The Guild Wars 2 Living Story started out strong offering nice bits of narrative, and introducing us to a whole new cast of characters. Over time updates began to showcase less story, and focused more on combat. It seemed the “story” part was missing. Then came the newest additions to Guild Wars 2: The Origins of Madness, and The Edge of the Mists. The tale ArenaNet wants to weave is now once again becoming the main focus, which is something players have been wanting.
We've already discussed the Living Story's purpose in the past, but to simply recap, it's a way for ArenaNet to supplement the core game by expanding on its lore and narrative. For a long while now many of these updates had very little story, and instead focused on giving players a bunch of achievements to achieve while duking it out with robots, pirates, and the like. Much of this content was zerg based, which I believe was a training manual for many PvE players, so that they would be prepared for The Edge of the Mists. But this newest batch of content is much more than a WvW map addition. It actually has story!
To be fair, every bit of the Living Story has actual story content, so why is the Edge of the Mist so different? What is it doing right? First off, it structures the story like the personal tales we've already played through. Players know how the flow of the story goes, and it's easy to follow and to know where you were going. I don't feel that the Living Story was ever hard to follow, but some players had a hard time navigating it, causing them to spend more time in the chat asking questions than playing the game.
Once you reached the next step, you actually witnessed a story. Back in Origins of Madness, we got a chance to catch up with the new cast of characters that we met months ago. We really haven't heard from them too much, but finally we got a chance to see what was going on with their lives. Before they were just NPCs, but now they were starting to flesh out into actual characters, with very complex relationships. While it wasn't presented through a nice cinematic, it was interesting to walk around and follow these characters. It felt more personal, to actually be there during these conversations. I would love to see this method used again.
The Edge of the Mists also shows a lot of development with these new characters, but we also started to see the pieces of the “what is Scarlet up to” puzzle come together. The best part is, you put these pieces together yourself. Seeing a story unfold in front of you is a very fun experience, but how is that any different than seeing a movie? When you get involved with that story, it becomes something even greater. The development team could have just thrown a cinematic explaining things to us. Instead, we got to play it out. We were playing the role of our characters again. Back during ArenaNet's design manifesto, they vowed to put the RPG back into MMORPG. This just isn't a step in the right direction, it's a necessary step ArenaNet needed to take.
Yes the Edge of the Mists added a whole new WvW map, which is insanely fun to play on. But the story is actually the real winner here. We've been waiting to see meaningful content come back to the Living Story, and it's great to see it happening. I believe I understand why previous batches of content were designed the way they were, but it was a bit more painful than it needed to be. I'm not saying the Living Story should never feature a lot of combat-based content, but ArenaNet needs to remember to always have strong story elements thrown in as well. PvE players play for the story as well, not just for the loot.
ArenaNet said that they took time to look at player feedback in order to figure out ways to make the Living Story better. They’ve always been very good about listening to their players, which is why the core of Guild Wars 2 came out the way it did. The Edge of the Mists is what the Living Story needed. Guild Wars 2 has a great writing team, and their story needs to shine. The way players actually interact with the cast in Edge of the Mists not only shows us this great story, but it becomes immersive. This hasn't happened to me since I completed my character's personal story. ArenaNet has always tried their best to immerse us into the world of Tyria. If future updates are like this, I don't think that will be a problem.
Do you think The Edge of the Mists features enough story content, or do you think it needed more? What would you like to see in future updates? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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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