Season two is finally here, and I'm really happy with it. It took around an hour for me and a friend to work through the new story quests (for the first time) and I found it to be both engaging and challenging. There's definitely been an improvement in the quality of the dialogue between the biconics and I loved the Braham/Rox/Taimi banter. Some of the couplesy chat between Marjory and Kas got a little cringey, but I can live with it and expect to see that naturally take a backseat when the serious ass–kicking continues. One aspect which really stood out to me was the use of profession–based abilities. Majory pulls up a bone bridge so that Kasmeer can cross a chasm and drop a portal for us to use. Super cool, and something that I would love to see more of. It felt like the new emphasis put on conducting story elements inside instanced quests is really allowing the writers to play around a lot more, and I'm impressed. Keep it up!
I won't go into too much detail on story specifics since everyone ought to stop what they're doing and to go and play it for themselves, but I thought that the pursuit and eventual battle with Aerin was well designed and something I look forward to repeating both to unlock achievements and because it was just a ton of fun. I haven't completed any of the harder achievements at the time of writing, but I'm a fan of the new direction they're taking, and in combination with the new 'Regions' category in the achievement panel that houses some of the more exploration–rewarding tasks, I think that it's going to be one of the most welcome changes in season two. I was happy to start filling out the backstory for a recently vanquished foe and am already intrigued to see how that story thread will unfurl.
We finally got a new zone to play in: Dry Top. I love the verticality of the zone, and having access to the Zephyrite movement skills fills me with joy. We have, in effect, a permanent Labyrinthine Cliffs, complete with scavenger hunts and perilous diving boards. The spot underneath the jumping puzzle was constantly littered with corpses, myself included, and was roundly hilarious. I'm going to start standing there and charging for ressing the defeated. The way in which environmental effects have been used to affect broad changes on the are really interesting. I'm sent scrabbling around for buried locked chests every time as soon as the sandstorm hits, and think that these kinds of features will be used to even greater effect in future zones. The existing areas in Tyria and utterly beautiful to look at and lots of fun to explore, and I think that what we're seeing in Dry Top is a clear sign of the maturity that is being applied to zone design as we go forward.
Maclaine Diemer's new compositions for Dry Top are superb and really capture the atmosphere of the barren landscape and swirling sands. I can't wait to hear what else he and Leif Chappelle have in store for us.
Tilion of Dragon Season pointed out this morning something that I'd noticed last night but not really processed:
Is it just me or Megaservers work properly after yesterday's patch? It's so much fun playing with the entire guild in Dry Top. ~Tilion— Dragon Season (@DragonSeasonCom) July 2, 2014
Dry Top really shows off why the megaserver system is so great. Everywhere I turned there was an orange name and a friendly face, and it really made a big difference. My schedule doesn't allow me to get along to guild missions very often, so it was excellent to be able to organically party up and complete story quests and events together. I can see this really adding to the impact of each new story episode, particularly where new zones are involved.
In summary, I bought into the pre–season hype and wasn't let down. The story quests took a good amount of time to complete and I think that I'll spend a good amount of time over the next fornight going back to unlock all of the achievements and to dig up the various rewards. Bring on episode two!