Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 3 Preview

Are stormy times ahead for Tyria?

Guild Wars 2 has been suspiciously quiet of late. Mordremoth is dead and activity in the Maguma Jungle has dissipated. New content has been largely contained to raids while the rest of the world has fallen silent. Only a few bandits dare disturb the peace while rumours of the White Mantle slip out of the Aerodrome. That is all due to change with the launch of Living World Season Three.

Unlike the core game, Living World season three exists as part of a clearly defined timeline. The newest episode jumps straight back into this narrative, beginning shortly after the close of the HoT expansion. It immediately begins dealing with the consequences of Mordremoth’s death and returns players to Hoelbrak on a rather somber mission. Eir Stegalkin, part of the iconic Destiny’s Edge guild, did not return from the Maguma Jungle. She fell in defense of her friends and ArenaNet has chosen a fitting tribute to this Tyrian legend.

Admirers and comrades can be found gathered around the fire as snow falls on a very Norn memorial. Music plays, flowers are placed, and NPCs recount the exploits of Eir. While Eir’s memorial is not the centrepiece of this episode, the small number of available activities convey a love for this character that is quite obvious. What begins as a sedate celebration actually turns out to be a real treat for lore fans with more than enough content for repeated visits. When you return to the Living World do fill your flagon to the brim, because this wake is overflowing with mirth and song.

Rata Novus calls, however, and our heroes cannot rest for long. The abandoned ruins of Rata Novus are the focus of a frantic investigation by the Asura due to some disturbing discoveries. This trip back into the catacombs below the Maguma Jungle returns Taimi and Cannach to season three. Taimi’s appearance is one of my personal highlights of this episode. Some absolutely stellar writing and razor sharp wit make her a joy to see. Using Rytlock and even the Commander as her comic foil, Taimi gives this episode a little lightness without descending into the outright farcical. Really, this entire segment is used to deliver players to the climax of the latest Living World update, and an entirely new map.

Players are pulled into this new area following a catastrophic magical incident. Glimpsed at the end of a recent trailer, this explosion has wreaked havoc with the landscape. Chaotic clouds float ominously over a sky shrouded in unnatural red and gold hues. A fortress looms over the land, suspended by an unknown force, and rubble is scattered across the horizon. A twisted magic seems to run through this map that tortures the living and dead alike.

ArenaNet has done a fantastic job visualizing this eerie magic. Leylines of blue and gold permeate the landscape, while crystalline storms hang in the sky like chandeliers refracting these colours. The sky feels unnaturally oppressive in deepest red as glowing embers slowly float upwards, hinting at a land below that burns in the gloom.  Some incredible audio work complements these visuals. As you dive into the anarchy in the sky, storms crackle with energy, thunder rumbles ahead, and the crushing sounds of destruction assault you while navigating the map. ArenaNet has crafted a map that is uniquely beautiful and ominous at once.

Bloodstone Fen is a fantastic mix of old and new Tyria. Players who have already ventured into the Maguma Jungle will instantly recognize the layout of this map. Consisting of three layers, the map topology closely resembles the three tier structure established in HoT. Gliding and mushroom masteries prove extremely useful when trying to navigate the upper reaches of the Bloodstone Fen. The map’s abundance of magic is so overwhelming it even affects these masteries. Gliding has several new enhancements, including a leyline infused speed boost which launches players across the sky, while aerial combat is even possible in Bloodstone Fen.

Below the unnatural skyline, the map continues to stretch down into the depths of the Bloodstone Maw, where the story continues. An ancient force has emerged and some more investigation leads to a series of events that face off against an interesting variety of new veterans. They are not quite as horrific as the Mordrem, but every bit as engaging. At higher altitudes, the floating fort’s ghoulish warriors may rise up repeatedly, but the most interesting abominations wander the lower levels. The White mantle can be found, as dangerous as always, and the Jade Construct is a fiendishly engaging challenge. The events that spawn around these levels bear a definite resemblance to event chains found all across core Tyria. ArenaNet has clearly acknowledged the criticisms of HoT. Core story and major event chains are no longer locked behind unwieldy meta chains or masteries. Every Tyrian can compete in Bloodstone Fen, with a varying degree of difficulty.

Episode one has clearly started to pull Guild Wars 2 in a new direction. References to the recent raid narrative can be found littered across the map. Notes from a mysterious journal, enormous glowing runes carved into the landscape, and even the adversaries facing players hint at answers to the White Mantle’s resurgence. Living world has always produced some of the most interesting content in Guild Wars 2, from Scarlet’s war to Canach’s redemption. While I have my concerns that Living World may be shackled to the linear narrative to kill a dragon, the team at ArenaNet have already thrown in a few wild cards. Season three of the Living World looks to be shaping up nicely and if you own Guild Wars 2, you can jump in now and experience the new Living World for free.

Published: July 26th, 2016   |  5,675 Reads

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Edward "Screenager" Orr

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