Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 3 Episode 3 First Look
By: Edward "Screenager" Orr | Reads: 997
Halloween is over in Tyria. The Job-o-Tron’s have been set to work, dismantling the decorations and scrubbing away a sugary mess. While the Trading Post drowns in candy corn, the heroes of Tyria have some bigger problems to face. ArenaNet has unveiled the latest episode of the Living World Season Three, “A Crack in the Ice”.
After two opening episodes that ratcheted up the stakes, Tyria now faces threats from all sides. The return of the ancient Mursaat, a dangerously splintered White Mantle, and two Elder Dragons seem to encircle the five races. One of the few hopes for victory is the second scion of Glint, revealed in earlier episodes, where episode three begins.
A return to Tarir opens this episode, and a call to train with Aurene. A series of tasks with the baby dragon follow. While feeling a little procedural, these actually turn out to be quite charming. Aurene’s personality shines through during these challenges, each of which are intended to teach Glint’s legacy virtues of courage, valor, charity, and benevolence. Although Aurene does not speak, it is testament to ArenaNet that this baby dragon exudes a curious sort of mischief and has won over vast armies of players without uttering more than a growl or a chirp. The opening of this episode might not be as momentous as Eir’s wake but it reorients players well and leads adequately onto a call from Taimi, and the push north.
With a relationship between Aurene and the player’s character firmly established, the game turns to the more imminent threats looming over Tyria and takes players on an offensive footing against Jormag for a change. A trip towards the Norn strongholds in the north and some exposition leads players into the depths of a frozen frontier after an evolved dragon minion.
As players push beyond the edge of the Shiverpeaks and into a new map, night seems to descend as the Bitterfrost Frontier is uncovered. This new area is around half the size of the adjacent Frostgorge Sound map and a juxtaposition of the new and familiar. A white desert stretches out towards the horizon covered in snow and ravaged by storms. The barren ice flows that cover the Bitterfrosts contain few landmarks, except for a massive Kodan sanctuary and a series of Kodan braziers dotted around the landscape. Svanir patrols, corrupted icebrood and some infuriating ice storms crisscross the tundra between players and the Kodan stronghold.
In order to help players survive the harsh winter, the Kodan bestow the Flame of Koda on players. This unique new magic complements a number of other new movement abilities introduced throughout the opening episodes of season three. Just as in Bloodstone Fen, these skills are not a prerequisite to navigating the map, but they do make life significantly easier. For example, the opening skill, Sprint, allows players to skip across the ice leaving a trail of fire in their wake. The remaining four abilities include Koda’s Breath, which incinerates enemies using a cone of fire and Enflame, which buffs allies. The remainder of these skills opens up a satisfactory mix of movement and offensive skills. Similar to Bloodstone Fen, players can unlock these by completing content and trading unbound magic with the Kodan Flamebearers dotted around the map.
After spending some time skating around the Kodan Sanctuary, the map begins to reveal some familiar concepts in a new winter coat. Aesthetically the Bitterfrosts region is reminiscent of Frostgorge Sound. A Kodan sanctuary squats above the ice, surrounded by crystalline spires, ice flows and some massive mountain ranges. It might all seem a bit too familiar but this is unavoidable and if ArenaNet deviated too far from existing precedent, it would have felt utterly out of place.
Mechanically this map appears to take inspiration from an entirely different weather front. A series of braziers are interspersed across the map, setting off a map wide meta chain. Fail to defend them and Jormag’s fury is unleashed upon anybody unwitting enough to hang around. Darkness closes in and massive snow storms rip across the map. Suddenly the Svanir threat becomes far more imposing and the whole map becomes a reminiscent of Dry Top and the Silverwastes regions. Repeatable daily quests also make a return for episode three, enhancing the content’s replay value with incremental rewards.
Unbound magic also returns to Living World for a third consecutive episode. Unbound magic will continue as a unified currency throughout these episodes, allowing players to access rewards and progress by replaying content that they enjoy most. With back pieces, trinkets, gear, some fantastic tonics, and a new Legendary Quaggan shield up for grabs, this is a positive step that should prevent new content from becoming too transient.
After an interesting rework of some familiar concepts, things do become a little pedestrian as things progress and players lurch further north. Content seems to descend into a series of fetch, gather, and carry quests. After a fantastic opening, time spent gathering berries, felling angry wildlife, and building Grawl statues just feels a little underwhelming. Despite this misstep, things do pick up as the episode begins to reach a climax. Some great storytelling manages to carry the episode through and without spoiling things, ArenaNet’s writing constantly amazes me.
While familiarity can breed contempt, A Crack in the Ice avoids this for the most part with some welcome replayability, a few interesting twists on existing themes, new abilities, and consistently great writing, Despite a rather mundane middle, there were still some personal highlights in this episode. In particular the chance to see a little more of the enigmatic Kodan was fantastic and Tyria has yet to lose any more quaggans to the Elder Dragons. If you too crave the end of Jormag, “A Crack in the Ice” is available now, for free, by logging into Guild Wars 2.
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Edward "Screenager" Orr
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