Shock and Awe: The Shatterer 2.0

When my boyfriend bought Guild Wars 2 in 2012 for us to play while at our respective schools, I was hesitant: MMOs and I had gotten on in a forget-everything-else-that-matters way in the past, so mid-college didn’t seem like the best time to get sucked in. However, Guild Wars 2 was engaging, the community was delightful, and the classes were entertaining and full of sparkly particle effects (I can really get behind some sparkles).

But what really clinched it for me was the first time we encountered The Shatterer. While exploring Blazeridge Steppes, he and I were suddenly encouraged via map chat to stand at Lowland Burns Waypoint “and wait, you’ll see.” Even with my old laptop’s potato graphics, the first time we saw a giant purple dragon landing menacingly in front of our characters was breathtaking. What a sight! What a dynamic event!

All that stood between us and ruin was one dragon's peripheral vision. Photo courtesy of Halteclayre.

All that stood between us and ruin was one dragon’s peripheral vision. Photo courtesy of Halteclayre.

While that moment really sealed my unending affection for the game, as time went on the battle itself became less thrilling and more of a stale, stack-and-slash errand: Something I did when I needed gold or gear or just happened to be nearby. After a while, Kralkatorrik’s champion felt like another great idea in theory whose execution suffered from easily exploited mechanics, and that was no good. At some point, I picked up the achievement for freeing people from crystals, but it was sheer luck: Somehow, The Shatterer had avoided permablind that time.

When ArenaNet announced that The Shatterer would be following in the steps of Tequatl by becoming the next revamped world boss, I was thrilled that players could rekindle or begin their love for the crystalline dragon while learning new mechanics. All we had to do was wait.

The Shatterer 2.0

When you don't know what's going to happen, the best course of action is to use all of your skills at once. Photo courtesy of Halteclayre.

When you don’t know what’s going to happen, the best course of action is to use all of your skills at once. Photo courtesy of Halteclayre.

Coincidentally, I was snowed in on patch day (thanks, Winter Storm Jonas) and got into a Blazeridge map about two hours before the first scheduled post-patch Shatterer. The map was packed and the excitement was palpable through map and say chat: Developers and guilds mingled, joked, and formed a tiny quaggan army as people dropped bobblehead labs, merchants, and banners well before their usefulness could possibly kick in.

As a whole, Blazeridge appeared unchanged except for the addition of launch pads right next to the waypoint which propelled toons into the sky so they could glide. The only complaint players had before the fight? The Shatterer does not merit a Guild World Event, limiting the fight and its pre-events to the pre-determined world boss schedule. The two pre-events for Kralkatorrik’s Legacy, an escort and a collection, remain unchanged, though the new general option “Show All Usable Objects” makes the collection exponentially easier on pinkies used to mashing the CTRL key.

At the urging of the developers among us, the map made a collective decision to start the fight in the old stack spot, a collection of jagged rocks next to the dragon’s right claws. We immediately died when the dragon landed, simultaneously earning the Burns Blunder achievement.

It was totally worth it.

From there, the only way to describe the fight would be chaotic. During the battle, you can fight the improved branded, who hit like trucks and spawn like rabbits. The new enemy branded lieutenants are no joke, requiring stun breaks and condition removal like a scaled-down version of fighting mobs in the Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns maps. Many a character died fighting The Shatterer by accidentally aggroing a series of beefed-up mobs without rhyme or reason.

Players can also operate turrets and mortars from the battle’s perimeter, assisting with AoE where the branded are heavily concentrated while laying down suppression fire on the dragon and its mobs. Thanks to the new ground targeting feature, assistance was only a few button clicks away as the readjustments to a turret’s firing location are now automatic.

The Shatterer probably preparing Focused Lightning. Photo courtesy of Halteclayre.

The Shatterer probably preparing Focused Lightning. Photo courtesy of Halteclayre.

Perhaps the most complicated new mechanic of the fight is being able to launch yourself into the sky to divebomb The Shatterer (or, alternately, spew regenerative med packs at the ground fighters). Catapulting into the sky and tossing bombs or med packs at people was definitely the most interesting and new thing to do during the encounter. However, this can be perilous since The Shatterer can attack gliders with Focused Lightning, potentially killing the gliding and a now-plummeting player. Being airborne doesn’t leave players immune to his crystallizing attack, either. As ArenaNet’s own preview of the improved encounter said, “Crystals are not aerodynamic.”

A remastered version of the Pulsating Crystal Nodes occurs every time the dragon’s defiance bar fills, potentially yielding a massive amount of health for The Shatterer if players fail to break the nodes’ own defiance bars and sap their health. My first fight with The Shatterer knocked him out within nine minutes, with only one instance of the Pulsating Crystal Nodes. A second attempt the day after the patch dropped took just a few minutes longer, with two rounds of Punch the Crystals.

How does it hold up?

Loot-wise, the fight yields pretty standard fare other than the increase in rare gear drops from one to two. The revamped encounter also comes with 11 achievements: Grabbing 10 of those leads to the meta reward: a shiny crystalline backpiece with exotic berserker stats. I went into the event without looking for the various achievement conditions, mostly because I wanted to see what I could pick up without specifically aiming for it.

You only need 10 of the achievements to achieve the meta and gain the backpiece.

Some of the new achievements for fighting The Shatterer.

Oh, I also got an achievement chest. Cool.

Loot from The Shatterer.

It’s clear that ArenaNet wanted to encourage both teamwork and replayability, as the majority of achievements — using a mortar/turret/jump pad, dropping med kits on players, killing 100 branded — can progress with just about any map, organized or otherwise, victory or loss. In fact, ArenaNet’s Andrew Gray, one of the game designers behind The Shatterer 2.0, said as much in the Guild Wars 2 subreddit on patch day.

“We want players coordinating with only map chat, with strangers, to be able to complete the event,” wrote Gray, /u/AnetFrosty. “That said, some of the achievements, like the ‘Smash the Dragon’ one (complete The Shatterer event without him ever taking off IE break him every time his break bar activates) will take more coordination. It is harder to break him than it is to kill him. It is damn harder to break him every time than it is to kill him.”

While I was excited to see a new Shatterer à la Tequatl, I never expected or hoped it would be just as complicated as that fight. Not only are the zones vastly different in scale and level (remember, Blazeridge is a 40-50 zone), but ArenaNet’s objective in adjusting the encounter takes some of the concepts used in Tequatl’s revamp and expands upon them. The new Shatterer fight encourages replayability, but can be reasonably completed by ‘X’ number of strangers who happen upon the event. That replayability especially comes in handy for achievement hunters, who cannot score all 11 new achievements in one go, something notably different from an organized Tequatl run.

Gray confirmed as much when discussing ArenaNet’s reasoning behind the revamped fight in an episode of Guild Chat, along with game designers McKenna Berdrow and Sean Hughes (segment begins around the 19:35 mark): “We already have plenty of world bosses that are … mainly, that you need really an organized map group or an organized guild group to beat. And since this is a 40-50 zone, we wanted there to be challenging aspects of it, but we didn’t want you to feel like ‘Oh, there’s not 50 people here, we might as well not even try, we’re not going to beat him.’”

Then it’s the little things, like the nearest waypoint not becoming contested when the fight starts, a huge relief; forcing players to run from Brokentooth Maw or Kindling and farther would’ve been cruel and a likely deterrent for players who aren’t invested in playing content that arbitrarily penalizes them for taking a wrong step into an AoE attack, or failing to dodge a lightning strike. It’s a serious step in a positively trending direction for ArenaNet, leaving them at a current streak of 2-0 on revamped world bosses, and one I look forward to watching continue. After all, every player should have that moment of awe and wonder as they gaze upon The Shatterer’s jagged, crystalline visage. . . right before it shoots lightning at their faces.

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