After the rather rocky launch of Heart of Thorns, Guild Wars 2 is finally moving forward with the next season of its evolving Living Story, pushing deeper into Maguuma Jungle and opening up even more questions in the aftermath of its last chapter. Out of the Shadows, this first episode of season 3, will continue weaving story threads introduced in Heart of Thorns when it launches on July 26.
During the Doritos-scented blur of E3, I sat down with the story team at ArenaNet to talk a bit about where it's coming from and where it's going, If you're not up to speed on Guild Wars 2's story, Season 3 will pick up after the death of Mordremoth, the dragon of plant and mind, and the massive burst of magical energy that exploded outward causing adverse effects all across Tyria and Maguuma. The alliance of nations that fought him is in a dire state, but the battle is far from over as an excess of that magical energy has settled on a bloodstone deep in the jungle. Hungry for power, several factions including The White Mantle, who hope to use the bloodstone to revive their dead god, are vying to siege control of the stone. Furthermore, a dragon egg from Glint that players recovered has also been touched by the magic, and questions abound about how that taint might what's inside.
With another half-dozen smaller story points that also need addressing, Out of the Shadows is going to have its hands full. Fortunately, you won't need to waste a ton of time getting caught up either. If you haven't played Heart of Thorns yet, the expansion comes with a free level 80 boost, which is the only real requirement (outside of owning the expansion) in order to experience this next chapter. Being a part of the living story, there's also the fact that episode 1 won't always be the current episode. By logging in after July 26, whether you own the expansion or not, you can "bank" the episode, letting you access it if you decide to spring for the expansion at a later date. And, thank god, those episodes don't disappear like they used to back during season 1. So no fear of missing out!
Sadly, while there's a ton of questions about what is going to happen next, ArenaNet was reluctant to tease out much more than what hardcore fans will already know. We're going to be going hands-on before the release, so check back the week before July 26 for our early impressions of how the episode is shaping up.
While players have already been waiting too long for the next step in the story since Heart of Thorns released last November, the good news is that episode 1 will mark a much more steady release schedule. ArenaNet was able to confirm that new episodes will be arriving every 2-3 months, meaning we'll have plenty to look forward to beyond the summer.
Of course, only half of Guild Wars 2 is really about exploring the world and the story. The other half, for many, is splitting skulls in PVP, and earlier this month ArenaNet unveiled some impressive numbers regarding its push to make this season of pro Guild Wars 2 competition the fiercest yet. On September 17, ArenaNet will be hosting the Guild Wars 2 World Championship, with a staggering $200,000 in prizes up for grabs and the first place team taking home a whopping half of that total prize pool.
It's another aspect that should have fans excited, as the gears slowly begin to turn on Heart of Thorns and the expansion moves out of its tumultuous opening months and begins to find its momentum and its rhythm. With episode 1 merely two weeks away, players will finally have the answers they've been pining for since November.