Since October, Kessex Hills has been the battlefield between heroes and the Toxic Alliance. ArenaNet's latest story arc in the Living Story is now coming to a close with The Nightmare Ends. Different zones in Guild Wars 2 have felt the effects of the Nightmare story arc, with a strange hypnotic poison filling the air, and spreading despair to unsuspecting citizens of Tyria. But now it's time to clean up the mess. The tower has fallen, and the heroes have won, for now.
Yes the Nightmare story arc looks like it is finally coming to a close. I've been pretty harsh on this story arc, but I truly feel it's been the weakest one in the Living Story. It takes a few steps backwards in terms of creating interesting game design, but it does do a few things right.
The introduction to the Nightmare storyline sends players into an instance which helps tell the story, not only through character interactions, but through discovery in gameplay. The first time I saw the hallucinations was a very exciting moment! It used cool visuals, and strange audio to make it seem like my character was going mad! ArenaNet could have just made another boring NPC that told us what the spores do, but instead we got to discover, and witness it for ourselves. That instantly got me hooked on the story.
Guild Wars 2 has some amazing boss battles. It doesn't matter if you're talking about dungeons, or open world bosses, there are some great fights to participate in all over Tyria. The Toxic Hybrid in the top chamber of the Nightmare tower is one of my favorites visually. When you first see this huge creature spawn before your very eyes, your stomach just sinks. The animations really gave the creature more life, as it slithered towards, and around you. What really helped was that camera zooming out during the fight, allowing you to see what was going on with the huge size of the boss, and the groups of smaller enemies. Even though a lot was happening in the fight, the camera allowed you make sense of everything, while also making the combat visually pleasing. Now if only we could have that all the time.
The ending cinematic for The Nightmare Ends instance is awesome. The cinematic instances however we've been seeing with the motionless in-game models look terrible. Something just seems off about them. Before Guild Wars 2 was launched, we saw some amazing trailers that used actual paintings. This style is what shapes the entire look of the game, so to see these illustrations in motion gave us a real feel of what we would see in the game. The ending cinematic for The Nightmare Ends goes back to these roots, using gorgeous motion paintings to show the tower exploding, and crashing down.
MMOs are supposed to bring players together to focus, and achieve a common goal. This is in the entire design of the game, from the massive dynamic events, to the explorable dungeons. Guild Wars 2 also has a nice ability to allow the loners to play by themselves when they want. But players have been expressing the desire for raid style content. While the raid dungeon format might not work in Guild War 2, adding new PvE content designed for large groups of players works just fine.
Now the Nightmare Tower isn't perfect, but we haven't really seen this type of content since the Queen's Jubilee. I think some improvements have been made since then, which shows in how the tower was designed. The layout was very similar to a dungeon by offering different paths, tough fights, and even dynamic events. It wasn't perfect, but it was still pretty good.
The Living Story started out strong, but the Nightmare chapter was a let down. It still did a few things right, things that some of the better chapters didn't even touch on. In a way this year has been a huge experiment for ArenaNet. Nothing like the Living Story has been done before, and the game has been out for barely more than a year now. ArenaNet said they will be taking extra care of the next four chapters. My guess is they will be taking everything they've learned from this year, and use that to make future content more meaningful, helping them reach their goal of creating a true living world.
David North / David North is a freelance writer for MMORPG.com. David loves to play and makes games, but now he writes about them! If you want to creep on him and make fun of his ability to draw, follow him over on twitter @David_the_North.
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