Today the newest piece of Living World content, the Bazaar of the Four Winds, has gone live. I’ve been playing in the new map, Labyrinthine Cliffs, basically since the patch went live a few hours ago, and I have to honestly say…I love it.
For all that I’d rather have a full expansion than little bits of content that’ll go away, this patch is really, really fun. New zone, new minigames…and some other neat things, too!
Before I really go into the new zone, I want to point out one of the big changes made to the game. Achievements. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of them, and that statement stands. However, due to my obsessive playing of the game, I’ve still managed to rack up nearly 7000 achievement points. Previously, these points did nothing. However, that has all changed now.
For every 500 points that you get, you get a chest. These chests contain such items as: Laurels, money, weapon and armor skins (weapons for every thousand; armor starts at a higher point), and a chest that contains a variety of boosters, tools, and so on. And, best part, is that these chests are retroactive, meaning you’ll get one for each milestone you’ll have hit already.
The only caveat to that is that it’s one per day, so if you’re like me, it’ll take a full two weeks to get them all. But I’m fine with that.
Oh, and the armor and weapon skins…they aren’t one-use unlocks, like skins from the gem store. They are more like the Hall of Monuments unlocks, where you can pull them out and use them as many times as you want. There’s also the monetary reward you get for each chest – 1g per chest up to 2500 points, where it jumps up to five gold. Whether or not that’s 5g per chest past that, or 5g because it’s the fifth chest, or if there’ll be another money jump at, say, 5000 points…we don’t know yet. But in a few days we’ll find out!
So. Onto the new zone and content. I’m actually surprised that I’m enjoying it as much as I am; the map is basically one big playground within a jumping puzzle with harder smaller mini-puzzles littered all over. I am not a fan of jumping puzzles, to be honest. But I’m really loving exploring this place and hunting down sky crystals (at current count: 32 crystals located).
Part of it is that everything is just so pretty. The zone has a very heavy Guild Wars 1 feel to it, and in particular reminds me greatly of Kaineng City from Factions. Everything is a bit shabby and run down, and while the city is a huge sprawl, it’s a largely vertical sprawl. I loved Factions. I even loved the maze that was Kaineng. So seeing that aesthetic back is very pleasing to me.
Part of it is that playing with the different aspects is just plain fun. You can pick up three different aspects that give different abilities (jumping really high, speeding through things, or jumping to specific locations), that let you get into some really neat places. You can even combine aspects by using two at the same time – there was one crystal we found where we’d used #1, the Assisted Leap, and then used #2, Light Dash, at the height of the jump to dash over to the crystal.
And part of it is that there’s simply new things here. You can mine quartz, and trade materials for boxes that will give you recipes to use the quartz with. If you ever wanted Celestial (all-stat) gear for your characters, now you can craft it. Completing enough achievements for this Living Story chapter will give you a quartz node in your home instance, so it won’t go away fully, like the azurite did in Flame and Frost.
There are also new mini-games. I have not tried out Belcher’s Bluff yet, but I have done a couple Sanctum Sprint races, and I just have to say…Mario Kart fans, have fun. Running, jumping, picking up power ups, dropping traps for other players…following the track can be tricky (but it will get easier as you play it more), but it really is a lot of fun. I haven’t won a race yet, but in time!
There are of course two quibbles I have with this. The first is waypoint costs. There are two waypoints in Labyrinthine Hills…and neither are free. As it’s not a huge zone, that’s not normally a big deal. However, you are going to die. A LOT. You will fall to your death repeatedly as you get used to using the aspects, and even more frequently getting the sky crystals. Now, luckily, fall damage does not break armor…but you will sink a lot of money into waypoints while here. They really should have done free waypoints for this zone, or at least reduced to costs to something less than the standard waypoint cost.
The other is that the majority of this is temporary. Belcher’s Bluff is staying, but the rest is only here for a month. I really have to ask…why? Why create a new zone, only to take it away after a few weeks? I’d love for this place to stay forever. It’s such a lovely area, and is going to be very nostalgic for a lot of Guild Wars 2 players. Why remove it? I do hope it’ll be something where they use it again in the future…but I do really wish it would stay for good.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, though, and call this the best update Guild Wars 2 has seen thus far. It’s pretty, it’s fun, there’s new things added that will persist, and there’s actually a lot to do here. If this is representative of what future updates will be like…well, I’d still like to see a proper expansion, but I can live with this. Easily.
And if you haven’t yet…patch your game, log in, and go play!