Last week I waxed concerned over sticking living world story elements in EotM because nudging PvE players into PvP areas has historically not worked out very well (and this is not a phenomenon unique to GW2). While the scenario I dreaded — WvW and PvE players griping at each other and ArenaNet to the exclusion of everything else — thankfully hasn’t materialized, it’s still caused some grumbling. People who do not want to PvP are free badges, loot, and WXP. Heck, I go to WvW to PvP and I’m still free badges, loot, and WXP if I’m caught alone on any character that isn’t my Necromancer, and sometimes even then. I know well the pain of trying to complete an objective without getting into a fight or attracting attention and having to try over and over again because you might as well pin a sign on your back that says “KICK ME FOR CANDY.” It’s one of the reasons that requiring WvW for full world completion has been so controversial.
Sure, you don’t actually have to get into any fights to progress in the story; all you need to do is head to the center of the map and pick up a single object from an area beneath the Juncture in which there aren’t any major objectives. This is very easy as long as your group holds the area and no rival players are there, and it’s next to impossible to accomplish solo if you’re a PvP novice and somebody has decided to camp the area for easy kills, something I’ve seen happen several times so far. I’m sure it’s a non-issue for most people, but I would have placed Scruffy’s parts in each team’s camps closer to the “Wow, look how neat this place is” bits and not smack dab in “Let’s see if we can coax you into a fight” country.
That said, the dialogue between Taimi and Braham that takes place in the safe zones is wonderful. I worry less with every chapter that Taimi will start to grate on the nerves; it’s common for little kid characters of the run-off-and-talk-back variety to come off as unsympathetic, pint-sized sociopaths that the audience is nevertheless expected to enjoy because aww, kids are cute! The writers have hit a good balance with Taimi, who actually behaves as a child and not a miniature slapstick comedian channeling a demonic entity. Part of this is Braham’s willingness to correct her behavior, and in turn, Taimi’s desire to be liked and protected by Braham. In other words, he’s allowed to be the adult. Taimi, like many little kids who have tested authority and found it lacking, obviously finds some comfort in having a stable person nearby who sets appropriate boundaries for her and allows her to be a child. Braham is protective, and so Taimi gets to be vulnerable. It’s a very sweet relationship in the making.
This release is packed to the brim with interesting dialogue (try standing near Braham and Taimi and see how long it takes you to hear everything they have to say), and I’m going to save discussion of the A Study In Scarlet chapter until season one of the living world is over. I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say that this release has done an excellent job of filling in details and providing depth, which sounds simple but in practice makes all the difference. When characters bring up and discuss the same details that players might, it automatically enriches both them and the setting and makes guild wars 2 gold less frustrating to have new questions raised. The audience is assured that the story is taking these things into account, that the characters are three-dimensional enough to worry about the wider implications for their world, and that the plot is less likely to gloss over characterization and worldbuilding to make something work that shouldn’t. This builds trust between the writers and the audience, and that has done amazing things for the living world story.