Restored Lion’s Arch Teems with Life Again

The central city of Guild Wars, Lion’s Arch, has been rebuilt. Swept away are the sails and ships, the craters filled and wreckage carted off, to be replaced by sea creatures and sandy shores. This city holds a special place in my heart, as I’m sure it does for many long-time Guild Wars players. In the original game, before the addition of Embark Beach, reaching Lion’s Arch opened up travel to the distant lands of Elona and Cantha for Prophecies characters. For those beginning Eye of the North, Lion’s Arch was one of the three starting points. It was a central city for holiday revelry as well, and for many players setting out on an adventure, the journey began in Lion’s Arch.

The foundation here mimics the stones of ancient Lion’s Arch

As a city, it started life as a port town, offering access to trade goods and riches as well as adventure. Although tropical, swamps teeming with undead surrounded it. Artistically, the massive stone walls of Lion’s Arch bore the weight of war-filled history; the heavy wooden gates and drawbridges standing stalwart against all foes. The mossy stone of the city mirrored the other large jungle buildings of Kryta: solid, practical forms for troubling times.

When Guild Wars 2 launched, the port city continued its role as a central hub with asura gates that allowed travel to far-flung areas, merchants, banks, trading companies, and even a Mystic Forge. With the original Lion’s Arch now at the bottom of the bay, this new city commandeered the ships and sails of its buccaneer founders to form its foundations. Gone were the strong walls of the keep and drawbridges of the Guild Wars era, leaving only Fort Mariner on the southern edge of the city and the Lionguard outpost on Claw Island protecting the bay. For years, this was sufficient. But when Scarlet Briar attacked, flying over the ground-level defenses, the city was razed, leaving behind a mass of craters.

For months, the refugees attempted to maintain their livelihoods, building temporary shelters, crafting stations and storefronts in the wreckage of the once-proud city. As citizens mourned their losses, Lionguards patrolled the streets and back alleys in a vain attempt to thwart looters. The once-pristine lion statue, found in Lion’s Court, remained a pile of rubble for so long, the city’s cratered visage seemed the new normal and people all over Tyria turned away, finding solace in various capital cities or onboard the Captain’s Airship, which docked over the Vigil Keep to the north. Then, without warning, Captain Ellen Kiel announced that the rebuilding effort was underway! And a few short weeks later, a transformed LA greeted the citizens of Tyria.

A touch of whimsy never hurt anyone.

Gone were the sails and ships, replaced by tall, gleaming walls, bastions that shout in defiance, “Our city will not fall again!” Turrets and an Aerodrome add to the unmistakable expression of war-readiness. The gloom brought about by Scarlet’s destruction is gone, hidden by the glistening, white sand beaches that now emphasize the city’s tropical locale – the swamps of old Kryta long drained away. Gate plazas bustle once more and families, merchants, and adventurers wend their way through the streets signaling the return of normal city life, the return of commerce and stability. New buildings have replaced the old. There are taverns and open-air gathering places, even a wedding chapel. The new Lion’s Arch is a celebration of life! Sea life, to be precise.

Fish of various sizes and shapes adorn the streets while a number of the city’s buildings incorporate sea life into their very structure, a quick tour of this new LA will include an octopus, starfish and, occupying pride of place in the bay, even a lobster! Were I a political reporter, I would wonder if Ellen Kiel had been in recent talks with Captain Nemo. In the recent Points of Interest episode featuring designers Joshua Foreman and Peter Fries, ArenaNet admitted that this new Lion’s Arch was a “huge change” and it would take getting used to. Foreman stated that he had been looking to incorporate a more modern feel for the trading port. Reactions from the community have been mixed, they admitted. And that also sums up my reaction to the city: mixed.

Gleaming new walls greet visitors arriving by asura gate.

The walls are formidable and the city beautiful. The restored city is an amazing mixture of old and new. Those who remember the old Lion’s Arch will recognize the bits of shipwreck-inspired buildings that remain. The sea inspired additions are both whimsical and amazing to behold. At first glance, the fanciful aspects of the new Lion’s Arch may be off-putting to those who expected a more traditional city. I admit to being in that camp. The walls and turrets, the reused buildings that recall not only the shipwreck era LA but also the long-lost Krytan capital LA, those are the parts of the city that draw me in and make me love the new version. There are even areas that bear witness to Scarlet’s attack, portions of the city neglected by the rebuild effort. These also speak of the people of Lion’s Arch who start again, building upon the wreckage of the past, moving onward. Some forms of rebuilding continue, even after the unveiling of the main city. Take, for example, Tigg’s Moas, or the tads of Bloomanoo and Peneloopee.

I have no doubt that I will get used to the light-hearted touches that now grace the city – the lobster in the bay, the starfish crafting area, and the octopus over the bank vault are particularly jarring to me, seemingly at odds with the gleaming cannonades that line the walls. However, these touches invite people to play, the new paths and bridges urge us to explore, and the myriad NPCs bring the city to life. One can forgive the designers the bit of merriment and fun that was built into this new war-ready city.

What waits beneath?

I believe ArenaNet has achieved the sought after look of a modern port city, albeit one with a nautical theme park flare; but it remains a robust, walled-off and well-defended city. Most players will probably also admit that even at its most imaginative, the new Lion’s Arch is a far cry better than the husk of a city that we have been forced to wander through for the last year. I suppose it’s just a matter of time before Mordremoth reaches through the uncapped breach at the bottom of the bay and destroys it all again.

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