Before the mob’s attention is diverted to Southsun, the vocal players on the Guild Wars 2 forums appear to be unhappy with the ending of Flame & Frost. It distills down to “4 months and we just get a few bonfires”. That’s a lot of distillation, and even in the final hours of Flame & Frost, it is not very accurate. Still I think a big issue is the handling of the scope of Flame & Frost.
Flame & Frost revolved around the Molten Alliances assaults in two zones. In the norn starting zone, Wayfarer Foothills, the Molten Alliance took roughly the northeast corner quadrant, and in the second charr zone, Diessa Plateau they took a large chunk of the west-central side. This is where the action was. This was where the yellow sunbursts were yelling at me to go. It became such a focus to players, yet it really wasn’t a focus to the world.
In the cutscenes both norn and charr leaders mention that while the Molten Alliance is noteworthy, it is not the only fish to fry. Wayfarer Foothills still had the Sons of Svanir to deal with in addition to the primitives, and the charr still had ghosts, rebels, ogres, and dredge-free Flame Legion. In a sense the devastating Molten Alliance had to fight for attention from the capital cities. The Pact’s Orders also had plenty of fight in other parts of the world (like the remaining Elder Dragons).
Cutaway to said capital cities, and the focus of the players was again on the starbursts leading players to refugee camps all lazing about because of the Molten Alliance. There was still the usual hustle and bustle of the capital cities, but the new hotness was on the ‘fugees. The same can be said about Lion’s Arch situation, but with the twist in that the Consortium did take interest in the refugees a tad more than anybody else.
The Vigil eventually responds with a contingent of soldiers, but they are still going too slow for our heroes, Rox and Braham. We help them because only we know the direness of the situation. Except, is it really that dire? Sons of Svanir are still rampaging the norn settled countryside, and all sorts of denizens are still killing the charr’s cows.
I feel that in one sense ArenaNet was trying to wedge in the Living Story without upsetting the zone’s balance. While the Molten Alliance was the bad-guy du jour, there were still plenty of enemies around Tyria. However, the player’s ultra-focus was on the Molten Alliance. It seemed like that was an enemy on the level of an Elder Dragon! It really was just a double-scoop of the usual that had gotten a bit more momentum than the stagnating meta.
So when the Molten Alliance was actually unforged, the celebrations in game were about right on. It would be the equivalent of Molensk being permanently removed from southwest Wayfarer or the Silex Castrum being forever cleansed in western Diessa. Yet, after 4 months of Flame & Frost updates it seemed like it should have been more magniflorious. Talking with the refugees at the affected capital cities and heading back to the Flame & Frost instance areas – North Nolan Hatchery and Cragstead – nets quite a bit more aftereffects of the Molten Alliance’s defeat. Some vocal players though were practically asking to be forcefed a final cutscene. I wonder what the cinematics department is up to because they would’ve been a nice ending.
I think it is a good idea that we aren’t simply getting the Elder-Dragon-of-the-week style Living Story. ArenaNet’s first big story shot for Guild Wars 2 was aimed at a cool idea (mashup) as a temporary encounter that might change a few zones in Tyria. It just felt like it was really hard to get a sense of the scope of this cool idea. Focus makes it seem like it should’ve been bigger, and in hindsight it might not have been.
The Secret of Southsun Shore is only planned to be the headliner for about a month. The scope of it already feels “contained”. It’s dealing with a tourist/refugee colony. It’s a mystery instead of taking on a region-conquering alliance, and the crux of it seems to be helping one Lionguard instead of two entire races. I hope there are more permanent changes to Southsun, but then it also has much more room for it. Anything permanent in the other zones would have to consider hearts, events, meta-events, NPC chatter, etc. Sweeping aside the local wildlife won’t result in much lore destruction.