Have you been missing out? Trying to decide how best to spend your precious holiday time in-game? Let's take a look at some of the big changes that have been creeping in with the shadow of the Mad King.
If you were adventuring during Act I of this holiday update, you likely noticed some haunted doors popping up here and there in Queensdale, Kessex Hills, and Gendarran Fields. Knocking on those doors gave you a chance for candy or a fight. Since Act II came online on the 26th, however, they've served as a portal to the Realm of the Mad King.
Any door you come across has a chance to be a portal to the Realm, but one that is marked by a pumpkin face on the map is a sure thing. If you're not seeing any pumpkin icons (and if you're unsure if you're seeing them or not, you're not), look around -- chances are you're within range of a special meta event that will turn all the haunted doors into portals and mark them for you on the map. The meta events aren't particularly challenging (especially when there are scads of max-level players around to rush them along), so one way or another you should find yourself in the Mad King's Realm fairly quickly.
When you enter the Realm, you have two choices. You can run up and talk to the Lunatic Boatmaster NPC (who has the Halloween exotic staff, The Crossing, which just rustles my jimmies to no end) to travel to certain activities, or you can head over to a little stone portal and travel down into the Mad King's Labyrinth.
As far as I understand it, the Labyrinth is dedicated to the pure joy of killing. You run around, often en masse, and pit yourselves against hordes of candy corn elementals, gargoyles, skeletons, mummies, and plastic spiders. Every so often, a haunted door will spawn and kick off an event to slay foes. If it's a group event, you'll be rewarded with a chest at the end. There is no higher goal. Just kill things, gather candy, and laugh like the demented killer you are.
The Mad King's clock tower
Tick tock, the mouse ran up the clock, and Time swallowed it whole -- tail and all!
The Mad King's clock tower is a special kind of torture. It's one of the activities to which the Lunatic Boatman will port you, and it's the holiday jumping puzzle. Completing it will get you an achievement and a chest that is guaranteed to produce an exotic pair of shoes, the Mad King's Slippers, the first time you open it.
Of course, completing the clock tower is no mean feat. It involves a race against time, running and jumping your way up a twisting trail of debris in an attempt to avoid the rising madness which hounds your trail. Fall, and you are lost to the madness and sent back into the lobby to wait for the next round. Hesitate too long, and the same fate awaits you.
The puzzle is, appropriately, fairly maddening. A lot of people aren't really fans of it. I am, but it's not because I'm good at it or anything. I don't mind being bad at things, though, which means it's a lot easier for me to laugh my way through a couple hours of attempts. Where other people were busy getting angry because how dare the Charr and Norn try to do this puzzle, don't they know they're making it so much more difficult for the rest of us, I was giggling my head off at the sight of everybody running stripped down to their underthings for decreased screen clutter.
This seems to be the least accessible bit of content for the holiday event. While you can get to it at pretty much any level, there is a definite skill barrier that will turn off a lot of players. The clock tower's creator said he expected that maybe five percent of players would be able to beat the puzzle.
The Lunatic Inquisition
The Lunatic Inquisition is a special sort of PvP. It takes place in the same map as the Mad King's Labyrinth, and is entered either by talking to the Lunatic Boatman or Rasmus in Lion's Arch. Players are split up between villagers and Lunatic Courtiers. Each round lasts 13 minutes.
It's much easier to be a Courtier than a villager. Villagers have only one skill, a simple 10-second stealth. They otherwise rely entirely on environmental weapons, each of which is good for a single use. A villager's whole goal is simply to survive. This is rarely, if ever, done by actually defeating Courtiers -- instead, it's by throwing up every possible defense and running away as cleverly and quickly as possible at every opportunity. Upon defeat, villagers are turned into Lunatic Courtiers, whose whole purpose is to "convert" villagers by defeating them. Courtiers have the advantage of a full skill bar and the use of portal stones to move quickly to other areas of the map.
Reaper's Rumble gets back to the PvP basics: killing other people and destroying their stuff. Two random teams of eight go at it to try to destroy each other's mausoleums. Each team has three mausoleums, into which they can chuck pumpkins in order to spawn skeletons to head down predetermined lanes to attack the enemy's mausoleums. If you like being sneaky, there are some corn fields out on the sides of the map that will grant you stealth (save for the soft rustle of cornstalks in the breeze) so long as you stay in them and don't attack anyone.
Players use a preset skill bar rather than their own weapons, which puts everyone on an extremely even playing field. There's no downed state, little healing, and a lot of damage output, so match-ups in the Reaper's Rumble tend to be fast and furious.
Ascent to Madness
Greetings, mortals! Good to have you see me again! You may adore me now!
The newest addition to the Halloween activities, the Ascent to Madness, takes players into a dungeon to confront and defeat the Mad King. While it isn't precisely a walk in the park, this is one of the more accessible bits of holiday content we've seen: You get to keep your own skill bar, which means you're playing with skills you're comfortable with; you can enter at any level; and unlike most dungeons, this requires little or no strategy. I have yet to go in with a PUG that couldn't handle everything we faced. There are many reports of folks soloing the instance, but I personally don't see the fun in that.
Guild Wars players will find a bit of nostalgia in the Mad King's beginning antics -- he starts off the encounter with a few rounds of Mad King Says. Not everybody seems to be affected by the little mini-game, but if you are one of the lucky few, you'll notice your skillbar changing when he gives commands. If that's the case, you'll have to click on the correct command or suffer a knockdown and some damage. While that's going on, some Halloween mobs will have spawned around your party, which shouldn't present a serious threat. After he gets tired of Mad King Says, the Mad King will engage in the fight. From there, it's just a matter of keeping up with his teleportation antics, clearing the trash mobs, and steering clear of the scarecrows and pumpkins.
I find the jumps to different levels of the fight to be the deadliest part of the whole encounter. The dungeon is arranged on three different levels, and access between them is limited to jumping down a number of rocks. If you're not careful with your aim and timing, you'll find yourself falling a very long way down (occasionally so far down that you actually return to fall from the top of the space) and taking a very, very hard landing. Additionally, the layers on which you're fighting aren't all fenced in, which means if you're not careful with your distance judgement with, say, Burning Speed (no this is definitely not from experience) or catch an unlucky bout of Fear, you'll take a long walk off a short ledge.
But wait, there's more!
These are just some of the latest and greatest changes to the world of Guild Wars 2. There's also a scavenger hunt that kicks off with Minister Tassi near the (ex-)lion statue in Lion's Arch, a costume brawl that seems to have transformed the city into a perpetual state of chaos, candy corn nodes to mine, pumpkins to carve, and trick-or-treat bags to collect.
The final act will unfold on the 31st, and festivities end on the first -- you haven't got long! That also means that I haven't got long to keep running through this dungeon in a desperate bid for The Crossing.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of the Mad King, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.