War, What Is It Good For?
The Living World is the main reason to keep playing Guild Wars 2 after you're done leveling up your character. It's basically a constantly evolving storyline that makes the world feel alive, hence its name. The latest season of Living World started in September of 2019 and follows the story of two of the game's races, the Charr and the Norn as they defend their homelands from the threat of a dreadful Elder Dragon. In the latest episode, the conflict is reaching a boiling point as forces clash and the dreadful power of the Elder Dragon is manifest in epic battles.
This latest addition to The Icebrood Saga is something of a first for Guild Wars 2's Living World. It is being released first as text only, with voice-over work to be added at a later date. There are obviously extenuating circumstances that have led to this scenario, but it honestly doesn't affect the quality of the episode much. Without spoiling the story, this episode is possibly one of the most exciting and unique entries to the Living World that we've had in quite a long time. Mostly thanks to a stunning combination of game types and dramatic story beats.
No Quarter features a combination of World Vs World(WvW) and Player Vs Environment(PvE) elements. In WvW maps players from several of the game's world's battle each other for control of different points on the map as well as resources. The new Icebrood Saga content brings the mechanics of WvW into a PvE setting. In the map, players must battle their way through two lanes of fortifications, battling against waves of enemies and using siege weaponry to win control over as much of the map as they can.
According to the developers, this combination of WvW and PvE is intended to entice players who exclusively stick to one type of map. Speaking as someone who exclusively plays PvE in Guild Wars 2, I can say that this map does its job spectacularly. The epic siege warfare taking place across a huge battlefield really sells you on the idea of WvW. You and the other players have to work together to coordinate your assault, or you're likely to be overwhelmed easily. It's not good just running around doing what you want on your own as you do in PvE.
Fortunately you have many opportunities to learn that lesson. The story is divided into two sections. The first sees you and the other players trying to control the map. Once you've pulled that off you move on to the final confrontation culminating in a huge battle at the north-most section of the terrain. You can't actually lose at the first of those two sections. If you're stuck with a bad group of players it'll just take longer to unlock that final task. So as long as people figure out what they need to do while assaulting the bases then they'll be fine.
However, It's entirely possible to fail the second part of the mission. You have 15 minutes to find and defeat the final boss of the map. It's during this segment where the intensity is cranked up to 11. You and the other players all have to rush the boss area, fighting as you go. That 15-minute timer is relatively generous, but it certainly doesn't feel that way as you're pounding towards the battlefield with combat raging around you. The entire segment feels like a battle scene from a fantasy epic. There's not been a better selling point to entice those who've yet to try out the Living World content up until this point.
As you can probably tell, the entire event is pretty tough. The last battle is the toughest, but it's still easy to die in the earlier stages even for a max-level character. Luckily one of the new mechanics being used in the map is airdrops. When you die, or if you want to fast travel, you can elect to be airdropped into the fighting. This is useful throughout the conflict but is even more useful in the final battle. When you're taken down by a tank or a stray bullet it's nice to be able to get straight back into the action by dropping from the sky, rather than having to run the entire way back to the fight from the map's single waypoint.
The airdrops use one of the Icebrood Saga's latest additions. War Supplies. These supplies are used to pay for your airdrop and are collected as you battle through enemy fortifications. The airdrops themselves are pretty cheap, so they don't really register that much on the scale of things. But, there are other uses for war supplies. Firstly, they're necessary to repair any of your camp's damaged or destroyed fortifications. They also give you access to special siege items that are necessary for taking down enemy vehicles and barricades.
The latest Icebrood Saga chapter also includes a new strike mission. It's basically a super-tough wave-fighting mode that ends with a fight against a really tough enemy. The strike mission in this case is extremely challenging. During my first run at it our entire team was down after only a few rounds had gone by. Realistically this mission is perfect for any players who are really looking for a challenge in the late game. The mission also features a specific enemy type, but I can't really go spoiling that for anyone who wants to try it out for themselves.
Sound design has been a huge focus of this particular chapter of the Icebrood Saga too. lots of effort has been put into making the sounds of war as realistic and vivid as possible, and it really pays off. Especially if you're using a high-quality set of headphones to play the game. This effort culminates in one of the most intimidating maps resets that I have ever experienced. Again, I can't talk about what specifically happens, you'll have to play the story yourself to find out. But make sure that you're volume isn't set too high when the map timer hits zero.
When all is said and done, the latest addition to Guild Wars 2's the Icebrood Saga is a stunning, intense war story. If you've never considering getting into the Living World content yet then this is a perfect place to start. It's a tough nut to crack, but working together with many other players to control as much of the map as you can provides a very real sense of accomplishment. If you're already invested in the story then you'll find a lot of payoffs here too. If you're not, then you probably will be by the time you're done with this episode.
TechRaptor previewed Guild Wars 2: Icebrood Sage Episode 3 at a virtual preview event courtesy of by the developer.