It’s been almost two months since we first had the pleasure of Scarlet Briar’s company, and since then she’s turned out to be one pesky plant indeed! She’s disrupted Queen Jennah’s Jubilee ceremonies, taken control of her Watchknights and defeated thousands of Tyrian heroes in invasions across the whole of Tyria, as well as being revealed to have been behind many events surrounding the Molten Alliance and the Aetherblades prior to this. And each time we’ve come close to stopping her, she’s disappeared into thin air. Fortunately, this last month has been favourable and her appearances have been limited, though experts reckon it’s only been the eye of the storm.
So here we go again. Thanks to the fantastic folks at ArenaNet, we’ve had a chance to preview the first part of Twilight Arbor’s new level 80 path involving Scarlet and her Aetherblades. Read on to find out what Scarlet’s been up to since we last met her.
Scarlet: A History
Like all sylvari, Scarlet was born to Tyria through the Pale Tree. She awakened to the world as Ceara, not Scarlet Briar, and was not at that time bent on watching the world burn. Wishing to forge her own destiny, and not follow that which the Tree prescribed her, Ceara set out to study the world. Eight years in the Grove were followed by one winter with the norn blacksmith Beigarth and two years with a charr gladium named Asagai, studying metallurgy and firearms respectively. But this was not enough for Ceara – so she sought the city where geniuses reside: Rata Sum. Speeding through the colleges of Dynamics and Statistics, she impressed her asuran peers and came into the realm of Synergetics and the Eternal Alchemy. She formed ideas about the Eternal Alchemy that proved unpopular to the three colleges – Ceara thought that it could be mastered and not simply understood – and when she was caught meddling with designs in the city’s archives after spending some time with the Inquest (whose ideas were much like Ceara’s), she was forced out of Rata Sum.
Wandering through marshlands, she learned what she could of hylek alchemy, until one day, Omadd – her previous Synergetics headmaster – approached her with an opportunity: to see the Eternal Alchemy for herself in his latest experiment. Following months of preparations, Ceara entered Omadd’s isolation chamber, removing all physical ties and letting her mind roam. There, she saw visions of Tyria, the Mists, her people and the Pale Tree. Believing this to be the Eternal Alchemy, she continued to delve deeper, until she heard a voice; the voice of the Pale Tree. Pleading her not to venture any further, she ignored the warning and continued further still. In these deep recesses, Ceara went mad. She saw herself as a thorned vine against the Tree, dangerous to those around her, and in that instant, joy surged through her.
Ceara emerged from Omadd’s isolation chamber as Scarlet Briar. Red thorn vines encapsulated her hands, and with them she killed her former teacher.
This year, in 1326AE, the Dragon Bash Festival played host to a variety of fun activities intending to symbolise Tyria’s resistance to the Elder Dragon threat. But it wasn’t all fun and games; led by Captain Mai Trin, a group known as the Aetherblades assassinated Captain Theo Ashford in an attempt to ascend Mai Trin to the Captain’s Council. Though the plot was thwarted, and Mai Trin was captured at the Aetherblade’s base in Lion’s Arch, this was not to be the end of the group. In reality, Scarlet Briar led the Aetherblades, with Mai Trin as her puppet. Downed but not defeated, Aetherblade activities subsided as they regrouped, ready to strike at the next celebration: Queen Jennah’s Jubilee.
Here, Scarlet made her first public appearance. Taking control of Jennah’s clockwork Watchknights, she disrupted the Opening Ceremony, but it was not until two weeks later, when Jennah was due to make her speech, that she would really get going. In an attempt to kidnap Jennah, Scarlet, her Aetherblades and her new clockwork monstrosities overtook the ceremony, kidnapped several key nobles – including Lord Faren – and turned the Gauntlet into her personal Playhouse. Once again, Scarlet was defeated by Tyria’s finest, including Rox and Braham, but vanished once more before she could be apprehended. Not stopping there, Scarlet simultaneously organised invasions across the Tyrian continent, taking her army of Aetherblades, Molten Alliance (which she also lead) and Twisted Clockwork creatures to war against those who’d stand in her way. As before, she was beaten back but not apprehended, and so retreated to regroup her forces once more.
Now, Scarlet is back. Another Aetherblade base of operations has been uncovered amidst the flora of Twilight Arbor, and the Lionguard are out for revenge. Seeking justice for Theo Ashford’s death, they plan to invade her base head-on, and need all the help they can get. Meanwhile, the sylvari Caithe also has an interest in what’s happening inside Twilight Arbor. She’s agreed to help where she can, but is ultimately there for her own purposes.
Neither the Lionguard or Caithe can do it alone; will you answer the call and discover what lurks within the shadows?
Changes in Twilight Arbor
Like with previous Living World releases, you’ll be greeted with an in-game mail when you first login, inviting you to Twilight Arbor and explaining the current situation – which we’ve outlined in the above section. If you’re a sylvari, the mail will be from Caithe herself, and if you’re not then it’ll be from Lionguard Deputy Turma.
Upon arriving at the dungeon with your party, you’ll be greeted by a new hub when entering explorable mode. This new hub allows you to choose between the level 55 paths (of which there are now two, as the original forward/up path has been removed in favour of this new path) or the level 80 Aetherblade path. If you’re following the level 55 paths, from here it’ll be the same Twilight Arbor as you undoubtedly know and love, sans one path.
You’ll also find Caithe and the Lionguard discussing the current situation. Rather than use a cinematic, the devs are playing with using more in-game conversations to convey what’s happening around you, though there are still cinematics further into the dungeon – the encounter with Sparki and Slick, the first two bosses, being one example. Caithe will explain that her interests in being there revolve around Scarlet’s acquisition of knowledge that could damage Caithe’s reputation. She won’t directly join you on your journey through the Aetherblade path, though will appear from time to time at key intervals.
The developers that worked on this new path contain those that worked on the Aetherblade Retreat and Molten Facility dungeons, and as such, the path is much more than “kill everything ASAP” all the time. Similarly to the Super Adventure Box, there’s elements of learning a mechanic and then applying it throughout various stages of the dungeon with varying difficulties. One of these is the typical Volatile Blossoms found in every Twilight Arbor path – and the new one is no different. Another involves spiders spawning whenever you defeat an enemy in certain rooms, which you’ll have to take care of before they overwhelm your party.
The first challenge/puzzle you’ll encounter involves fire and oozes. Sparki and Slick, two of Scarlet’s lieutenants, will set the room ablaze, leaving only two safe paths through. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also no way out yet – the door on the other side is sealed shut – and lava elementals will continually spawn from the flames and attack your party. To progress, you’ll have to put out the fire using the tools presented to you: hostile oozes, ooze pheremones and your team mates. Keep the lava elementals off your oozes, work together with your team and find a way to stop the flames and open the doors. (Hint: oozes don’t like fire and prefer to arrive at their destination in pairs.)
Sparki and Slick
After managing your way through the ooze trial, you’ll come across a forest where the Aetherblades are clearing out the wildlife for Scarlet’s plans. After combating off these Aetherblades and continuing onwards, you’ll come find a pack of nightmare pups fleeing away from the danger you’re closing in on: Sparki and Slick. These bosses are introduced by Scarlet as an odd paring of an asura in Molton Alliance gear and a typical norn Aetherblade sidekick sporting an oil gun. Their first course of action? Take out the Volatile Blossoms that are abundant in their room purely because Sparki has no use for them.
The pheremones that were present during the ooze trial return during this fight either randomly spread over your team or picked up manually by plants in the corner of the room. Slick, as the name suggests, spreads out oil across the room with his weapon, and Sparki sets it ablaze. By luring the hostile oozes into the burning oil you’ll prevent the toxicity level from reaching critical levels and dealing large amounts of damage over time. Should an ooze die, it’ll release all of its captured toxicity into the room causing a massive debuff release.
Unlike the Molton Beserker and the Firestorm bosses of the Molten Facility who would not respawn after they died, Sparki and Slick will both return upon a party wipe, even if you defeat one of them. If you manage to take out Sparki first, Slick will start releasing more oil pools than before. Likewise, if Slick gets taken out first, Sparki will turn up the heath in the room similar to inside Fractals.
Defeating Sparki and Slick will reward you with a boss chest typical to most dungeons and open the way for you to enter the main facility.
Inside the first room of the main facility is as far as we were shown during the preview. The wild undergrowth of the Arbor gives way to cold metal and angry Aetherblades from here. Scarlet’s holograms scatter the facility, keeping watch over her minions. Unlike those under the direct control of Mai Trin, these Aetherblades somewhat fear for their safety and want nothing to go wrong – else Scarlet’s wrath come down upon them. It’s worth noting here that the Aetherblades as a whole have received some changes to their balancing, reducing the amount of stuns they dish out and generally making them a little easier to kill. This change applies not only to all Aetherblades in the dungeon, but every Aetherblade you’ll encounter in the open world too.
Introduced in the first room is a new mechanic: the Holopirate Generator. Using stolen technology from the Dragon Bash holographic generators, these things spew out holographic pirates that explode on impact with players. The Generator itself can’t be harmed by traditional means due to its shielding, so putting exploding pirates and a shield that needs to come down together, you should be able to guess how to deal with this one…
Like with every Living World release, Twilight Assault comes with its own meta achievement category. This contains only one achievement that tracks your progress with another achievement track: the permanent Twilight Arbor Aetherpath category. Completion of the Twilight Assault achievement will reward a Slickpack back item, identical to the one Slick wears. Similarly, completion of the Twilight Arbor Aetherpath category will reward a Mini Clockheart – a miniature of the final boss of this path.
Throughout the dungeon (and as random drops from areas in the Maguuma Jungle) you’ll be able to collect Aether Key Pieces. Combining five of these together will create an Aether Key, which will allow you to unlock optional chests at the end of the final boss in this path. There are five optional objectives that can be completed by a single player, at the end of which can be found five of the chests unlocked with an Aether Key. The objectives include helping the Lionguard clearing up and helping Caithe complete her personal reason for being there.
And that’s it for our patch preview. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!