We now have some of the facts about the new Ascended tier of items. I joined in yesterday morning’s fan rage but at the end of the day–literally and figuratively in this case–my reaction and those like it were uncalled for regardless of how good or bad the change is. I could make excuses for my behavior–I hadn’t had coffee yet–but I digress. There is still much to talk about.
Given how the story and details were broken, I can’t help but feel ArenaNet was (unintentionally, I hope) inviting angry reactions like mine. Massively and MMORPG.com‘s articles only had vague details about “better than exotic” and “even more powerful” that revealed the existence of new high-level items, but didn’t provide enough detail to prevent pessimistic imaginations from running wild. The official blog post came out late last night, assuaging some concerns and proving most of the rage to be unfounded. I don’t keep up with MMORPG.com but I have zero doubt in Massively’s reporting ability–if they had the details and were allowed to share them, they would have been in the primer.
Why let the bloggers break the story without all the details? Let them do a proper exclusive and/or preview with an embargo date, or just do the reveal on the official site. I don’t see how riling people up with vague information is helpful to anyone.
But let’s talk about the facts. My biggest gripe with Ascended items is part of a more general one I have with high-end items: dependence on the Mystic Forge. I really feel like ArenaNet cut corners by making the Forge the only way to acquire Legendary items and a major source of exotic weapon skins. A mysterious, imprisoned djinn with apparently infinite resources hanging out in Lion’s Arch is a lazy substitute for having real gameplay and lore behind these badass items and their acquisition. That’s not to say I hate the Forge as a concept–trading in unwanted dyes, special recipes to remove excess items from the economy, holiday recipes, and some armor/weapon stuff is very welcome, but it’s definitely overused as a source of unique weapon skins. Just for starters, why aren’t most of those items available from event chain merchants, crazy old hermits in remote areas, or in dangerous ancient ruins?
As for the numbers in this example: a whopping 3% extra magic find, and +5 to Power and Precision. No big deal at all. I was concerned it would be like the difference between Rare and Exotic, where an Exotic weapon’s entire damage range is above that of an equal-leveled Rare, but that’s just not the case here. We don’t know what the Infusions look like yet, but if it’s built around countering Agony then it largely won’t be relevant outside of the Fractals dungeon, at least at first. Since the Fractals are an infinite dungeon anyway, you will probably need Infusions to be getting the furthest down, but I bet without them you will still be able to have your fun for a few levels and move on.
I think the bigger concern here is that this could be the beginning of a slippery slope of new item tiers above Ascended, forcing people to grind the most recent dungeon in order to keep their loot up to date. I would hate to see Guild Wars go in this direction but I don’t think it is. “Ascended,” “Infusion,” and “Agony“ are Lore Words that any Guild Wars old-timer is familiar with. They all coincide with reaching the endgame, max-level content in the Prophecies storyline.
I think it’s safe to think of Ascended items as a missing link in the rarity chain, one that would have been there at launch if ArenaNet had 20/20 foresight and infinite production capabilities, rather than the first step in a gear ladder.