For those who haven’t been keeping up-to-date with the current season of the Living Story or need a refresher, here it is. This will obviously contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t played the content. In short, this season has been all over the place, with various things happening, with very few connection between them. If it’s anything like season two, there will be another four episodes to come, leading to the next expansion.
Episode 1: Out of the Shadows
Season three starts off when the Pact Commander receives a letter to attend Eir funeral. After celebrating her life and honouring her memory, Rox shows up, bringing a rescued Garm with her. The festivities complete, the Commander returns to a now bustling Rata Novus to check up on Taimi; who has kept the dragon research lab secret from the prying eyes of others, particularly Councilor Phlunt. It is discovered that the young progeny is running test with a chak organ and blighted material left over from mordrem pods; the Commander warns her of the dangers, but Taimi claims to have it under control.
Upon returning to the main chamber, General Soulkeeper arrives to inform the Commander the Pact would like to promote them to Marshal, but the catch would be removing them from the field in order to avoid another death like Trahearne’s. The Commander declines the offer and leaves the Pact, asserting they could do more facing the dragons as a guild leader, but decides to keep their title. Soulkeeper also delivers a letter to Rytlock Brimstone from the Black Citadel, which he immediately tosses away without reading.
Before the charr can have it out, an alarm blares and the group investigate the disturbance. The perceived threat turned out to only be Canach, who had urgent news to bring to the Commander on behest of Countess Anise; Minister Caudecus has fled Divinity’s Reach and was last seen headed to White Mantel territory in the north, where one of the bloodstones reside. The Commander immediately takes off to track the rouge minister on General Soulkeeper’s airship, but upon arriving close to their destination a massive explosion tears through the world, nearly tearing the airship apart, until it suddenly reversed. When everything calmed all the remained of the surrounding region was a massive crater and chunks of earth floating in the sky like islands.
An investigation of the bloodstone explosion lead the Commander to what was left of a White Mantle structure, deep inside the crater. It is here the Caith reveals herself to the Commander, explaining she too wants to know what happened. Using bloodstone shards, the two are able to recreate the event, discovering a mursaat had absorbed the bloodstone’s power. Shortly thereafter, the Commander returns to meet with Canach, Marjory and Rytlock, to join them in the attempt to arrest Minister Caudecus Beetlestone. Kicking down the door, the group catch the minister in the act, discovering he is in fact the leader of the White Mantle; after a brief exchange of words they are forced to fight a jade guardian.
Once the construct is destroyed, the mursaat, Lazarus appears, proclaiming himself to be the true leader and god of the White Mantle, proceeding to decimate all the members working under Caudecus. Both the mursaat and minister escape before the Commander can stop either. The group plans to start a new guild to face the current threats to Tyria when Taimi calls the Commander with urgent news; Primordus have become active.
Episode 2: Rising Flames
With the surprising news of an elder dragon becoming active so soon, the Commander rushes back to Rata Novus. Taimi spent the Commander’s time away to reinstitute a simulation room the Rata Novans were working on, reluctantly with Moto’s help. During the simulation, Taimi constantly lays additional bad news on the Commander; Primordus is moving south and Jormag has also become active. Exiting the simulation, the asura gives some good news in her research of the chak organ, which she has named Spencer; chak have the ability to filter out magic that is not ley-energy.
Leaving the secret dragon lab, two charr are waiting to bring Rytlock Brimstone into custody, as he has ignore numerous requests to return to the Black Citadel. Instead of causing a scene, the former tribune went freely in order to smooth things over with the high-ups. Before the Commander can head to Ember Bay, an injured asura rushes out of the gate, informing Taimi the destroyers have changed. The once fire like monsters are more powerful and exhibiting signs of death and plant like characteristics. This news causes Taimi to speculate the spread of magic from an elder dragon’s death may cause other dragon’s to gain its abilities; such as Mordremoth being able to convert the dead into minions, like Zhaitan.
Using the gate to reach the island, the Commander works on obtaining samples for Taimi to study. Exploration lead the Commander on a quest to activate four dwarven machines to prevent Ember Bay from exploding. The island saved, the Commander is called to Tarir, Glint’s egg is hatching. The egg chamber is under attack by destroyers on arrival and the mursaat, Lazarus, has also appeared. He claims to want to protect the young dragon, the Commander hesitant to this, but needs the help. The dragon minions defeated, Lazarus wishes to become an ally; the Commander outright refuses, but Marjory interjects and decides to see if the mursaat has actually turned good.
Episode 3: A Crack in the Ice
After a short time the Commander receives a vision from the newly hatched dragon, Aurene, and returns to the exalted city. The exalted leader, Luminate, is there to great them and explains it is time to teach the dragon how to be a force of good. After a series of trials the Commander went to Hoelbrak and gathered some information on a new type of icebrood, as well as Braham’s whereabouts. Reaching the Bitterfrost Frontier, the Commander is warned by local kodan and quaggan that the creature is located in an area so cold they’ll freeze to death without protection. They direct the Commander to a nearby svanir leader that has the mean to brew a magic potion.
Posing as a fellow worshiper of Jormag, the Commander is able to trick their leader into providing them with the potion recipe. After assisting locals with various tasks to obtain the ingredients, they brought them to a hot spring to complete to potion. Consuming the potion, the Commander was ready to brave the frozen tundra.
Eventually, the Commander came face-to-face with the new minion of Jormag. The massive creature, much like destroyers in Ember Bay, showed characteristics of risen and mordrem corruption. The Commander faced the icebrood alone, but was able to defeat the creature and claim a sample for Taimi to study. Once returning to the kodan/quaggan settlement to inform them of the news, the Commander was updated on Braham’s location, as well as the danger he was in.
When the Commander arrived at the cave, Rox and Braham were already under attack by the svanir. In between several skirmishes, the group updates each other on what’s going on; Braham takes nearly every topic brought up in a negative light. Reaching the scrolls location, they discover it was protected by icebrood and engage in combat. Rox was frozen at the start of the fight, leaving Braham, Garm and the Commander immediately down an ally.
The battle won, Braham seized the magic scroll and enchanted his mother’s bow. Believing it to be of sufficient power, he asserts he will defeat Jormag with it, by himself if need be. The Commander tries to sway him into more level headed thinking, but it backfires and Braham storms off after blaming them for his mother’s death. Worried, Rox goes with him to make sure he stayed safe. Upon entering Hoalbrak’s Great Lodge, the norn fired an arrow from the bow, chipping Jormag’s tooth, the first person to do so in the history of his people.
Episode 4: The Head of the Snake
Acquiring a summons from
Queen Jenna, the Commander joins her to a gathering of ministers she has ordered. During the meet-and-greet before her speech, they discover multiple asuran listening devices, similar to what Taimi uses to remain in contact with the Commander. During the speech, the Queen tries to perform a hostile takeover of the Krytan government, claiming it was for the safety of both the citizens and ministers from the White Mantle.
As one of the ministers counters her argument, asserting how unlikely a White Mantle attack was and the unlawfulness of Jenna’s actions, the separatist group pull a surprise assault on the city. With the assistance of the Queen, the Commander is able to overpower White Mantle forces; with the threat neutralized, their attention turns to where the siege began, Lake Doric.
The Commander meets with Logan Thackeray at the lake’s edge, which has been drained due too the White Mantle destroying nearby dam during their attack. They formulate a plan to assist locals while simultaneously beating back the assault. Working with Seraph and Shining Blade, the Commander is able to stop the majority of White Mantle forces, leaving the rest to be mopped up by allies.
The primary threat out of the way, Thackeray and the Commander meet back in the Queen’s throne room to formulate a plan to stop Caudecus. Jenna’s right hand, Countess Anise, develops a plan to infiltrate the Beetlestone manor. Queen Jenna agrees, but appoints the former minister’s own daughter, Demmi, who escaped her father’s madness and joined the Order of Whispers, to head the infiltration. Anise was unhappy about the decision, but concedes to her queen. Before leaving, the Commander offers Logan a spot in Dragon’s Watch, which he declines, stating he will instead take up the position as Pact Commander.
Sneaking through a secret entrance into the manor, Demmi Beetlestone and the Commander fought through White Mantle defenses. During their infiltration, Anise decides to join in, wanting to keep an eye on Demmi, unsure of where her loyalties lie. The Three are also able to save Canach from some twisted White Mantle experiment.
Caudecus waits for them in the mansions library, it was clear by his appearance and speech, he had gone mad, corrupted by consuming bloodstone magic. Nearly defeated, he shoots his own daughter before escaping into his inner chambers. By the time the Commander and group reach Caudecus, he had further transformed, he became a massive brute, high on magic. Using bloodstone against him, the confessor is defeated and the group teleport out of the chamber before collapses in on them.
Returning to the library, Demmi tragically dies in Valette Wi’s arms. The threat of the White Mantle gone, Canach is discharged from Shining Blade, his debt to society repaid; though to pay for her crimes against Kryta, Countess Anise takes Valette under her charge. The danger gone, Canach and the Commander explore Caudecus’ bedroom. Standing out was a painting of Thackeray, which the two decide to keep secret, as to not further traumatize the poor man, but further examination in the room lead to an even darker discovery.
Letters and notes left in Caudecus’ desk illuminated a dire situation. Confessor Beetlestone knew one of the other leaders was attempting to summon Lazarus the Dire, through five artifacts. He was able to replace one of the artifacts with a fake before the ritual could be performed, the ancient mursaat could not be summoned; meaning the Lazarus the Commander spoke to and who Marjory was with, was an impostor. To be sure, the Commander seizes the supposed real artifact to bring to the Priory for further study.
Individually, each episode does fairly well in providing content and continuing a story for players to follow, but as a whole are only connected by very thin threads. The living story needs to be looked at as an expansion, the only difference is you can’t continue the expansion until the next episode is released. So, together, the story has the Commander jumping to too many places, with to many different narratives colliding into each other.
I liked Bloodstone Fen, great map, great story, great place to kick off the continuation of the story. My major issue is you miss out on a lot of the narrative and important information about the White Mantle if you haven’t finished the raid wings. The only npc that explains anything in general about them, outside the human personal story, is Canach just prior to entering the new map. Even that information doesn’t provided enough context to most players. Like I said, unless you complete the raids, it looks like the White Mantle appear and become a major threat completely out of the nowhere, for no reason.
Then there’s the whole thing with pitting the fire and ice dragons against each other at the same time; a simplistic story element that pops up in almost every fantasy game with dragons. First they drag you to the fire islands, where for some reason the destroyers are green. Explain to me how something made out of lava can have plant tendrils, you can’t outside of the word magic; you want them to get powers from dead dragons, fine, but at least have them make sense. Mordremoth also had the power of mind, give that to the destroyers instead of something that lava burns.
Of course the third episode yanks you to the exact opposite side of Tyria. The map was dull and the recipe for making the potion overly complicate, not to mention how much shorter the story was in comparison to other living story episodes. The fight against the allegedly crazy powerful new icebrood was a joke. Once you get to Braham, he acts like a cardboard cutout of an emo and none of his complaints make rational sense; it’s clearly artificial and written to purposefully create conflict to spice up the story. It’s like a poorly written sitcom.
Being summoned by the Queen comes across as uncalled for, she never explains why she needs you, just that it’ll help her. She takes advantage of the player to make her coup of government look legitimate; how many times is she going to use people to her advantage before someone calls her out on it, at least that one random minister did, he’s the real hero in all of this. Then they go ahead and make Logan Thackeray the new leader of the Pact, seriously?! “Let’s kill off one of least liked characters in the game, just to immediately replace him with one of the other least liked characters”, said no reasonable person ever. What’s the new Pact policy, tactical retreats?
Saltiness aside, gameplay was decent, new items were cool, new maps were hit-and-miss and story was sorely lacking; obviously whit all episodes looked at together. My final verdict 6/10. ANet has a real problem with making compelling stories, that also make sense; they tend to do one, the other or neither in most instances. This rating can change in the future, there’s likely another four episodes to go in the season, but I find it unlikely to go high than a 7 based on their track record.
- Interesting masteries.
- Some cool new maps.
- Various ascended loot.
- Return of the mysterious E.
- Tons of collectibles to expand on lore.
- Lack of context involving White Mantle in E1.
- Cliche concept of turning fire/ice dragons against each other.
- Some characters have no realistic character development, specifically Braham.
- Various M Night Shyamalan like plot twists.
- Episodes are only connected to each other by thin threads, if any at all in some instances.
- Destroyers having plant powers make zero sense. Also don’t need to be green.
- Multiple other minor complaints.