The wait for Guild Wars 2's Season 2 is finally over! Today, players will dig into the next arc of the living story with the new Gates of Maguuma content (or save the content for later by unlocking it in their story journals). What exactly is in store? If you don't mind a few spoilers, we've got some of those answers for you right now.

Back at E3 2014, ArenaNet Associate Game Director Steven Waller and Studio Design Director Chris Whiteside gave us a recap of the first season, but they also gave us a preview of the second. And yes, that next step is through a portal into a whole new zone!
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Guild Wars 2: Season 2

Scarlet Briar: Gone but not forgotten

Whiteside emphasized that Scarlet Briar -- the evil nemesis from Season 1 -- is definitely dead. She's not coming back. But that doesn't mean that her influence will not be felt; even in death, Scarlet remains a threat as the seeds that she planted during her life continued to grow. "There are definitely repercussions for all of Scarlet's actions," Waller told us. "You don't blow up a city and have it be like, 'OK, never talk about that, never play into that.'" The living story is all woven together, and the past is what the present is built on. Waller stressed,
"It is a continuation. We're not saying Season 1 stands by itself and Season 2 stands by itself in terms of story, in terms of the plot, and in terms of the characters. There's definitely that continuation."
Whiteside added that while the second season is an ongoing arc, the natural flow of the storytelling will reveal more about Scarlet's plotting before players got to know her. In fact, he emphasized that "the longer Season Two goes on, the more interested players are going to be in having access to Season One." He explained,
"She went on a journey to get to the point that she did, and the events that occur here interweave with sections of her journey. Through going on this journey with your band of players, you see it from her side. You learn about parts of her journey, which then basically tells you what happens in Season One."
So what about players coming late to GW2, people who never experienced any of the first season and can't access it through the Story Journal? Whiteside agreed with us that people need to be able join in and have fun, no matter when they drop into the story. And Waller assured us that the model Anet has adopted will allow anyone to jump in and thoroughly enjoy the second season without having to be concerned about missing the first. He elaborated:
"If you played Season 1, you'll get a slightly richer story or experience. We've structured it in such a way that you can come in and participate in the season or in any episode and have a level of completion, not only from a gameplay standpoint but also in the story."
Basically, there's a variety of different layers to the story arcs, from a single episode to a season to multiple seasons, so players who participate in any of them will be able to have a rewarding experience that makes sense. However, those who play through more will get more depth from the experience.

The story continues

And now, on to the story that awaits! Warning: If you really don't want spoilers, you should skip ahead to the Living Journal section because the main story is getting quite the twist this season. In fact, the devs admitted that some fans are sure to be upset, and not because the story is bad, mind you, but because of how it unfolds. Whiteside's comment was that "it's going to be another shock to the system," just as demolishing Lion's Arch was.

So here it is: If you are a big fan of the Zephyrites, be prepared for some heartache. Once players dive through the portal, they'll discover that the Zephyrites have been blasted right out of the air, meaning those who came to the aid of Lion's Arch after it was destroyed now need aid themselves. The story arc of Gates of Maguuma is all about finding out what actually happened to the Zephyrites; players will join up with familiar characters introduced in the first season -- Marjory, Kasmeer, Braham, Rox, Taimi, and Scruffy -- to investigate what happened.

As the story progresses, players learn that the Zephyrite leader has gone missing and that the airship was brought down by sabotage. Living story participants will be racing to find the leader before the saboteur does. Don't worry, though; we haven't spoiled everything. Waller assured us that "there are certainly a number of surprises left to be had on your discovery [of the storyline] when you finally track down the saboteur and go from there."

New land, ho!

After traveling to the far western reaches of the Brisban Wastelands and pushing through the tentacle-like vines choking the area, players will enter a portal that takes them to a brand-new zone. Guild Wars players may recognize the name of the new area: Dry Top. However, as Waller noted, "It's been over 250 years since Guild Wars, so a lot has changed."

Some things players will experience in this new iteration is a huge sandstorm that periodically whips up. When the sandstorm is happening, the events, the encounters, and the types of rewards you can get will all change from what is available when there is no storm. One particular event in the new land is a king of the mountain-type event, where players are fighting a mob that consistently tries to chuck them off the mountain.

Additionally, the aspect crystals that the Zephyrites had on their ships are spilled across the new landmass, so players will be able to use the movement skills associated with the crystals. Waller noted that players will have to be wary of the Inquest faction, which sees an opportunity to grab the crystals and exploit the situation and the Zephyrites' misfortune.

Getting more out of the Living journal

Waller also expounded on the benefits of the Living Story Journal announced earlier this month. Not only will players get to go back and do content they missed, but they will get to redo content they've already completed. This becomes very beneficial in two main ways: One, if you want to brush up on or double check an aspect of the story (maybe newer info later makes you want to re-examine what you might have missed in the past!); and two, you can use it for collecting the new elite achievements. Once you complete the story instance, you can go back and do it over and over with a focus on earning these special achievements and their rewards.

How are the elite achievements different? "These achievements are going to be more challenging, more skill-based," Waller explained. "They're achievements that you earn by doing things that require you to show skill or mastery in your character." He gave examples like keeping all NPCs alive throughout the encounter or never falling to the boss. This allows players the opportunity to change their focus in the encounter from one of completion to one of honing tactics or testing new builds. "It adds another layer or dimension to playing the episode's content," he told us.

More rewards

Along with the added area, new mobs, and additional story content, the first episode of Season 2 introduces a bunch of new rewards, such as the new Adventurer's Spectacles and Adventurer's Scarf (which can be combined to create the Adventurer's Mantle). New crafting materials also enter the scene. Players can now harvest cacti for cooking or refine Ambrite into sheets, that can be used in crafting gear with bonuses to Toughness, Healing, and Vitality.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.
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