Impressions of Echoes of the Past

If you haven’t had a chance to login to Guild Wars 2 this week, you’re in for a treat with the new Living Story episode, Echoes of the Past. This is especially true if you enjoy Guild Wars lore and the story connections to the original game. If you’re not bothered about lore, the story might bore you but you can still move through each episode at your own pace for the most part. There are also several new gameplay mechanics and new-to-PvE elements that will keep you entertained.

The new Silverwastes map introduces WvW elements and mechanics such as supply escorts and keep defending. As a PvE player who plays WvW infrequently, I really like how ArenaNet have incorporated these elements into the PvE environment. They suit the story of the Living World at this stage well since it makes you feel like your actions are vital to the Pact’s success in Tyria’s war against Mordremoth. Positions are won and lost and any progress advances the meta events on the map, just as we saw in Dry Top, but here the results feel more rewarding. You’re not just completing events to earn rewards, although that certainly does happen; your successes against the enemy matter.

Blue Oasis showing Mordrem damage

However, if you’re not used to playing WvW, or you’ve never ventured into it at all, you may be at a disadvantage at first in this map when players call out in map chat that keeps need defending, or when the updates on keep ownership come across your screen. Having said that, this map is a lot of fun. By incorporating one of the best elements of WvW into PvE, ArenaNet have given players unfamiliar with WvW a chance to experience that gameplay while also making it matter within Tyria’s story.

Some may see this, though, as a blatant attempt to promote WvW and entice more players there. This is a fair point as ArenaNet continues to work and encourage the competitive and e-sports aspects of the game. It’s a fine line between encouraging players to try different parts of the game and players feeling that they’re being forced into a style of play they might not care about. I hope ArenaNet continues to strike the right balance here because, as one player said: “Siege in PvE, delicious :p”; I couldn’t agree more.

They’ve also incorporated group events based on fund donations as we saw in last year’s Wintersday and recent Crown Pavilion events. In this case, camp services are added using the new currency, bandit crests. Since these crests are used for the new Carapace armor skins as well, it may take a while for these donation events to complete as players hold onto them for the new skins and upgrades.

As you progress through the story, you’ll need to be prepared to fight as you journey between story steps. It is very easy to get sucked into the WvW style of play here as Mordrem are prompt to respawn and renew their attacks on the keeps you’ve helped secure for the Pact. If you happen to come upon a fort that has no upgrades when attacked, you’ll quickly learn the value of keeping these flush with supplies. As the week has progressed, commanders began organizing players more confidently as people worked through the story and learned the fights.

If you haven’t fought the Mordrem in a while, though, you’ll get quick introductions to their fast, flanking, high damage, high condi attacks. Some of their mechanics seem to have evolved as well making them deadlier so death is now more of a possibility. As Kaysee mentioned in our podcast this week, another element ArenaNet have brought in from WvW is the lack of nearby waypoints, making dying more of a penalty since you’ll have further to run to come back. The map’s chaotic warfare against the Mordrem, though, is good preparation for the third chapter, Caithe’s Reconaissance Squad. If you go in solo or with a small party, you will probably find yourself dodging a lot to survive. Superior Sigils of Stamina may be your friend.

Dodging, kiting, and speed boosts may also help in the final chapter, Hidden Arcana. One of the features of this chapter is Glint’s Lair, and if you thought you remembered how that mission worked in Prophecies, you’ll be in for a treat and shock as you face the Distorted Facets here.

Malevolent Memory facet

These facets can be a pain due to their mechanics but if you remember anything from the old mission, remember that situational preparation can be an asset against the different rooms’ environmental effects. This is now combined with enemy and combat mechanics that we were primed for in LS Season 1 like the color attunements from the final battles against Scarlet’s army. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in harm’s way by becoming “fragile” in order to transfer these to Vortex Crystals and damage bosses down.

The cream of this Living Story episode, though, is the lore and the many connections the story team is making to Guild Wars. This has made many players, especially the lore lovers in the community and here at GuildMag, extremely happy. If you played GW1 and cared even a little about its story, this episode, and especially the Hidden Aracana chapter, is for you. The journey into the massive Special Collections library in the Durmand Priory can keep you occupied for hours as you poke around into the books and treasures they’ve hoarded.

Special Collections archive. I want this as my guild hall.

From Abaddon’s statue to Zhaitan’s tail to a jade encased Leviathan from the Jade Sea, the treats for players are endless.  On top of which, then you get to go to Glint’s Lair and learn why the Master of Peace has Glint’s last egg and how the Brotherhood of the Dragon are connected to the Zephyrites. Storywise, this feels like the best of the LS episodes to date possibly because so many threads are converging and getting answered, and possibly because the story’s development feels much tighter and cohesive.

In the steps prior to Hidden Arcana, we also get to connect with Jory more through the artistry softening her face, expressing her grief and love for her sister, Belinda.

We also get a glimpse into the sibling dynamic between Caithe and Canach, and can explore beyond the story conversations you’re pointed to when you reunite with the Pact. In that step, you learn much more about the B-iconics, Eir, and Trahearne if you start talking to them before you start the story script and if you stick around after you complete the step, adding more layers to their own stories. Another welcome change is that you are recognized as the Commander of the Pact as you arrive and walk around Camp Resolve. As NPCs recognize you in awed, hushed whispers, they acknowledge you with salutes and cheers. Granted, these are Pact soldiers so they better know who you are (!), but this is a very nice touch.

The episode isn’t without its inconsistencies and flaws, though, such as the unconvincing explanation that the Fort Salma ghosts’ sudden and traumatic death leaves them acting like everyone around them are Mordrem, making them sound like Ascalonian Foefire ghosts. Then there’s the location of Explorer Campbell out in the Silverwastes, right next to a skill point. This is a bad location for her as players will trigger the skill point without warning others. If you’re trying to continue the story you may be caught off guard and suddenly forced to fight devourers. Another slip comes in some of the dialogue attributed to the sylvari, a race characterized by more formal sentence constructions. As in The Dragon’s Reach, Part 1, where the Pale Tree asks if you still “run with” Destiny’s Edge, this episode now has Trahearne ask “if you’re game” to take up a special mission. These slips into uncharacteristic informal speech are a bit jarring and I hope will not continue.

Overall, though, Echoes of the Past is a fantastic episode with many more positives than negatives that’s left me very happy and looking forward to the next episode.

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