Guild Wars 2‘s Living Story So Far

A screenshot from Guild Wars 2 showing Braham, a male Norn, on the left, and Rox, a female charr, on the right in the foreground.

The first major arc of Guild Wars 2’s Living Story just completed and transitioned into the next segment, so I thought I would take a look at what’s worked so far.

If you don’t play GW2, the concept of the Living Story is that, rather than end the story of the world with instanced personal story missions, more storylines are added to the persistent game world–sort of like the holiday events, but not holiday-themed and having a lasting effect on the world. The idea is for it to be “sort of like your favorite TV show,” that players want to check in on regularly to catch up with characters and the development of the world.

I am completely in favor of video games taking cues from the TV format. Like TV, games allow us to spend dozens of hours with a cast of characters and the world they live in, allowing for deep characterization, extensive world building, and lengthy character arcs. Kirk Hamilton wrote about how the TV-like format Mass Effect 2 really worked, and I’m really interested to see what other aspects of TV big games can borrow.

The storyline itself is interesting so far, introducing new characters like Eir’s son, Braham, and an awesome (but weirdly cartoon-eyed) female Charr named Rox. And even though the next chapter of the story has moved from the snowy mountains into a tropical paradise, it is continuing the story of the refugees displaced by the events of Flame and Frost.

So far, the living story has definitely kept me coming back to Guild Wars 2. After playing through beta weekends and launch, I took a long break from the game late last year, and came back during the tail end of the Wintersday event. With new things to discover every few weeks, playing never started to feel boring or repetitive.

More importantly, the living story events make GW2 feel like GW2 at launch, when everyone was low level and taking their first steps into the world. Leveling a character now or just doing map completion, you’ll notice that most of the maps are rather empty. I don’t usually mind the solitude–it’s peaceful, and trying to take down that veteran or complete that group event on your own is a fun challenge–but it does make completing certain events unnecessarily difficult and fighting bosses downright impossible. But both the living story and the area-specific daily achievements funnel players into certain areas, making the game feel like its old self again. The current living story content is located in the Southsun Cove map, and playing there after the update on Tuesday was a revelation. There were tons of other players, and events happening everywhere. If I get into a jam, there’s always someone around to help out. It’s easy to get a group to take on a Champion enemy. I love doing dungeon and fractal runs with my guild, and hopping into WvW, but it’s great to once again play the persistent world PvE as it’s meant to be played.

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2 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2‘s Living Story So Far

  1. I think they should have left the bonfire up a few more days. ANets consistent use short timespans to complete content really pisses me off. They left the first phase up for a really really long time before anything interesting actually happened. Then we get the bonfire part for like two days, even though their site says it was supposed to be up until May 16th. I think they took it away on the 14th. If this is the way they are going to continue these events I’ll just ignore them. The entire amount of content for the living story was only a few hours anyway dragged on for months, consider me not impressed.

    • The bonfire did end on the 14th, but I don’t think they misled anyone about the length of time it would be up. It was always supposed to end with the Tuesday update that began the Southsun content, as far as I know.

      But you’re right that some tweaking needs to be done regarding pacing. I know if I were personally in charge of the schedule, I would err on the side of keeping things out longer, so that the less-hardcore players have plenty of time to finish. One thing about Flame and Frost in particular is that, since the content was added and added and didn’t go away until the very end, the opening weeks didn’t have to be as long. At the same time, making the updates increase in frequency helps to give the story a sense of increasing urgency and higher stakes. So there needs to be balance. Personally, I can be patient while ArenaNet is figuring out what works (I’m a less hardcore player myself so I still have alts to level, etc.), but I can also understand why players might be frustrated.

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