Episode Two in Guild Wars 2’s Living World Season Three is called “Rising Flames” and introduces a new explorable location in Tyria – Ember Bay on the Ring of Fire Islands in the far south.
I’m always impressed when whole new areas appear in Living World updates, and Ember Bay is quite a large map compared to the previous area, Bloodstone Fen, which was added in Episode One.
Episode Two continues from the cliffhanger moment at the end of Episode One where teenage asuran prodigy Taimi drops the bombshell that the elder dragon Primordus has woke up.
[Spoiler warning!] If you haven’t played Rising Flames yet, then be warned that I’ll be mentioning various story spoilers. Here’s the episode description from the Guild Wars 2 website:
Legate Minister Caudecus has escaped, the ancient mursaat Lazarus the Dire has risen, and the Elder Dragon Primordus stirs under Tyria’s feet. With little time to recover following the death of Mordremoth, the Commander and their allies must work quickly to find anything they can leverage against the new threats. But who can you trust?
The episode begins back at Rata Novus in Taimi’s secret lab, where she asks you and Rytlock Brimstone to try out a virtual battle simulator she’s discovered, which the Rata Novans developed to simulate Primodus’ minions known as Destroyers. After testing your mettle against these virtual foes, one of Taimi’s krewe arrives from the Ring of Fire Islands where he warns that they were attacked. The Destroyers they’ve been researching at Ember Bay have changed, and are more dangerous than the ones we’ve faced before.
Rocks with faces and hearts of gold
When you arrive at Ember Bay, you touch base with the asuran researchers and investigate the new Destroyers for yourself. Taimi’s experiments back at Rata Novus lead to the discovery that magical energy is divided into a spectrum of different flavours, such as death magic and plant magic. With the destruction of both Zhaitan and Mordremoth, and their subsequent release of their particular flavours of magic back into the world, Primordus has absorbed some of this death and plant magic and become more powerful.
While exploring the island, you discover various castaways and characters that need your help, such as a group of pirate skritt who need rescuing from being stranded in the middle of rivers of lava, and a group of human circus folk who were shipwrecked.
The game developers have brought back the concept of renown hearts on this map, where you help various people and then unlock their gratitude in the form of a karma vendor. The new twist is that these hearts are now reset and are repeatable daily, instead of permanently remaining completed as they did in the earlier gameplay. While this adds to the replayability of the area, it feels a bit strange as I’ve been conditioned to completing all the hearts and having them remain “done”. Continuing the trend from Bloodstone Fen, there are also new map-specific daily achievements for Ember Bay.
There’s also a new method of fast travelling around the island in the form of thermal vents that will launch you into the air to cover great distances, which can be trained under a new ancient magic mastery. It certainly helps make jumping to pre-defined locations around the island faster for people who haven’t unlocked ley-line gliding.
The island suffers from quakes and you learn that a group of stone dwarves have been releasing the underground pressure using devices they built to prevent a catastrophic volcanic eruption. This was disrupted by the arrival of the Destroyers, and the last remaining dwarf, referred to by the local skritt as “Rock Face” tasks you with resetting the devices and stopping the island from blowing up.
Back to Tarir
Upon saving Ember Bay from destruction, you receive an ominious vision from your psychic connection to Glint’s egg, which prompts you to return to the Forgotten city of Tarir.
The good news is that the egg is ready to hatch. The bad news is that Destroyers have arrived to attack, just as the magical defenses in the egg chamber fail. It’s up to you to defend the newly hatched baby dragon in an epic battle.
From flame to frost
The ending of the episode gives you a sense of closure in wrapping up the story of Glint’s egg that started in Living World Season 2 and continued into the Heart of Thorns expansion. It also gives your character a chance to rebuild trust with Caithe, who made some misguided decisions during Heart of Thorns.
You also learn more about the mursaat and could potentially have a new ally in the form of Lazarus. Whether of not he can be trusted has yet to be revealed, but Marjory decides to shadow him in order to find out.
I enjoyed the episode and the story a lot, and the quality of the writing, musical score, maps and gameplay all continue to be top notch in this season of the Living World. I’m looking forward to the story continuing in Episode Three, “A Crack in the Ice”, as we move to the frozen Shiverpeaks to investigate signs that the elder dragon Jormag is also causing trouble…