For those who haven't yet had the opportunity to check this instance out, this week will guide you through the nuts and bolts of it. And for those who just want to maximize their experience, I will toss in a few tips and tricks to zip you through.
Are you up to the challenge? Zone in past the cut to begin!
The Challenge joins Haramel's, Kromede's Trial, and Taloc's Hollow as the only instances where a Deava can get something done without needing to group. And just like the Kromede's and Taloc's speed runs (I can't answer for Haramel's yet, but look for a guide really soon!), the Challenge can be zipped through in little time... especially compared to the group version! One Spirit Master I know took her time during her first run and completed all six stages in just 15 minutes -- and that was after stopping to chat with friends (including giving me a run-down of her adventures inside). I also found it to be a breeze while on my Cleric: Sans potions and scrolls, it took me just 20 minutes. However, for faster runs, buff up with food and scrolls and use your potions to avoid resting.
One annoying point due to the short duration of the instance is that SM pets despawn at every stage, so don't mistakenly call your tempest out early to try to race through faster; you will just lose it in a matter of moments! The same holds true for benevolence-specced Clerics; be mindful about when you call your healing servant or you will lose it when you actually want it. This is kind of crazy, since vanity pets remain called and move between stages!
If you want insignias for even less time and effort, you can just pull a kamikaze death run in the first round and walk away with 120. It may not be a lot, but it's better than nothing when you realize you never did the instance about two minutes before server maintenance!
Enter, stage left
Most stages have two rounds, although stages two and five have only one round and their respective bonus rounds. Stage four also boasts a bonus round. While the bonus rounds will be covered in detail later, here is a quick run-down of what you will face:
One: In this stage you face vegetation. Round one brings feisty flowers (Maladors), and round two sets a tree upon you. If you stand near the edge of the arena while killing the flowers, you will avoid aggroing all of them at once. In round two, if you kill the tree quickly, you can avoid his little sapling add. At the conclusion of this stage, you get the treasure chest containing a worthiness ticket (most likely to be used by poor squishy Assassins).
Two: In this stage you can get one of two different encounters -- birds or Kerubs. In either case, the mobs will fight amongst themselves if you just let them be for a bit. Although it adds more time, you can just sit back and let them beat each other down a bit to make your task easier. Even once you engage, you will find that their attention remains on each other for a short bit. Stage two ends with the bonus round that offers the poppy snack upon success (see below).
Three: Standing in round one with either a pack of ravenous Kurin or Wind Spirits may look daunting, but there is no need to try and take them all on at once -- make a beeline for that barrel and give it a whack! The beasts will turn their attention to the food, and you can pick them off one at a time. When the food disappears, a new barrel will appear, so rinse and repeat. After a bit of time, any mobs left will despawn and you will face a larger single target.
Hint: Don't feel secure when this foe drops because round two comes next with Fiery Gomju; don't misjudge like I did and start the fight with only a few HP. This fuzzball is an easy enough mob, just plan for his damage shield at 50%. Although none of your damage will get through, any DoTs you get on him beforehand will still tick away. Another hint is that this mob won't attack at all while his shield is up, so it's best to go ahead and turn your attention to the two minions he spawns.
Four: In a nod to the older members of the solo instance family, both rounds of stage four follow a theme of either Haramel's or Kromede's Trial. Personally, I found the library a more attractive backdrop! In both cases, the first round brings four enemies (three regular and one "boss") spaced out in a line. You can easily grab one at a time to avoid taking all at once. Then for round two you face the end boss of the corresponding instance. These bosses use roughly the same skills as they do in the instances. This stage also finishes up with a bonus round, an easy-peasy one at that!
Five: Like stage seven of its group-minded cousin, stage five is where the difficulty amps up a bit. Another similarity: In round one, you face one of the four class skill trainers (though thankfully not all!). And just as in the Empyrean Crucible, the trainers will employ tricks from both classes in the fight. The one main exception is that the scout preceptor actually takes on the role of a Ranger and fights from a distance with his bow instead of slashing like an Assassin. Be sure to watch for the specials at 50% for each.
Round two will bring one of three opponents: The Godstone Tuner, the broker Shugo, or the warehouse NPC. The Challenge obviously has a thing for the 50% mark as each NPC will unleash a special at this point. The latter two will actually heal themselves back to 50% if they are not killed fast enough.
Six: And finally, the finale. This stage completes the Challenge and offers the hidden bonus round -- for those who qualify -- that tempts Daevas with the chance of godstones (more below). Here, a Daeva must simply defeat one large boss, Vanktrist SpaceTwine. If you haven't made it to the end of the Empyrean Crucible, now is your chance to see what that boss looks like, although this one is smaller and (thankfully) weaker. If you can just power through this guy, you don't need to worry about the little adds he summons, which, by the way, are hard to see because they hide under him. Still, but Assassins especially may want to give each a couple of hits to knock them down.
So you have gotten yourself a Runaway Poppy and are hoping for a platinum medal. The first of the bonus rounds, coming at the end of stage two, is the only chance in the game to get a poppy snack to feed it. To acquire one of the three snacks, you just have to keep the Dukaki cooks from killing the porgus as he runs around. Here is an easy trick: Since the Dukakis don't hit extremely hard, just make sure to hit each one as it spawns to switch aggro from the porgus to you. A bonus for Priests is that you can also toss heals on the porgus (unfortunately, other classes can't force-feed it life potions). You don't necessarily have to defeat all of the cooks either -- just keep the porgus alive until the timer runs out. Although I hear tell of the rare healing boost manastones being offered as presents, I have yet to be "gifted" anything other than elemental stones. *sad face*
Pick a box, any box
The bonus at the end of stage four is the first -- and only -- bonus that doesn't have to involve fighting... although you will hope it does! You are given the chance to choose one of three treasure chests. Pick well and you will fight a little critter and have the chance to pick again. Pick correctly all three times and you walk away with 250 insignias with relatively no work. Pick wrong in the first round and you get either one or 10 insignias; a wrong choice in the second is between two or 18; and a poor choice the third time is either three or 26. Good luck!
Gimme the godstones
Now, we all know that getting some easy crucible insignias is good, but the real lust is for the godstones! It is important to note that the godstones that can be acquired, however, are not the same ones as those found as drops out in the world or as rewards from the PvP quests. The main difference is that the duration of the effect is reduced to 60-80% of the regular godstones. For example, when a silence godstone procs, it lasts for 8 seconds, but the new crucible godstone proc lasts for only 5 seconds. The good news is that the proc rate remains the same.
So how do you get a chance at these goodies? You first have to complete the Challenge quest line that starts by talking to Anja or Molfus (Asmodian and Elyos, respectively) outside the Crucible entrance and culminating in the final quest A Rift in the SpaceTwine Continuum (for Elyos) or Catching the Rift (for Asmodians). This quest requires you to kill Vanktrist SpaceTwine and complete the Challenge five times. Once you complete that, a rift opens up at the end, giving you access to the bonus round.
Once in the bonus round, you will face either the Tiamat Assassin (who can drop fluxes, enchantment stones, manastones, or Balic crafting materials) or an NPC of the opposing race (who can drop the previous items, gold or platinum medals, or the new godstones).
Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.