Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's new Living Story has launched

Wowee, is it ever a massive day in the life of my favourite MMO! If you log in right now, you'll notice three greatly anticipated additions to Guild Wars 2 as you know it: Firstly, we've (finally!) got some more juicy story to pore over with the release of the first chapter of Living World Season 3, Out of the Shadows, and then we also have Revenge of the Capricorn, a pirate-themed new (but kinda not new... more on that later) PvP Conquest map, and Chaos Isles, a crazy new fractal in which nothing is as it should be.

I had the opportunity to try out some of this new content over the last few days and am ready to share my thoughts on what you can expect from this mahoosive content drop. I played through a little bit of the story (I didn't want to go too far and run out of story before it even launches), battled the devs in Revenge of the Capricorn, and blasted through the Chaos Isles fractal to get a sense of how the new content feels.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I'll share my playtesting experiences with you to prime you for tackling the new content yourselves. This article won't be terribly spoilerific since I was asked not to divulge too much in terms of the new plotlines, so don't worry too much about having a gander before jumping in to play through for yourself. Anything questionable in terms of spoilers has been placed behind special tags for your reading convenience. This is a fairly beefy article, so you'll still have plenty to read even if you choose not to open any of the spoilers at all!

6Living Story Season 3

The general story

I'll kick it off by talking about the new story content firstly since we've been waiting so long to get it! As you might expect, the White Mantle unearthing from the end of the Heart of Thorns story arc is a heavy theme for the first episode. The story focuses on the research of the loveable child genius sweetheart Taimi and the now-exploded (err... imploded, technically, but I'll let you learn more about that by playing) bloodstone that was within Bloodstone Fen, an area you might well have heard of before from the Guild Wars days.

Taimi talks with the player-directed Commander via a radio-like communication device while he or she explore the source of the blast in an attempt to unpack precisely what happened to cause the explosion. Did the white Mantle somehow trigger the blast while trying to harness the power of the bloodstone? Is this another draconic attack that we haven't foreseen? What impact will such a powerful magical blast have on the surrounding flora and fauna and those unlucky enough to have been caught up in it?

3The focus of the playthrough

Reveal spoiler
During my playthrough with the devs, we began the story at the third section so that we'd see the new zone (the parts that preceded the one we played focus on Eir's memorial and some more Rata Novus discoveries, as well as Rytlock being summoned to the Black Citadel and ignoring the call), and the half-hour was just enough for us to explore the zone and deal with the immediate effects of the blast. Canach is missing and the Commander is understandably worried about him and his team, and someone must attempt to locate any survivors, so you venture out to assess the damage. We jumped off our relatively safe airship and glided down to a floating castle that is haunted by angry spirits, which happen to be the spirits of those who were sacrificed on the bloodstone back in the original game (how cool!). 

We fought our way to the top of the citadel and found the ghostly apparition of executioner Justicar Hablion, ready for us to kill in this game too! The commander wishes to both vanquish the Justicar and also release the angered spirits that poured out of the broken bloodstone from their torture once and for all, so a great little battle ensues. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but the general picture is that killing adds deshields the Justicar (those adds have interesting dialogue that you'll want to pay attention to) and some ariel work adds to the mechanical lineup of the fight.

It was explained to me during the playthrough that the team wished to avoid adding a meta that forced players into a set pattern of activity, so events occur across both the upper and lower maps levels and aren't specifically tied together in a formulated fashion. We decided to head down to the map surface level to explore there and we heard about the map's nighttime meta, humourously indicated by the words "The spirits mostly come out at night. Mostly..." during which the ghosts get a little bit bolder and the Mantle forces recede, which allows the players to prompt champions to show up.

Lastly, we chased down a treasure mushroom, which is only visible when a certain HoT mastery has been unlocked as one of several bonuses for those who played through the HoT zones, to gain some nice juicy loot. I did play some more after the official playthrough since my account was kindly left open for me over the weekend, but I sadly didn't get much farther into the story on my own. The story arc I was on does require some help and I simply wasn't strong enough to defeat a veteran White Mantle Cleric who must be killed to advance the story, so I recommend grouping up with your guildies today and going out together for best results.

Zone summary

A rather cool feature of the new map is pockets of magic -- the devs dubbed these magical storms, but they look more like nebulous orbs -- that has a random effect on the player when he or she glides through them. I turned into a moa midflight and learned for sure that they are indeed flightless birds, people! Much of the exploration of the ruined landscape happens via the liberal use of the gliding mechanic, so expect to rely heavily on advanced glider masteries such as leaning and updraft use here.

The area is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the game. I adore the visuals and I the sense of magical overspill is palpable. You have blasted, floating fragments of ground that in no way resemble Bloodstone Fen as it should be mixed with solid areas that were not directly hit by the implosive blast. This area as a whole is designed for gliders, as I have already explained, and the ariel sights from the air are simply breathtaking. I've included a mini screenshot gallery for you so you can get a sense of just how stunning the area is.

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I've noticed along the side of my screen during playtesting that the zone had specific dailies that should ensure that the area stays well populated for a good length of time. The dailies rewards activities such as utilising unbound magic skills while airborne, closing magical rifts caused by the explosion, and gathering unbound magic in the sky over the zone. To harvest unbound magic, you'll need to glide into little purple orbs in the sky, but this cannot be done until you unlock the skills by completing the Reaper of Magic story thread I began in my playtesting. This was described to me as a more fun and involved version of node harvesting, so I'm pretty interested in seeing how that feels when I manage to unlock the ability. I also spied some bloodstone nodes that give the player bloodstone dust, which is pretty cool for crafters. 

Revenge of the Capricorn (2)Revenge of the Capricorn

A general overview

We headed straight into the new Conquest PvP map after our open world playthrough and I was treated to some amazing sights in the reimagined map. It is definitely more of a spiritual successor to the original map more than a faithful recreation and you don't have any underwater combat, but it definitely delivers in terms of strong thematic value and the sort of pacey PvP action that we've come to expect from Conquest. I decided to play a Guardian for the playtest, which I've never PvPed with, so I didn't fare too well, but that was much more to do with my shaky PvP build and skill use and not any inherent imbalance on the map's part.

Based on Raid of the Capricorn but minus the aquatic combat, the new map, as expected from any Conquest map, is based on three key capture points with an added secondary mechanic for map diversity. The secondary mechanic in Capricorn's case is dubbed the bell, and this spawns every three minutes. Capturing the bell will grant a team 25 points on the first capture with incrementally increasing point awards for successive captures that caps at 200 points for four captures in a row.

7The nostalgia factor

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I noticed that much of the map architecture is repurposed old Lion's Arch stuff, so this map will be very nostalgic for seasoned players on a few different levels. This is a lovely way to nod in the direction of these old maps, so I highly recommend checking it out if the shellfish buildings and other map silliness found in the new Lion's Arch isn't your cup of tea.

Aside from the nostalgia factor and pretty visuals, there's nothing particularly groundbreaking or innovative to report back to you. You'll more than likely enjoy this map and will vote for it when it pops up because of how navigable and clean it is, but it's not going to blow your mind with any unexpected uniqueness. One cool thing to note though is the addition of a new team screen that shows you the team name, character portraits, and their professions at the start of the map.

Chaos IslesChaos Isles

The general premise

In this funny little fractal, your party attempts to help Dessa stabilise a rather different fractal. An unknown asura seems shocked to find you within this fractal and believes that your presence will ruin whatever it is he's trying to do, and he throws some creatures from the Uncategorised fractal at you. A new form of instability emanates from all over the map, threatening the cohesion of the other fractals. This makes for a pretty entertaining amalgamation of several different fractals in one bizarre experience.

I spotted platforms from the Uncategorised fractal manned by harpy-golem creations that join together the expected jumping harpies with traditional golems, and I also spied assets from the Cliffside fractal too. The mix is very strange but it works!

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Hidden notes are everywhere in this fractal, which I greatly appreciate, especially since finding them all is an achievement to bank for the trouble. Getting to some of them require a little bit of jumping skill and exploration, so do spend a little bit of time looking around when you try this one out for yourself.

2The fractal's main encounters

The fractal contains a short and sweet kitty golem fight who iteratively get stronger as the fight progresses and the unknown asura ramps them up to match our skill. Pay attention to the kitty names in order to learn a bit about how they might fight. After defeating the kittybots, we ran frantically through a field of undamageable tentacles while trying not to die. There's a specific way to do this that I don't want to spoil, but it's quite nifty and requires your party to look out for one another.

Finally, the fractal ended with a pretty basic boss that relies on players moving around a shiny floor that lights up in random patterns and deals shock damage to those who get caught on the lit tiles. I was promised that the fight gets harder at higher tiers: We can expect more robot harpies, the floor pattern will become more erratic and the boss has lower cooldowns on his attacks, for example. Thumpers from the Molten Weapons Facility fractal will also come down and squish you at higher tiers, so watch out!

New fractal pane

There's a new user interface for fractals that's is pretty darned nifty: A pop-up allows you to select you tier, shows the dailies that are available, and it also indicates specific agony recommendations without having to open the Wiki, which is great for newbies! The new pane is really neat and allow for a greater amount of in-game learning to happen about what is required from specific fractal tiers and makes getting those dailies that little bit easier.

Over to you!

I've had some pretty busy days testing all of the new content out for you, so I hope you enjoyed this little roundup. The story I completed was part of one particular story segment and took around half an hour to complete, so I'm cautiously optimistic that the first episode will fill out my time quite nicely if I take it at a leisurely pace and resist the urge to rush through it all today. I found scraps of paper everywhere, so I'm sure that I'll get some solid exploration value out of it too!

What do you think so far? Are you happy with the direction? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to share your reactions here as you play through the episode.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there's a GW2 topic you'd love to see covered, drop a comment Tina's way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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