Since its release in August 2012, Guild Wars 2 has really struggled to find its calling. The team at ArenaNet was never quite able to capture the initial promise of a dynamic, living world. Whatever they did always seemed like it was one step forward, two steps back. Well, it appears that this has finally changed and Guild Wars 2 has now settled into what it truly wants to be.
When we were first introduced to the living world in Guild Wars 2, the reception was mixed. The living world was a really cool way to keep the overall story of Guild Wars 2 moving at a somewhat consistent pace as well as introduce a regular string of new content to maintain the game’s life. The first season of the living world introduced us to some really cool plotlines and did a significantly better job at building into the series’ lore than anything in the base game did. The new content that was added with the living world was of a pretty good quality and did a good job of introducing new mechanics to the game. But the first season of the living world was nowhere near perfect.
ArenaNet ran the installments to the first season of the living world like they would a seasonal event. Once those particular stories were over, they became completely non-replayable and the content was locked away forever. If you missed it or if you just wanted to play it again, you were screwed; there was no way to experience it ever again. There were many cases where maps within the world were altered for that particular chapter in the living world and then it was mostly stripped away once the chapter ended. You can still find remnants of these chapters in some of the different maps across the game but that’s it. ArenaNet attempted to use the living world to populate abandoned areas of the game and didn’t really work at all. The first season of the living world had its strengths but there were a lot of weaknesses to overcome.
ArenaNet took the criticisms of the first season of the living world and has greatly improved on the formula. When it comes to replayability, you can now replay everything at any given time. As long as you log into the game during that particular chapter of the living world, you will have permanent access to playing it whenever you want. If you don’t log into the game to unlock it, you can buy access to them in the in-game store. This was probably the biggest criticism of the living world at the time and was easily the most obvious change to make.
Now in the third season of the living world, ArenaNet has found the perfect solution for chapters that affect the in-game world; add entire new maps. For several of the most recent chapters of the living world, a new map has been introduced to the game. These new maps are specific to their own chapter in the living world, introduce a new set of rewards, are full of story related dynamic events and permanently remain in the game. Now, someone can sit down to play through a chapter of the living world and have full access to that chapter’s content months or years down the line and still experience just about all of the content (pending the population within those maps).
The living world has developed into a great way to sustain Guild Wars 2’s life. Every few months, the community gets excited to play the new content to see what the new developments in the story are, to earn new rewards and to complete the new set of challenges that ArenaNet introduces with the content. The addition of new maps also keeps the world of Guild Wars 2 regularly expanding, which became a problem after the world failed to grow for several years after launch. ArenaNet has found a good balance between living world chapters, major patches and seasonal events to maintain a consistent string of content that has kept Guild Wars 2 on a healthy pace.
But the best thing that ArenaNet has done with the living world so far is to tie it back into the original Guild Wars. When Guild Wars 2 launched, it felt like ArenaNet had practically abandoned its identity to appeal to the World of Warcraft crowd and it hurt the game, in my opinion. I have been actively involved with Guild Wars pretty much since it launched in April 2005 and Guild Wars 2 never truly felt like it was quite the same series. The mass influx of original Guild Wars lore and mechanics that we have seen in the last few years has breathed an overwhelming amount of life into Guild Wars 2 in the form of lore, story and gameplay.
ArenaNet has come a long way and they have found what they were looking for when Guild Wars 2 launched in 2012. The living world is giving the game a pretty good level of consistent content as well as a really engaging overall story. I’ve taken a few breaks from Guild Wars 2 over the years because there just wasn’t enough to keep me actively involved but the living world has brought me back. I’ve missed one chapter of the living world since the game’s launch and it was way back in season one. I still have plenty of complaints about the game in general but at this point, they’ve got me back. Now next in line for me is to see if I can’t figure out these raids.