I enjoyed this release overall.
ArenaNet takes a good turn in moving back to subtle changes to build up hype for the release. This was last visited in the Flame and Frost series. Unlike Flame and Frost, which utterly killed all momentum and build up by spreading a month of content across four months, this release is chugging full forward. The prelude for the Tower of Nightmares release came with Blood and Madness release. Kessex Hills overlapped with content from Blood and Madness due to Haunted Doors find throughout explorable zones in the typical fashion of special events. The special events are a great way to build up to the next release. Scatlet's Minions Invade! allows ArenaNet to generate interest in areas that usually don't get attention at any time, rather than relying on special events and I hope they take advantage of this for future releases. It also helps that Scatlet is the main antagonist for these releases. Keen players will notice a subplot with Scholar Maddox, who went missing after the prelude and continued in The Nightmares Within release, rewarding the players paying attention rather than having casual players constantly sucking ArenaNet's penis. Any time players are rewarding for exploration and investigation play to the game's strong suit.
Tower of Nightmares and changes to Kessex Hills
They finally did it. They made a sweeping change to an existing zone to capitalize on the promise that the land of Tyria can change and whole areas may be wiped out or remodeled. Kessex Hills serves as an ideal place for the Toxic Alliance (more on that later) as we see the Nightmare Court influences in Lychcroft Mere in the vicinity of Viathan Lake and the krait. More importantly, they made a change so obvious you can't miss it and stands out as abnormal. The Tower of Nightmares is huge and spans 1/8 of the entire zone. ArenaNet definitely went full force, with the tower at the epicenter, massive roots coming out of the ground in an area that has pristine plains and light forestation. The changes to the landscape need to be significant enough for people ho have already explored the zone to compare the differences as it keeps it much more interesting. This is especially true if there wasn't much activity around the area before.
The one aspect ArenaNet will get crap for is the lore of the surrounding areas, but I don't blame them. The lore is usually limited to an area or two, which is why areas have a single heart and scouts can describe the situation for a particular area. The events for the quaggan village and krait witch in Viathan Lake were modified but nothing is mentioned by the Thunder Ridge Camp as you would expect, what with the ten NPCs there. The Seraph camp to north is sitting next to the corruption, close enough that the environmental black sporess are visible, but they are busy complaining about the centaurs. In the future, ArenaNet should be able to work around multiple areas for events that drastically change a zone, rather than limiting the changes to the focus of one area to keep the zones more cohesive and responsive. All it takes is minor details like some of the NPCs coming under the effects of Toxic Corruption or some mentions about strange things being afoot.
The new events available are a welcome addition, with similar variety to Flame and Frost rather than the repetitive, boring shit from Queen's Jubilee and Clockwork Chaos. We have around 12 new events with 5 more events being redesigned to match the release. The offshoot events are fun, with battles near the offshoot being hectic with a variety of enemies and hallucinations abound. The new enemies are capable, with the Toxic Knights (warriors and guardians) being particularly aggressive. A nice detail; players will actually notice the seed fly down right before the event starts. There is a large amount of activity around the tower due to both the offshoot event and new events. The Defeat the Toxic Alliance champion provides a quick reward to group players together as an option to champion trains as players can then scale up the offshoot events for champions, which are constantly ongoing in the zone. Along with other events going on in the surrounding areas, there is a flurry of activity around the tower when we typically see lethargic escort missions about vague plots going on.
The offshoot events also move to other zones, which I always love because players can participate and notice the release while doing their own thing. Limiting the zones surrounding Kessex Hills keeps the narrative focused (Apart from Frostgorge Sound due to its champion train and the silliness of events going on the Wv). This is also done with Toxic Corruption, having a noticeable change in foes when they come under the effect and leave a Toxic Seedling. This helps keep the narrative cohesive and the "Living World" ArenaNet is going for, where the world is responding to the events rather than being limited to assorted zones.
New effect and Antitoxin Spray
ArenaNet often introduces new mechanics through new effects, as with Toxic Corruption already mentioned. This was done with Agony, Shielded from Veteran Molten Protector, and Armored on Karka. In this case, the Toxic Pollen effect comes with a new healing skill, Antitoxin Spray, marking the first new skill since the release of the game.
- Antitoxin Spray - Use antitoxin to heal yourself. Remove toxic pollen, poison, torment, and confusion to heal yourself and allies.
- Toxic Pollen - Pollen from a toxic spore. Deals periodic damage and may trigger hallucinations.
The new skill is interesting for a few reasons. It is the only skill that can remove Toxic Pollen and will likely be required for narrative. Note that the healing skill affects allies in a small radius, prioritizing who brings the skill and keep groups close together. Expect to see Toxic Pollen be much more deadly and prevalent in more challenging content. Torment and confusion are both uncommon conditions in PvE, the only enemies that can inflict torment are those with Binding Blade for example. The new Toxic Alliance foes feature greater use of these conditions, such as the Toxic Bulwark inflicting confusion and Toxic Assassin inflicting torment. Most party-wide condition removal guardian and elementalist skills as part of their support role. Most of the other skills come from utility skills available from many professions to provide support. This allows players to use the healing slot for support in place of utility skills in content for the release and provides a flexibility in approaching party formation. New skills like this also play on existing mechanics and add complexity, as engineers get Packaged Antitoxin, which takes much consideration on ArenaNet's part. It also gives guardians and mesmers a condition removal skill (Signet of Resolve doesn't really count). While the new skill is aimed to be most useful for the current content as it's tied to the new effect, there are reasons why it still adds to the game as a whole. That's ideally what you want to see with new content, especially if the content can be temporal by nature like releases are.
Marjory and Kasmeer
We were introduced to Marjory Delaqua and Kasmeer Meade as major players in Queen's Jubilee. Kasmeer has been developed since her introduction in Secret of Southsun and subverting the dumb blonde trope as eye candy for men to masturbate to. These characters are being developed alongside Rox and Braham, hinting at replacing Destiny's Edge (a good thing), so we should be seeing the conflict with Scatlet come to a crux soon.
New vendor items come with this release and follow the pattern for vendors from Queen's Jubilee. It introduces some new recipes for new runes and other items. This approach is the gold and time sink portion of the release, with the Pristine Toxic Spore Sample being the release token. The release requires players to farm Pristine Toxic Spore Samples from the offshoot events.
The Healing Tome: Antitoxin Spray is offered in place of using 25 skill points. This is actually the temporary option, with purchasing the skill with skill points being the permanent option. I don't cate what reason you come up with, there's no way for this to be viable for players when the skill point option is permanent. this is plainly at players who want to blow gold on the skill for their alts as most players don't have 25 skill points sitting around for every character. 25 skill points is not hard for a single character, most players will have few Scrolls of Knowledge laying around if needed due to champion loot bags being ubiquitous in farming and the releases. For example, Blood and Madness is still ongoing during the release and people can farm Resealing the Bloody Prince for 5 champion loot bags a day.
Speaking of champion loot bags and the new recipes, the new items from the vendor are an item sink for Pile of Bloodstone Dust and the amount of dust received from bags was reduced. This was done undocumented and was not well received by players when they found out. It's also somewhat disappointing they didn't give a reason for the change, the reason obviously being players having excessive amounts of dust with nothing to do with them until ascended armor (which devs have hinted players will need large quantities of). The rune, sigil and nourishments introduced in the release are decent and somewhat interesting. You will notice there is a recipe sheet for each available discipline.
|Version||Bonus 1||Bonus 2||Bonus 3||Bonus 4||Bonus 5||Bonus 6|
|Superior Rune of Antitoxin||+25 Condition Damage||-5% Incoming Condition Duration||+50 Condition Damage||-10% Incoming Condition Duration||+100 Condition Damage||-10% Incoming Condition Duration; upon removing one or more conditions, remove an additional condition.|
|Superior Sigil of Torment|| Inflict 2 stacks of torment for 5 seconds to enemies around your target upon landing a critical hit.|
(Cooldown: 5 Seconds)
The exorbitant number of Pristine Toxic Spore Samples required to purchase the items from the vendor points towards increases the value of the release token as 250 Pristine Toxic Spore Sample and encourage players to farm the content. This forces players who don't want to play the content to spend much more coin. For comparison, 250 samples costs over 3 gold. This also makes it quite harsh for alts, requiring the purchase of a new recipe sheet for each discipline. The same idea applies with Antitoxin Spray, where most players can't afford to blow 25 skill points on a skill whose use is limited to one piece of content. The focus on crafting like we've seen in Zephyr Sanctum and Queen's Jubilee is building on ascended equipment crafting. The recipe sheets play an important part in goldsinks and timesinks for players. Players must grind content to obtain items they want from the vendor and spend much more in coin from the Trading Post.