Flameseeker Chronicles: Wrapping up Guild Wars 2’s S1 reboot with episode 5, The Battle for Lion’s Arch

    
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It’s finally here! The most memorable, most important part of Guild Wars 2’s Living World Season 1 story. The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the introduction of Taimi!

Oh, and the battle for Lion’s Arch or whatever. But also Taimi!

Yes, Guild Wars 2’s Season 1 reboot reaches its conclusion today with the release of episode 5, originally published in 2014, and I got a sneak peek along with other press over the weekend. If you’ve been following along with our coverage of the re-releases of Living World Season 1 up to this point, you know by now that I have been critical of the often bland presentation of these early stories, which had a much smaller budget and for technical reasons didn’t utilize the player character’s voice.

That said, as previously mentioned, in this episode we finally get to meet young Taimi, and her endearingly dorky interactions with Braham make this episode a lot more bearable. Unless you’re one of those monsters who hates Taimi, in which case, take solace in the fact that she doesn’t really do much of anything in Season 1. I had forgotten just how tiny she was when we first met! They grow up so fast!

I liked the section early on in this story when we have artifacts from all of Scarlet’s various schemes over the course of the season strewn around the Dead End bar, and The Commander has to make some deductions about each piece, eventually revealing how all of the pieces fit together to form Scarlet’s attack plan for Lion’s Arch. It’s a little weird that we’re hanging out with Marjory Delaqua, an actual professional detective, and she’s making us do all the sleuthing, but it was a nice way to do both a review of all of the events of Season 1 and to give some exposition without feeling too terribly forced.

Of course, all of that is for nothing, as the future members of the Dragon’s Watch guild figure out Scarlet’s plot practically as she’s carrying it out. A few instances follow, in which the player takes part in evacuating various sectors of the city’s population, and later, the climactic retaking of the city and of course the final showdown with Scarlet Briar. It’s a little jarring playing through the evacuation of Lion’s Arch, then almost immediately turning around and retaking it, but at least there is a filler instance in which we visit the refugee camp in Gendarran Fields to create some space between the two events.

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I have to say, doing this all solo during the press preview was a real slog. I suspect most of the objectives could’ve been cut in half and I would still have gotten bored. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that it’s possible to play it solo – and it is totally possible, by the way! This isn’t the kind of thing that’s a slog because it’s frustratingly difficult. But like many of the Season 1 instances, it’s very clearly designed to be played by a group.

Fortunately, the battle for Lion’s Arch for regular players will be a public instance for up to 50 people, similar to Dragonstorm, though as far as I can tell, this instance is open all the time. I expect it to be packed for a while, but after the newness wears off, it’s likely to end up pretty sparsely populated. If you are coming to this chapter late, you can certainly do it all alone, but you may want to pull a friend or two into the instance with you to make things go faster.

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If you’re one of those people who plays games with music turned off (we will never understand each other), do yourself a favor and turn it on for the Prime Hologram fight. It was criminal that this piece, called The Battle on the Breachmaker, was used once and never heard again for so long! And its reintroduction during a certain fight in End of Dragons was one of my favorite moments in that expansion. I especially love the way it evolves throughout the fight’s various phases. Fun fact, this track was composed by the wonderfully talented Lena Raine, who worked on early Guild Wars 2 as a designer and composer before she gained more widespread fame for composing soundtracks for indie hits like Celeste and Deltarune.

I appreciated that the story doesn’t technically end at the defeat of Scarlet or even the afterparty at the Dead End; there is also a brief scene at the end that introduces the Zephyrite Master of Peace and leads directly into Season 2. I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of leaving this part out, but the whole point of re-adding Season 1 was to bridge the gap between the base game’s personal story and Season 2’s lead-up to the Heart of Thorns expansion, and this was the final piece.

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During the press event, I wasn’t able to play the Old Lion’s Court strike mission, added with this release, which pits players against Scarlet’s elite assault knights in the culmination of all of Scarlet’s tinkering with steam and watchwork automatons and the key to defeating her Prime Hologram. The strike launches from Lion’s Arch in the Grand Piazza (the big glass jellyfish near the gate hub), and there is a new blue prophet crystal trader there who offers three variants on Aetherized weapons, a Scarlet combat tonic, and some minis of the strike’s bosses. I’m looking forward to trying it out with everyone later today!

On the top of rewards, completing achievements for this episode will reward players with the Lion Captain’s cape and shoulder mantle, as well as a ring that can be tossed into the Mystic Toilet Forge to create a mace that looks like your own tiny Breachmaker (because who doesn’t want to bop people on the head with a miniature weapon of mass destruction?). Also keep an eye out for the complete Lion’s Champion weapon set, a snazzy new way to show off your Lion’s Arch loyalty.

If all this fighting over old Lion’s Arch has you nostalgic to roam its streets freely once again, I have good news for you! Completing the achievements for all of the Season 1 episodes — the ones that reward the rings that can be used in the mystic forge to make weapons — will fill out the Lion’s Memory collection achievement, which will reward you Lion’s Pride, an item that will allow you to “travel to the Memory of Old Lion’s Arch or return from it” when clicked. Basically, it’s like a lounge pass for old LA!

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I know I’ve been repeating this for the better part of the year, but I’m going to say it again one last time. This episode, like the rest of Season 1, wasn’t up to spec with what we’ve come to expect from modern Guild Wars 2. But it is incredibly important to have this piece of Tyria’s history playable in the game again. Aside from the strike mission, I probably won’t replay this content past getting the achievements I want, but it still really needs to be there for the sake of players who missed it the first time around in order to make the story a little more coherent.

There are still some gaps, like Canach’s introduction and the fact that certain NPCs thank you for helping with the Twisted Marionette and Tequatl world bosses (both of which were added as part of Season 1 but aren’t directly a part of this story) when there’s no reason to believe the player has done either, but at least the game doesn’t just skip the introduction of an entire new cast of main characters as it did before. Plus, the rewards this time around are quite nice – better than a lot of recent cash shop additions if you ask me.

As glad as I am to have this content back in the game, it has put the game in a weird spot for a while now. We aren’t technically in a content drought, since there are new releases flowing on the regular every-other-month schedule, not to mention balance changes and WvW restructuring betas, but there also hasn’t been anything totally new added to the game since End of Dragons’ release way back in March. With Season 1 behind us, I’m looking forward to Season 5 in the new year, and with it a renewed sense of forward motion.

Until then, let’s all enjoy seeing old Lion’s Arch burn again!

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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