Smudge and I recently finished off the Season 2 storyline in Guild Wars 2. Overall, I think they did a better job than with the original story, though it’s still by no means perfect.

Also, there was a final bit of living world events that came after the story, that we saw parts of back when we got involved right after the original game became free. The living world idea is really nice, but it does cause all sorts of entanglements, and it kind of locks out newer players, who don’t know what’s going on. The repayable storyline used here is a big step forward, but they still manage to drop important events.

The story is divided up into 8 parts, and 4 deal with one new map (Dry Top) and 4 with a second (Silverwastes). These are naturally the toughest-high level maps available without buying the game. An interesting idea is that after completing each story bit, you can go back in and try for extra achievements. Doing all the achievements in any one part gets you extra gear and an extra mastery point (doing it the first time also gives you one).

The story starts fairly abruptly, partially because the Zephyrites are a group important to the plot, but were introduced in one of the Living World parts not included. Season 2 begins with word that something happened to them out in the wastelands west of the previously developed world, and the players go in to find out what.

(And note, I’m going to have minor spoilerage from now on, if you’re concerned about that.)

Mostly, the story continues to feature the new set of characters developed in Season 1, with Destiny’s Edge being at most peripherally involved until later, and the immediate story line follows fairly closely on from Season 1, filling in the background of Scarlet Briar, the main villain from there. As the story progresses, it quite naturally flows into the threat of the newly-awakened Elder Dragon Mordremoth.

Dry Top is heavily featured in the first two parts of the story, and is an interesting idea in zone design. Largely a badlands-type area, there’s lots of sheer cliffs and the like. ArenaNet put in an entirely new mechanic of crystals that you can touch for movement bonuses. Either a fast dash, a high jump, or a long jump. However, these have several annoyances, such as the fact that they replace your normal toolbar temporarily, meaning that you can land in combat, and not be able to fight at first. The high jump is just a boosted version of the normal jump, but doesn’t use the same control, etc.

However, its certainly an interesting experiment with zone design, and mostly you don’t need the crystals to get around, unless you’re exploring the nooks and crannies (and going after the achievements related to doing so…), where it becomes one giant jump puzzle.

Another interesting part of Dry Top is the sandstorm. On a fixed schedule, a sandstorm blows in, reducing vision, and spawning extra monsters. Between storms, every event completed in the zone increases the outsider’s (player’s) favor with the stranded Zepherites and they provide more goods (including unique items and the like), and the awards of special in-zone currency goes up with the current level of favor. Also, some extra events during the sandstorm are tied to the current favor level. So, event-wise, it’s organized around a regular cycle of events where anything anyone does helps everyone.

The next two parts leave Dry Top behind, and focus on getting getting the world leaders together to discuss the danger of Mordremoth, who seems to have a longer reach than the other active Elder Dragons. Most of the side questing here focuses on the Charr, which delayed Smudge and I as we had not been to any of the lower-level Charr areas. The summit itself forms the climax of the first half of Season 2, and features a fairly nasty fight (tougher than anything from the ending sequence of the original story).

The second half introduces the Silverwastes, which is another example of interesting zone design. Instead of a set schedule of events, the players help out with the Pact’s efforts to destroy a powerful lieutenant of Mordremoth. The assault cycles through a few distinct phases, but the timing is based on player actions. If there’s not many players available, the first phase will go slowly, and while the later parts will eventually be reached, it will go poorly. If there’s lots of players available, the events will cycle through fairly fast. It makes the Silverwastes a very intense go-go-go environment to adventure in, and the amount of loot rewarded is hard to believe (or sort through…).

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t do as good of a job introducing the outlines of the zone as a whole, possibly because there’s just less differentiation between areas other than the gigantic Skritt caverns.

Again, the later parts of the story start turning aside from the new zone. At the same time, it starts exploring a lot of lore, dealing with the dragon Glint who was introduced back in the final expansion of the original game, and was killed in the backstory for GW2. Caithe steals a (previously unknown) egg of Glint’s, which sends the player off on a long search for both. This takes up the last couple of parts of the story. Season 2 ends on a suitably climatic note, with the Pact pressing forward with a (too cliche) doomed attempt to kill Mordremoth… but the actual explanation of what Caithe’s doing, and where the egg is now that the player is chasing after for the last quarter of the Season is still unanswered. The entire last part of the story is full of really tough fights. I wish the end of the original story had been more like the end sequence here.