ArenaNet has been inviting fan sites and journalist sites to preview the new content the weekend before it drops. I really appreciate all the work the team is doing for this because it gives the sites time to think, write, and develop well-rounded impressions and guides. This is the first time I have been able to join in on the preview, and for the content coming July 9, we checked out the Bazaar of the Four Winds.
New Map, Labyrinthine Cliffs
Although kind of unspecified in the official site’s Bazaar of the Four Winds page, the majority of this content update takes place on a brand new map called Labyrinthine Cliffs. It’s about the size of Rata Sum, or a small capital city, but it does have some enemies to combat. Labyrinthine Cliffs is located east of Mount Malestrom, and it is beautiful. Kites are the theme, and the sense of wind and freedom permeates the map. All the artists have done a remarkable job, as usual. It is also where the giant, nomadic airship – the Zephyr Sanctum – docked.
While Southsun Cove and other maps revolve around a plethora of events and enemies to kill, Labyrinthine Cliffs is more like a playground. A playground for air-bending ninjas since the Zephyrites, human sky savants, have landed. In one sense it’s a giant jumping puzzle, but that’s not very accurate. I find playground much more accurate because there are all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore. Still, there are a few tougher “puzzles” such as the Best. Dive. Ever.
To help explore, players pick up aspects along the way, which are consumable skills (similar to how Fireworks work). Wind gives a super jump. Sun gives a speedy dash, and the aspect of lightning gives a targeted super jump. These new skills allow players to get to a lot of areas that would normally just seem impossible. There is reason to parkour because all around Labyrinthine Cliffs there are sky crystals to activate, with the reward of having a pesonal Zephyr Sanctum model if players find 40 out of 50+. The skills, especially the windy super jump, are very smooth to use, and it gives the whole map a feeling of freedom.
What I really enjoyed with the new map was the depth of Labyrinthine Cliffs. There were a lot of new lore NPCs and NPC conversations occurring throughout. Even though not quite as dense in NPC content as a capital city, The area feels really lively. I highly recommend lurking around the back of the Zephyr Sanctum to listen to a Zephyrite teaching a bunch of kids. Very interesting theories to share.
There are three new content additions on top of Labyrinthine Cliffs: Sanctum Sprint, Belcher’s Bluff, and the new PvP map, Skyhammer.
Sanctum Sprint is the temporary content where players train in the use of the aspects of wind, sun, and lightning in a Mario Kart-like race. I think for now this is going to be the spiritual successor of Rollerbeetle Racing of old. There are points for crystals to collect, items that give additional skills, and traps and jumps throughout the race. The best part is that ArenaNet made sure that Sanctum Sprint would be rewarding. At second place I received a rare. At sixth place I received a small handful of blues. I am hoping that people will continue to race throughout the month, unlike the less rewarding Dragon Ball arena, which seemed to become rather vacant as Dragon Bash waned.
Belcher’s Bluff is a new permanent minigame activity. It’s basically an upgraded version of a bluffing minigame found in the personal story, which makes it quite different from the team-based Keg Brawl. The fun part about Belcher’s Bluff is it is another good time-passer while groups are being created or guild missions are being formed. Any player can plop down a table to tempt an opponent to see who can drink, bluff, and belch each other under the table. While this game is a permanent addition, beating Poyaqui, Grandmaster of the game, in Labyrinthine Cliffs is only available while the map is active.
Finally we were introduced to the new PvP map, Skyhammer, which is now my favorite PvP map. It’s a vertical-style map with jump pads and ledges. It also has floor panels which shatter a moment after they are stood upon. Pursuers have to be very careful not to accidentally run across one after their prey as they could easily fall to their death. With these panels and open ledges, this map is going to be about control and stability. The secondary mechanic is the a huge laser (the Skyhammer) which when controlled by a team automatically shoots a high-damage beam at the players below. The laser control overlook is going to be a place of beautiful battles, I think, as it is as much solid ground as it is shattering floor panels.
Economy and Crafting
There are new skins for helms and back items reflecting the crystals and aspects of the Zephyrite peoples, and these are tied to Zephyr Sanctum Supply Boxes, which seem similar to the other supply boxes. I have a feeling the economy is going to feel some significant movement from the acquisition of these items. A developer told us about the Black Lion Trading Company’s offering as a type of fortune. Opening one gives a random boost for awhile and also a fortune scrap. While there are gold fortune scraps giving whatever helm or back item the player wishes, players not looked kindly upon by the RNG gods can save up lesser fortune scraps to buy the skin. The normalization of RNG items people have been asking for has, in a way, arrived.
There is also a new resource found in Labyrinthine Cliffside, quartz. Mining quartz yields Quartz Crystals. Smooshing together 25 of those at a “place of power” (where players get skill points by communing) nets a Charged Quartz Crystal. These will be used in new crafting recipes. When the map closes, players that have completed the meta achievement for Bazaar of the Four Winds will have a quartz node in their home instance. The resource will also be tradable.
There are so many more things to explore including the achievement upgrades, which are fantastic. The UI has been redone, and achievement tiers have been added that give gold, laurels, and chests at each tier as well as permanent account bonuses. The fact that we are getting feature upgrades like these outside of expansions, or the like, says a lot about how ArenaNet views their Living World.
Bazaar of the Four Winds is a great two-week update. It’s relaxing and free, just like summer should be. It is a refreshing change of pace coming off of the rather difficult Aetherblades content. One of the main developers for the Bazaar, Leif Chapelle, who also works majorly on the new Guild Wars 2 sound tracks, hinted that there was of course more to come in late July, but he was rather tight-lipped about what may happen. He sounded rather excited through his dancing-around-the-subject monologue, and said with finality that another update is just two weeks away.
I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments below.