Flameseeker Chronicles: April's Guild Wars 2 patch brings custom arenas, spectator mode, and a living story dungeon

It's time for some retribution.
It is time to start talking about Guild Wars 2's April update for reals. I've got some serious knowledge to drop on you regarding the Flame and Frost: Retribution update, so let's get right to it.

Retribution will be the final installment of the Flame and Frost living story arc. To tie everything off, we're getting a new story dungeon that'll take us deep underground into the Molten Weapon Facilities. Structured PvP is getting some love in the form of custom PvP arenas and spectator mode. Guilds are getting more missions and new rewards. The gem store will be getting new stuff.

Let's dive in and look at some specifics, shall we?

Molten Weapon Facilities

The final act of our struggle against the Molten Alliance is coming up. We're going to fight alongside Braham and Rox as we take the fight to the enemy.

Let's back up a step. If you're new to the game or have been ignoring the living story content so far, here's the skinny: The Molten Alliance is made of Charr from the Flame Legion and their new buddies, the Dredge. They've teamed up and have been terrorizing folks in Diessa Plateau and Wayfarer Foothills. In the process of helping refugees, players have been introduced to the Norn Braham and Rox the Charr. Together, we've beaten back the Molten Alliance. Now the time has come to pursue them into their stronghold and end the threat for good. Our goal is to rescue captives and bust up as much Molten machinery as possible.

I came here to chew bubble gum and shoot little circles of light, and I'm all outta bubble gum.
The dungeon hasn't been built by the normal dungeon team. Instead, it was tackled by the same folks who made the Halloween and Wintersday instanced content. The whole dungeon builds up to a final boss encounter. You'll be prepared for that encounter by all the mobs you destroy on your way through the dungeon; you'll see a certain mechanic right up front, then a different one once you've learned to handle the first, then perhaps both in combination, so that by the time you get to the big finale you're all ready to kick butt and take names.

The dungeon is balanced to be somewhere "between story and explorable modes" in terms of difficulty. (Given that I can name a few explorable mode dungeons that are way simpler than some of the story modes, that rating needs to be taken with a grain of salt.) The team expects that it'll take really experienced and skilled teams between 30 and 45 minutes to complete (that length is due in part, I'm told, to a little bit of time-gating), while less coordinated teams will find themselves spending an hour or so inside.

As living story content, the dungeon will be available only for a set amount of time. Because of that, it can have pretty neat rewards -- "really cool ones" that "you'll want to come back for." There's no need to run the dungeon multiple times to get the whole story, but folks who do go in multiple times over the course of its presence in the world will find that it changes over time. There's variety in some of the things that happen and combinations of enemies in order to give players the feeling that they're not just ransacking the same facility over and over. To reinforce that, the entrances and exits to the dungeon will be moving throughout the cycle.

Structred PvP updates

is bringing in some major support for sPvP. We've seen a bit of this with different queue structures, changing tournament types, new maps, and the recent introduction of leaderboards. The team is stepping up its game, however, with the incoming patch. Custom arenas and spectator mode will both be making their beta debut.

Let me be right up front with y'all: Aspects of this are going to be limited. Specifically, only a small pool of players will initially have the ability to create a custom arena. However, anyone will be able to play in custom arenas or access spectator mode. I'm not really sure how that "small pool" of players graced with the ability to create custom arenas will be defined, but I know a bunch of other stuff.

Things I know, for example, include that arena starter kits and time tokens will be available through the gem store. The starter kit will, as you may have guessed, allow you to set up your arena. It also comes with a month of time for your custom space. Time tokens will be necessary to keep your arena open after that month. Anybody can contribute time to an arena; if you're splitting with your guild, or you spend a lot of time in someone's arena and want to help out, you can totally just apply your time token to it and be good to go.

YOU. HEY YOU. PVP COMMUNITY. come back we love you ;-;
You have all sorts of controls over your custom arena, should you have both the capacity and interest to make one. You can set a name, a password (or a lack of password), a logon message, the team size, the time and score limit, the respawn type and timing, whether or not the "ready" button is in use, the number of players required to kick the game off, the number of slots that are reserved for members, the membership list, the list of banned players, map rotation, whether or not you want progression (that is, if kills, losses, and the like will be recorded), whether you want players to be able to swap out gear and skills, and whether or not autobalancing happens.

That's a lot of options! To help you navigate them, ANet has overhauled the browser to be way more helpful and informative. You'll be able to see which custom arenas you can join and search by certain settings. You can also save custom arenas as favorites so they're easy to find.

Spectator mode will be available for hotjoinable sPvP and in custom arenas. As you enter a match, you'll have an option to join as red team, blue team, random team, or spectator. You'll be able to pick a player's point of view to see from; this will allow you to inspect all of her gear, traits, and skills. You'll also be able to choose from fixed cameras that hang out near high-traffic areas if you'd rather see combat around a specific point rather than the way a single player is maneuvering.

At present, spectator mode is possible only for live spectating, without any option for playback. While that might be less useful for newbies getting used to the game and wanting to check out what their foes were up to, live commentary and spectating is probably a much more immediate concern for the health of the PvP community. The team is, of course, "always looking at a variety of features to add."

wtf is a back banner, tho
April's Retribution patch will bring in other goodies, too. There's a new ability for arrow cart mastery as well as five new levels for the guard killer ability line. New guild missions (including a new guild rush that includes turning into Quaggans, awwww yissss!) are being added. You can now purchase WvW siege equipment decorated with your guild's logo. You can also get "back banners" that display your guild's logo. I'm not certain how a back banner differs from a cloak or cape, but apparently it does. My personal bet is that these back banners will be on the higher end of personal rewards. My other personal bet is that, sans substantial evidence that they're truly different from cloaks, the name of back banner will not stick around long in player parlance. And because money is made for spending, there will be new items in the gem store. The sonic tunneling tool will allow players to travel for short distances underground. You'll also be able to buy four new weapon skins, two of which are weapons belonging to our buddies Rox and Braham.

You'll be able to check all of this content out when it goes live a week from now. Until then, stay classy Tyria.

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.