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Out of the Shadows Released


Arenanet has released the first Living World update of Season 3, titled "Out of the Shadows."  You can read the update notes here.  Below, you can find the impressions of the release from the press demo I was able to partake in.

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On the 21st of July, I had the opportunity to get some impressions on the Living Story Season 3 Episode 1 release, and play through some new content. I was unable to attend the PvP session, but did hear some great details that are coming with this update. Let us begin with the content I did not play.

PvP Updates

I overheard a few developers talking to the press about PvP updates. For starters, the big updates include the fact that queuing is now possible outside of Heart of the Mists, and that the two current beta maps are coming out of beta. Skyhammer has gotten some smaller changes, which I was unable to get details on. Revenge of the Capricorn is a reimagining of Raid on the Capricorn, the old sPvP map that was removed from the game due to the desire to push aquatic combat out of sPvP. PvP seasons will now be continuous, in which the current time periods where no season is active (such as up to this release) will become an off-season, with all the features of the current season system, but without a set time limit or rank reward.

Class Balancing

All the classes in Guild Wars 2 have received an update, as is standard for these update from Arenanet. I was unable to catch many of the changes, but many of the changes and balancing focused on removing certain builds from the current raid meta. I was only able to get a few details on the elementalist, which has had its staff skill 2 (lava font) and tempest overload air severely nerfed in an aim to remove it from the raid meta.

Fractals

Although I was unable to play these, the new Chaos Isles fractal features the anomalies seen in the open world to create an almost dreamscape-like experience.  The Chaos Isles show instability within the fractals, with certain existing fractals mashing together into an entirely new fractal.

Story

Since the end of the Heart of Thorns expansion storyline, burials and ceremonies must be had, and celebrations occur throughout Tyria. As you progress through the aftermath, you receive a note from Taimi regarding a strange anomaly. You set out with Desiny's Edge to investigate this anomaly, which brings you to an area of an unstable bloodstone. As you approach the bloodstone in the pact's final airship, the bloodstone explodes (or rather, overloaded by ley energy and the instability caused by the players in the final raid wing), bringing you to the new map with this release, Bloodstone Fen.

Bloodstone Fen

Players of the first Guild Wars will remember Bloodstone Fen. The map, about 1/8th the size of the Silverwastes but more vertical than any other map seen before, features the bloodstone and its instability after the explosion. The map plays on the nostalgia from the first game, featuring more than a few references to the White Mantle, the organization which was initially a protagonist and eventually one of the main antagonist's of the game's original campaign. Justiciar Hablion features as one of the first open world bosses, where he throws you into the sky to discover one of the new feature of the new map, gliding skills. Arenanet discussed their desire to add environment specific skills to maps, and the new mastery allows you to unlock skills for use in Bloodstone Fen. The instability of the ley line energy around Bloodstone Fen, which spawns new items such as leyline updrafts, causes these skills to be extremely powerful. The first skill, a simple pulse, did an average of 2x as much damage against enemies as normal skills. More skills were unlockable, but this was locked for the press demo.

After the Hablion fight, spirits can be seen amassing during the night portion of the map's meta event. The bloodstone explosion has released many sacrificed generations to the bloodstone, and they are uncertain as to how to act. Many events rely on putting them to rest, or damaging them until they remember who they were, and that you are not the "bad guy." This map is one large homage to the White Mantle and the Bloodstone saga, and it seems obvious the story is heading in the direction of the eventual return or revival of the White Mantle, as hinted in by the trailer and the playable portion of the demo.

Story Hints

Only one mission was playable in the press demo that was completable (this particular story mission required a group to advance due to open world champions that have to be killed, which is difficult with one player). However, material provided by Arenanet shows hints that the Mursaat may be on the return. One image in particular which may be discussed is an image showing a heart that perfectly fits within a mursaat armor plate. This is, however, speculation.

In Closing

It was enjoyable to play a very small demo of the incoming PvE content and hear some upcoming changes for the game. As a fan of the Mursaat, this release excited me more than it should! It should be noted that the content outlined in this post was played in an unfinished stage, and changes may have occurred. There is also a lot more content in this release than outlined here. Living Story Season 3 Episode 1 release on the 26th of July 2016, under the name "Out of the Shadows." Back to Top

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ArenaNet has announced that the third season of Living World will be released two weeks from now on July 26th. Here's some of the previous plot points as a refresher:
  • The Elder Dragon Mordremoth, which unleashed its hordes of minions across all of Tyria and all but destroyed the world’s united military force, is dead, but the cost of victory was high. Tyria as a whole has a lot of regrouping to do to figure out how to move forward.
  • Elder Dragons feed on magical energy. When Mordremoth was killed, a burst of that magic flooded back out into the world, and some of it settled into the magical Bloodstone deep in the jungle. There’s an excess of magic now that’s bringing a lot of factions out to try to take advantage of it.
  • The White Mantle, a group of religious zealots who worship an ancient magical race called the mursaat, have been stirring up trouble both in Kryta and in the Maguuma Jungle - the area introduced in Heart of Thorns. The latest raid showed that they were trying to harness the power of the Bloodstone in an attempt to resurrect one of their gods.
  • Taimi, a young asuran researcher, was left in the subterranean city of Rata Novus, a long-lost headquarters for intelligence on the Elder Dragons and how to destroy them. With Zhaitan and Mordremoth already defeated, she’s turning her prodigious intellect towards uncovering the weaknesses of the remaining threats to Tyria.
  • During the course of Heart of Thorns, players found and protected a dragon egg – which is rare enough on its own, but this egg comes from Glint, a former servant of the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik who rebelled against her master and tried to protect the races of Tyria. The future of this egg is a big question mark: will it take after its mother? Did the power released on Mordremoth’s death affect it? Will it be an ally or an enemy of the races of Tyria?
Check out the official blog for any questions you might have regarding the upcoming season.

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06/14/2016 – June 14 Release Notes

RAIDS
  • The victory at Salvation Pass revealed the terrible truth of the White Mantle’s return. Take the fight to the enemy and strike at their heart, deep in the Maguuma Jungle, where unknown dangers and powerful enemies lurk. All is not as it seems in the Stronghold of the Faithful, where the White Mantle’s innermost secrets and dark magic fester. It’s a race against time to stop the plans in motion in this high-stakes, white-knuckle conclusion to the Forsaken Thicket raid.
    Thanks!
    Some members of the following guilds had access to the raid at some stage in development. We’d like to thank them for their time and feedback.
    • [ATT] Attuned
    • [DD] Dragons Descent
    • [EG] Ethereal Guardians
    • [KING] Immortal Kingdom
    • [NA] The Sickest Guild
    • [RAID] Immortal Raiders
    • [RtG] Rise to Glory
    • [SC] Snow Crows
  • Spirit Woods
    • Adjusted Gorseval’s AI to improve its willingness to follow the player with the highest toughness.
    • Fixed a bug that prevented Gorseval’s Rampage pattern from properly resetting in some situations.
  • Salvation Pass
    • A ley-line gliding path will now appear after clearing all of the raid bosses, leading players to Stronghold of the Faithful.
    • Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the cage cinematic to trigger during the Matthias Gabrel encounter.
STRUCTURED PLAYER VS. PLAYER
  • The Heart of Maguuma PvP reward track now includes Chak weapons, Auric weapons, Plated weapons, Bladed armor, and Leystone armor as options in the Mordremoth Cache.
  • The Silverwastes PvP reward track Carapace Armor Box now contains all pieces of Carapace armor instead of just the gloves.
  • Gathering tools can now be equipped when double-clicked in the PvP lobby.
WORLD VS. WORLD
  • The Reward Track and Participation systems are officially out of beta testing!
  • Added the Gift of Battle Item reward track and removed the vendors that previously sold gifts of battle.
  • Daily achievement chests now award Potions of WvW Rewards instead of Experience Boosters.
  • The Outnumbered effect now also grants 50% increased participation gain.
  • Added a new guild hall upgrade to the war room that unlocks a new potion at the tavern that increases WvW reward-track gain.
  • A new reward track has been added that awards the WvW Hero’s weapon skins.
  • The Heart of Maguuma WvW reward track now includes Chak weapons, Auric weapons, Plated weapons, Bladed armor, and Leystone armor as an option in the Mordremoth Cache.
  • The Silverwastes WvW reward track Carapace Armor Box now contains all pieces of Carapace armor instead of just the gloves.
  • The Provisions Master now has a sixth pip that allows players to buy Heart of Thorns™ recipes, sigils, and runes from the Heroics Notary vendor for proofs of heroics and gold.
  • The Max Supply +5 upgrade is now the first Guild Objective Aura upgrade guilds unlock.
  • The Magic Find +20% upgrade is now the last Guild Objective Aura guilds unlock.
  • Updated the Outnumbered effect to no longer list that it grants bonus experience, as experience gain is disabled in WvW.
  • Shield Generator—Force Dome: Stability duration has been reduced from 9 seconds to 6 seconds.
  • Fixed a bug in which trebuchet conditions were allowed to scale based on player stats.
  • The WvW tick timer has been reduced from 15 minutes to 5 minutes.
    • Objective Points per Tick (PPT) has been rebalanced to support the faster ticks.
      • Camps—2 points
      • Towers—4 points
      • Keeps—8 points
      • Castle—12 points
      • This results in slightly more total war score earned from objectives.
    • Reward-track points awarded for participation have also been rebalanced to support faster ticks.
      • Tier 1—25 points
      • Tier 2—60 points
      • Tier 3—95 points
      • Tier 4—125 points
      • Tier 5—160 points
      • Tier 6—195 points
      • This results in slightly more reward-track points earned.
Eternal Battlegrounds
  • Klovan Gully: Fixed a display bug in which the blue “Defend Klovan Gully” event would list an additional event objective.
Alpine Borderlands
  • Fixed a bug that prevented hero challenges from displaying or functioning correctly.
  • Tower Northeast: Fixed a bug that prevented the tower lord’s health from scaling properly.
Desert Borderlands
  • Fixed a bug with the teleporter on the dunes above the Fire Keep.
  • Fixed a bug with automatic blessing at the east Earth Shrine.
  • Fixed a bug with a jump pad on the north side of the Air Keep.
  • Fixed a bug with a floating mortar in the Air Keep.
Obsidian Sanctum
  • Fixed a bug in which players were no longer given immunity while standing at their starting location.
GENERAL
  • Fixed a bug that would cause Mai Trin to teleport to walls.
  • Fixed an issue in which, once selected, the guild music themes “The Music of the Barren Heights” and “The Music of the Golden Chambers” did not play upon reentry to the guild hall. Once a guild in Lost Precipice has selected the theme “The Music of the Barren Heights,” the song will now consistently play first upon entry to the guild hall and then cycle through the songs belonging to its theme set. Once a guild in Gilded Hollow has selected the theme “The Music of the Golden Chambers,” the song will now consistently play upon first entry to the guild hall and then cycle through the songs belonging to its theme set.
  • Added Amalgamated Gemstones as a choice on the Verdant Brink, Auric Basin, Tangled Depths, and Dragon’s Stand Hero’s Choice Chests.
  • Unrest is spreading in Kryta.
BLACK LION TRADING COMPANY GEM STORE
New Items and Promotions
  • A new Phoenix Glider is available for a very limited time in the Style category of the Gem Store for 500 gems.
  • The Heroes Dye Pack includes one of each of the following dye kits: Taimi’s, Glint’s, Lion’s Arch Survivors, Lion’s Arch Rebuild, and Lion’s Arch Commemorative. This can be found in the Style category of the Gem Store for 500 gems.
  • The new Privateer weapon set is now available at Black Lion Weapons Specialists for 1 Black Lion Claim Ticket. Unlike previous weapon sets, these are account bound and cannot be traded once purchased.
  • Crystallized Magic no longer drops from Black Lion Chests. Contracts have returned to normal drop rates.
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In our third video on the design of Stronghold of the Faithful’s first raid boss, the Guild Wars 2audio team grinds, growls, and snarls their way through the creation of the Keep Construct’s creature noises.

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In our second video exploring the design of the Keep Construct raid boss, the art team talks about this lumbering monstrosity’s evolution and animation!

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In the first of our series of videos about designing Stronghold of the Faithful’s first raid boss, the Keep Construct, members of the Guild Wars 2 raid team discuss how this stony monstrosity came to life in concept and design. Check it out below!

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Above is the new teaser trailer for the third and final wing of Stronghold of the Faithful. Hopefully we'll hear more once E3 rolls around! Back to Top

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Well that was quite the rundown. I just got done with the preview of Guild Wars 2's upcoming build and I am swimming in changes. Changes to PvP maps, WvW linking, new legendaries, a Raid Lobby, LFG changes, and improvements to playability and rewards in Heart of Thorns. I don't have any sneaky tidbits of new upcoming content this time, but the existing content is getting some needed tweaks.

First off, I don't play PvP or WvW in GW2. As such, I can't comment too much on the impact of various changes being made in the new build. The changes sound positive, but I don't have my ear to the ground in that realm of play as I spend my time in GW2 running around in the underbrush and through caves haphazardly with reckless abandon. I don't have the experience and in game knowledge needed to make relevant comments on the potential impact of PvP style game changes. With all that in mind, I am going to focus on content changes to PvE. I do have to bring up the big new change in WvW first though.


The update rolls out World Linking for WvW. World linking was described to me as an attempt to create a population balance effect for WvW. Different worlds will be linked together to form temporary alliances for WvW in an attempt to improve matchups without increasing queues. The base description reminded me of the description of the megaserver system but unlike that system, world linking is done manually by the devs.

One of the downsides that had been brought up about the megaserver system was the fractioning of the communities that had developed on the servers before implementation. ArenaNet wants to avoid forcing the existing communities to rewrite and reorder themselves as these links are made and the system's manual nature allows them to stay cognizant of the interpersonal relations that exist between guilds and worlds. Honestly, I wish them best of luck. I don't envy those that take on the task of choosing these links.

WvW and PvP also have updates in the build to their reward systems and to some of the maps and borderlands. I suggest you check out the patch notes for specifics on those updates (though the update is going to be quite large). On to the PvE side of the world.


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Level 80 boost.

Yup, an item that boosts a character straight to level 80 has been added to Heart of Thorns with the new build. Double click it and launch yourself into the expansion's jungle (which has been re-balanced with a more friendly reward and progression system) to your heart's content. An interesting feature is a "try before you buy" state where you get to effectively preview the level up on as many characters as you want before choosing which one to level up permanently. The boost is only available to those who have the expansion though, so the preview is limited to the expansion content.

The goal of the boost is to get players into the content as soon as possible. Heart of Thorns has a lot of gating in it progression wise and the boost allows players to skip the level gate entirely. The mastery progression gates are still in place, but you only need one level 80 character to begin unlocking those so the level boost is there to ensure that all players are able to begin that process.


With the level 80 boost making getting to the content a little less painful, most of the build then focuses on increasing the rewards for content, or makes getting to individual content segments faster. The HoT maps have large overarching metaevents that had their rewards tied to them. The build is going to decouple the rewards from the metaevent (mostly) to make a player's reward less reliant on the map state and when they were able to play.

Verdant Brink, for example, is a map divided into a day night cycle where players prep for the night battles during the day and are then rewarded. With the update, the two cycles are going to be further separated with the day cycle rewards being separated from the metaevent's reward coordinator. The Night Cycle events will largely be the same but the actual start of the event will be disconnected from the progress players achieved during the day cycle. This is to reduce players feeling like they ended up in a "bad map" and trying to ferry into a map that did better during the Day Cycle.

This schism continues for the other maps in the expansion content as well. Separating the major metaevent cycle into a smaller time slot with progression rewards while the "main" time slot is filled with more "explorer friendly" content that metaevent progression rewards. Roadblocks in maps that prevent players from accessing certain fun areas of the map except during the metaevent have been shifted around some, once again with the goal of allowing players to access the fun more readily.


Some changes to Raids, Dungeons, the LFG tool, and Daily Rewards focus on making it easier and more rewarding for players to participate in the content. More gold for repeatable reward achievements, a central meeting area for Raids, more flexible and rewarding dungeon tokens, and some tweaks to fractal advancement are all included in the update (but talking about them would quickly skyrocket this write-up's length to that of the update notes itself.

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Flying around the new Raid Lobby.

Instead, what are the impacts? For an established player, the build updates are largely just going to make the expansion's content more rewarding. If you have level 80 characters, the boost is nice, but it I don't see it having a large impact on your play time unless you are lacking in alt characters just due to not wanting to grind out levels. For a new player, the boost makes purchasing the expansion more attractive. While GW2 doesn't have an ever increasing gear gate, leveling up and unlocking masteries does take a lot of time investment that the boost helps with and more rewards makes it easier for new or less active players to kit out their characters.

I myself found the structuring of the expansion zones to be somewhat stifling. I fall in to the traditional explorer archetype in how I like to play GW2 and I look forward to seeing if the shift in metaevents improves my ability to play the way I prefer to instead of training around the map completing metaevents that don't interest me as much as getting to the top of that tree over there.

The build looks for be a Quality of Life improvement that sweeps across all aspects of the game to benefit all players, which is good to see.



Oh, and the LFG tool is now getting a search function for roleplayers and new players looking for mentors to find groups. I look forward to seeing those uses of the tool populate in the weeks after the update. Back to Top

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Coming April 19th, the Spring update is about helping Guild Wars 2 players get to the fun of Heart of Thorns gameplay faster by reducing grind, clearing away some tedium and improving rewards. ArenaNet has always said Guilds Wars 2 should be about having fun rather than preparing to have fun, and the Spring update dropping on Tuesday is all about getting back to that core philosophy. Back to Top