The latest patch for Guild Wars 2 delivered two important changes the virtual world of Tyria. Firstly, those with the Gliding mastery from the Heart of Thorns expansion can now use it in the old world maps. Not only is this be a great way to tease F2P and vanilla players into getting the expansion (because let’s be honest, it looks friggin’ cool)  it also gives players the chance to reach new heights outside of the Maguuma Jungle (and by that, I mean to jump off the highest building / mountain and create your own glorious, floating vistas.) However, the second change is something that is relevant to every player regardless of their account type – a revamped Shatterer encounter.

As one of the earliest dragon fights in the game, The Shatterer was my first experience of a large scale fight in Guild Wars 2. The size of the opponent and the number of players involved blew me away, but any sort of challenge dissipated rather quickly thanks to the blindspot on the dragon’s right-hand side. With Tuesday’s patch, the aim was to make that all a thing of the past. The revamped encounter promised to be much more engaging, not just in terms of mobility but in interaction as well. Curious to know if ArenaNet had managed it, I dragged George online for the very first Shatterer run after the patch had been deployed.

And, erm, things didn’t go too well.

Before I get to why that was, let me paint the scene. By the time I had arrived at the Lowland Burns waypoint it was already packed with players eager to take on the revamped encounter. My FPS count was already a lot lower than normal (partly because I hadn’t optimised my setup in ages, but also due to my rig needing a serious upgrade) so I was fearing what would happen once the fighting began. This was inbetween George and I using the launch pads to sail above the players below, because novelty.

Then it all happened – The Shatterer appeared, wiping out the 30+ players who decided to stand in the old “safe zone” in a moment that was both hilarious and horrifying to witness. From that moment on my frame rate took a bit of a dive but didn’t kill my ability to move. “This is good” I thought to myself as I charged towards the dragon, but then another problem struck – latency. It might have been a netcode issue, it might have been the fact almost everyone on the map was in one location at once, but either way it ended up with what I now refer to as “The Shattering of Ping.”

Seriously, it was so bad that the in-game counter read as “0.”

Unable to use any abilities and surrounded by frozen players, I eventually began to rubber-band all over the place. I ultimately began spinning near a turret in a manner that had me convinced I was providing turbine power (note for ArenaNet – make that a feature.) George was failing to resurrect me as we were completely out of sync with each other, and it appeared all hope was lost… but all of a sudden the game caught up, and I was most definitely dead. So, not the greatest of starts.

While George and I remained out of sync until after the fight, I managed to start moving towards the action despite the latency being an issue until The Shatterer finally fell. The reason I’m telling you about this turn of events isn’t to suggest that The Shatterer really does hate your ping, but to highlight how this is one of the only times Guild Wars 2 has suffered from severe latency for me. The only other instance was back when the Karka Queen live event finale happened, which only proves that highly populated areas can bring the game to its knees. Thankfully these moments have been extremely rare throughout the game’s history – even Heart of Thorns’ launch was a smooth affair. But yes, my first encounter with The Shatterer may have been a victory, but it certainly didn’t highlight its revamped mechanics.

The second attempt, however, was a different story. Well, at least it was after I sacrificed myself in the old safe zone.

Thanks to a reduced population due to a new build being deployed moments earlier, George and I finally got to experience The Shatterer’s new mechanics as they were intended. I ran headfirst into the fray, and it became apparent that standing still was never going to be a legitimate tactic. The dragon’s giant claws and fiery breath were a constant threat, but with the inclusion of the break bar, allowing players to stop The Shatterer from taking off, I was doing more than just damaging and dodging.

Meanwhile, George took to the skies on his glider, dropping health on players and bombs on everything else. Not only do the gliders provide a new kind of support role for the fight, but it offers one of the best views of the encounter in action. However, George quickly learned that he wasn’t any safer in the air than I was on the ground. Lightning strikes knocked him out of the sky quite regularly, which meant either instant death at worst or severely low health at best.

Another task players had to deal with was the giant crystals spawned by The Shatterer. Because they are capable of healing the open-world boss, it means almost every player has to stop what they’re doing and bring them down quickly. It’s not just a simple DPS race like the old encounter though, as there is now a break bar on them too. Basically, if ArenaNet’s goal was to create a greater sense of urgency with the fight, they damn well got the job done. However, the most important thing for me is that The Shatterer is now a fun encounter to go to, no matter which role you throw yourself in.

It’s worth noting though that while the fight is more action packed than before, ArenaNet haven’t really bumped up the difficulty. Players expecting Tequatl levels of pain will be disappointed by this, but I’d counter that doing so would have removed the whole point of the Shatterer being an introduction to large-scale encounters. Those after a greater challenge can find that in the Fractals, or by heading into the HoT raids (and let’s not forget that Tequatl is still causing havoc every 3 hours or so.) At any rate, I’m enjoying the revamped encounter, and I very much plan on getting all the achievements for it. With the old world mastery progression system to work towards as well, I expect I’ll have plenty of reason to keep playing until Season 3 of the Living World arrives.

Don’t forget – Guild Wars 2 can be played for free, and includes all old world including the revamped Shatterer encounter. Head over to the official website for more details. You can read our review for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns here.