Guild Wars 2 Living World: Aetherblades and the steampunk revolution

Its been a while since I last blogged about the Living Story in Guild Wars, so I wanted to get back in to it. I left off at the end of the Southsun section of the Living Story, now neatly(ish) wrapped up. Where did it go next? Well, Tyria experienced something of a steampunk pirate revolution.

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Sky Pirates of Tyria:

I mentioned the Dragon Bash in my last Living Story blog, which was predominantly focused around Dragon Bash themed achievements and activities. What the Dragon Bash ushered in for the longer term was what was to become the overarching Living Story enemy – the Aetherblades.

The story of the Dragon Bash, which I mentioned briefly before, was essentially the festival getting attacked by the Aetherblades and you have to fix it. That hit a real bad note for me, with a lame plot device (which has already been re-used during Queen Jennah’s jubilee!). You didn’t get to see the Aetherblades much though, and their lore wasn’t explained that much, it was a basic beginners introduction to what was meant to become our nemesis.

a1216Aetherblades-1Sky Pirates of Tyria was the follow up Living Story to the Dragon Bash, where our neighbourhood hero Ellen Kiel set out to smash the Aetherblades hiding in Lion’s Arch. The only real addition to what was there before was a dungeon where you helped Kiel hunt down the Aetherblade cells.

Although I didn’t manage to find the time to do the dungeon at the time, not a lot new was revealed. The main point of this content was to give a bit more of an introduction to the Aetherblades and get us a bit more used to the look and feel of the Aetherblades, essentially steampunk themed sky pirates.

The Steampunk Revolution:

I wanted to go into the steampunk theme a bit more here. The introduction of the Aetherblades at this stage was a real tone change for Guild Wars as a franchise. Guild Wars 1 was pretty much high fantasy full of dwarves, sword, bows and magic. So far so typical. Guild Wars 2 advanced the timeline forwards a couple of hundred years to introduce guns. That was the major lore change really, an updated time period. However, whilst we had guns and pistols it was still very much the same feel as Guild Wars 1, with bows and swords still predominately the weapons of choice.

gw2-aetherblade-heavy-armor-male-41The Living Stories had not pushed these boundaries too far previously, with Dragons as a theme and giant crab-like Karka appearing. This was all pretty much fantasy staple. Flame and Frost brought a bit of a steampunk feel in, with a combination of Dredge technology and Charr Flame Legion magic, but this still didn’t stray too far from the previous feel. The Aetherblade steampunk revolution really was that – a revolution.

Suddenly you had enemies in air ships, with dungeons full of steaming pipes and using technologically advanced weaponry. These guys really jumped the theme up a notch. Personally, I do like steampunk as a fantasy theme, but for me the Aetherblade steampunk revolution was too jarring with the Guild Wars world I already knew.

I couldn’t rationalise legions of sky pirates descending out of nowhere onto Tyria’s capital city, from majorly advanced airships (seemingly far ahead of the Pact’s own primitive attempts which only came about late into the story after the hero brings all the races together against the common evil). The Aetherblades seemed to have been building up somewhere in secret, advancing technologically beyond Tyrians. It just doesn’t fit in the lore to me – and I’m not usually a major lore scrooge.

I’ve grown used to the aetherblade steampunk theme over time, but it has changed the tune of the Guild Wars world overall for me. I do like steampunk, and implemented a bit more sympathetically to the existing world perhaps the aetherblades wouldn’t jar so much for me, but in its current state I can’t rationalise it.

To give this some illustration I want to compare two pictures, the one I used to open this blog about the steampunk revolution – which was the promo illustration for Sky Pirates of Tyria published by ArenaNet. The other is a promo illustration originally put out before release of the game, but used periodically since then for various uses.SPoT-1920x1200

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Both works of art are fantastic, and I have the greatest of respect for the artists that Guild Wars uses. I would honestly buy their work for my own home. However, comparing the two they feel like they were taken from two totally different games. With some more explanation and clear story telling they could have molded the two together; I really don’t have any problems with steampunk as a theme in itself and would support it in most circumstances, it could have worked much better.

I think thats a residual and systematic problem of the Guild Wars Living Story, that the episodic nature of the content every 2 weeks, has lead to episodic story telling. There’s little coherency from start to finish, and it really shows when you sit back and look at the bigger picture – it doesn’t make much sense. Combine that with mediocre implementation of the story – with chunks of it behind gated behind dungeons that you may or may not be able to complete or even in lore sections off-game entirely – and the Living Story seems to be more negative than positive to the overall Guild Wars experience.

Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

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3 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2 Living World: Aetherblades and the steampunk revolution

  1. Curuniel October 6, 2013 / 9:52 pm

    As you will have seen on my own blog, I’m not a big fan of the steampunk direction either (even though steampunk in itself can be really cool, certainly). There’s enough to justify it – advancing technology, with the Pact advancing it even more, and the Aetherblades share with them the advantage of specialists from a variety of races and tech traditions – but it does feel jarring. Especially given the Aetherblades are considered pirates, but you’d think people would have been reporting it if ships in the Sea of Sorrows were being raided by steam/electric powered flying craft? It seems to me that ‘pirate’ is kind of an affectation on their part (which really means it’s just the writers trying to be cool). There aren’t enough other airships for them to pirate.

    Anyway! It’s all rather sudden, this turn toward tech, and although a technological menace is a viable option I wish they’d mix it up. Not to mention all of the perfectly good plot hooks they have in the game already which are languishing ignored, even where they tie in really nicely to the lore and/or existing issues in Tyria!

    • Digital Salad October 7, 2013 / 10:58 am

      I did pick that up on your blog and definitely understand what you mean. For me it’s a very similar unease with the Living Story line, it showed great potential as an idea but it has somehow got lost with the Aetherblades – which whilst theoretically fit in to the world just don’t really gel in with the world I know from GW1 and 2. I’m glad that it’s not just me with this unease about the Aetherblades!

      I definitely wished they would revisit some of the existing unanswered questions as well. I’d like to see the Dwarves and their disappearance focused on, but I’d also like to know more about Orr pre-risen and post-risen.

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