Flameseeker Chronicles: The storm clouds are gathering in Guild Wars 2

Flameseeker Chronicles The storm clouds are gathering
I really wanted to talk with you about jumping puzzles this week, but jumping puzzles last forever and there's been some super cool stuff coming out about Guild Wars 2's February patch. We can talk jumping puzzles some other time, and I dearly hope we will, but for now there's an oncoming storm and new PvP stuff and guild missions and it's all just so very exciting. Let's get to it, shall we?

We got an official release page not too-too long ago. It's got some pretty swell pictures and feature lists on it. Of course, the absolute coolest thing about the patch is that it's bringing preview to the trading post! (While that might not actually be the best thing in the update, it's something I've been anxiously awaiting.) Quality of life is on the rise, especially since the release page says we'll now be able to see weapons on their own, sheathed, and wielded. Anyone who uses torches has probably grumbled a time or 80 about the current preview's limitations, so it's good to see progress on that.

Something that is not on the release page is WvW. As Colin Johanson mentioned a short while ago, WvW changes are being held back because of the trickiness of testing content of that scale. I've seen surprisingly few fans pull out their sack cloth and ashes over that announcement, which is... nice. Schedule changes are one of the prices we pay for getting more transparent communication.

Flameseeker Chronicles The storm clouds are gathering
People who like violently and virtually killing their friends to relax aren't entirely out of luck, though! Even though WvW is on a bit of a delay, sPvP is getting a brand-new map. This new map, Spirit Watch, takes place in and around some Norn shrines and is the love-baby of Guild Wars 2's traditional three-point control mechanic and good ol' capture the flag.

But wait, there's more! A new system is coming in to match two teams of well-matched players for a single match. As someone who's starting to dabble a bit more in sPvP (despite the constant cries of my lowbies for ever more XP), I think this is super cool. It will hopefully help smooth over the transition from hotjoinable mayhem to automated and paid tournaments.

One of the real gems of this month's patch appears to be guild content. People have been complaining, not without merit, about the essential pointlessness of guilds in Guild Wars 2 gameplay up until this point. They've been a buff source and very little else for a lot of people, but that seems to be about to change. Johanson talked about what this new guild system is going to look like:
The system allows people in a guild to work together to unlock guild upgrades that allow them to go on missions together. These missions can be kicked off by the specific guild that has researched that mission, but once they are activated, anyone can jump in and participate to help the guild finish the mission if they wish. The missions are designed such that some components of the mission can only be completed by the guild themselves, but each of them has aspects other players can assist with as well, so everyone has something they can do during the mission.
This is, uh, keenly interesting to me. Large group content in the open world is something that's been more or less relegated to a few meta events in a few specific zones. The Orrian temples and the dragon lieutenants are the only reliable way to see a significantly sized group of other players, and those (especially the dragons) are more often a somewhat raggedy collection of individuals than a true joint endeavor. This seems as if it'll also turn into something more on-demand than the meta events typically are; if my guild is all together and looking for something to do, this will be a nice alternative to sitting around until the start of something's spawn window.

Flameseeker Chronicles The storm clouds are gathering
There are going to be multiple types of missions and different specific challenges within each type. Regardless of guild affiliation, everybody who completes the event objectives will receive a personal reward of some type. Guild members will receive an extra reward, "which can be traded in for a new category of personal guild rewards." I'm kind of a little bit maybe interested to see this new reward system, as I'm pretty darn sure the release page's picture for this section shows guild emblems going on non-guild armor, and I really want to see what that's all about and what other goodies we can get.

Of course, we haven't addressed the gathering storm itself. We don't have the clearest picture of what'll be upcoming:
The situation worsens for the citizens of Wayfarer Foothills and Diessa Plateau. Volunteers have eased the burden, but more refugees hobble down from the Shiverpeaks. The storm there gains momentum, but the forces of good are beginning to rally. They're sending their heroes to defend the land and its peoples. Someone must hold back the gathering storm.
In Flame and Frost: The Gathering Storm, the second installment in this four-part series, the stakes are raised, and battles rage, in the foothills of the Shiverpeaks.
Given that none of my characters' skills is much use against steam and storms, I'm assuming that at some point a real foe will appear. All the heroicness in the world doesn't help unless you've got something at which to swing your sword, so I'm assuming we'll see some substantial plot developments. We know from the MMORPG interview that the story really "takes off in March and April," so I'm not expecting too much.

While the living story has been pretty content-light so far, I've enjoyed the brush or three that we've had with it so far. The first two nights of the Prelude patch had a very special feel to them as I raced around Wayfarer Foothills with a couple hundred of my bestest buddies, looking for refugees to help and fires to kindle. I hope we keep that.

Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, 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 elisabeth@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.