There are 3+ new story instances in Gates of Maguuma, the most recent update and the start of Season 2 for Guild Wars 2. They are repeatable in that players can always go back to that instance through the new story journal. They also tell the story of how you, the hero, and all the NPC notables travel west to Dry Top.
I need to start with Bhagpuss’s thoughts on the Gates of Maguuma’s story instances:
The plotting now seems to sit somewhere around journeyman comic-book level (that’s a good thing) with the dramatics hitting a solid soap-opera groove (so’s that). No pretensions to be anything more than hokum but at least now it’s competent, professional hokum.
I disagree, and then I agree. His statement infuriates me, but at the same time I think it’s good. One can never tell with a crazy cat.
The bottom line is that, for me, at least the writing is very tight. The storyline is cohesive (in the opening, so far), and it has a lot of good hooks. All in my humble opinion, of course.
Why Bhagpuss’s comment rubs me a bit raw is that he is comparing very different mediums to Guild Wars 2. I guess it’s good that Guild Wars 2 is comic book-like because it has to be snappy and quick. No one, apparently, wants to read more than a Tweet’s length of a quest description, so a huge monologue is not going to fly for all the time-starved players, as it were. Soap operas too have to have incredible drama because otherwise why watch? It’s good that Guild Wars 2 has that instead of we heroes going off to Dry Top to mine copper.
Then there’s the biggest issue of our mostly silent hero. I mean ArenaNet could have one weird character talking to our silent character throughout the entire instance, but I have a feeling that only works once. Our hero isn’t silent though, and I have a feeling so many players are going to miss some of the more important dialogue by clicking through responses. Our character’s response can actually be very meaningful.
I feel like the medium of Guild Wars 2 is pretty constrained, and the writers are doing a very good job of writing within those constraints. That’s it. I don’t feel like I can compare it to any other medium because of those constraints.
The plot itself is very RPG-like, but again, we are playing a dramatic moment. Imagine all the boring stuff on your own time. A sylvari Zephyrite goes mad, cuts a bunch of people on a Zephyrite ship, causes the ship to crash in the Maguuma Wastes, and then sets off after survivors. Specifically, he goes after one survivor, the Master of Peace.
After it’s all said and done there are a lot of questions, but given the path that Scarlet has cleared, it’s really less of a jagged pill. We don’t know why the sylvari went mad, but it seems awfully similar to Scarlet’s madness. The Master of Peace walks away at the end of episode one, since you kill the sylvari, but he was on a journey anyway. A secret journey, making more mystery. Oh, and there’s this whole thing with the nearby town that should really not exist, but it does. Funded by someone or something in a not entirely legit way. Finally, it seems like much of the Zephyrite fleet was unharmed and flew off to their happy place. I like that’s there are a lot of non-pressing questions. I like that there are multiple mysterious routes, which may or may not interweave.
I really liked that Scarlet was there in that town in her mad beginnings, and there might be a map of the Realm of Torment on her wall. I still hold that when she saw the world as a whole she didn’t see or get touched by a dragon, which apparently is just a magic sponge. I think she hit a piece of bigger clockwork in the Eternal Alchemy… like a god.
The NPC’s dialogue is feeling tighter. There is better interplay and banter. I still love Delaqua’s sing-songy 1920’s Radio Hour way of talking. That will never get old. Braham also found some great legs with Taimi. Braham never seemed to flourish with Rox. I also really like the casual banter one hears out and about in Dry Top. I don’t like that often two overlapping conversations will occur at once, but the things they talk about are really quite nice adding to the mysteries above.
The best part about the story update is that you can experience it at your leisure. I would definitely sign on your Guild Wars 2 account to snag the episode for free, but the whole thing only takes a few hours. More hours are dedicated to exploring the new area, and getting achievements.
I feel like ArenaNet has really listened to community criticisms of the story, dialogue, and characters of Season 1. Guild Wars 2 seems to improve like that, albeit sometimes taking a whole season to reboot the way things are done. The next update, “episode 2” is hitting servers on July 15th.