The first season of the Living World comes to a close tomorrow with an epilogue which will likely give us some idea of what's next for Lion's Arch, and where the fight will lead us next. The general feeling seems to be that this first season started off slowly, and has steadily picked up, with some excellent highlights along the way. It definitely bodes well for the future, but before we get there, I want to point out a few of the things that I liked and some that I wasn't so keen on. I'd love to hear what you think, so let me know by leaving a comment below, or getting in touch via Twitter or Facebook.
Favourite release: The Nightmares Within
In the patch prior to Nightmares Within, we saw Kessex Hills devastated by Scarlet and the Toxic Alliance, and uncovered a giant tower right in the middle of the zone. This was our chance to get into the tower itself, battling our way up from the bottom through swathes of Krait and unnerving hallucinations, dodging exploding plants, until we reached the pinnacle. There, we entered the heart of the tower and killed the Champion Toxic Hybrid, viewed by the Krait as an incarnation of their prophets.
What I liked most about this release, largely in retrospect, is that it gave us a good range of content to explore, both in groups and solo. Trying to get all the way up to the top by yourself was extremely challenging (although definitely easier for some professions), but felt like an achievement. The same can be said of finding and besting the chambers scattered throughout. At the other end of the scale, you could either follow a zerg around, clearing your way to the top and killing the various champions that spawned, or take a more tactical approach (i.e. trying not to overscale the events with too many players) and go with a crack 5–man commando team.
Overall, the rewards were so–so (as with most patch content), but the exception here was the extremely popular Gas Mask Skin, the prize for completely the meta achievement. It looks great and you still see it in frequent use. We've had all sorts of backpieces, so I think that attractive headgear is definitely an area that ArenaNet could focus on for rewards in Living World season two.
Biggest disappointment: Battle for Lion's Arch
Now then. I'm quite conflicted with this one. If I list everything that I think that is done well with the latest release, it should come out on top: interesting (albeit too long) boss fight, lots of easy loot, pleasing denoument to the Scarlet storyline. However, it just hasn't gripped me. I've played less in the last fortnight than I have done for a while, and I can't really figure out why.
I think that perhaps it has something to do with expectations riding high after the fun Escape from Lion's Arch release. Maybe Battle for Lion's Arch just feels too similar; maybe a different cosmetic treatment given to the zone would help, although I can understand from a dev perspective why they wouldn't want to do that, particularly given that I'm expecting that to happen soon, perhaps even in the epilogue release tomorrow.
The boss fight, while interesting and a step in the right direction, is incredibly frustrating and too long. I've been in under–populated overflows twice now (out of probably only 10 total attempts) which have barely completed the Knight event, and have then failed to kill the Hologram inside the 30 minute window provided. 30. Minute. Window. It should be pretty much impossible to fail in that amount of time, in my opinion, which means that this should probably have been tuned even lower. It's time–gated, after all, which prevents farming. Let people complete it a little more easily so that we can all experience the end of the story and not be tearing our hair out at having wasted half an hour for nothing.
Best new characters: Majory and Kasmeer
Of all of the story characters that we've been introduced to, Jory and Kasmeer are by far the most developed and interesting. The film noir introduction definitely helped, but each patch I actually look forward to finding the two of them to see what they've deduced from their investigations. The story chapter where we joined them in the Dead End Bar to go through artifacts from our battles with Scarlet and her armies was particularly interesting. I also think that the writing of their romance has been done well for the most part, and has largely avoided clichés.
Funniest conversation: Taimi trolling Braham and Logan
She was in with a shout for best new character, but will have to be happy with this accolade instead. Taimi has had some excellent dialog in the short time since her introduction, but my absolute favourite is her chat with Logan and Braham from the Origins of Madness release. “Help! Help! Save me from this creepy human!”
Best new activity: Sanctum Sprint
It was either this, or Crab Toss for the the sheer hilarity, but I had a great time perfecting my jumps and optimising my route around the sprint track and look forward to it popping up as the daily activity.
Best new area: Bazaar of the Four Winds
It looked great. The achievements were interesting, and I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt. Looking forward to this coming back in the future. Does anyone think that we might see it relocate from Mount Maelstrom to Lion's Arch while the capital is rebuilt?
Most annoying enemies: Toxic Alliance
So. Many. Conditions. Ugh.
Most fun experience: Twisted Marionette
I've covered it before, but it's worth repeating. This fight was loads of fun, and well–balanced to be challenging for non–organised groups of players, with an appropriate rate of reward. I'd love to see more bosses like this in Living World season two.
Worst group decision: Electing Ellen Kiel
I mean, seriously? Total fix. I demand a recount! Gnashblade 4 lyfe.
Best music: Super Adventure Box
Go and listen to some excellent chiptunes right away.