“Long Live The Lich,” the title of Guild Wars 2’s last Living World update, proved to be a misnomer. The lich, Palawa Joko, is now dead – truly dead – and several factions are vying for control in the wake of the power vacuum that’s spawned due to his demise, including even more undead. Oh, and there’s an Elder Dragon messing with reality, too.
That’s the basis of the story for “A Star To Guide Us,” the latest chapter in GW2’s story. It’s live on servers right now, so you can check it out for yourself, but if you need incentive to dive into the story, we’ve got the (slightly redacted) deets, provided to us by ArenaNet during a preview session last week.
The new zone this time around is called Jahai Bluffs, but we didn’t spend too much time exploring it. Instead, we dove into the middle part of the story, where the Commander (that’s you) is teaming up with Koss, an old friend from Guild Wars: Nightfall, and his great (times a lot) grandson, who’s now a member of the Order of Shadows. Oh, and Braham is there too, to provide his usual brand of eternal grumpiness.
Or … maybe not? As the story progresses, Braham loses a little bit of his cantankerousness, thanks to a surprise encounter with [redacted]. Oh, and [redacted] is there, too. Seriously, we were told not to spoil the characters that pop up in the story, but suffice it to say GW2 fans will be delighted to see some old favorites.
But the story isn’t all about Braham. In our playthrough, we worked to clear out Sun’s Refuge, an ancient haven of the Sunspears, which is now infested with spiders. Fortunately, nobody in your party has arachnophobia, isn’t that right Braham? Braham? Wow, you’d think a norn that large couldn’t hide so easily.
Anyway, once you’ve cleared out Sun’s Refuge, it’s yours. No, really. It serves as a kind of base of operations for your adventures in the region. It’s meant to be a kind of middle ground between the home instances that have existed since the launch of the game and guild halls, which came out with Heart of Thorns. It’s a solo area (though you can invite others to visit your version) that comes with several conveniences and gameplay opportunities.
NPCs wander its spacious halls, some of whom are there from the start and some whom you’ll collect during your adventures. Just listening to their conversations is like candy to lore-hounds, but you can also unlock a number of collections through them.
One of those collections is for a suit of upgradeable glowy armor, the Elegy set, with plenty of dye opportunities. Our hosts spoke of it in the same breath as earlier Carapace and Luminescent armors, and it’s nice to see a spiffy cosmetic item being available for gameplay rather than through the Gem Store, as was the case with those earlier armor sets.
Other features you can unlock in Sun’s Refuge include a dueling arena where you can take on variously challenging Sunspears, and some kind of puzzle involving runes. We weren’t told what lies beyond this challenge, but along with the other mysteries housed in the ancient haven, players will surely find a lot to do and see.
Reality is Kralk-ing
Outside Sun’s Refuge, all heck is breaking loose. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik is messing around in the Mists, and it’s causing issues with, well, everything. There’s snow in the desert, for one, and one NPC talks ominously about how “reality might disintegrate.” Fortunately, you’ve got a plan for that … well, half a plan. You’ve got a dragon of your own, Aurene, who’s the child of Kralkatorrik’s former servant, Glint, and she might be the key to everything. The exact nature of that plan is something else ArenaNet didn’t want revealed, though, so you’ll have to check it out for yourself.
Meanwhile, with Joko out of the picture, there are now “free” Awakened, his former undead servants who have now decided they’d rather not be slaves, go figure. There’s also a new mastery, Bond of Vigour, which helps with your mount’s endurance regeneration, so you can perform fancy moves more often.
Oh, and there’s a giant magical tornado whipping through Jahai Bluffs, launching players into the air when it sweeps through. This can be both a help and a hindrance. Getting up that high makes for a nice boost for gliding, but if you’re in the middle of an event, it can cast everything into chaos.
Also coming in this update is a new legendary scepter, Xiuquatl, which was inspired by ancient water cultures and definitely has a darker feel than the previous legendary scepter, Meteorlogicus. There’s a new raid, too, Mythwright Gambit, that has players coming face-to-face with Zommoros inside the Mystic Forge, but that wasn’t part of our preview.
All in all, A Star To Guide Us looks like a pretty well-packed update, and we barely even got to roam around Jahai Bluffs. With the new zone, story, Sun’s Refuge, and raid, it should provide plenty for players to do until the next update rolls around near the start of the new year.