Rhi’s View: “A Bug in the System”

Review piece written for the nerd girl lifestyle blog, TheRhiView.com

Graphic art for "A Bug in the System"

Originally published on TheRhiView.com

After a long three-month stretch, ArenaNet finally delivered the second episode of Living World Season Four: “A Bug in the System.”

Two weeks ago, ArenaNet’s Mike Z took to the forums to address the player base, admitting that though he had hoped to be announcing the release date of the newest adventure in Tyria, due to complications the team was forced to delay. Eager to reassure players that the dreaded content-drought was not to be overly extended, he promised we would be seeing the reveal of a teaser trailer within a week’s time, followed by the live episode shortly thereafter, on March 6th.

ArenaNet delivered on that promise, though not without a slight hiccup on launch day. Players logged in to start on the next stretch of story, eager to see what the dastardly Palawa Joko had in store for us … only to find nothing new to play!

Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. It seems Joko’s plot to defeat all of us mighty Commanders extended to preventing us from progressing the story…

Tweet from Guild Wars 2's official channel: "We're putting the finishing touches on todays #GW2PoF release. You may commence "Bug in the System" jokes in 3, 2, 11... ~ RB2"

Sure enough, after the brief delay, the patch landed and the bright green story icon did its little happy dance in the bottom corner of our screens.

Warning: SPOILERS for Guild Wars 2’s Living Story Season Four lurk beyond this point!

Daybreak Artwork
Living World Season Four began in “Daybreak”

Remind Me Where We Left Off…

It’s been a little while since Season Four kicked off with “Daybreak,” so no worries if the details are a bit hazy at this point.

Following the world-shaking (literally) events of “Path of Fire,” new threats have arisen to challenge the Commander and their fractured guild, Dragon’s Watch. The Elder Dragon, Kralkatorrik, absorbed the lion’s share of Balthazar’s power following his defeat, leaving it as the most powerful threat Tyria has ever seen — a force of primordial rage infused with the dying fury of a god and misappropriated bloodstone magic.

What could go wrong?

“Daybreak” sees the Commander’s reunion with fan-favorites, Taimi, Rytlock, and Canach. The quartet have little time to savor their victory, however, as the Brand inexplicably erupts around them, tearing through Amnoon.

The battle against the Crystal Dragon’s forces has begun.

In the aftermath of the free city’s destruction, the Commander must face the reality of what vanquishing the war god has wrought. But not all is doom and gloom. Another old friend appears to aid in the struggle and lend her (greatly increased) strength to the war now brewing…

Teenage Aurene
Our baby girl’s done some growing up…

Aurene, the Scion of Glint whose champion the Commander has become through fate and chance, is no longer the bouncing baby dragon we all went gaga over after she hatched in Season Three. Like Kralkatorrik, she got caught up in the backlash of Balthazar’s death and absorbed a portion of his power. The result is a much larger … ahem, mount-sized … adolescent dragon who seems to have developed a mind of her own.

With Aurene’s help — both on the battlefield and with the visions she shares through her bond with the Commander — the battered warriors of Dragon’s Watch leave the Branded remnants of Amnoon behind. A course is set for the Isle of Istan, where Aurene has revealed there is a new and more immediate threat.

King Joko the Inevitable, the Undying, the Feared, the Beloved … is back.

Thwarted time and again, the Commander battles their way across the sumptuous island. Joko’s grasp on the people of the region seems unbreakable, despite assistance from the small force of Sunspears who rally to the outlander’s cause. Efforts to liberate incarcerated innocents, salvage the knowledge of an historic library, and a daring prison break bring the Commander closer to seeming-victory.

The abduction of Taimi shakes the resolve that has led the group so far, but ultimately leads to the heart of the undead tyrant’s plot.

A Bug in the System Artwork
A journey to the Sandswept Isles

Sounds like … bugs!

Though the Commander managed to rescue Taimi, the little asura was badly shaken by Joko’s abuses. It’s a fool who underestimates this genius’s backbone, however! Despite the quiver in her voice, Taimi shares that Joko is setting an evil plan into motion. She doesn’t know the details, but it has something to do with … bugs.

Now, if you’re a Guild Wars: Nightfall veteran or are up on your GW history thanks to content creators like WoodenPotatoes, this will likely tip you off as to what Joko is up to. The Commander is in the dark, however, so more on that later.

Screenshot of the Commander facing their newest challenge

The story thread gets picked up in Episode Two, “A Bug in the System.”

Stumped by Joko’s goals and unable to prevent the endless incursions of Awakened forces into Central Tyria, the Commander is left with no viable options until a recovered Taimi reaches out with the news that she’s unearthed the identity of a scientist working with the lich’s Inquest minions — who also happens to be an old school chum of hers.

Following this lead, the Commander sends for Rox and (the still-sulky) Braham and heads to the Sandswept Isles. Together, they raid the Inquest lab Taimi’s information led to and uncover a horrifying clue to Joko’s plan. Used as test subjects for a virulent pestilence, the lab is filled with the dead and dying.

One survivor possesses the strength to fight back against her captors, though, and the Commander joins forces with her, fleeing the nightmare.

The “Mysterious Charr” turns out to be Boticca, a representative of an offshoot sect of Charr who’ve made their home on the Sandswept Isles. Though they are reluctant to help the Commander in their mission at first, the Olmakhan Tribe are persuaded to lend their support by the brutal assault of Inquest forces from the fortress-lab of Rata Primus.

With Braham at their side, the Commander charges into the breach, taking advantage of Captain Sayida’s new airship and unleashing Aurene on the Inquest.

Screenshot of the Commander's arrival at the besieged Rata Novus
Rata Novus is already under siege when the Commander arrives…

The group arrives to find the place in chaos.

The complex is overrun with both Inquest and Awakened forces fighting one another. The Commander must push through the confused mess to locate the scientist Taimi spoke of, racing against time to save his life before Joko can destroy him and make off with the truth behind Rata Primus’ evil experiments.

Though Blish and his brother, Gorrik, are saved, the Commander is too late to prevent Joko’s forces from claiming the product of the Inquest’s research — a plague that threatens to annihilate life in Tyria, leaving the undead monarch to claim the world for his kingdom.

Joko himself has arrived to retrieve the plague personally. His taunts infuriate the Commander, but there is no way to undo the lich’s work. Triumphant, Joko leaves his newest henchman, Lonai, to deal with the group, sparking a battle that yanks the combatants through the unstable tunnels of space and time.

Volatile magic, churned up by Joko’s schemes, grabs the combatants and lands them first in the midst of Divinity’s Reach, threatening the innocent lives of the Human capital. Soon enough, they are displaced once again, landing in the fiery heart of Mount Malestrom; then the frost-bound Shiverpeaks, where the Claw of Jormag frustrates the battle with its interference.

Finally, the exhausted warriors are dropped unceremoniously on a rocky island in the middle of a star-filled sea of nothingness.

Ready to face Lonai once more, the Commander finds the need for violence is short-lived this time. Joko’s champion falls, leaving the Commander and their Norn compatriot lost amidst an endless ocean of infinity.

Screenshot of the mysterious location the battle takes them to
Lost among the stars…

Fortunately, Blish and Gorrik are able to locate them and transport the unnerved duo back to Tyria.

Victorious, but disheartened by the knowledge that Joko has the means to unleash the terror of epidemic on all living creatures, the members of Dragons Watch know their work is far from done. New clues must now be followed to unearth a means to defeat the lich-king of Vabbi once and for all…

Rhi’s View: An Excellent Addition to the Story

With only the second episode out, to-date, Living World Season Four is young. We’re at the stage in the storytelling where we have more questions than answers and the plot is only getting more tangled the deeper we dive into it. “A Bug in the System” is immensely satisfying in its contribution to the developing story of the Commander.

Though I felt the inclusion of the Order of Shadows was shoehorned in and the unexpected introduction of a new voice actress for Rox was a little distracting, Episode Two more than lives up to the expectations set with the concluding drama of “Path of Fire” and the murky waters churned up by “Daybreak.” We all knew Joko was coming back — Seriously, right? Did anyone actually believe he was going to be sitting in that cage for all eternity? — and it’s only fitting that one of the most dastardly villains in the franchise would pop back up just when Tyria’s heroes are facing the threat of a massively-OP Elder Dragon.

It’s so very Joko, isn’t it?

The tyrant’s brief cameo appearance wasn’t the only great thing about this episode … it wasn’t even the highlight, really! That’s just how good ArenaNet made this contribution to the story of Season Four…

Screenshot of the Olmakhan thrones

The Charr of the South

If there’s one aspect of the new patch I saw discussed more than any other in Map Chat on launch day it’s the Olmakhan.

This small community of Charr is highly unusual, as Rox’s running commentary alludes. They were once part of the reviled Flame Legion. Fed up with the Fire Shamans’ villainy, the group left Ascalon behind and made their way south to the Sandswept Isles. Here, they built a new life away from their old Legion’s corruption.

The aesthetics of the Olmakhan are fantastic! There is a very unique feel to them that sets them apart from the Charr we’ve become familiar with over the past five years in Guild Wars 2. Added to which, their beliefs about families over fahrars, the place of a lone gladium lacking a warband, and the treatment of their temperamental cubs forms a depth the backstory you get when starting out as a PC Charr sadly lacks.

And the music! The piece added to the Season’s soundtrack for the Olmakhan is beautiful. The deep percussion paired with the strain of the pipes is immersive and keys players into the flavor of this culture’s identity.

And major appreciation for the smooth reference to Kalla Scorchrazor! If you’re playing as a Renegade these Charr are all the more interesting. Proceed with Charr Renegade role-playing in 3 … 2 … 1 …

Screenshot of the Commander & Taimi

The Unbreakable Taimi Schmidt

Taimi had a rough go of it in “Daybreak.” Her voice actress, Debi Derryberry, had us eating our hearts out over her character’s abduction and the torture Joko subjected her to. I mean, the range from utter terror to her tearful acceptance that she was about to die as bait for the Commander were equally gut-wrenching!

I honestly didn’t expect to hear from her this round … oh me of little faith.

Taimi absolutely does make her presence felt in “A Bug in the System,” not only via the ever-present communicator she sneaked in the Commander’s pack, but in-person aboard Captain Sayida’s airship. No matter the trauma she suffered at Joko’s hands, this little genius ain’t taking any personal time. She’s there every step of the way, offering helpful hints, if not as many punchy asides as we’re used to.

I applaud ArenaNet for refusing to pull their punches when it comes to this particular fan-favorite. She’s not the vulnerable little girl the Commander had to rescue from the Inquest in Dry Top, anymore. Taimi has done a lot of growing up as she’s traveled with us through the thick & thin of Elder Dragons, insane gods, and every madcap scheme we’ve come up with along the way.

She’s matured. More importantly, though, she bears the scars of the journey. Taimi suffered physical and mental trauma during her captivity in the last episode and the aftereffects are starkly clear in her voice. While it’s certainly heartbreaking to hear the once-peppy little asura sound so downcast, she’s proving that it hasn’t broken her, despite all the odds.

Go Taimi!

Oh, and can we take a moment to note that her iconic pink ribbon has not made a reappearance? Along with her new outfit, Taimi is rocking the sleek, more adult hairstyle we first saw after she removed it to leave a trail for the Commander to follow Joko. I’m a fan — what a great way to illustrate her character development!

Screenshot of Braham & the Commander's interrupted heart-to-heart

Intervention Interruptus

Sooooo … Braham Eirsson.

Our favorite Norn (or least-favorite, depending on your feelings on “A Crack in the Ice”) still isn’t thrilled with us. Bitter in the wake of his mother’s death and holding a grudge over his perception that the Commander didn’t do as much as they could have during the campaign in the Maguuma Jungle, Braham does not greet their reunion with much enthusiasm.

Like any. At all.

He proves there are deeper layers to his personality beneath the juvenile resentment, however. Without hesitation, he answers the call to join the Commander in the fight against Joko. He even stands side-by-side with the leader of Dragon’s Watch through the embattled hallways of Rata Primus and the world-hopping struggle against Lonai. Like Taimi, Braham’s done some growing-up since we first met him during Scarlet’s War.

It was great to hear him awkwardly suggest that it was time to have a heart-to-heart. Even more, I liked that the discussion had to be tabled for the time-being, as Blish and his brother pulled them back to where they belong. This is a plot point that carries a certain weight, whether players are fond of it or not. Braham has to surmount his grudge with the Commander in order to move forward as a character — not just as part of Dragon’s Watch, but as Braham Eirsson. It shouldn’t be an easy conversation.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out as the Season progresses!

Screenshot of the Commander and Saiyda's airship

Theories Confirmed!

Who doesn’t love theorycraft?

There have been some doozies prophesied by the player base throughout the years. Some have born out, while others have proved disappointments. (And some have just been weird.)

After Balthazar met his downfall and we started heading into Living World Season Four, community theorists were busy dreaming up some spicy ideas to put to the test. “A Bug in the System” officially confirms two big ones, much to our delight!

Kralkatorrik Brands the Dead – CONFIRMED!

This theory cropped up the moment players started finishing “Path of Fire” and caught a look at the cinematic showing Kralk going on a Branding-spree. If you remember, a dead devourer was caught in the dragon’s wake and suddenly hopped up, sprouting electric purple Brand crystals all over. This, to many, was a dead (ha. ha.) giveaway that the Crystal Dragon had inherited Zhaitan’s dominion over death, allowing him to reanimate the deceased … with his own spin.

We got the official word through this latest part of the story that the theory is, in fact, true. It’ll be interesting to see how this ability plays out in the coming episodes and how Mordremoth’s latent power might come into it.

The Scarab Plague – CONFIRMED!

The ultimate outcome of “A Bug in the System” was the reveal of Joko’s intent. For players who had gone through Guild Wars: Nightfall, Taimi’s mention of “bugs” at the end of “Daybreak” was all they needed in order to figure it out.

One of the darker passages in Tyrian history was The Scarab Plague. It decimated the population of Elona and brought about the end of the Primeval Dynasty (remember Nahlah and Dahlah?). The disease was gruesomely lethal, so it’s sure to be the source of panic in the next Living World Episode.

If nothing else, it’s another nostalgic call-back to Guild Wars 2’s predecessor — a trick ArenaNet has shamelessly been relying on through the “Path of Fire” journey. We’ll see how much further they take it…

Some Other Tidbits

“A Bug in the System” brought us a new zone to explore, a new piece of the story to dig into, and the return of characters who haven’t gotten much love in a long time. Good on ArenaNet!

A few more stand-outs:

  • The Branded Mount Skins that went onto the Gem Store alongside the patch release are beautiful! The skimmer and raptor are especially well-done.
  • Did you notice the race-specific ambient dialogue in the Olmakhan village? My jaw dropped when I heard the two Charr discussing my character (a sylvari), one of them remarking, “Until yesterday, I didn’t know plants could talk.” Nice touch!
  • With a new Living World episode, comes a new Mastery! This time, we got “Bond of Life,” which allows players to share their character’s health with their mount when under attack and they don’t want to stop for a fight. Honestly, I think this is utterly lackluster. Fingers crossed for something more interesting next time…
  • As I mentioned earlier on, Rox has a new voice actress! I found it distracting, which took away from my immersion somewhat, I’ll admit. However, the voice is rougher and more mature. Like Taimi’s new hairstyle, I think this was actually a good choice that adds to the impression that Rox is growing up.
  • Where are Canach & Rytlock? We find out! Our new pen-pal, Canach, sends the Commander a letter to update them on what’s happening in Amnoon and Istan. While I, personally, prefer this dynamic duo in my party, we have to give some time to the other, camera-starved members of Dragons Watch.

A note on screenshots included in this post:

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© 2018 Sarah A. Easley – All Rights Reserved.