The Living World is ArenaNet’s attempt at making Tyria feel as if it is alive: making the story progress, rather than getting stagnant between patches, like some MMO’s I could mention. Season 1 pitted players against Scarlet Briar, the mastermind behind the molten alliance, the aetherblade pirates, the toxic alliance (great band name), as well as her very own clockwork creations. During the story we quashed one uprising after another, saved the queen, assaulted various dungeons, celebrated several shoehorned holidays and, most importantly, saw far too much of Scarlet Briar. By the time Season 1 lost me – sometime around The Nightmares Within update – I was so sick of her that I stopped playing the game all together: the boring events and grindy achievements also didn’t help, but Scarlet takes a big ol’ slice of the blame cake.
But with a new Season of The Living World comes a new opportunity for me to fall in love with Tyria all over again.
Along with a brand new area, armour, weapons, new crafting materials and recipes, there is a shiny new story: Gates of Maguuma. We rejoin the host of characters, that loyal GW2 players will recognise from Season 1, sometime after the defeat of Scarlet. Dialogue with, and between, your old pals still ranges from a chuckle and a wry smile to Nicholas Cage in The Wicker Man. We can forgive them though, because the sexual tension between Braham and Rox is delicious, Taimi is painfully cute and if Kasmeer and Marjory’s relationship annoys you then someone from Tumblr with probably hunt you down.
Set in the arid landscape of Dry Top just after the Zephyr Sanctum has crash landed, you and your hapless companions decide to investigate a possible sabotage. The first couple of story instances cover the introduction and exploration of the new area nicely and conclude with the arrival of Aerin. Aerin is another naughty Sylvari, much like Scarlet, and initially I wanted to smash my keyboard over my knee, take the delete and escape keys and press them firmly into my eyes at the sight of him. “Here we go again”, thought I, “More megalomaniacal Sylvari stinking up the joint, is he going to hijack my story like Trahearne, or giggle incessantly like Scarlet?” Neither in fact: Aerin doesn’t stick around long enough to outstay his welcome, dropping a number of interesting lore titbits before you show him the door.
Gates of Maguuma is a great first episode in Season 2 but the highlight of this patch for me is the improved story journal. Now it will track each episode in the Living World and your progress through it. The journal also enables the ability to replay an episode to get instance specific achievements, and if replaying a story repeatedly to earn minuscule crumbs of gratification isn’t fun, then I don’t know what is.