The following post contains minor spoilers for the end of the GW2 Living Story Season 1 plotline, but I’ll say before I start on them. Mostly it’s an article about narrative within GW2 and the first LS season.
Either way, this is kind of long, so it’s been put behind a cut.
The Guild Wars 2 Living Story concept is something I find amazing. Like a lot of the GW2 featureset, it’s kind of revolutionary. Every few weeks content is added to the game, which advances the story and changes the world, and then with the next patch most of it is gone, leaving only its effects. The giant monster you defeated last month? Its metallic corpse is gathering snow in the mountains still. The scenery around where the nightmare tower errupted and was destroyed is blacked and dead still, but growing back. The world moves on, and the content you missed? You missed it. Sorry about that.
The concept I love, it breaks a lot of the static-time effects of MMOs, where it’s hard to imagine this as any kind of real world, and it adds new avenues of content to the game. Areas are built, bits are destroyed, the world moves on.
The concept I love, but some of the execution…
Arenanet have a problem with narrative. For the latter third of the main quest arc of GW2, you are part of a team of the best of the best, the most elite of the elite, the A-Team of the world. And this A-Team which will save the world from darkness? It is lead by… not you. It’s led by a talking pot-plant named by Trahearne, who trusts you, who is saving the world. You’re helping! You are Trahearne’s right hand hero, at his back.
And this is very close to a really cool narrative. Very close indeed, in fact. Just one step forward, and to the left.
It’s something you don’t often see in games, and I suspect it allows them to have harder control of the narrative. Rather than pretend your character – no matter their background or training – is doing the heroic save the world thing, Trahearne is doing it, and you’re doing the important work that sees it done. But you’re not the hero of your personal story as of Act III, Trahearne is. And it’s a wonderful bit of Guild Wars lore, and it means that the story can always be consistant going forward (Trahearne saved the world! There can be statues of him, rather than of whichever player did it last).
So the resounding result of the GW2 personal story from launch was it was a great story with an annoying protagonist.
The Antagonist of the first year of the Living Story is another talking pot-plant called Scarlet Brier. She united a lot of the bad guys together of the course of the middle six months of last year, and then has spent the last six months deploying them to new places every couple of weeks to wreck more havoc in a new way. Now, I’ve missed a lot of the Living Story. I tend to play MMOs on a rotating schedule of specific interest, and GW2 cycled out in favour of TSW and then LOTRO last summer. It’s not really even concious, I just find myself playing something else. So I missed a lot of the actual events of the Living Story, because during the first part I wasn’t interested – it didn’t start well – and then I was elsewhere.
Scarlet’s annoyingness transcended that.
Scarlet is part of a recently discovered race (tick) who are part of a hive mind, kind of, but she’s broken free of it (tick) and discovered she’s smarter than everyone else (tick), and she was so impressive that collages let her into *all of them* in sequence instead of just one like everyone else in history (tick), and she found she really was better than everyone else and everyone liked her, but they were all so limited in their thinking that she was expelled…
Basically, Scarlet has serious Mary Sue issues. She has green eyes and red hair, she’s better and smarter than everyone else, and she’s been entirely invulnerable and undefeatable – and unsetbackable, for that matter – for six months of being an absolute *dick*.
At the start of the last event, she’s finally built her magical supership and invaded the main hub-town of the entire game, and now you finally get to kill her. Her schtick is part of the “Eternal Alchemy”, and divides power into Dynamic, Static and Synergetic. So the big event is when one huge boss of each decends on the city, and if you kill them all you can “atune” yourself to all three and thereby use her teleporters to get to her ship. (Big fight, whole map on three bosses, it’s quite cool).
Once there you are in a tedious square-dance where in order to do any damage at all you have to step in three coloured circles within thirty seconds, whereby you get a buff that allows you to do damage for thirty seconds, and then you can go circle hunting again. On top of that the boss is doing area attacks and line putting down temporary damage splats, so generally it’s a big square-dance. Then she splits by colour, and you have to run into the right coloured circle for the thing you’re fighting to do damage. Then back to the original fight for the last phase. Generally you’ve got about 80 people in one small room doing this one big fight, and it’s got some interesting mechanics, but generally it gets tedious after the first ten minutes. If you don’t complete it in 20 minutes, you’re killed straight up.
Spoilers for the end of the storyline begin here, and end with the next bold sentence.
Then you get to go to a solo instance where you actually kill her (Hilariously, using your currently equipped PvP Stomp power, so in my case she got stomped by a giant rabbit). And in this it works well, the person who eventually destroys the bad stuff is *you*, and you get to be the hero of the story. The final reveal – Scarlet is the servant of a dragon she was trying to awaken, successfully – sets up for an interesting next season.
And there end the spoilers
Interesting things include the budding relationship between two female characters that takes an extra step with this arc, which means there are more canon F-F love affairs in this game than M-F, to my knowledge. There are fanbois complaining that straight relationships are being marginalized, but frankly they can go fuck a duck.
Either way, I liked the end to the story, I hope we can go back to rebuilding now, and I’m looking forward to whatever ANet start with Season 2, they’re getting better at this narrative malarkey.