Living World Season 3 Review

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 04:39 PM

Living World Season 3 Review
Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 3 Guide/Review

WARNING: Storyline spoilers contained throughout this guide/review, continue reading at your own risk.

The Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 3 story (Out of the Shadows) has been finally released, after several months of waiting since the end of Heart of Thorns' four acts. The story takes place after the Commander of the Pact (your character) and their allies kill Mordremoth, the Elder (Jungle) Dragon. Before finally killing the dragon, one of the members of Destiny's Edge, Eir Stegalkin, is killed by a Mordrem Vinetooth.



Eir's Memorial in Hoelbrak

The storyline picks up a little while after Mordremoth's death, with a letter from Knut Whitebear inviting you to Eir's memorial at her homestead in Hoelbrak. There, you reunite with Rytlock Brimstone and eventually Rox as well as Eir's pet wolf, Garm. Your character finds out that Eir's son, Braham, is away 'blowing off steam in the mountains', while the memorial is taking place. Rytlock, Rox, and your character decide to start a new guild, calling it Dragon's Watch. The instance itself is as simple as it can get - follow the objective markers as they pop up and interact with each marker (speaking to NPCs, interacting with objects). There is actually absolutely no combat in this instance. Eventually, you will speak to Skaald Alfhildr; she will prompt your character to make a speech about Eir and her legacy before you leave.


Research in Rata Novus

The story continues with your character going to Rata Novus to check up with Taimi and what she has been up to during the interim. After dealing with some interference with the crowds of Asura researching the once-abandoned city, namely defending yourself from a malfunctioning old golem a researcher is working on, Taimi shows up to talk. Your character asks her about the Dragon lab, but she insists on keeping the lab a secret, especially from Councilor Phlunt. Phlunt confronts Taimi, but she lies to his face about finding any new developments and once he's out of earshot, she gets herself, Rytlock, and your character ready to head to the Dragon lab through the gate. Here, you are given two choices, you can do the color-based Simon Says-like puzzle or if you want to skip the puzzle entirely, fight three security golems. The easier option is to defeat the three golems; the color pattern changes in the puzzle go by very quickly, though both choices awards an achievement for each.

Once you arrive at the Dragon lab, Taimi shows off a replica of a magic-tracking map found in Tarir. She notices that ever since Mordremoth's demise, the magic is going everywhere, especially to significant magical objects, like Glint's egg, held and guarded in Tarir. Taimi suddenly points out that a northern Bloodstone dot is flaring up with magic, and notes that she should keep track of it. Next, she leads you to a holding chamber with a Chak organ suspended in Blighting Pod liquid. Meanwhile, a couple of Chak Lurkers and a Chak Zapper spawn for you to kill, followed by two Chak Drones and Chak Slingers. Another small wave of Chak spawns for you to kill. Finally, a Veteran-difficulty Chak Blitzer shows up for you to kill. Taimi continues, revealing that the organ she had collected from the Chak was a digestive organ, and that it was interesting to observe because Chak absorb ley (magic) energy. She also tells your character that she's been keeping the organ in the Blighting Pod fluids from the Blighted Tree, stating that it had preservative, even restorative properties, much to your character's irritation. After she finishes talking, you are given two objectives - the first one is optional, and it simply shares some idle gossip between other Asura, the most intriguing being an offhand comment about Humans dealing with the White Mantle, and the arrival of the Vigil's leader to the main lab.


Once your character exits back into the main lab, they meet up with General Almorra Soulkeeper, leader of the Vigil. She believes that it was Trahearne's mistake that he got himself killed out on the field, and she offers your character his position as Marshal of the Pact. However, your character declines the offer and says that it'd be better off for them to work with their newly formed guild. Almorra also delivers a letter to Rytlock from the Black Citadel, which Rytlock promptly tosses aside. The conversation is interrupted by some sort of commotion, which turns out to be Canach. He was sent by Countess Anise to find your character to assist him in tracking down Minister Caudecus, and tells the group that there is increased White Mantle activity in northern Maguuma. Your character tells Rytlock to get in touch with Marjory Delaqua to help out, and accepts Almorra's offer for transportation to Divinity's Reach.

Blood and Stone


As the airship approaches a formidable-looking storm, a gigantic explosion happens at the Bloodstone's center, its energy spreading out towards the airship. Almorra orders the crew to reverse course; however, suddenly the explosion seems to implode on itself instead, right before completely obliterating the airship. They are forced to land in Bloodstone Fen, the airship too damaged to fly any further. Your character consults with Almorra, coming to a conclusion that it was a bloodstone exploding, and decides that they'll head down to search for survivors and find out why the blast reversed itself. After speaking with Almorra, four open-world objectives show up - one to investigate the arena at the top of the floating citadel, the next to search for survivors on the surface and in a nearby cave, and finally to investigate the large chunk of bloodstone below the citadel. You can complete these objectives in whatever order you want. When all four objectives are completed, it directs you to speak with Squad Leader Bennet to continue your investigation. He mentions that he didn't see Canach, but he did see Caithe run off somewhere. Then, you need to return to Almorra to report your findings.

Reaper of Magic

Once you've consulted with Almorra, you have to go to the bow of the ship to contact Taimi. Both Taimi and your character conclude that the survivors are consuming magic and harvesting bloodstone shards to do so. After finishing that step, you need to kill a White Mantle cleric (Veteran difficulty, located in the open world map) to get their ancient artifact to find out how to harvest magic. Then, you are directed to speak with Squad Leader Bennett once again.

A Shadow's Deeds

After speaking with Squad Leader Bennett, you have to train for the Counter Magic Mastery before continuing the story. After you gain enough experience and train the Ancient Magics Mastery Line (using up one Heart of Thorns Mastery Point), you then have to travel to the explosion's crater and enter the instance. Once in the instance, your character is directed to Investigate the Floating Room, and about halfway to the objective, your character gets ambushed by a group of White Mantle members. Kill the enemy NPCs, then continue following the magical scorch marks to a floating arena with a pedestal in the center. Caithe appears, revealing that she was there too trying to find out why the bloodstone explosion had reversed itself. Your character harvests a handful of bloodstone shards, each guarded by different types of enemies, including weapons imbued with ley energy, a Veteran-difficulty anomaly, a bloodstone elemental, a Veteran-difficulty Jade Armor, and a wave of White Mantle at the very end. During the fight with the White Mantle, Caithe apologizes for being confused, selfish, and for what she did while the events of Heart of Thorns were taking place, and insists that your character should think about forgiving her. A Shining Blade Paratrooper arrives with news about Canach, and that they were ordered to find Minister Caudecus, who was sighted in the area. Caithe chooses to remain in the area to investigate it further.


Confessor's Stronghold

Your character meets up with Canach, Rytlock, and Marjory at the White Mantle colosseum, where Canach believes Minister Caudecus is located. Your group progresses upwards towards the arena, killing a couple of Veteran-difficulty Bloodstone Elementals with high hit-point pools, using the Counter Magic ability to remove their magical shields. You use the same tactic in the next fight against Justiciar Adrienne, when her health falls to 75%, 50%, and 25%. Finally, after killing the Justiciar, you follow the steps all the way up to the top of the colosseum, where you run into Minister Caudecus himself. He reveals that he was leading the White Mantle all along, and that he was intent on taking the throne from the Queen. Caudecus lets loose a Jade Construct in an attempt to kill your character and allies, but after killing the Jade Construct, a mysterious being shows up, declaring Caudecus and his followers heretics. The being, Lazarus, says that he was the last Mursaat and that he was the God of the White Mantle. Taking the chance, Canach rushes the Minister, but Caudecus escapes from Canach's grasp with the help of a fellow White Mantle mesmer standing nearby. Your character concludes that it wasn't Caudecus himself that had acquired extra magical power from the bloodstone explosion/implosion, but perhaps it was Lazarus, and that they should track down both to deal with. Finally, Taimi interrupts the conversation between your allies and your character, stating that the Elder Dragon, Primordus was active.



Storyline Review

Personally, I believe they should've expanded on the events/status of the other major NPCs involved in the storyline (Zojja, Logan Thackeray, perhaps a memorial for Trahearne's sacrifice) following the end of the Heart of Thorns Acts 1-4, instead of simply focusing on Eir's death and following memorial. There were/are a lot of loose ends and plot holes regarding these and other characters after what happened during the fight and victory against Mordremoth. The story then immediately jumps to what Taimi had been up to, and while it makes sense to catch up on her findings, Canach's sudden arrival with news about the White Mantle seemed fairly abrupt. It also seems odd that the leader of the Vigil just happens to show up right before Canach, looking to promote the commander (your character) to Pact Marshal, and she also has some sort of mysterious letter to deliver from the Black Citadel to Rytlock, which he keeps dismissing - creating even more loose ends that aren't really explained (at least for now).

As everyone but Taimi leaves on Almorra's airship to head for Divinity's Reach, the Bloodstone explosion/implosion they fly towards knocks the airship out of commission, and it falls conveniently into an area crawling with White Mantle members and chock full of Bloodstone magic. Once your character decides to find out the circumstances of the explosion/implosion, Caithe suddenly appears out of nowhere in the magical crater trying to do the same thing, with no explantion as to how or why she was there before your character, as if she knew beforehand about the explosion/implosion. Her apology dialogue was also pretty glancing and hollow, considering how much trouble and fuss she had made for everyone during the events of Heart of Thorns. It seems like the story writers are trying to keep the storyline going at a brisk clip, which is fine, but it does leaves me wondering 'how' and 'why' the story is unfolding so quickly and conveniently to fit with Canach's (of all characters) share of the story. Additionally, I do think it would be nice if the writers gave people a little bit more on the lore of the White Mantle and the Mursaat for players unfamiliar with the events of the original Guild Wars game and expansion. For someone who only has minimal knowledge of the original lore from casually reading the GW1 Wiki, the (re)introduction of the White Mantle and the Mursaat was very sudden, even though there are subtle signs of (at least) the White Mantle being in-game (ex: the organization's marking at the entrance to a bandit cave on the Queensdale map, and the handful of White Mantle ghost NPCs located on one of the far edges of the Brisban Wildlands map).

At the end of this Living World Season 3 chapter, when Taimi reveals that the Elder Dragon Primordus is active, this makes me wonder what the rest of the coming chapters will cover. So far, it's dealt mostly with the Dragon's Watch (the new guild's) run-in with the White Mantle and Lazarus the Mursaat, but if there's a new Elder Dragon awake and active, will the overall story as a whole be pulled apart at the seams while the writers try to balance out the two entirely different scenarios? I'm concerned that if they take an approach that focuses on one or the other possible (Primorus-centric) storyline, it'll just leave more unanswered questions and plot holes like the four story parts of Heart of Thorns did. Even now after the conclusion of this first chapter of the current Living World Season there are even more new questions to be addressed. What will become of the whole 'Chak organ in blighting pod fluid' experiment Taimi shows off in Research in Rata Novus? Will that even affect what'll happen in later chapters or be ever mentioned ever again? What exactly is Rytlock avoiding with other characters in the Charr home city, the Black Citadel? Of course at this point at the begining of the entire story season, everything is speculative and up in the air; hopefully the upcoming chapters for this Living World Season will address all the loose ends thus far, but given ArenaNet's propensity for not tying up loose ends and addressing plot holes, I'm having some nagging doubts about how the rest of the season's storyline will go.

Gameplay Review

Gameplay-wise, I'm starting to think that the developers intend for the story instances to be done with two or more people, instead of making it reasonably difficult for solo players. I'm finding a lot of the normal-difficulty groups of enemies are getting harder to kill and feel much more sPvP-like in their behavior (ex: the White Mantle mesmer NPCs using Portals left and right and are a total nuisance). If I want to sPvP, I'll go sPvP against real players, not NPCs. The large waves of enemies are also obnoxious to deal with. If it's not overwhelming a player with sheer numbers, a lot of fights with veteran-difficulty enemies are needlessly dragged out by the ridiculously large hit-point pools they have, not to mention some of them have Defiance (Break) Bars that have to be dealt with using crowd-control effects. For (Champion and Legendary difficulty) bosses, combining the huge hit-point pools with the obligatory Defiance Bars and unique special mechanics makes boss fights a complete headache if you don't start the fight off on a good foot. The more and more I play these story instances, the more and more I'm convinced the developers don't even think about people who prefer playing story content by themselves when they're designing each instance.

As far as some story instance boss fights go, I can't even finish it without being full-on defeated at least once, damaging a piece or two of armor in the process. In the final part of Out of the Shadows, my characters dropped and died a lot in the fight against Justiciar Adrienne, who hits for an insane amount of damage and if you happen to get caught in her multiple crowd-control attacks, you're basically done for. It also didn't help that the allied NPCs seemed to be bugged out in that instance's fight; they literally stood around (or paced back and forth), doing absolutely nothing to help mitigate the excess enemies. The only time I finished that story instance without any deaths was playing through it with another player. It seems that whoever designed the boss fight still hasn't learned from designing LWS 2's The Dragon's Reach: Part 2 final boss fight, in which it was so difficult, I've heard accounts from other players (playing the instance in groups, no less!) that they finished that boss fight with all of their armor broken, leaving their poor characters stark naked. I don't disagree that boss fights are meant to be challenging to complete, but when it results in total defeat every few minutes (thanks to the Downed penalty), it's a pretty obnoxious hurdle to jump over for anyone who plays the story instances for the storyline.

I also believe that gating a story instance by requiring (grinding for) an arbitrarily-added Mastery was a bad idea. The Counter Magic ability is simply an extra button to press in certain fights, and it seems like an unnecessary speed bump that messes up the flow of the storyline for those who want to breeze through the whole thing. I didn't like how HoT forced people to grind for specific masteries between certain chapters (ex: requiring the Nuhoch Hunting mastery to progress to the The Way In chapter), and I didn't like it here in Out of the Shadows.

Annoyance with the difficulty of story instance fights aside, I strongly believe there should be something implemented (like a button to 'Skip to Next Objective') to allow for skipping cinematics and forced dialogue after you've played a story chapter for the first time. When I'm going after story instance-based achievements, I don't always want to sit through and wait out the forced dialogues and cutscenes before I can get to what I need to do. I'd love to be able to skip through the time-consuming chatter and flashy graphics (nice as they are); it gets repetitive, especially if you've got a lot of characters to run through. Assuming a player has one character of each playable class (nine classes total) and they want to play through the story once on each character, as it stands right now, they would be forced into hearing and seeing the same exact forced dialogue and cutscenes nine times. After two or three times through a story chapter, most people want to get it done and over with as soon as possible.

Overall Review

So far, I've had mixed feelings about the Living World Season 3 story. It was sort of fun to play the first and second times around (ignoring the bugged NPCs in Confessor's Stronghold), but it got slow and tedious afterwards on each character I took into the Bloodstone Fen map via the story. The storyline itself seems arbitrarily cobbled together (why does the White Mantle suddenly pop up out of nowhere and become an immediate threat after killing two Elder Dragons?) and felt rushed, despite the forced dialogue and cutscenes feeling slow, and the gameplay could use some tweaking to make it more friendly to solo players and people with lots of alternate characters. I hope the next chapters for the Living World Season 3 will address some of these concerns, but I don't exactly have high hopes that it'll do so.

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