Each month in Guild Wars 2 the Living World seems to be a little different. Two months ago the Dragon Bash had a formulaic, festival feel, but was followed up by one of the best dungeons Guild Wars 2 has seen. Last month there was an amazing, playground of a mini-zone coupled with a swath of instanced activities (a couple of which are now in the daily rotation). This month was another festival, which raised the hackles of many. Anthony Ordon, who graces the Guild Wars 2 forums quite a bit (thankfully), did his best to curb too much speculation on what made a Guild Wars 2 festival.
He’s right. Queen’s Jubilee is not a festival in the relaxing click-about-town sense. It’s a blood-filled, armor-breaking gladiatorial arena. And, in my opinion it was the best opener for a month-long Living World update, but perhaps not for what you would think. Sure, the rewards are amazing. Everybody is watching gold fall from the sky. The Crown Pavilion is full of high energy. The permanent features, the currency wallet and daily activity rotation, are very welcome additions. But, those are not the main reasons I really like Queen’s Jubilee. The main reason is…
Queen’s Jubilee went back to its roots of playing core Guild Wars 2 to set the stage for August.
How do you play Guild Wars 2 normally? Well you have hearts, events, and the personal story. Hearts were a thing of the leveling past, which ArenaNet does not intend to bring in to the Living World updates. Instead hearts have been replaced a while ago with Living World meta-achievements.
Events are commonplace in any Living World update, but I feel in Queen’s Jubilee they have been made a forefront vehicle for the content. Take any random balloon tower found all over the explorable zones. Each one tells a simple story about how the Queen’s Jubilee is affecting the outside world. Emissaries from every corner of Tyria are trying to make it to the Jubilee, and Aetherblade pirates are trying to stop them. When that doesn’t work, the Aetherblades fly near a hot air balloon and attempt to shoot it down. Of course players rally to help, and the Aetherblade ship captain sometimes drops down to see why her crew has failed to hold their perimeter. The human queen even sends her champions out in to the field as a preview of the gladiatorial bloodshed to come.
The story told by the events is so clear. The events are mechanically well done. The hot air balloon events feel right, and it feels like Guild Wars 2. The Crown Pavilion is then a huge battleground of group events. I will admit it feels a lot less personal than the hot air balloon events, but, I play Guild Wars 2 to be in huge community events like those found in Guild Wars 2. I also play it for normal events as I roam about, and I have to tell you, seeing an Aetherblade airship flee because of my doings is pretty cool.
Then we have a pretty good story instance right at the beginning of the Jubilee. Again, this is very well done, with good NPC commentary, story delivery, and action. It feels like a really good iteration on where “personal story” instances should be going in the Living World. I am hoping for more of these in the second half of August (more details Aug. 13). I do wish they would make these repeatable because I felt like I missed out on a lot of aside NPC conversations, and I would love to go through it a second time to really focus on what I probably did not notice the first time around.
ArenaNet has apparently been filling a content portfolio by creating a base of Living World platforms in their freshman year. Starting in October, it is hoped that the fruits of the first year labor will pay off as the base for events like Halloween and Wintersday is already present. Game Director Colin Johanson wrote on the forums that by having this pre-made content in their pocket they can lean on it a little and introduce other bigger projects. I expect players to better understand what Colin “Long Game” Johanson is trying to say in October when it becomes apparent how ArenaNet intends to re-use their portfolio content. Perhaps more core game can be added.
I guess I didn’t realize until this content update how much I still like and have missed the core gameplay of Guild Wars 2. To think that I was initially worried that players would blast through the Queen’s Jubilee content to that dark side of whining and boredom. Many have blasted through that content, but because the content is still so core (and rewarding), it’s fun to keep doing. I know that more non-core Living World elements will come or return. I personally can’t wait for more Super Adventure Box (we will get more, right?), and my expectations are fairly set for Halloween (though I hope for surprises), but I hope that ArenaNet teams keep focusing on what is core to Guild Wars 2 because it feels great to play.