Friday, November 30, 2007

Guild Wars: The Bonus Pack is Here!

The Bonus Mission Pack went live some time this evening. I dove in headfirst as soon as I noticed. Although I haven't played everything through just yet, I have dabbled in all the bonus missions enough to get a sense of them. I smell a new series to dribble out slowly over the coming days (Even though I should really get around to posting the last of the Dungeon Dives first, eh?).

You can read the details yourself at the official site but the basic idea is that there's a new group of NPCs in the major cities (ie LA, Kamadan, and Kaineng.). There's Durmand, the Historian. Talk to him and you get access to the bonus missions. He'll give you one of four books as well as some weapons for most. Saul's and Togo's come with staves, a smiting and channeling one respectively, while Turai's with a sword and shield combo. They're all max damage but lack any sort of mods. Gwen's tale is the only one to come without a weapon of some sort (I haven't managed to get the elite quests that she adds done yet so I don't know if there's any bonus for bringing the Rose Focus, say.).

To get to the missions you need to open one of the books he gives you. They give some background along with some awesome looking artwork (Really like the Togo book, best of all, but they're all bang-up jobs. Great to see that sort of thing since the game's always had strong concept art.) and an annoyingly ominous voiceover along with our old friend the enter mission button, provided you've equipped the proper weapon first.

When you're in the mission you'll be under a disguise, transforming you into the main character and fixing your stats and skills. You won't be able to adjust your attributes, in fact, if you open up your skill panel you won't even see them. Same thing goes for your inventory - can't open it at all, no bags, no armor, no nothing - and Hero tabs. You also have no weapon set bubbles and can't swap your weapon, even to an empty set if you wanted to, say, dump some energy. But there are also no drops of any sort to collect so it really doesn't matter much.

In each mission you'll be handed a preselected skill bar. Just what depends on the mission at hand, of course, as do your new health and energy stats but they all include some specially made, big Timmy skills for you to play around with. You'll be on a quest that you can look up in your log but it's of the instanced type and, if you're killed, you'll be returned to the outpost you were at (It doesn't matter where you start from once you have the books and gear) to try again. If you win, you'll get 500 gold and some book pages.

The books work like the Dungeon Master's Guide and Player's Handbook from GW:EN in that they have missing pages you'll fill in by completing the mission. Then, you can talk to Durmond again and get them authorized. Once that's done you can take them to the [Scribe] NPCs nearby. There are four, one for each book, and there you can select from an assortment of rare weapons with unique skins. They're collector weapons which means perfect stats but no mods of any sort. The skins, as far as I can tell, are brand new and not repeats. Personally, I'm one of those "Yeah, it looks nice but what are the stats?" kind of players so I couldn't tell you if they look nice or not.

Also, once you've completed the mission (And, note, not after you've authorized. You don't have to turn your book in for your stamp of approval first.) you unlock Discovery Mode which means you can head back in and try to accomplish some bonus goals. Something like Prophesies mission bonuses, basically. I haven't bothered to do it myself but, from what I've heard, they involve some extra challenge and at least one in every mission is related to how quickly you can beat it, like Factions. You get more gold for beating those.

As I said earlier, I've tried all the missions by now. Saul's a signet smiter with some sweet overpowered stuff. You do some stealth stuff and then it's a survive the onslaught deal witht he Mursaat at your side - and, yes, you do get to use Spectral although you don't start off with it. Young Togo (Who still looks, like, 45.) gets to star in his own Hong Kong action movie with some assists from the Tengu. He's a solid spirit spammer with some eye-popping tricks. The Unghostly hero is a bug stomper as you romp around the desert destroying undead with a ton of hit points and armor (But, no Monk. And, worse, no run buff.) and some big damage skills leading up to a fight with Palawa. Finally, Gwen starts her off with only four skills and all of them related to sneaking around and hiding from the enemy. Her stage is all about escaping from the Charr.

Here are the bars you start off with:

Saul (550hp, 40en)

  • Smiting Prayers 16
  • Inspiration Magic 10
  • Domination Magic 2
  • Signet of the Unseen {E} (unique)
  • Castigation Signet
  • Bane Signet
  • Unnatural Signet
  • Blank
  • Banner of the Unseen (unique)
  • Mantra of Inscriptions
  • Form Up and Advance! (unique)

Smiting Staff (en+10, halves recharge 20%)

Togo (550hp, 40en)
  • Channeling 14
  • Communing 11
  • Restoration 10
  • Call to the Spirit Realm (unique)
  • Essence Strike
  • Spirit Burn
  • Spirit Rift
  • Mend Body and Soul
  • Offering of Spirit {E}
  • Disenchantment
  • Dragon Empire Rage (unique)

Channeling Staff (en+10, halves recharge 20%)

Turai (700hp, 25en)
  • Strength 11
  • Swordsmanship 14?
  • Tactics 14
  • For Elona! (unique)
  • Dragon Slash {E}
  • Whirlwind Attack (sunspear)
  • Distracting Blow
  • For Great Justice!
  • Endure Pain
  • Healing Signet
  • Giant Stomp (monster)

Sword (15~22)
Tactics shield (AL 16)

Gwen (300hp, 20en)
  • Domination Magic 10~12?
  • Illusion Magic 12
  • Flee (unique)
  • Throw Rock (unique)
  • Hide (unique)
  • Feign Death (unique)
  • Blank
  • Blank
  • Blank
  • Blank

Of the four, I've beaten Saul and Gwen. Came close with Togo but I nubbed it when I attacked when I should have healed. Turai I was just trying to see how far I could get with my rambo impression. Turns out the answer is: pretty far. Playing it for real I think I need to slow down, realize I don't have a healer, and be a bit smarter about when I Sig up or Endure out. I got a bit caught up with the Godzilla act as I stomped on the undead swarm. It's probably going to be the hardest for me because of my natural C+Space tendencies.

Gwen's, on the other hand, is depressingly easy. Once you figure out the trick at the beginning that I'm not going to spoil, anyway, it was just a fairly straight forward run.

But, of the four, I think Togo's is my favorite. It's got a great kung fu, action movie vibe to it with just the right touches of humor and lore blended together. I suck at playing a spirit farmer, hate the very concept, but it doesn't even matter.

Overall, though, it's definitely not worth buying. Not that you can, but it's no more than $5~10 worth of content, if that. The missions are short, but sweet. There don't seem to be any major rewards for them, either. It'll keep me occupied this weekend, I think, and maybe a bit longer depending on whether I want to track down all the discoveries (At this point, it really depends on what the rewards are. I'm not going through all that effort of replaying them unless there's something worthwhile for my troubles. And that needs to be better than the rewards for mission bonuses, I think.).

But they don't, for me anyway, add much to the story. They don't explore the interest parts of the lore and the parts they do are ones that I'd have imagined better than they actually play out anyway - the whole Saul thing, for example, is just jarring. We don't get to see how he meets the Mursaat initially or why they choose to help him. And the outcome doesn't reveal anything that someone who's played through Prophesies wouldn't know (Although it does set up a return, down the line that might pay off... One day.) I don't get the point. Or the Turai mission. It tries to recreate the middle of a pitched, massive war but Guild Wars just doesn't scale up well and it shows.

Don't get me wrong, the missions are worth playing through if only for the novelty. And as an added bonus on top of things you've already bought, they're priced right. They're certainly an interesting use of the game's engine and one I wouldn't mind seeing more of some how, some way. I mean, I'd rather have the Costume Brawl back but this is the sort of thing you could fob off on a neophyte quest designer or three looking to climb up the ladder and then release every so often as a way of refreshing content and interest. Makes a good model for tutorial style content in GW2 as well. But if they ever offer a retail version of this, I'd definitely pass unless they sweetened the deal a lot more.

No comments: