Guild Wars 2's next collection of free story content is ditching the word "season" for "saga." Unlike previous seasons of what Guild Wars 2 calls its Living Story, the Icebrood Saga will be a series of content additions that break the linear story mission format that players have come to expect from the free content updates. As with past Living World stories, the Icebrood Saga will be headed to a new region of Tyria. Fortunately for me, it means a return to my favorite region from the original Guild Wars.
Snowy zones are, in my opinion, the best in any game, and we're sure to get plenty of powder when Guild Wars 2 ventures north into the Shiverpeak Mountains. We'll have two new maps to explore in the area: the Northern Shiverpeaks and Grothmar Valley, which will break Guild Wars 2 into territory previously seen in the first game.
The Shiverpeak Mountains are the original home of two of Guild Wars 2's playable races: the militant, cat-like Charr and the giant, nordic Norn. While other playable races in Guild Wars 2 have featured heavily in past expansions and story missions, the Charr and Norn will get the spotlight in the Icebrood Saga, along with Guild Wars 2's non-playable race of polar bear people called the Kodan.
In a round-table discussion with ArenaNet developers following last week's announcement of the saga, the Icebrood Saga's look at all of the northern races was compared to a language immersion trip if the Guild Wars 2 narrative so far were simply a classroom course. We've seen the Charr and Norn in their present-day societies but never in their original homelands.
With the new saga, ArenaNet is responding to player feedback that previous Living World story content had begun to feel too formulaic. In the past, Living World stories played out as episodes featuring new maps and a series of instanced encounters. In the Icebrood Saga, ArenaNet will instead be mixing linear story missions with a variety of other new content.
Strike missions, the newly-announced 10-player alternatives to raids, are one of those new bits. Strike Missions are planned as a lower stress alternative to full raids, intended to get players familiar with the concept with fewer penalties. The first raid boss introduced in the Icebrood Saga's prologue, the Icebrood Construct, will evolve in between the prologue and first episode in both visual design and combat abilities.
Along with the snowy Shiverpeak Mountains, the Icebrood Saga will bring another vital element from Guild Wars that has so far been absent from the sequel: Saving and sharing combat builds. Although the team wouldn't go into specifics during the round-table as the feature is still in development, they did mention that creating builds will account for weapons and armor which are more vital considerations in a Guild Wars 2 build than the original. Sharing builds will use frameworks already familiar to Guild Wars 2 players (think clickable chat codes).
"Bound by Blood," the prologue episode to the Icebrood Saga, will be available starting on September 17th for all owners of the Path of Fire expansion, with episode one of the saga arriving later in the autumn. As was also announced during the Icebrood Saga event, all future purchases of the Path of Fire expansion will include the Hearth of Thorns expansion for free. You can also watch the full announcement event on YouTube.