First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s Icebrood Saga prelude, Bound by Blood, now live

It's Eye of the North nostalgia time with Charr rocket cars, a new bimonthly cadence, and strike missions.

    
25

It was just two short weeks ago that ArenaNet invited its fans to Seattle for the announcement of the continuation of Guild Wars 2’s living world story, entitled Icebrood Saga. The studio also announced that its prelude chapter, Bound by Blood, would be arriving today, and indeed it is live this afternoon, not long after this article goes live. Ahead of the launch, ArenaNet treated press to an advanced look into the new map, Grothmar Valley, a name classic Guild Wars 1 players will recall well from its Eye of the North campaign.

There are some great story events to get excited about in this chapter, like introducing us to Rytlock’s son, giving us an update on what Aurene has been up to and how her ascension to Elder Dragonhood has been received by the rest of the world, and debuting Braham’s new hairstyle (yeah, that last one might not be that exciting, but I just never liked the way he looked bald, OK?). I don’t want to spoil too much of that today, however, so let’s talk about some of the things to do in the new zone.

The map is centered around the Charr’s All Legions Rally, one part celebration of the death of Kralkatorrik and one part political summit, called by the Blood Legion Imperetor, Bangar Ruinbringer. Ever wondered what a giant Charr party looks like? This is your chance to find out! It feels sort of like a festival, with lots of little events scattered around the zone at various times. Each of the four main events is hosted by one of the four Charr legions, and each legion’s event rewards players with a token that, when combined with the other three legions’ tokens, can be used to open the Vault of the Khan-Ur for random rewards once a day. It’s sort of like a map meta-event that doesn’t require you to actually do the whole meta at once.

There are a number of unique new items that can be found in the vault, or conveniently bought from a vendor using the new map currency, Hatched Chilis. These include a Blood Legion-themed sword, an Ash Legion-themed shortbow, a Flame Legion-themed staff, and, my favorite, an Iron Legion-themed repeating crossbow rifle (there are too many cool rifle skins in this game at this point and not enough classes to use them!). Check them out in the gallery at the end of this post!

ArenaNet gave us a sample of a few different events during our time testing it out. One of the ones that stood out to us was a PvP minigame that allows players to pick a legion (Charr players won’t be forced to represent their own legion, but their legion will be the first option and marked with “My legion!”), then jump into Charr cars armed with rockets, speed boosters, and more, all to smash each other to bits for the honor of their legion — and the crowd’s amusement. The devs pointed out that this is the first time they’ve ever done a PvP event in an open-world setting, and they’re hoping that many of the events break out of established expectations.

Another even more memorable event was the Metal Legion concert. Yes, this is an all-Charr metal band, performing for the entertainment of the four legions, debuting songs about Charr pride and unity. They have some experimental new Asuran stage gimmicks, which (as you might expect) go horribly wrong. Players are tasked with making sure the concert goes smoothly and the crowd is hyped. Events will pop up all around the concert arena, including making sure the guitar amps have enough power cores, moshing with the crowd, defeating magical spark elementals spawning from the speakers, crowd surfing, and stopping a flaming rogue animatronic dragon. All while stopping crazed fans from rushing the stage and downing the band. You know, your usual rock concert stuff.

I don’t even particularly care for metal, but it is exactly the kind of music I would expect the Charr to like. ArenaNet did confirm for me that all three of the tracks from this event will be available on their SoundCloud, so Soulkeeper, Dragon Reaper may very well become my new alarm clock at some point in the near future.

In addition to the token mentioned above, this event also has a chance to award players a warhorn that looks like the microphone used by Metal Legion’s lead singer. The best part is that when used, it actually sounds like your player character screaming into it — matching the voice of your race and gender — which is a great touch! Hardcore Metal Legion fans will also want to check out the map vendor for a Metal Legion t-shirt chest piece skin.

There are a bunch of other events, such as a shooting range, ooze pit, a new race, and a boss fight with a nice throwback to the original Guild Wars, but I’ll leave those for you to explore.

I think the part of Bound by Blood that I was personally most excited to try was the new strike mission. At its announcement event, ArenaNet described these missions as “introductory raid content,” which definitely piqued my interest. The developers told us that strike missions can be played in squad mode or public mode. Squad mode will take your group in as-is. The content does not scale, but it is designed to be completable by groups of five to ten players, so if you want a greater challenge, simply take fewer people. You can even start it solo if you want, though the devs said it would be very difficult to complete (which will sound like a challenge to many).

If you don’t have a full squad, you can enter the public version of the mission, which will populate the instance with up to 10 people who have also chosen the public version, trying to bring any group members you’re already connected to, if at all possible.

The mission starts with a short jumping puzzle. Mounts are disabled in the instance, so, sorry, no bunny hopping over the whole thing. It’s pretty standard fare as far as Guild Wars 2 jumping puzzles go. Conveniently, when the first member of the group completes the jumping puzzle, a free teleport point appears at the end, so you need not fear getting stopped by that inevitable group member who is just really terrible at making precision jumps. (I missed a jump about halfway through and got lost trying to find my way back to the beginning, so that group member could very well be me.) There are, however, a number of chests along the way, ensuring that players are rewarded for getting as far as they can on their own. ArenaNet did note that future strike missions will not necessarily open with a jumping puzzle and will instead include a variety of different challenges.

After a few other minor obstacles, we arrived at the boss. The mechanics were pretty straightforward — mostly dodging AoEs and watching for tells — but fun. It’s the kind of thing that might kill you the first couple of times you try it, but it’s definitely doable with a pickup group without voice comms or a perfect group makeup. This is the exact type of content that I think this game needed. Raids are great, and fractals are great, but I think strike missions will hit the perfect sweet spot in between; if fractals are like mini dungeons, strike missions are like mini raids.

All told, I’m guessing the average strike mission will take around 10-15 minutes. Of course that can vary greatly based on your group’s skill; just look at normal players working through a dungeon versus a speedrun. Of course, what’s the point of a boss fight without rewards? Rewards are granted based on how fast your group completes the boss. If you complete the boss in less than four minutes, you get three chests; within seven minutes, you get two chests; and for anything less than that, you’ll nab a single chest. Each chest has a chance to include a shoulder armor piece themed after the Ebon Vanguard, along with a new chair, The Chilly Chaise. Again, take a look at the gallery down below to view these.

As you might expect, during the press event, the question of why ArenaNet had chosen to shift its terminology from “season” to “saga” came up. The devs responded that they wanted to give themselves the freedom to expand the horizons of the types of content they are creating, especially given the multiple content teams they have to work with now. I also inquired as to the kind of release cadence we can expect for this saga. They said that their goal is to have something new to do every single month, with new content coming every other month and events such as festivals in the alternate months. Players will recall that recent seasons were released more like every three to four months, with many of them taking even longer, so every two months is a welcome improvement. Long time players will also recall that seasons 1 and 2 were aiming for a similar release cadence and ran into some issues, so it remains to be seen if this pace will be sustainable while still maintaining quality standards.

The prelude chapter for The Icebrood Saga sets a great precedent for content going forward. That said, assuming Bound by Blood is an indication of the kind of content we can expect from each chapter of the Icebrood Saga, there really isn’t a whole lot to point to that distinguishes a saga from a season. However, if it can deliver on a faster release cadence, I think ArenaNet can justify the change. Strike missions are great, and I think focusing on repeatable, accessible group content is a great way forward for the game.

There are a lot of unknowns going forward for Guild Wars 2, but after getting a taste of Bound by Blood, I’m hopeful once again for the game’s future.

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
semugh
Reader
semugh

is that … LVL 70 ETC? It can’t be lol…

Reader
Drago

I like GW2 dont get me wrong but it’s really starting to show it’s age and I hate the way it only gives you more ways to play and NOT make your char more powerful.

Reader
feleran

That’s how it should be. Why make older content less relevant?

Reader
Drago

because gets boring.

Reader
Sleepy

First attempt at the intro instance, I got stuck inside the crystallised devourer champion and had to /stuck out. Second time, I had the temerity to move three feet to the left while watching the devourer fight and was kicked from the instance instantly.

About to try for the third time, while sighing heavily…

Yangers
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Yangers

The rock concert is fantastic. We had so much fun on the new map.

Reader
Gordi_the_mighti

At some point i will get around to playing the living story. i login every time a new one is released but never play it lol

Reader
Baemir

Same. It’s a terrible system IMO, you miss anything and it really discourages you from following up on the next episode.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

But other than the first one they ever did, you get to still play them all after the fact. So you haven’t had to miss the quests and story lines for years now if you didn’t take part while they were happening. It would be nice if they ever updated that first living world season to be playable as well, but people have been asking for that for a long time without it happening.

You don’t have to take part in the story parts until you feel like it, and can play all the old ones whenever you want to catch up. Logging on and taking part in the Charr parties and things isn’t going to spoil anything either if you want to go and have fun with that stuff while waiting to do the story line later.

I don’t know what you want them to do differently or why you think this is a terrible system.

What you’re complaining about also is like complaining about new episodes of some TV series because you haven’t watched the old ones yet. Just because you haven’t caught up on Game of Thrones doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be making new episodes for those who are current in it, and you can go back and watch the old episodes any time you want. Just like GW 2’s living world content.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Call me when they play Lost Society or Havok.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
TomTurtle

Well done story and map. I feel like many of the things you can do in the map were successfully designed to be fun. It helps that there are no renown hearts to bog things down, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a return in the first episode.

Reader
Mr Poolaty

So I’ve never played GW OR GW2.. I am curious though as to how the living world works. Again totally noob to it so any info on what it is or how it works would be awesome!!

Reader
Bruno Brito

The “living world” is just a series of episodic patches that you can play. Most of them can be bought on the store for gems/cash, if you wanna relive the old ones. You join the game, and play the most recent episode, IF you have the xpac for it. Not all episodes are free.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Emmanuel Carabott

So living world is split into seasons. It got its name mainly from season 1 where updates would hit every 2 weeks, they’d play out and then be removed from the game forever, this essentially simulated the passage of time giving the impression the game world was living. Like for example we had an invasion by a coalition of dredge and flame legion and while that was going you’d see refuges making their way from the effected zones to the closest main cities, these cities had refuge camps with these refuges. There were events in the invaded zones were these bad guys would attack everyone in sight etc… once we beat them they were gone together with all those events etc.. Something on a bigger scale we had a the tower of nightmares in kessex hills (what was at the time the most beautiful lush zone) the tower spread posion everywhere and then finally exploded turning the whole zone into a semi wasteland full of debris to which it still is to this day.

Season 2 + however were no long temporarily so they do have a bit less of living world feel to them. season 2+ no longer happen in the open world like season 1, most story is now instance based.

Well thats the history of the name, now like I said living world is split into seasons, so far we had season 1 – season 4 complete and we just started season 5.
season 1 was temporary and cant be played anymore though there an npc in game that will recap the story and you can find videos on youtube.

a season generally consists of 6 episodes that are released 3 months apart.
each episode is free if you login just once during the 3 months it is active. If you did not login like the case for a new player they need to be bought either through real money or by converting in game cash to gems.

cost for season 2 – 4 is:
1280 gems for season 2 for 8 episodes
season 3 and 4 are 960 gems each for 6 episodes each.

800 gems is $10

season 2 consists for 2 new maps
season 3 and 4 added a whole new map with each episodes (so 12 new maps in total). they also have unique rewards per episode.

to play a season you need the corresponding expansion but you do not need the expansion to unlock it. So for example if you start a free account today you will unlock season 5 episode 1 for free but you will not be able to play it until you buy path of fire.

Also its possible to play the episodes through a friend. That will let you experience the episode story but you will not get any of the rewards.

Beyond story each episode has various amount of content from dynamic events, vistas, races, jumping puzzles, hearts etc.. and some have unique rewards such as new mounts, armor skins, weapon skins, mini, tonics and gizmos.

I think thats all there is to know about the living world, if you have any more question let me know.

Reader
Mr Poolaty

Metal music? Mmo? Hmm think someone’s copying my Soken!!

Mordyjuice
Reader
Mordyjuice

I found a video of the concert, if it’s too spoilery just delete it.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Thanks for uploading. Listened in the background and…was pleasantly surprised at the decent metal!