Today is the day for the Living World update in Guild Wars 2 that will shake of foundations of Lion's Arch and pit us against all of Scarlet's might and ingenuity. I had the opportunity to sit down with Steven Waller, Associate Game Director; Steven Hwang, Living World Coordinator; Karl Horvath, Game Designer; and Meelad Sadat, Head of PR to talk about the Escape from Lion's Arch. We spoke about the Lore and Mechanical implications of this update after they showed me through some of the key features of what was going to happen.
The main thing that caught my attention first was the implications of the attack itself for lore and mechanics. The main question on everyone's mind was twofold. First, can we still finish map completion, jumping puzzles and the History Buff achievements? The guys reassured me that these would still all be achievable, though considerably harder than they are now. "Possibly the hardest to finish now will be map completion. You will have to fight your way through all of Scarlet's minions to get to the points all within a certain amount of time while navigating a completely war torn Lion's Arch."
The second part was the effects of this assault on things like the Black Lion Trading Company, the Mystic Forge and all of the other minor services that were home within Lion's Arch. All those minor services managed to escape under the initial assault and will be found at the Refugee Camps or the Vigil Keep for the time being. The Black Lion Trading Company may be crippled slightly, but Evon isn't the type to throw all of his eggs into one basket. "Evon will certainly feel this attack, but he has a strong trade network to make sure the Black Lion won't fall under something like this." Zommoros and the Mystic Forge you might be asking? "Zommoros is incredibly powerful. It is safe to say he got out of there."
One thing did nag at me, however. The Living World stories have been through many different plots and stories with the Karka, Super Adventure Box, the Alliances and now Scarlet. Things we didn't anticipate to be connected ended up being connected a lot more deeply than I initially expected. However, I think we all needed to know if it was always the intention of focusing Lion's Arch under an attack from the beginning of the Living World story? "Scarlet's story line was always very clear that the end plan was always to be Lion's Arch. I think we've shown that she had to learn where she needed to go, but it was the intention to always bring Scarlet here in the end."
This answer immediately brought me to the question of the Election we had between Ellen and Evon. If it was always the intention to do this, was the Election as impactful as we were originally told? Would either candidate have made a different in the way this story was presented? They reiterated to me that it was always the plan to bring Scarlet to Lion's Arch. It is clearly where all the main activity is building and it had to be that Scarlet would discover more about herself there. "It is the helm and direction of the response that would have changed depending on who was elected. Ellen and Evon play two very different roles in this release, and those roles would have been drastically different if the election played out differently." This makes sense in regards to Ellen's response to Marjory's letter to warn them. Ellen boasted they could handle another attack, but I get the impression that Evon would have responded with as much strength as he could muster.
If this was all planned from the beginning then is there a particular direction that ArenaNet has in regards to where the newest player hub will be? The response is that they are curious how players will resolve the issue of a new player hub. It didn't sound to me that they have a particular plan in motion for a new one, but more of a response to the player's choice. They want to see if we will choose a racial city or somewhere else altogether. My thought is that they will respond to the players' choice and start building around this new hub.
This made me curious about the Dominion of Winds and the Tengu. Will we see a response? Will be learn more? Here the guys opted to remain aloof. They simply stated that there will be some interesting things happening with the Tengu, but not to expect them to make a big reveal. The reaction - which I predicted to be "Not our problem." and got a laugh out of the guys - will be something that they are eager to see how the players will respond to.
We moved onto the content itself and what will be happening within Lion's Arch for players to deal with as they discover what exactly is happening. Players will be forced to push their way through a defensive force set up outside each of the entrances to Lion's Arch, and once inside they will have to save as many people as possible before a deadly miasma effectively forces players out and potentially kills any remaining survivors. To delay this miasma players will be able to partake in Tri-Kill Events that require a coordination of three different forces to take out various heavily guarded miasma dispensers. On top of this we will see call backs to previous big bosses like the Molten Berserker that will undoubtedly be a whole new level of difficulty during our campaign to save Lion's Arch.
Lastly, players will have the opportunity to gather up heirlooms that are hidden all throughout the map. These heirlooms can be traded in at the Refugee Camps for rewards based on how many heirlooms you have. It'll take some serious exploration to find all the heirlooms, and who knows what secrets you may also find along the way.
One thing to keep in mind is that we will see some NPCs die. Lion's Arch is under attack and being pumped with a deadly miasma. Coming soon we'll see ArenaNet talk more about this through their Facebook. We might just even see exact details of who will live and who will die. Keep an eye on their Facebook and be prepared to see the end of a character you may love.