Friday, November 30, 2007

BMP Grand Prix: Saul and the Rise of the White Mantle

As I expected it took less than 12 hours for detailed walkthroughs to go up on the wikis. All except the one I really need, of course - Turai's mission gives a frensigger like me fits. But even though it's rather unnecessary I'm still going to go through with this series and detail my trips through the bonus mission pack.

Okay, so the deal is this. Saul's staff is a Monk's. Togo's is a Ritualist's. Turai gives you a sword and shield so, yeah, Warrior. And Gwen's going to be a little Mesmer. I'm guessing that's going to be the flavor of each mission. Since I've been playing a Monk a lot lately, I went with Saul, founder of the White Mantle for my first run. Boy, was I mistaken but we'll get to that in a while.

It's about Saul, obviously, and how he leads his followers to battle back the Charr when they tried to invade Kryta with one, final suicide mission. Sounds promising.

You start off with Saul overlooking your ragtag army. He looks nothing like I imagined him, be rather scruffy and, well, white. I always pictured him as a black dude or at least Kytan caramelly colored, kinda Brazillian thing. The perils of filling in backstory that I've already thought about, I guess. He does sport a huge White Mantle cape, though.

Saul's bar is a Monk/Mesmer one heavy on the signets. Oh, I knew I was in trouble when I saw it was a Smiting staff. It also features a few brand new skills which kinda defeats the point a little if you ask me but, hey, whatever.

You'll have 550 health and 50 energy to work with. And since you can't look at your stats, a little detective work reveals that you have 16 Smiting, 10 Inspiration, and 2 Domination.

He's got Castigation Signet, Bane Signet, and Unnatural Signet. Along with Mantra of Inscriptions so at least the designers aren't high on the supercool. Then the special skills kick in. He has Banner of the Unseen, Form Up and Advance!, and his elite is called Signet of the Unseen.

Banner of the Unseen. Ward Spell. 15en, 1cast, 10recharge. Create a Banner of the Unseen at your location. For 5 seconds, all allies in its area are healed for 25 Health each second. When this spell ends, all allies in its area are healed for 100.

Form Up and Advance! Shout. 10en, 15recharge. All Saul's trusted White Mantle followers fall back to your location and run 33% faster. For 10 seconds, all moving allies are healed for 15 Health each second.
Signet of the Unseen. Elite Signet. 1cast, 7recharge. Target foe and all nearby foes take 80 damage and are knocked down. If any of those foes are summoned creatures, those foes begin Burning for 6 seconds.

Those skills don't have any variables but since you can't mess with your stats, it doesn't matter.

Okay, so the Ward is a cheesy kind of Heal Party and probably what you're going to have to rely on for healing. It's 225 health over 5 seconds across whoever's in the ward so that's not bad.

The Shout is super-Fall Back! It's also going to act as a way of controlling the NPC army you spawn with.

And I'm going to learn to love Unseen Sig since that's super-Judgment on an insane cooldown with MoI up. Damage seems to be affected by armor, though. Oh wait, no, I'm wrong. It's holy damage. What I'm seeing is that it sometimes doubles against the undead.

Yes, that's only 7 skills, I imagine you either get one along the way or you do without.

Anyhow, you start off in a little path just in front of a Krytan village besieged by mid-level (ie lv15~18 Charr). The map says this takes place somewhere north of Beetletun. Along with you are some White Mantle troops - the usual smattering of Knights along with some named NPCs. As soon as you move the town is attacked and you're forced to defend the villagers as those named NPCs (Including old pals Habilion and Dorian) become allies forming an eight person party. They range from lv16~18 themselves and include two Warriors, a Ranger, an Elementalist, A Necro, a Mesmer, and a Monk (Who actually has healing spells, not the lame sig stuff I'm running.).

Since Dorian's the only Monk and I have to rely on running around and placing wards to heal anyone we get hammered pretty badly. After a certain point I stopped worrying about healing and concentrated on blasting away since massive AoE damage is fun. A few in my party get killed but they're rezzed up quickly once the Charr are dispatched.

Okay, now that I have time to see what I'm doing here, the quest log tells me I'm going to earn a whopping 500 gold for this (Along with that perfect weapon. Um...yay?) and that I need to let people say their goodbyes and gather by the gates. There's also a little meter on my screen now that says Charr alert level. It is empty and not moving so I'm taking my sweet time and typing this all up.

In the village are various bombs you can pick up. Rations will restore nearby allies for 100 Health. While Explosive will deal 100 damage to nearby enemies. The Barbed Bomb will do 100 damage, as well, and also cause bleeding for 5 seconds. 5 seconds? Really? While the Stun Bomb will knock them down. And the Balm Bomb will remove 3 conditions from adjacent allies. They all have an infinite supply but the only problem is that you have no weapon swap which is how I usually handle getting rid of a bundle. My "Drop Item" icon is burried under so much stuff I don't even know where it is in my UI and it's the only way to get rid of the things. Little detail but still annoys me. I've had to do some tweaking because I think these things might come in handy. Since I already do a ton of damage and can't heal worth a damn, I'm taking the Rations.

Once I finish mucking around with pots, I head to the gate where the NPCs I remember from Prophesies are patiently waiting while their wise, holy, and most sacred leader who's going to lead them to salvation as the world ends is acting like a time-wasting moron. Just like good little AI. We head out the door, the rest of the group in tow have got to be kidding me.

Apparently the point of this mission is to skulk around avoiding combat because the more Charr you kill, the higher the alert level rises and when it's full bad things happen. Freaking Krytan stealth missions. I want to kill things with my uber-sigs.

Ugh. Well, I have to head to the back of the camp and kill the Charr leaders so maybe there'll be a little combat to sate my bloodlust. I, though, have no idea where I'm going since there are no green arrows to guide me.

Super-shout does make for quick and easy travel, though.

Oh, good, as I explore further, running from all red dots like they'll give me some kind of horrid pox, there's some dialog telling me where to go. Thanks game. It'd be better if the path was, you know, actually readily apparent but at least I'm not stumbling around completely lost now.

It also says I need ot hurry because dawn's approaching. Ha, yeah, I'll take my sweet time, thanks because that's not actually happening until I get to the right trigger.

Still running and hidding like a punk. Managed to elude all the patrols so far.

Ran into the first patrol I couldn't avoid. Only six or eight enemies - including a lv28 Charr Beast ele thing that just...wouldn't...die. And now my Alert level's almost full.

The stealth portions are almost comically easy. I imagine someone will post a map/guide soon enough and better than I ever could but, in general, you want to veer right and if the game puts a deadend little niche in your path it's probably a good idea to duck in there until the oncoming patrol passes.

Found the camp, now to avoid the patrols while I get to the back and find the Titan effigy the bosses are around.

There are three of them. Gathered, alone, in fron of one of those wooden flaming deals that old school Charr are so found of. There's a Necro, a Ranger, and a Warrior. Not that it really matters. They die easily enough.

Killing two of them fills my Alert meter. Killing the third triggers a cutscene where the Murssaat gate in and I'm still rocking my huge barrel like I'm headed to the worst kegger ever.

And then my frat brothers show up for some hazing. Evil hazing.

Now, I get three new Mursaat allies including Optimus Caliph, twee! He's an Ele, the other two are also Proph bosses, a Mes and a Necro but I remember Optimus because a) the name. And b) he's a tough son of bitch to put down. We're squared off against the Charr army gathered before us to block our way.

I also get to rock Spectral Agony now. It's that mysterious 8th skill I lacked at the start. Unfortunately it's not the ultra mega, instant death version the Mursaat get. Although still very nasty.

Spectral Agony. Hex Spell. 5en, 1cast, 8recharge. For 5 seconds, target foe moves, attacks, and uses skills 80% slower, suffer 4 Health degeneration, and loses 80 Health each second.

Now we have to survive against 4 warbands. I'm jinxing myself but so far it's pretty easy. It doesn't hurt that my dead allies will revive when there aren't any more enemies near.

3 down now. So far my winning strategy consists of standing in the healing wards and spiking the hell out of everything that comes in range. There are many things to call this but compelling gameplay is not one of them.

Stupid internet connection conked out on me right in the middle of the final wave and now I have to start all over again. That sound you don't here is me swearing profusely. I've been having little hiccups all day - sort of a "yeah, you're connected, whoops, now you're not, ha ha! Ah, just fucking around with you." kind of thing - and I came back from one to find myself wiped out. Lag 1, Rex 0. Fun.

Still, it's not exactly long or hard, especially if you're not pausing to gaze at your navel.

The trick to the "survive the onslaught" portion, I think, is to let the Mursaat tank for you. They have Spectral and a ton of armor and health, it seems so you want them to take the brunt of the damage while you hang back and use Form Up! as needed to draw your forces back to the saftey of your wards (There's your healing stuff but your Ele also uses Elements, too.) as needed (The Murssat, not being White Mantle don't listen to it.). The high priority Charr are the various Ash ones since they're Orders spammers who'll summon minions from the plentiful corpses. Or they're annoying Rits. And the Sootreigners since they'll drop Firestorms on your head. Basically, you want all the casters dead. The Charr Beasts are annoying PBAoE guys but they're also well armored tanks. You can't spike them out quick so focus on downing the easier prey and put a Spectral up on them.

Okay, finally back to the point I was before and, yes, where I dropped was in fact the last wave to deal with. So aggravating. Cutscene rolls as scores of White Mantle pour in. After the battle is over. Freaking useless White Mantle.

And, uh, spoiler alert but the Mursaat? They're not really nice people after all.

Back to Durmond I go. As promised, you can "authorize" the book which prevents you from trading it, I guess. I could care less about a perfect rare weapon at this point so it's not much use to me. As promised, though, you can replay the mission (Same exact way as the last time, there's no special button or anything) and unlock "discoveries". So, it's Prhopehesies mission bonuses all over again. I'm going to leave that for later though (Although a quick run through seems to indicate they won't be so hard to figure out as the game prompts you with "historical points of debate". For example, I got one asking if Saul could have saved the villagers in the attack on the village. Hmmm...wonder what that could be implying?)

Now, if you'll excuse me, time for some of my thoughts as a review. Not exactly hard although a mite more difficult than I feared. Surviving the waves of attacking Charr isn't quite effortless but it's not exactly going to tax you, either. I wasn't really trying the first time and if it hadn't been for a faulty connection, I would have had it. No troubles the second time around. My main problem with this mission, though, is that I really, really hate stealth elements. I have all these neat toys for killing and I have to skulk around avoiding combat? Lame. Overall, though, a nice little mission that's only whet my appetite for more.

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