Bound By Blood is the name of the prologue to the Icebrood Saga, the continuation of the Guild Wars 2 Living Story. That’s only because they rejected the original title, It’s A Charr Party, And Everyone’s Invited. OK, fine, that probably never was in consideration but that’s only because I don’t work at ArenaNet and get to suggest titles for these sorts of things. That’s probably for the best.
That said, my title is not entirely wrong. There’s definitely a big party going on in charr territory, to celebrate the death of the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik, and everyone is invited. That counts not only all the player races – norn, sylvari, asura, and human – but also all the charr legions, including the villainous Flame Legion, who have served as baddies in the Guild Wars universe for a decade and a half. Don’t worry, everything will go just fiiiiiiine.
Unlike in previous previews, ArenaNet kept us away from the story content this time around. That’s a welcome approach, since we usually needed to tiptoe around what we could and couldn’t reveal, story-wise, and that wasn’t the kind of thing likely to get you to log in if you wouldn’t otherwise. Either you’re already digging the story and will be doing it the instant the new content goes live (which should be right now, barring unforeseen delays) or you’re not going to be lured in by hearing about Braham’s newfound maturity or whatnot. If you’ve been away long enough, you might have even forgotten who Braham even is.
Legions of fans (and fans of legions)
Instead the focus was on the new zone, Grothmar Valley, and the festivities carrying on within. To wit, there are four primary large meta-events that are on timers, along with the usual assortment of smaller events. Each meta-event is “sponsored” by one of the legions:
We got to try out the first two during our play session. The Doomlore Expedition was typical fare: follow an NPC into the wild, defending them along the way, culminating with a big fight against a boss monster – in this case, a vengeful ghost. Nothing too spectacularly different, but, as I said, something that should be a treat for Guild Wars lore fiends.
The concert, on the other hand, was certainly outside the usual MMORPG fare. Players are hired on as security for the event, which naturally gets a little out of hand, with fans rushing the stage, amps that need to be powered up, and various other events that occur as the band works through its three-song set.
One other celebratory event we sampled that was new and different was a demolition derby, which puts players behind the wheel of a steam-powered vehicle custom-built for mayhem. The player with the most kills over the duration of the event is the winner, and if there aren’t enough players to fill out the ranks of competitors, NPCs join the fray.
For doing each of the big four meta-events, you’ll receive a token from that event’s sponsor’s legion. Collect all four and take them to the Vault of the Khan-Ur to collect all of its treasure chests, which will hopefully provide you with some of its spiffy drops. These include helms specifically designed for the charr race, and usable only by them, and four weapons, each representing the founders of the four legions.
A few other rewards obtained throughout the zone are distinctly flavored by the band, such as a T-shirt with their logo and a warhorn that takes the form of a microphone and alters your character’s audio lines to sound like they’re being shouted through a mic. Another reward for the map meta is a /rockout emote that lets your character thrash to the beat, in true metal fashion.
Time to strike
Strike missions are the new type of content being introduced in this update, and they were described on the GW2 website as “challenging boss encounters in a group of up to ten players.” You can run them as a pre-formed group or queue up and get into them with whatever random people join up.
As you might expect from that second option, the encounters aren’t exactly raid-level difficult but are more in line with a somewhat challenging open-world boss. I won’t get into the lore of what we fought, so as to preserve some surprise, but the encounter itself was a fairly typical circle-dodging exercise. The damage was enough to down several members of our team throughout, and a pick-up group might not consist of characters wearing top-tier gear like us, but it’s not a substitute for a raid encounter.
Still, in the brief time I had to sample them, I thought the zone and all its contents were enjoyable, and that’s without even getting into the main story. Admittedly, that will be brief, but as someone who knows that charr are the best race, I’ll enjoy digging into the lore behind the prologue, which should set the stage for the proper start to the Icebrood Saga. That’s expected by the end of the year, ArenaNet told me. In the meantime, rock on, my dudes!