One thing I've always enjoyed about Guild Wars 2 is its release cadence. In-between the major expansion releases, developer Arenanet has its Living World storyline, constantly updating and changing the world. Each season and episode of the Living World has specific themes and ideas to tackle. As a player you feel like you're moving towards a stated goal; it's something that Guild Wars 2 has been doing longer than similar counterparts like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.
Today marks the launch of the Living World Season 4's fourth episode, entitled A Star to Guide Us. The lich Palawa Joko has been defeated and in his place, new factions have risen up and a looming threat grows larger. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik, who players saved from the rogue deity Balthazar back in the Path of Fire expansion storyline, is rising in strength and power. You had to save it keep reality together, but that doesn't mean it's your friend. The world only hope is yourself, a ragtag group of heroes, and the fledgling dragon Aurene.
This episode takes players to the Jahai Bluffs, where Aurene has decided to stay. What was once as vast desert expanse in the first Guild Wars is now a cracked and ruined region, full of purple crystals that mark Kralkatorrik's presence. Arenanet has even added a new facet to the region, a giant tornado that wanders around Jahai Bluffs, picking up players and killing them outright.
The biggest new feature is Sun's Refuge, an evolving sanctuary that players have to carve out of the Bluffs. Sunspear Koss, a Guild Wars: Nightfall veteran who rejoined the Guild Wars 2 storyline in the first episode of Season 4, is joined by his descendant Redeemer Kossan, with both leading the player to this sanctuary. Guild Wars players will recognize Sun's Refuge as what used to be called the Command Post in the old game. While Jahai Bluffs is very dangerous, Sun's Refuge is the one safe spot available to players and local citizens.
You first have to reclaim Sun's Refuge from its current inhabitants, a series of very large spiders that have webbed up the entire area. This involves you and your crew taking on the webbed miscreants while relighting the braziers that power the Command Post. Once you've done that, Kralkatorrik's influence begins to be felt, with portals opening to alternate dimensions in Guild Wars lore. Expect some surprises for long-time Guild Wars players in terms of things coming through these portals.
Once you've cleared and opened the Command Post, Koss renames the area to Sun's Refuge. This will be your new quest hub for the episode, but more importantly, the area will change as you progress through quests. Imagine a training area that begins to fill up with your growing army as you help citizens in the region. Or an ancient set of ruins that will slowly be dug out by local archaeologists, uncovering new secrets for the player to unlock. As you rebuild Sun's Refuge, you'll unlock more characters and rewards, including a brand-new upgradable armor set. This Elegy armor set can eventually be upgraded to the Requiem set, which has cool glowing parts that can be individually dyed. Rainbow armor, ahoy!
There's also a new Legendary weapon, the scepter Xiuquatl. Not only does the sceptre have a cool floating stone look, glowing aura, and mystical cyclones that appear with your every footfall, it also has a winged serpent that follows you around! The serpent doesn't actually do anything, but it's Arenanet's way of experimenting with weapons having parts that aren't directly attached to the weapon itself. Expect to see more of this in future legendaries.
There is one part of the episode that I didn't get a chance to take a look at. Alongside this release is a new raid for Guild Wars 2, the Mythwright Gambit. The djinn Zommoros has opened the Mystic Forge to those brave enough to wander its vast store of treasure. (I never have time to raid, so I probably won't be.)
The story of Guild Wars continues to shift and change. Living World Season 4 is pushing the player towards a confrontation with Kralkatorrik, another Elder Dragon that needs to be stopped, or at the very least, sealed away. Seeing returning classic characters like Koss is always fun and Sun's Refuge as a whole is an interesting idea that I hope Arenanet continues to push forward in the future. As it stands, it'll be a while before we finish Kralkatorrik for good, probably in late 2019, where there will likely be another full expansion to the game if the studio keeps with the cadence of Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire.
Living World Season 4, Episode 3 is available to all players today.