Episode 2 of Guild Wars 2’s Season 2 came out earlier this week. They at least tripled the size of the new zone, Dry Top. There are a handful of new story instances, and there are two new weapon sets. Everything once again feels very tight and polished. The world has changed in bits. The world has expanded in others. All-in-all, ArenaNet’s sophomore production is going great.
Topping Off Dry Top
I haven’t really commented on the design of the new zone Dry Top. I don’t mean the fantastic art design, which is fantastic. The canyon that I saw near the new Uplands sub-zone is amazing. It looks artistic and real at the same time. Mostly it just looks impressive, and I feel trapped in it. The canyon leads to the first hints of the Maguuma Jungle, by way of Dry Top, and then south of that it turns back to windswept desert. There is also a secret place I’ll discuss next week. No, as usual, the ArenaNet map squad has done brilliant work.
Mechanically, Dry Top has a zone wide event going on for the first 40 minutes of each hour. See, the Zephyrites are sad Zephyrites having crashed down in the desert. You can make them happy by completing events, and making the zone better for everybody. Each tier of happiness makes their merchants that much more sale-oriented, and now players have to get to the top tiers to be able to obtain the new weapon set, Ambrite (fossilized bugs trapped in amber).
ArenaNet has been trying to get a zone-wide event like this working all through Season 1, and now there are two reasons why Dry Top works. The first, it’s permanent. This whole Season 2 has felt more relaxing. I’ve done some of the story achievements, but I don’t feel rushed. I didn’t need to get them done; I wanted to get them done. The second is that because the pressure has leveled off, and there’s no top tier reward the zone must get or it’s full of failure, the community is much calmer in “winning”. I’ve seen a few commanders, and a few event-yellers getting people mobilized, but there’s no “don’t stand there or we all fail”-type mentality. If we get to Tier 3, I feel like that’s pretty decent. If we get to Tier 4 (or 5), so much the better.
In the latter third of the hour a sandstorm sweeps over Dry Top, which changes the whole zone. Visibility goes down to 20 meters, and the sandstorm uncovers buried treasure chests that were part of the Zephyrite’s hoard. Of course one needs Zephyrite keys to open these things of bounty. The ruin’t Zephyrites will gladly give away the now “worthless” keys for geodes, which are the event-reward account bound currency for the Dry Top zone. It’s a pretty good closed system.
Statics and Dynamics
Another thing I really appreciate is the amount of permanent content to static content going on right now. Things have already changed, such as the small mining town, that is now a Mordremoth vine paradise. (Mordremoth is the current big bad dragon that is making a move.) The Zephyrites are still in disarray, and I wonder if they will kind of get their act together as well. I can feel that there is a wide base first, and then they shift things on top.
I feel it is a much better way of progressing a living MMO, but I also wonder how far down the road they are planning things. If we kill Mordremoth does that mean all the Mordrem plant enemies will vanish? Will the Zephyrites ever settle down? So far we’ve have one episode of changes, but it’s been a pretty good start.
Two Weapon Sets
There are two new weapon sets with this update. The first is the Ley Line weapon set, which are premium to the Black Lion Chests of the Black Lion gem store. These come with their own drawing-weapon sounds.
The other set is the Ambrite weapon set, which are the chaser items for the Entanglement patch. In the Zephyrite chests above, there is a rare chance to get a fossilized insect. This can be “identified” to become one of 16 fossilized insects, such as a fossilized butterfly. Each insect corresponds to one of the Ambrite weapon sets.
I think it is a pretty reasonable chaser. Yes, it relies a bit on RNG to get a fossilized insect from a chest, but I am finding the zone pretty fun. The “grind” is to play in the zone, and the better you (and your kin) play, the better the rewards.
Line in the Sand
The updates are holding to a really high quality. I will talk about the story next week, of which there is much to talk about. It is well worth it to sign on and snag Episode 2 and check out the new additions to Dry Top.