Following the release of Heart of Thorns, Guild Wars 2‘s first expansion, further content releases were … sparse, to say the least. For the first nine months following the expansion, the only new content was a trio of raid wings – great for hardcore players, but they left the average player, who just wanted new zones to explore and play in, without much to do.
ArenaNet addressed those concerns and, starting in mid-2016, starting punching out new zones about every two to three months, leading up to last September’s release of the game’s second expansion, Path of Fire. If there was some concern that ArenaNet would again have trouble keeping up the pace of new content following an expansion again, it would have been understandable.
However, the first chapter of Season 4 of the Living Story, Daybreak, released right on schedule, just two months after Path of Fire. Its second chapter, A Bug in the System, was slightly delayed, but it’s made the move to live servers today, and ArenaNet gave us a brief tour last week to see what it was all about.
Charr-ting a new course
As you’d expect with a new story chapter – there’s story! In fact, there’s 50% more story, and that’s not just a number I made up. According to ArenaNet’s Aaron Roxby, Chapter 2 has 50% more dialogue than Chapter 1, so we already know where a good chunk of the development budget for it went: throat lozenges for the voice actors.
Without going too heavily into everything that’s led up to the current state of affairs in Tyria, the big nasty evil lich Palawa Joko is working with the amoral asura of the Inquest. The story chapter we previewed sent us through an Inquest lab where we “rescued” a charr prisoner (slight spoiler: she didn’t really need our help). After escaping the rapidly exploding lab by using a series of elevators – which Roxby was unnaturally happy to see in the game – we wound up in the Sandswept Isles, the former charr prisoner’s homeland.
Yes, I said “former charr prisoner’s homeland.” She’s not a member of any of the charr legions we’ve encountered throughout Tyria. Instead, her people’s ancestors left charr lands around the time of Kalla Scorchrazor’s uprising against the Flame Legion, over two centuries ago. So the charr you’ll find there are a far cry from the steel-and-guns charr you’d find in the Black Citadel. These charr seem to live a simpler life, hunting and fishing, and are actually rather friendly. I mean, they’d probably still rip your throat out if you crossed them, but at least that’s not their default inclination.
Not everything on the island is friendly, of course. Joko’s influence is everywhere, with desert-themed enemies cropping up all over the tropical island. You’ll fight elementals and djinns a-plenty, with the one main chain meta-event we saw sending us up against a group of ravaging elementals. “We’ll see players split up” to handle the threats, Roxby said optimistically, before adding, “or they’ll just form a zerg of 60 or 70.”
That was something I asked about, and something that’s been bugging me ever since Heart of Thorns. While that expansion might have taken things to an extreme level with its long, huge meta-event chains, they were pretty enjoyable on their own merits. We haven’t seen anything on that level since then, not in the seven (soon to be eight) zones since HoT’s launch or in Path of Fire.
I asked Roxby if something like that could still be in the offing, someday. I didn’t record the play session, and I don’t want to misquote Roxby and have this be a “you promised!” piece that’s drug up later, but he did seem to indicate that we were only seeing the opening stages of this zone’s meta. He didn’t say there was anything on par with a Heart of Thorns-style meta, but that there would at least be something more challenging than a giant zergfest in the Sandswept Isles.
The charr-centric theme continues with a new legendary dagger that has all kinds of stabby bits – just the way a charr would like it. Also, if you’re looking to make a new charr – and why wouldn’t you, since they’re the best race? – there are some new options in character creation. Usually, when new character creation options are added, they’re only available to players who use a kit to change their looks, but these options will be part of the base character creation for charr and available without a cash shop item.
A Bug in the System adds a new zone, new story instances, a new legendary weapon, new character creation options, and a new mastery (which wasn’t part of our preview). That’s not bad for a free update, and the usual deal applies: Log in any time from March 6 until the next update goes live to unlock it for free.
You can read full patch notes for A Bug in the System on the GW2 forums. Thanks to ArenaNet for giving us the opportunity to preview this update!