Southsun Cove was the very first zone added to the game all the way back in November 2012. It opened with the evocative name “The Lost Shores,” a term that still holds true based on how often settlements are overrun by mobs (literal mobs, not just the term) of crazed karka.
Almost no one goes to Southsun Cove, because quite frankly there’s almost nothing to do there. Were it not for the world boss event in the area, it would have at best niche appeal. Considering that it’s supposed to be an endgame area, this is far from ideal.
I’m going to look at where Southsun Cove has come from, the unique place it holds in Guild Wars 2, and what could be done to make it an endgame paradise utterly unlike the Consortium’s plans (like they were ever going to work).
Charting the Shores: How the Cove Came to Be
Trying Something New
The Lost Shores was tagged as a once-in-a-lifetime event, a “show up or you miss it forever” mass extravaganza the likes of which Tyria, and players, had never seen.
And it delivered on the “once in a lifetime” tag. Lag was a deadlier weapon than a karka barrel roll, its sidekick culling slamming a folding chair onto masses of people until they all saw gray. Sure, the lighthouse in Lion’s Arch never did get replaced, and I can visit the rock-encased corpse of the Ancient Karka even now, but that’s not what people remembered.
Throwing aside the growing pains and mistakes long since addressed, the Lost Shores was the game world growing and evolving in almost real time. Players didn’t just land at Southsun Cove, they helped build the first outposts and settlements, taking out the greatest threat to the safety of those just looking for a resort paradise.
Those aspects really hadn’t been done in MMOs before. For the laggy, buggy, glitchy mess that the Lost Shores was, it was a completely different approach to growing the world that carried into the Living World concept (though nothing since then has had that “one time only” feeling).
(Oh, and this little inspector known as Ellen Kiel led the expedition.)
Building the Narrative
Then Southsun Cove sat for over half a year, unchanged from the point the Ancient Karka climbed out of a lava pit to freeze in place forever. So much of the area’s activity had been tied up in the one-time event that with that done there was nothing to do. Sure, there were events on the periphery, but the majority of the area was simply tough to kill mobs scattered about.
But the Flame and Frost arc of the newly-coined Living World had displaced thousands, and those refugees had signed foolish contracts to provide security on a pink-shaded Death World. For the resort the Consortium was still trying to make a reality.
Once again, the narrative was used to build things up that weren’t there before. The map of Southsun straight-up changed, the existing settlements expanding and a brand new one smack dab in the middle of the Ancient Karka’s old stomping grounds.
With a little help from a well-intentioned extremist known as Canach and our ever-intrepid Inspector Ellen Kiel, an actual meta event was added to the area, with a world boss attached. No more would the Death World be a boring place nobody ever went, unless nursing bizarre nostalgia of being run over by a giant crustacean. No, there was a meta event, exclusive merchants tied to its success, and the karka queen herself to keep killing every day.
That didn’t really address the problems with Southsun Cove, though. And the Cove has remained untouched since June of 2013, the meta only completed to spawn the queen and everybody vacating these premises a few seconds after looting the boss chest. Those merchants? Full of pointless rewards that would have your penniless Zephyrite survivor looking like Daddy Warbucks in comparison.
One would say that a problem with the Cove is how solo-unfriendly the area is. Veterans abound, each doing masses of damage and conditions at completely different intensity from the rest of the game. Only a teragriff at top speed can outdo a reef drake for time to take player health from 100 to 0.
But I disagree. That’s a unique aspect of the area: the encounters themselves aren’t built to be soloed. Even Orr in its glorious difficult heyday could be soloed with enough skill. Southsun Cove? Mang, you cray-cray. But bring a friend or four and clearing the shores for profit and glory won’t be far behind.
The real problem is that groups have no reason to go there. Why rely on needing to be around others to survive when a player can go to Orr and solo? When they can hit up Dry Top and find people who are already there? When they can join in on the latest push for Breach in Silverwastes?
Southsun Cove occupies the same niche that the other end game areas do, but none of the undeniable reason to go. Orr gets you materials and bags, Dry Top gets you geodes and ambrite weapons, Silverwastes gets you materials, bags, two armor sets and obsidian shards*.
*Okay, seriously. Silverwastes is way too good. Other areas need some buffing.
Going Back to Southsun
I think that Southsun Cove can be fixed to take its rightful place as an endgame paradise Death World where groups are the best way to stay alive and get rewarded.
Building the Narrative Again
Southsun Cove has directly grown and changed based on the movement of the narrative. Few other areas can say that. As such, rather than simply “fixing the area” with an update and letting it be, I think it more appropriate to expand on Southsun’s narrative one more time.
Picture this: the crazed karka aren’t going away, Canach’s bioweapon meddling having mutated beyond our ability to neutralize it. Settlements have gone from wooden stockades to stone structures able to handle the onslaught of the monsters. On the back of this change the settlements have spread into small villages, providing plenty of protection for both the guards and any tourists trying to get their suntan.
Then the karka’s spit turns into vicious acid that eats away at anything it touches. Settlement walls melt after even the most token barrage from the young ones, baring the interior for the older ones to roll in and turn the settlement into melted goo.
Focus the Reason to Go
Filling the Monster Niche
Southsun Cove’s niche is team-based defense against crazed monsters. It’s awfully similar to Silverwastes, but the different movesets can still set it apart. While Mordrem emphasize player movement away from attacks (and trying to avoid accursed immobilization), karka emphasize area denial and positioning.
Acid pools can be made deadly, inflicting a whole host of nasty conditions (poison, torment, crippled, confusion…hey, a new use for Antitoxin Spray!), and veteran karka spew it out in excess. Young karka become miniature tanks, throwing a steady stream of poison-and-torment-laced pain at players.
Wind riders and reef drakes already fill powerful niches, especially as boons like regeneration, protection, and aegis are the best bet players have against the souped-up karka. And nobody wants to get pulled into an acid pool.
Crafting a Different Defense
The defense itself can be based around preemptive removal of the threat. Karka show up at the edge of the settlement and start moving in. Killing them early affords bonus rewards and keeps the settlement safe. Siege weaponry like cannons, ballistas, and arrow carts can help with this effort.
If karka are allowed to reach the walls, they melt them and things get crazy. Siege weapons are destroyed and monsters stream in from multiple directions. Pushing them back out takes longer, but it can be done.
When the karka get pushed out, repairing the walls becomes top priority before the next wave arrives. Yes, this is awfully similar to Silverwastes, but it fits.
If the karka take a settlement, the entire thing becomes the acid pool equivalent of a radioactive wasteland. Approaching the area to clear out the occupants is hard, and when engaged, karka just keep adding more pools to avoid.
The queen still shows up as always, but where changes at seeming random. Whichever settlement she does end up at is at bare minimum losing its walls.
Providing Unique Rewards
The final piece of endgame areas has been unique rewards to work toward. Southsun Cove presently has none, all of the unique skins either attached to Living World Season 1 rewards, or part of the gemstore-based Sclerite weapon set.
Sclerite has been out for so long it’s not even available outside the Trading Post. And yet…they’re the perfect sort of reward to give for Southsun Cove-based mastery. A themed weapon set related to the Cove itself. For sake of not needing to make even more assets, I suggest Sclerite be added as the unique long-term reward*.
*Yes, I realize that’ll cause all manner of new precedent since every single Black Lion skin has been fully separated from in-game content. Unlikely to happen, but I consider it simpler than trying to craft another set of weapons.
All of this can be provided through a new unique currency attached to event rewards for defending or retaking settlements. The reward mechanism already exists in Dry Top and Silverwastes.
Reason to Stay
The longer a settlement is defended, the tougher the enemies get and the greater the reward for protecting them. Unlike Silverwastes, karka spawn in fixed numbers, with some time separation to prevent a complete mob of doom. Escalating the numbers further and further until failure is inevitable will add a different element to the defense as players try to pull off the impossible more and more.
In addition to more of the unique currency, magic find and quality of loot should increase at higher levels of defense. A settlement that has weathered 10 assaults should be on another level of difficulty and reward from one that was just retaken.
Southsun Cove holds a unique niche, both in the narrative of Guild Wars 2 and with its enemies. At current, that niche has to contend with the fact that there’s no reason to stay at the Cove when the karka queen isn’t up for killing.
I believe with some work done to change the meta event once more, the area could join its endgame brethren as a unique place to go to experience challenge and grand-scale reward. That is, if players don’t get rolled over first.