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Flameseeker Chronicles

Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's Gates of Maguuma is a leap forward

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Skritt just got real.
A few months passed between season one of Guild Wars 2's living world story and the start of season two, and the first content release of the new arc was going to have to make a big splash, no matter what it turned out to contain. Fans grumbled warily about the chances of being asked to repair road signs for weeks while waiting for the meat of the story, and ArenaNet played its cards close to the vest. Teasers, speculation, and season one recaps were all we had to quench our thirst for GW2's second season. We were parched, moving endlessly through a vast wasteland of -- wait, there's a metaphor here. Hold on, it's coming to me.

Anyway, we've been delivered to an oasis: The Gates of Maguuma are open, and we've taken our first steps into a new region of Tyria. Along with several other media representatives, I was invited to take a developer-led tour of the new Dry Top zone and story content. Does it live up to the anticipation? The answer necessarily contains spoilers, so read on at your peril, mortal.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2 features that time forgot

Fantasy, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

The floor is lava! No, really. Run.
It's hard to believe it's the middle of June already. School's out, E3 has come and gone, and all that's left for us Guild Wars 2 fans to do is to pick up our World vs. World Spring Tournament rewards and kick back with a tall glass of omnomberry juice (pro tip: don't).

We're still two weeks out from the start of the living world's second season, and ArenaNet has so far been especially cryptic where the future is concerned. We've speculated all there is to speculate for now, and summer heat makes me cranky, so before we blast off to any new horizons, let's take a look back at a few of the unfinished, unimplemented, and underutilized elements of GW2 that could really use some catching up.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The strange case of Guild Wars 2's reward system

Fantasy, Economy, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Is it cold out there in space, Bowie?
Every now and then I'll hear someone say that Guild Wars 2 has no rewards. They'll say it's extraordinarily grindy, that there's nothing to work toward, and that ArenaNet is intentionally making things harder than they should be so that we'll all give up and buy gems. This is confusing and frustrating to me for two reasons: The first is that all of those things are demonstrably untrue. The second is that I can nevertheless see where those people are coming from to some extent, and it's been difficult to put my finger on why.

GW2 showers players with loot and rewards. In an hour's normal play, I can fill my bags with items and come out of it with a tidy sum of cash; nearly everything in the game is designed to reward players for doing stuff, no matter what that stuff is. Some of it, like Edge of the Mists, is almost ludicrously generous. Even with the changes to the way Queen's Pavilion fights work this time around, it's possible to grab huge numbers of Champion loot bags if you land on an organized megaserver. So why does GW2 feel so stingy?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Why we don't have Cantha in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Guild Wars, Culture, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

These lanterns are so nostalgic.
How about those predictions, huh? Last week I guessed that Guild Wars 2 would get a visit from the Zephyr Sanctum soon, and boom: Festival of the Four Winds exploding all over the place. Having used up my allotment of precognitive accuracy for the year, I plan to gorge myself on delicious sky candy and spend the next week or so literally bouncing off the walls. Before the festivities start, though, we've got just enough time to visit a topic near to my heart: Cantha.

ArenaNet receives very frequent requests to revive the setting of Guild Wars: Factions in GW2, and between GW2's Chinese release, the level of mystery surrounding season two of the living world, and the return of the Zephyrites, it's natural that people would start talking about Cantha again. It might seem baffling that ArenaNet hasn't rushed to steer the living world story in such an obviously popular direction, but unfortunately it's not as simple as loading us on the next airship and flying away to Seitung Harbor -- at least not yet.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Let the Guild Wars 2 season two speculation begin

Fantasy, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Necromancer amazing adventures!
The new car smell has worn off Guild Wars 2's feature pack, which is great because it's not a car and that was getting a little weird. Whatever your opinion might be on GW2's living world, players have gotten used to biweekly content updates, and while it's refreshing to have a break every now and then, people are starting to draw comparisons to drought conditions while scavenging for any hints as to what might be coming next. ArenaNet has been busy with the Chinese beta and feature pack release, but letting us roll around like tumbleweeds for a bit is probably a good way to dry up any lingering burnout from the first part of the Scarlet arc.

In the aftermath of the Battle for Lion's Arch, we were nevertheless left with a lot of information to sift through and a few pointers as to where the story might take us next. At the very least we have enough to fuel speculation, which is my second favorite pastime (right after fearing people off of cliffs in Edge of the Mists).

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's post-feature pack experience

Fantasy, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Befuddled sharktooth flopears, for testing purposes.
On April 15th Guild Wars 2 got its first feature pack, as packed with features as advertised. After the first day or so of trying to figure out where our town clothes disappeared to, it's becoming clear how much has changed: There's a lot more to take in and adjust to than might be immediately apparent.

The experience for new GW2 characters has changed so much that I rolled up yet another alt post-patch to try it out. That was my plan all along, and I didn't do it because I just bought another character slot and didn't have an Asura yet. I chose a profession that's known for being less fun without traits, so I could see what it's like to not have them before level 30. It was not because I wanted another Engineer and already have two Necromancers, two Guardians, and two Mesmers.

It was also necessary to use a total makeover kit for legitimate data-gathering purposes. Aww, look how cute he is! I can use all of my unlocked dyes on him, and dress him up in outfits, and -- right, down to business.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Customization and playing together in Guild Wars 2's feature pack

Fantasy, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Plush bobblegriffon!
As of last week, ArenaNet has revealed all of the major features Guild Wars 2 players can expect to see in April 15th's highly anticipated feature pack. When I say "highly anticipated," I mean that a large part of the playerbase is collectively vibrating and may soon gain enough momentum to will April 15th into arriving immediately. If they don't manage it, at least we've only got a week to wait.

Until then, we've got plenty of GW2 discussion to tide us over. Most of the feature pack announcements have been well-received, and there's a lot to look forward to, but I still have a few minor nits to pick. Blame it on nits being easier to find when everyone's head is 200% bigger.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Looking forward to Guild Wars 2's feature pack

Fantasy, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

What a good dog.
The dust has barely settled on the Battle for Lion's Arch: Aftermath release, but ArenaNet is already releasing blog posts to discuss Guild Wars 2's April 15th feature pack. What's a feature pack? Well, it's exactly what it says on the tin: We'll be getting a big chunk of gameplay updates, quality-of-life improvements, and balance tweaks that don't fit into the living world or have story components. I usually refer to this stuff as "stuff," but "feature pack" definitely sounds more classy.

As I write this, we've gotten posts on three of the topics locked up in the official feature pack site's nifty little sidebar doodad: one covering updates to the trait system; another to outline balance changes for runes, sigils and professions; and another to talk about swapping critical damage percentage for a new attribute called Ferocity. I have a lot to say about traits, but I'm also going to spend some time speculating on the next two blog posts in the lineup. There's nothing I love more than making half-baked predictions.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's season finale doesn't quite soar

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Lion's Arch before the fall
I've been critical of Guild Wars 2's living world over the past year. It was an experiment that I thought sounded excellent on paper but hadn't proved itself in practice. ArenaNet's goals for the story were very ambitious, but most video game fans -- and MMO players especially -- are used to developers talking up lofty plans and then delivering products that don't quite leave the ground. These days it's easy to let go of some disappointment if we're promised a flying car and instead get a new four-door sedan that actually works as opposed to, say, a Biturbo that rattles apart on the highway. GW2 at launch was at least airborne, and it had a good foundation to build on. The question was whether or not ArenaNet would build on it.

Now that we've seen the last part of the first living world story arc, I am ready to tentatively classify GW2 as being in the "hovering" stage of flight. Jump past the cut and let's talk about Battle For Lion's Arch -- but only if you're cool with spoilers. Are we cool with spoilers? Cool.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Meeting fun halfway in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Mourning LA
Lion's Arch is gone. What's left of our city is rubble and fire and the echoing screams of terrified survivors. The day Scarlet Briar's army attacked dawned clear and mild; by the end the sky was choked with smoke, poison, and the silhouette of Scarlet's massive drill ship. Thousands of people died, are dying, and will continue to die -- all we can do for now is to try to save as many as we can.

Escape From Lion's Arch is a truly impressive piece of storytelling and atmospheric set design, and I found it immediately comparable to similar missions in games like BioWare's Mass Effect series. I've never really played anything like it in an MMO, and I think ArenaNet has done a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of a city under attack. It's been a bittersweet time for fans of Guild Wars 2; as I discussed last week, roleplayers have responded to the release with a flurry of creative activity, and the general consensus seems to be that the story, dialogue, atmosphere and artwork are all excellent -- if only we weren't forced to mindlessly farm for loot! Wait, we're what?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: How Guild Wars 2's living world can liven up roleplay

Fantasy, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Roleplaying, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Lion's Arch fountain at dawn
Scarlet Briar is planning an attack on Lion's Arch, the central hub city of Guild Wars 2. L.A. is the city where all of the playable races -- and plenty of individuals from others -- live together in one big, piracy-flavored metropolis; despite the theme of ruthless capitalism, it's also a place that symbolizes peace and camaraderie. Humans in Kryta may view diversity as an astonishing novelty, but the people of L.A. chortle at the hayseeds and go about their business.

Among the GW2 roleplayers I know, several have characters who live in Lion's Arch. A few of them were born and raised there. After watching some of us chat about the massive upheaval the city's destruction will create in the lives of those characters, one of my favorite people ventured that this was probably a bad time for her to dip her toes into GW2's RP scene, right? Nope. In fact, there hasn't been a better time to jump in since, well, ever.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's adventures in babysitting

Fantasy, PvP, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Edge of the Mists--Frostreach
I'm having a great time in Guild Wars 2's new Edge of the Mists map. It's rekindled my love of World vs. World. I've spent so much time there that I've gotten pretty good at not accidentally running off ledges (although I've probably just jinxed myself), and my collections of empyreal fragments and badges of honor are steadily growing.

Against all odds, I also managed to tear myself away long enough to write this column, which is good because there's a lot to talk about this week: What's so great about this cluster of floating rocks? How is Braham handling his new caretaking responsibilities? Why do people keep referencing the Zerg from Starcraft when they talk about GW2?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Living on the Edge (of the Mists) in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Culture, PvP, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Dancin' in front of TC Borderlands gate
Regular readers of this column may have noticed that I spend very little time discussing Guild Wars 2's PvP scene. Some of you may have even jumped to the conclusion that this is because I suck at PvP and my only reason for even entering the Mists-based sPvP lobby is to try on clothes in the locker, so I'm here today to set the record straight: You are absolutely correct.

I do enjoy World vs. World, both in spite of and because I am terrible at traditional team-based PvP activities -- unless you count some special event minigames, which I am inexplicably OK at. On the whole, ArenaNet has done a pretty good job in GW2 at giving someone who has no business trying to poke fancy cutlery at other players avenues through which to do it anyway without bringing the whole structure crashing down.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The greatest Guild Wars 2 love story ever told

Fantasy, Culture, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Kasmeer and Marjory
I enjoy the Twisted Marionette fight, and I'm looking forward to smacking some wurms if I can ever make it off the overflow servers, but what I really love about Guild Wars 2's latest content release, The Origins of Madness, is its emphasis on characterization. Some of you probably think my cheese has slipped off its cracker for finding a mini-instance in which NPCs chatter at each other the most charming part of an update, but I am what I am.

I feel a little less alone in this since I'm not the only one turning cartwheels over it. A recent ArenaNet developer livestream contained a reference to the relationship between Marjory Delaqua and her partner, Kasmeer Meade, as a "love story." For those of us who had already picked up on their affection for each other and were hoping to see them become a couple officially, this was very exciting, and their interaction in the current release has shown them growing closer. But why are Kas and Jory such a big deal? They're just a pair of NPCs, right?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: The calm before Guild Wars 2's next release

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Twisted Marionette (ArenaNet official screenshot)
It has come to my attention that the title of the latest Guild Wars 2 release is not GIANT KILLER LADY ROBOT. It's actually titled The Origins of Madness. "GIANT KILLER LADY ROBOT!" is just what I yelled after seeing the Twisted Marionette world boss because I can't think of many things cooler than that, and now we're going to have one right here in our very own GW2.

Apart from the presence of the Twisted Marionette and jungle wurm world bosses, ArenaNet is keeping the content of this release tightly under wraps. Not that I blame it; with Scarlet Briar's story arc ramping up to a finish, it wouldn't do to let too many details slip.

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