There has been a lot of talk and speculation with "Ascended" gear to be introduced with this month's major content release, the Lost Shores. I've been waiting to do a good review and bad review to share my thoughts on Guild Wars 2 as a whole, but with these dramatic (dynamic even!) changes, I've felt its hard to see the whole picture.
As with some of my past editorials going on touchy subjects, I always like to remind people to just wait and see what happens. Naturally when something this exciting happens we cannot help but speculate - so I don't blame you either. Much of the latest controversy has been stirred up by the Linsey Murdock's unveil of Ascended Gear posted earlier today. Is the standard we know now is going to be raised? If so some people don't like that. A lot actually, enough to break this thread.
Very briefly (and vaguely) then, we mentioned in the last news post that ascended gear and the condition Agony would be introduced in Guild Wars 2. These two things existed in the original Guild Wars, but the problem is they are actually significantly stronger in stats than exotic armor. Is ArenaNet adding more to the category of "best in slot" items? I don't think so.
The difference in numbers is not huge, but for gamers, it certainly is. Quickly we come to the point of this being another element of grind being introduced, to get those armors, but we have yet to experience it first hand. Is this a cheap treadmill to push character progression just a little further? Murdock had all these key words in her article to keep people at ease, yet it was not until after the unveil that some fans got crazy about it. If you've read up to this point and have no idea of what is going on, then be sure to read the ArenaNet article. Although if you are oblivious to what the problem is exactly that some fans are arguing, then I personally think you don't have to worry - though it doesn't hurt to be informed. I'm confident that things will turn out relatively fine for the game we love.
Going back on the condition "Agony" and then some to Guild Wars 1; ascension was part of story progression, everyone had to go through it in order to fight against the unseen, later to be known as the Mursaat. Although not directly related, whenever I think of Agony now, I recall Spectral Agony used by the Mursaat. You had little chance of surviving unless you highly relied on other people in your party to carry you through. Ascension resulted in infused armor, which would counter that Spectral Agony.
In order to combat this condition new to Guild Wars 2, we see in the example image taken from the article above - ascended armor with a slot for infused defense. So in GW2, ascension means increased stats and the need to find a new sigil of sorts in order to put up with Agony. Without this new edge, players may not include you into their dungeon party if you are behind the gear curve. There's no word that dungeons are getting harder though, so while some players may demand that their PUG members all wear the new shiny Ascended armor, they are forgetting that Guild Wars 2 is intended to be skill based. Who knows what set of stats - or lack thereof - the new "defensive infusion slot" will bring. Existing dungeons are not going to get mobs that spread Agony (right?). So what about the new dungeon that is coming with this November update? Consider it to be a level 90 dungeon, but instead of raising the level cap, we have to wear Ascended armor.
What else did I miss? There's also the matter of how this will effect PvP. I'm not a PvP guy in Guild Wars 2, so let's just wait and see what happens. I don't believe that ArenaNet adds to the game recklessly without thinking things though. Just as I wrote this, looks like ArenaNet has responded.
Ascended gear is not replacing Legendary weapons, but perhaps providing a smoother transition towards getting that legendary many of us want. Without it, we can all agree that the leap from an Exotic weapon to obtaining a Legendary is light years apart for most gamers. With the introduction of Ascended gear though, the stats on Legendary is going to be increased to remain as the very best you can wield. If we consider Ascended gear to be the bridge between Exotic and Legendary now, then the future is definitely a bright one. Precursors (key weapons required forging legendary termed as that) are Exotic tiered. By the sounds of it, Ascended armor is not as unattainable as precursors. This in turn may be the first hint to getting a legendary weapon sooner in new ways. As with all crafting, ArenaNet wants us to discover it for ourselves. Perhaps they did not even expect that any player would forge a Legendary as soon as they did and then had to rush out a video on Legendary items.
Much is yet to been seen of course before we're certain of the ideas here. This actually brings me back to Guild Wars, then Sorrow's Furnace was introduced along with green weapons. No one complained there, or at least it wasn't as loud - though neither was the game compared to Guild Wars 2's massive following. Everything is relative. Thankfully all will be revealed in just a few days from now!