Yesterday, season two of the Living World, the Gates of Maguuma, released, giving us our first taste of how the living story is going to be handled in Guild Wars 2 from here on out.
Thus far, I am quite impressed with what we’ve been shown so far, and eager to continue on.
Now, I’ve been taking something of a break from the game the past couple of weeks. A combination of stress in my personal life and just a general feel of burnout made me just not have the desire to log in. It happens, and for me, is a thing that tends to happen fairly regularly with games. All that said though, I was pretty excited for this new release. New content was exactly what was needed to make the game feel fresh again, and also made it apparent just how used to the biweekly content cycle I was.
So yesterday morning…might have found me breaking the map in Brisban, waiting for the new update. Hee.
It was an entertaining way to kill time while waiting for that ten minute warning to pop up – all sorts of entertaining glitchy things would happen over in that corner. Things like jumping near a ledge and hovering. Of course, when I logged back in after the patch hit, I kinda was stuck in the map.
At least this time was due to something I had actually done and not an occupational hazard of playing a mesmer.
I…kind of wasn’t able to get out of that corner. Oops. Waypointed out, partied up with some friends, ran back, and we decided to immediately dive into the story.
I’m not going to talk about the story much, because it just came out yesterday and I don’t want to spoil things much, but…it is so very clear that they listened to the criticisms of the first living world season and personal story, because the quality is far higher than previous releases. Amazing lore information (when you enter the zone – talk to Nimbus. Go through everything he’ll say. Just do it. You won’t be disappointed.), great NPC interactions, and just good stuff all around. The writing is a lot tighter than before in general. Also, there was actually a lot of story given to us yesterday. Episode one consisted of something like a half dozen different story steps, and it gave us more story in one go than we’d see across several releases during season one. So that was a definite improvement that pleased me and I hope continues going forward.
One nice little touch about the story journal, by the way, is that if you go back through everything, it lists what year it all took place in, so we can see how time has progressed in game. It doesn’t have the season one stuff listed, but still, a neat little feature. Two years has passed in-game now.
So! The zone itself. We are heading into Dry Top, as was correctly guessed by Dak last month. The entrance was basically exactly where he guessed it would be, so that was neat to see how spot-on accurate he was. The zone itself is very small – Dry Top in Guild Wars 1 was a tiny zone, but not quite this small. However, I doubt it will stay this tiny – I’m certain that as events progress in the story more of the area will open up and we’ll eventually head through into new zones.
As small as the zone is, though, it feels larger than it actually is…due to the fact that it has a large amount of verticality to it, and requires use of Zephyrite crystals to navigate fully. Which, by the way, is not as easy as it sounds, as they are crystal fragments and have a limited timer. Personally, I find the timers to be a bit frustrating at time, and spend a lot of time backtracking all over to find the crystals I need to get somewhere, only to have them run out halfway…but if you move fast enough, you can get to all sorts of crazy places in the zone.
One of the main features of the zone is a sandstorm that blows through every 40 minutes. While the sandstorm is active, there are different enemies in the area to fight, as well as Buried Locked Chests to track down and open. They are very much worth hunting down, as they give quite nice rewards. Champ bags, new crafting materials, possibility of new crafting recipes, and so on.
If I may go on a temporary tangent, in fact, I just want to say that the rewards this time around? Very nice. I think they took to heart that a lot of people were finding rewards to be too stingy, and they decided to change that. Every story step I completed basically had me going “sweet, sweet loot!”. I’ve also had good luck with getting tier 6 materials as drops.
Back to the sandstorm! It definitely is an interesting mechanic. It also makes traversing the open parts of the zone very disorienting. It, in fact, got me killed during my very first trip into the zone yesterday. Whoops.
Environmental hazards tend to be a common theme in Dry Top. There’s the fact that most of the zone is a vertical maze that will have you hopping across precarious poles (and probably swearing profusely as you fall to your death). There’s the sandstorm. And there’s also a quicksand river that surrounds the town of Prosperity. When I got killed due to the sandstorm? I wasn’t aware the river was there nor could I see it, and walked right into it. It will kill you pretty fast. There is in fact an achievement for managing to stand in the quicksand river for at least 15 seconds and live. I’ve been seeing a lot of people try and fail that one so far, which is pretty entertaining to watch. It is possible to cross it safely, using crystal aspects, luckily. Generally if you get stuck in it, you are not getting back out.
There is, of course, a number of things to do in the zone. There are quite a few events that happen there, and completing events while the sandstorm isn’t active raises favor with the Zephyrites. Raising favor with them will change the things carried by merchants, as well as changing the prices on some of them. The events that happen are a good mix – one is essentially a capture the flag/keepaway game with Inquest, there are standard “rescue X NPCs”, hunting down and killing certain champions, blowing up a cave-in, and so on. There is also one area that only opens up during a specific event, and keeping that area open requires succeeding at that event, as well as followup ones that happen.
New items you can get include a new armor/weapon stat type (stats are toughness/healing/vitality), as well as new cooking recipes, and lockpicks that you use to open those chests you find during sandstorms. You’ll note that there’s a new currency at work here – geodes are a new thing that you can exchange for these new items. So far I’m kind of back and forth if I like geodes or not. They can be used for a lot of things, and it feels like getting them in large quantities will not be easy unless you farm events and get to favor tier two or three. You need them for lockpicks so you can open the chests so you can get Ambrite (the new crafting material). You need them to buy the new recipes. There are Piles of Silky Sand that drop, and you can use ten of them to try and get a geode, but so far I’ve gotten very low returns on that – over a stack of sand resulted in about three or four geodes total.
…but on the other hand, this has been around for all of a day and is permanent, so in the long run, it probably is not going to be an issue at all, and I’m likely just approaching it from a “this is going away in a couple of weeks” mindset, which will be hard to break out of.
And, one last thing, which just made me absolutely giddy yesterday:
Among the new NPCs scattered around the zone is one named Alana. For those who don’t know, that is my real name. I had been told ahead of time to look out for an NPC sharing my name, but that’s all. She’s actually the second NPC named for me (there’s also Explorer Verene, who runs in circles around Gavbeorn’s Waypoint in Cursed Shore), but still. So very cool :D
Thus far, I’m quite happy with the new living world stuff. I’m excited to see where things are going to go from here. I want to see more of the zone and figure out exactly what’s going on.
Is it time for the next release yet?