The first, massive season of Guild Wars 2's "Living World" is coming to a close with a bang, lots of colourful explosions, titanic clashes and vicious metal marionettes. Origins of Madness, the first of four updates which will wrap up the season, launches today, bringing with it two dramatic boss battles, a continuation of the investigation into the enigmatic Scarlet and new items and weapon skins.
I got Mike Zadorojny, the Guild Wars 2 design lead to spill the beans - or at least some of them - on the beginning of the end.
Two huge battles are the focus of Origins of Madness, with players being tasked to dispose of the Twisted Marionette and Jungle Wurm, two very dangerous adversaries. Both creatures are giants, towering over players, and require coordination and a thoughtful approach to combat to take them down.
"Players should get ready for a good challenge with the Jungle Wurm," Mike said. "It’s a massive creature with three heads that rise up around Bloodtide Coast. Each head has unique vulnerabilities and mechanics for bringing it down. The Marionette is designed to be more approachable, although if you’ve seen the video we released, it’s massive and should give players a good run for their skills. Discovering these bosses’ vulnerabilities and how to cooperate with your fellow players to defeat them is going to be part of the fun."
The Jungle Wurm is an elaborate encounter, taking place in three locations, one for each head. Players can gather in one central location before heading off in three different directions, guided by an escort, where they'll each take on one of the heads. The mechanics of the fight are conveniently hinted at just before the wurm appears, in one instance with a pirate setting up an explosive keg which is then devoured by a smaller wurm, blowing it to smithereens.
Some mechanics are shared across the three battles, like hideous eggs which spawn larvae and need to be destroyed before they spew out more enemies. Before players actually reach the location of one of the heads, they'll encounter a champion which acts as a player reward, dropping the only loot in the encounter other than the unique boss rewards.
Coordination is key to defeating each head. The battle that I saw required one group of players to run between the wurm and a pirate base, fighting the pirates and stealing their powder kegs, while everyone else dealt with the minions and larvae being spewed out. At this point the head was invulnerable, and 20 kegs needed to be brought over before it would devour them. The adds actually target the keg-carrying players, which could lead to the kegs exploding, so they need to be defended. On top of the coordination needed in each individual battle, macro coordination is a necessity too, with the three teams working together.
While the Jungle Wurm will require a significant number of players to defeat, the Marionette has been designed to scale for smaller groups than other redesigned giant boss encounters. Not only is it more approachable, it has greater relevance from a lore perspective, as it leads to a significant discovery about Scarlet's past.
The battle forces the group to split into five, with each team protecting a lane from hordes of nightmare creatures along with their evil allies. The more creatures that make it to the back of the lane and through the energy fields, the more the deadly aether cannon increases in power - and that's something you don't want to happen. If you fail to halt the nightmare creatures, the Marionette will fire the cannon, destroying everything in the area.
To defend these passes, players have access to siege weapons and golem suits, letting them destroy great swathes of nasty beasties. Unfortunately, the Aetherblades are trying to defeat you too, and they'll set up their own siege equipment and even call in their flying ships to fire at the lanes.
Players in each lane will get chances to move to the second phase of the battle, where they'll need to fight champions and then destroy five regulators, sending a shockwave through the Twisted Marionette and destroying one of the chains holding her up. Throughout all of this, the giant puppet is walking around the battlefield, harassing the players. Bloody, puppets. As players in each lane move to the second phase, they'll encounter different challenges and the Marionette will use new attacks, so each group has their own experience.
Destroying each chain rewards players, and the more chains you destroy, the better the reward. So even if you do fail, you're still going to get loot as long as you took out one of the Marionette's chains. Unlike the Jungle Wurm encounter, there's a strong focus on defeating creatures, so they actually drop loot in the form of keys which will be instrumental in uncovering Scarlet's secret.
And while these two scraps are the main attraction, ArenaNet has added some content that small groups and individuals will be able to get involved in. "In this release players can visit Scarlet’s probes [and it's those probes that awaken the Jungle Wurm] around the world and continue their investigation of her, eventually uncovering more of the lore behind her madness," Mike explained."This includes discovering her plans for events that will change the face of Tyria."
Even if you aren't successful in the boss encounters, you can still progress through the story in smaller groups by investigating Scarlet. But there are consequences to not defeating these massive threats, Mike noted. "These range from the Marionette’s weapons platform firing an Aether Cannon and laying waste to an entire zone in Lornar’s Pass to unleashing a giant wurm that harasses players across Bloodtide Coast."
But Origins of Madness is just the start of the season one finale, with ArenaNet planning three more updates to bring this chapter to a close. "Each one is massive and stands alone in its own right, but we are building towards a truly epic finale. We’ve been building this story for over a year, and we can’t wait to share how it all comes together in the end. This first release is just the tip of the iceberg, revealing the first clues for how we plan to close the curtain for our first living world season. And while players won’t directly fight Scarlet in this release, it does kick off the battles that set the stage for the war to come with her."
Origins of Madness launches today, good luck with fighting these monstrous bosses.