggling maniacally as hordes of battle-ready soldiers thunder down to the site of contention only to find the wind blowing over footsteps in the snow. Perhaps it’s true that the purveyors of Forum versus Forum also take an interest in such things but I have yet to find a variant of those that isn’t a cesspool of iniquity and therefore worth reading for more than twenty seconds. It doesn’t matter inside the game, really, because it’ll all be reset next week and we’ll be doing the same dance in different costumes.

It could just be the novice in me. Perhaps I don’t realize to what extent nuance is to be found as zergs move about the map and decisions are made as to defense, offense, scouting, roaming, back-capping, and ganking. In the two weeks I’ve been running with my current guild I’ve been on nearly every night as either a Mesmer or an Elementalist. The Mesmer’s niche role spreads its butterfly wings after two years of experience and floats off into the heady air of the alpine steppes. Swapping between wells for alacrity on siege, mobility for group fights, and utility for everything else as I improvise variations on the illusion-shatter dance for the thousandth time rivals the attunement tango of my Elementalist in terms of cognitive engagement. Only the flashy damage numbers are missing.

When it comes to the aquarium in which we swim, however, I’d like to go beyond the structural mechanics of tactics and strategy. There’s a layer that’s missing that we find in games like Civilization. Only problem is, I don’t like single-player or RTS campaigns that require the use of über micro to manage assorted groupings of resources and units. I play one person. Me.

Crowfall isn’t the second coming of Realm versus Realm in my estimation, my decision to back it at a very early stage of development notwithstanding. I like what I’m seeing conceptually, but that’s the part that’s bothering me: I liked WildStar in concept as well, and what we have on Nexus today is a shadowy apparition that haunts the mansion of what could have been. The animations and art style I’m seeing in Crowfall so far – most recently in the context of the mechanically attractive Druid class – smack of a brand of cartoonishness that eventually made WildStar aesthetically unpalatable and negatively influenced its potential for replayability in my post-WoW gaming adventures.

I don’t know that GW2 is going to be a long-term gap-filler when it comes to my desire for large-scale drama that plays out and resolves with satisfying conviction. Nobody does, really, because I’m about as volatile as they come. I may wake up tomorrow and find that all of the MMOs have been deleted from my computer and that my legs have been replaced with a mermaid’s tail. (Shrug.)

What I do know is that if my world doesn’t have an MMO bent to it with a gratifying measure of lyrical immersion it’s not likely to hold my interest. I’ll wander offer and reincarnate as a Fury in EverQuest 2 for a couple of days before almost drowning in hotbars and being rescued by a passing steamboat en route to Humble Bundle island. I’ll probably rest there for a while and doze lightly until the buzzing of my cell phone shakes me out of my mid-day dreams. It’s Bong Cha reminding me that it’s time to grind Skill Points again – this time a hundred of them for the last tier of “AEGIS efficiency” so I can return to Tokyo and remain alive long enough to experience the sort of life-ending drama you don’t get anywhere else.

Sure thing, Bong Cha. Right after I finish this nap.

We Can Have Nice Things Now

Once upon a time – three months ago, to be exact – I dropped a napalm bomb on my Guild Wars 2 account and said I wouldn’t be back until design changes had been made that brought the game closer to its original philosophical standpoint. It seems the departure of Colin Johansen and his oft-lauded smile have heralded the opening of the floodgates: we have been inundated with pages of good decisions. Anyone else at ArenaNet who was emulating his smile may well have been wearing a different type of grin.

Overnight, someone found the tech to switch back to the Alpine Borderlands hidden under one of the tables at ANet HQ and placed it on the table. Previously subdued employees have been crawling out of the woodwork to celebrate on reddit. WvW maps are populated with commanders, lieutenants, scouts, and roamers gleefully discussing the garrison-hills-bay trifecta. Blobs are finding blobs on terrain that functions as mise en scène rather than as the centerpiece of a gorgeous single-player map. In the meantime, the Desert Borderlands will be polished, refined, and eventually spun back into play.

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Ideally, death should be at the hands of other players, not your own.

The sum of this provided enough impetus for me to create new characters. My nascent Sylvari twins with entirely new names have nothing to do with my empire of old; one of my personal goals is “freedom from suffering” which entails not attaching to things so firmly that it becomes painful. That doesn’t make my decision to delete all the stuff I paid real money for any less stupid, but, ya know, at least I have a lofty philosophical tenet to fall back on.

One of the new features is a level 80 boost that you can try out on as many characters as you like simultaneously before committing to one of them. I used mine on a staff Elementalist and took her through the entirety of the personal story in Soldier’s exotics (survivability) with full traits and the whole shebang. I then immediately jumped into WvW which has proven to be a good decision. The addition of reward tracks to WvW provides one with a steady supply of Tomes of Knowledge that can be used to level up other characters. If you hoard them, you can skip the leveling process entirely which is exactly what I’m doing with my Sylvari Mesmer. I’ve liquidated the entirety of my crafting stockpile to the tune of 250 gold, so there’s plenty of money for the necessary WvW equipment.

It’s the malleability that attracts me. A fundamental principle of stimulation is making things easier. Stimulate spending by giving people money. Encourage player fights by making it easier for people to find and reach other players. Make alliance-based warfare a rewarding activity at the account level which encourages the creation of alternate characters who, through a combination of Tomes of Knowledge and Proofs of Heroics, are immediately feature-complete when they step into the Borderlands.

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These players are feature-complete, even if some of their outfits aren’t.

I’ve been playing GW2’s WvW to the exclusion of other games for the past week, in part because Crowfall doesn’t exist as a finished product yet. I’ve also had a hankering for large-scale fighting which Smite does not satisfy. I’m just now learning how to navigate the floating crap shoot of Red Rings of Instant Death in the ebb and flow of zerg combat. My fingers race frantically to swap to the correct attunement and drop whatever fields are called for within the next two seconds lest I hear an audible sigh from the commander on Teamspeak. My frame rates seem to hold up well enough even if my escape attempts sometimes backfire due to my inexperience. I suppose you have to make a lot of bad decisions before you learn to make good ones.

It was good decisions that lead to this phoenix rising from the ashes; it is my hope that they presage a new trend.

GW2: Nuked from Orbit

I’m taking a break from Guild Wars 2, perhaps permanently. I’ve had a shift in perspective over the last couple of months. I presume it must be something to do with that fabled mid-life crisis that pops up in movies and elsewhere. The gist of the matter is that my priorities have reshuffled such that I am interested in exclusively playing games which are compelling and exceed my personal entertainment threshold. The mindless zerging and open world freneticism of Tyria are entertaining, to a degree, but they are neither extraordinary nor compelling. I have uninstalled the game on the principle of “out of sight, out of mind.” This is a bit of conceptual simplification which in my personal case allows me to devote more mental energy to my children and to games which give me exactly the experience I want. I also took the nuclear route of deleting all of my characters. All of them. It goes hand-in-hand with divesting myself of my previous online persona which was tied too tightly to a specific game. I’ve since adopted a game-agnostic alias which is the name of a fictional character I came up with fifteen or so years ago for a novel I’ve never written. It’s that old Buddhist mantra in action: “Take what is useful and discard the rest.”

If ArenaNet ever returns to its original design philosophy I may return. It would be with brand new characters using brand new names without any sort of back-story empire mandating their continual grooming and cultivation. I would be perfectly happy to roam the lands as a fresh-faced staff Elementalist if the Marionette were to make a reappearance. Bring Scarlet Briar back from the dead and burn down another city or even an entire zone. Give the plot some fangs. I already know we’re going to kill all the Elder Dragons; why not do it in style? You took my suggestion to heart and did it in the cheesiest way possible. (Bottom of the post, Heart of Thorns main story spoilers.) Your storytelling simply isn’t up to the task. That’s why I’m playing The Secret World and relishing the main plot line. The side stories are quite fascinating as well. It’s a dark, adult horror novel without plot armor. People die, just like I wish they would.

You know, I can ignore story, but I must have compelling gameplay. That’s why I’m playing Smite for my PvP desires as opposed to the pendulum-driven non-balance of GW2’s structured PvP. Smite has an audience of 10 million viewers and players (by comparison, League of Legends has 67 million) and offers cash prizes at its world championships. It isn’t just a marketing strategy, either, as ArenaNet’s eSports ventures are. Balance is therefore of primary concern. I am thriving in an environment in which mechanical mastery is fairly straightforward, passive/active item builds are flexible, and team efforts are paramount. It is a game unto itself rather than a game mode in a larger setting. It is this combination of features that have endeared it to me and motivate me to become better at it.

When it comes to World versus World action, I’m putting my money on Crowfall. Literally. My spouse handed me some of the winnings from her personal vice and told me to spend it on my personal vice. I therefore went straight to the Crowfall website and became a backer. It is a campaign-driven, player-combat-focused environment which promises to provide everything anyone could be looking for in an epic-scale fighting experience: meaningful permanence with a definite end-state, account-level skill progression (crows), character-level customization (vessels) and variable rulesets and arenas from the PvE-centric Eternal Kingdoms to the PvP-centric Dregs in which Scree’s guild Obsidian will be operating. The people who make Crowfall understand that player combat is the engine of the game. The people who make EVE understand that spaceship explosions drive pretty much everything, including the economy. I’m talking about a game that is designed with good fights in mind and is not simply an exercise in “look at the pretty PvE maps we made!”

World versus World in GW2 is nice, mindless fun, but does not provide me with the meaningfulness I am looking for, nor does it seem to understand that not having convenient access to enemy players means fewer player fights and therefore no game mode. Had the Air Keep been designed with player fights in mind, it would not feature gusts of wind that knock you off narrow platforms which makes it harder to fight players. A dynamic, triggered event, for example, could allow attackers to glide over the keep (rented gliders for non-HoT owners) and bomb it while the defenders use a variety of mortars, cannons, and other projectile siege to shoot them down. Had the Earth Keep been designed with player fights in mind, it would not feature earthen wall mazes which make it harder to reach other players and fight them. They would feature, for example, Auric Basin-style suits which would allow players to costume brawl in the style of the Trinity so that players could experience a temporary Tank-Damage-Heal battle as an alternative to having to raid to get their Formally Designated Roles fix.

Don’t get me started on raids. Instanced content in a game which is supposed to be about a free-form, at-your-leisure experience in which you meet strangers and cooperate with them to great effect. “Fix your parse” is not something I ever want to hear in map chat. Hells to the noes. My personal theory is that there is an egomaniac behind the scenes calling the shots and compromising the overall direction projected by the exquisite, organic maps and epic music and all the other lovely things created by the beautiful and talented people who work at ArenaNet, many of whom I admire greatly. It seems NCSoft’s studio babies past and present have a problem with egomania and squandered potential. Hardly endemic to that particular publisher, but I digress.

These concerns are secondary, however. Perhaps even tertiary. It’s a personal decision, one that was not made lightly. I no longer care to spend my time on games that don’t satisfy my personal enjoyment criteria. Perhaps when my children are grown I’ll have thirty MMO icons littering my desktop once again. Right now, my time is precious and I won’t spend a second of it on checklists or preparatory work or grinding as primary activities.

Which means, of course, that I’m heading straight back to Egypt in The Secret World.

Artemis

Ever since I started playing Smite, I’ve been taken with Artemis, one of the game’s “hunters.” Hunters are what you would call ADCs in League of Legends, which refers to “Attack Damage Carry,” i.e. a character that becomes physically powerful during the end game and can “carry” their team to victory by dint of their large damage numbers. The tradeoff in pretty much every glass cannon build ever, however, is that if you are focused by the opposing team, you are not terribly difficult to take down. Compounding this issue in the case of Artemis is her relative lack of mobility compared to someone like Neith, the Egyptian Weaver of Fate, who has the ability to backflip out of tough situations and whose Ultimate (powerful ability on a long cooldown) is the ability to snipe anyone on the map she can see with shots that do more damage the longer the ability is “charged” up. Artemis, in contrast, relies on traps and stuns; her Ultimate calls forth a Calydonian Boar with an uptime of six seconds which stuns itself and its target for two seconds (hence, maximum three targets). Artemis is therefore generally ranked as mid-tier whereas Neith, due to her mobility, utility, and moderate self-healing abilities, is usually ranked in one of the top tiers.

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Neith, Weaver of Fate.

As far as I’m concerned, chaste, proud, fully accoutered Artemis with her flowing red locks is top tier when it comes to presence. Scantily clad Neith in her stilettos is rather disappointing, aesthetically. I don’t mind playing her (her bow has a pleasant, distinctive sound) as long as she isn’t doing that silly sidestepping animation. No, it’s Artemis whose strength and radiance have so impressed themselves upon me that I decided to make a fire sale out of the year’s worth of materials I had stockpiled and convert the resulting gold to gems with reckless abandon in an attempt to recreate her in Guild Wars 2. The following items were acquired for this purpose:

  • One Identity Repair Kit (Name Change Contract + Total Makeover Kit)
  • One Wreath of Cooperation
  • One Medium set of Stalker’s Armor

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I’m not altogether satisfied with this first attempt. (When I say “first” I mean that spending more real money is a possibility, although it’s a bad habit I typically endeavor to keep firmly within grasp.) There’s no “flowing locks” hairdo for human females that matches what I’m looking for; additionally, the narrow contours of Artemis’s face simply don’t carry over well due to the fact that Tyrian human females, by and large, seem to suffer from Puffy Face Syndrome. I’ve found that you can mask the effect by using darker skin tones which wouldn’t exactly match Artemis’s rather pale looks in Smite but would be more appealing than running around looking like I have pudding in my cheeks. I may darken her skin when I have enough gems for another makeover kit. Rox’s Quiver will certainly make an appearance at some point.

One of the effects that “cross-training” in Smite has had is that I’ve gained a newfound appreciation of Guild Wars 2’s Ranger profession as well as profession abilities in general. Gods in Smite run around with four active abilities, up to two consumable items, up to two active items, and up to six passive equipment items (gear). Knowledge of those four situational abilities on a per-God basis allows for rather rapid and intuitive play and counter-play. Understanding this within the context of a MOBA has made it much easier for me to spot the situational use of many more of the generally somewhat more complex profession abilities within Guild Wars 2, although it does still suffer from the same PvE/PvP ability split found in games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic wherein you may not use and/or grasp the use of half of the abilities available to you until you play your first Warzone (PvP).

I’ve now taken my Tyrian Artemis version 1.0 through six or so of the starting zones using a world completion overlay that was linked in the reddit forums and have decided that I am motivated enough by her appearance and the relative ease of playing a Ranger who uses bows exclusively (much to the chagrin of those who insist that Rangers be played “like Aragorn” from Lord of the Rings, i.e. using swords and such) that I am willing to do world completion on a second character whom I will level “manually” (as opposed to “passively” using Tomes of Knowledge from daily login rewards) just so I can use the exotic-quality “Eir’s Short Bow” that was a random drop from a chest in some open world event which may or may not have been a world boss.

Motivated by cosmetics. Well, then. That’s a refreshing change of pace.

The “default card” images of Artemis and Neith used in this post were taken from smite.gamepedia.com.

Oops, I Tripped and Made a Sylvari Revenant

The soundtrack to Heart of Thorns is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed many of Lena Chappelle’s musical themes for quite some time. She also has this rather innocuous habit of “tripping” on Twitter and accidentally shopping or buying delicious coffee. I seem to have inherited this clumsiness as I recently stumbled over a Sylvari motif that I liked well enough to permanently assign it to my Revenant.

This comes as a bit of a surprise to due to the fact that my typical aesthetic sensibilities preclude creating anything other than small-framed humans. I’ve tried to remain attached to a couple of Daikini-sized Norn (of the Warrior and Elementalist variety) who ultimately ended up being reborn as their scrawnier counterparts. Quite boring, you might say.

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The problem is that I’ve exhausted all of the remotely sensible unique Human looks on my eight characters. There were none left for my Revenant. I blew an Experience Scroll on a short-haired Mordremoth-slayer who was heavy on the eye-liner and light on the appeal. I ended up deleting her shortly after creation.

Well, I’ve rectified things. I happened to find a leafy Sylvari figure that I have fallen in love with and will be playing for the forseeable future. She’s got a white theme, like my Human Guardian, with chameleon tendencies: the color of her hair, some variant with “ice” or “snow” in its name, seems to change based on where in the world she finds herself. Her native Caledon Forest brings out a vibrant pink, the snowy climes of Frostreach in Edge of the Mists inspire an equally frosty hue, and the inorganic smoke-boxes of Divinty’s Reach (Humans call them houses) turn her hair a dispirited shade of dull blue.

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Mother and I bear a striking resemblance.

Positively charming. It helps that her running and jumping animations are respectable. She’s able to heft a two-handed hammer with ease. Naturally, she’s wearing a snow-cloaked Ancestral Outfit (rare White dye) that seems to match the shade of her skin – if that’s what you call it – which I’ve left at the default. I could be mistaken, but it’s what you get when you don’t select any skin color for Sylvari. I checked and double-checked: none of the skin colors on the creation screen were highlighted. It seems that choosing nothing was the best choice of all for my purposes.

I’ve been doing whatever I want, which in this case means going for an extended stroll in Edge of the Mists and using Ventari’s tablet to heal all of my group members. It seems to be rather effective, particularly in engagements against enemy players. Tablet, go here and do these restorative things while I blast every field in sight with my two-handed hammer skills and my ranged autoattack plinks away at my target. Switch out to staff for mobility and melee heals as needed. Swap over to Jalis for a self-heal and defensive abilities when I’m taking damage. Tier 5 Ram Mastery to throw up Iron Hide on the group (50% damage taken) and start pounding away at doors the second our siege are built.

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I’m playing a healer in Guild Wars 2 and you can’t stop me.

It helps that WvW ranks now award chests which contain random Hero Point completion tokens, although purists probably still scoff at the use of EotM and WvW in the same context. Even so, I may decide to bench my Revenant and level her passively using Tomes of Knowledge as I have been doing for my other characters. I can’t be bothered to do much more active leveling for its own sake. I have no qualms about “hothousing” my characters in the open world until such time as they need to strike out into parts removed for this world boss or that resource node.

I do all of my completionism-type stuff on my Chronomancer, anyhow. She’s out map-completing Verdant Brink and idly exploring the endless staircases of the Exalted City in Auric Basin. I’m presuming you’ve read the existing blogging literature on Heart of Thorns by the Holy Trinity (Bhagpuss, Jeromai, Ravious). This storyteller has no stories to add. Maybe later. In the meantime, I have randoms to heal and inventories to mismanage. Happy trails.