Flameseeker Chronicles: First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s restored S1E4 Tower of Nightmares

    
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Here we are at the penultimate episode of Guild Wars 2’s restored and retooled Season 1 content! The pieces are finally starting to fall into place, as Scarlet gathers more allies and monologues more of her evil plot at us.

The titular tower plays host to an instance that’s an interesting artifact of Guild Wars 2 design experimentation – not quite a world boss, not quite a meta event, not quite a dungeon (though it was later reworked into the Nightmare Fractal) – and I have been wondering how it would be handled. Let’s dig in to Tower of Nightmares and find out!

The episode opens with a letter from Lady Meade inviting us to help out with a mysterious invisible, yet solid, thing in Kessex Hills. When you zone into Kessex Hills, note the loading screen: It has been restored to its original graphic. Current players will know that the ruins of the Tower of Nightmares has been littering this zone for years now, and the loading screen has long shown that broken ruin. This change is likely because if you zone in while this chapter is active, the Tower of Nightmares will actually be back in the open world!

I’m not sure what level of Mesmer sorcery this required on ArenaNet’s end. Are the versions of the map with the tower and after its destruction separate instances? What happens if I haven’t completed the chapter and I try to teleport to friends who have? Will we see different things? Will it be solid for me but not for them? However it works, it’s cool to see this originally open world feature back in the open world again!

Once inside the story instance, we are greeted by a bunch of Seraph guards… and some less-friendly Krait and Nightmare Court, who have recently formed the Toxic Alliance under Scarlet’s guidance. That’s Scarlet for you, always bringing people together and helping them accomplish their life goals.

Can we talk about the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to give these specific Nightmare Court NPCs a downed state instead of just dying like everything else in the world? I get it and it makes sense; they’re Sylvari just like many player characters, so why shouldn’t they have a downed state? But it’s just a really annoying mechanic to deal with. At one point while I was playing, I went down at the same time as a Nightmare Courtier, and we both just sat there on the ground, comically alternating between lobbing rocks at each other and healing. This went on for a good minute or two. Apart from a handful of bosses, it’s never really been a thing before or since, and I’m OK with that. The only reason for it that I can imagine is that someone at ArenaNet thought the studio could sell permanent finishers to PvE players, and apparently it didn’t work, so it (mercifully) abandoned the endeavor.

After plowing your way through the Toxic Alliance, you will find Marjory Delaqua and Kasmeer Meade, who explain that Kas was able to dispel the cloak on the previously invisible tower. Up next is this episode’s “go grind events in this zone” section that these Season 1 episodes have been so fond of. If you want to skip this section and have been hoarding pristine toxic spore samples for all these years, you’re in luck because you can simply turn in a bunch of samples to Jory to continue with the story.

After you’re finished with your busywork, get ready for… more busywork! At least this time it’s somewhere novel.

At this point you get to enter The Tower of Nightmares itself, which is a big open instance with a series of bosses to defeat as you work your way up. It’s hard to compare it to other Guild Wars 2 content that came after it. It’s more linear than a meta event, but it’s open to more people than a dungeon, raid, or the fractal that was later based upon it. It was just a little too difficult for me to make much progress alone during my press preview last week, but I imagine it wouldn’t take more than two or three seasoned players to push through at a decent clip, though of course the more the merrier.

As for the aforementioned grinding, to progress in the story, there is a bar that must be filled up by completing events in the tower, or by donating those lovely pristine toxic spore samples again. For those of you who didn’t play this content when it was new, I won’t spoil what awaits you at the top of the tower, though if you’ve done the Nightmare Fractal, you already have a pretty good idea.

As for rewards, players can complete achievements for the new Antitoxin Gloves skin, and, as with previous releases, can complete further achievements for a trinket that can be forged into the Kasmeer-themed Lucid Dreamer dagger. And as usual, there’s yet another 20-slot bag for finishing the story.

The Tower of Nightmares was an interesting experiment in how Guild Wars 2 could do content, and it’s fun to revisit it, but ultimately I think it’s for the best that it remained a one-off thing. Open world, zone-wide meta events are a lot more engaging to me than this cramped instance, and it’s a lot easier to just wander into a zone and get swept up in its meta compared to this, which requires seeking out a specific instance.

Still, it’s fun as a one-off thing, and as you’re probably tired of hearing me say by now, I’m excited for all the players experiencing Season 1 for the first time, who can finally bridge the awkward gap between the base game’s story and Season 2.

Just a couple more months before the final chapter of Living World Season 1 and its accompanying strike mission! I can’t wait to relive this climactic story with everyone and challenge the revamped Battle on the Breachmaker.

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!
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