Bazaar of The Four Winds is the next update for Guild Wars 2, and personally the one I’ve been most excited about since the World vs World update fell a little flat (aside from delivering excellent client-side culling). Bazaar of The Four Winds brings a new (temporary) city, a temporary racing mini-game, a set of (limited edition) back item skins, a limited edition helmet skin, a permanent PVP map, a permanent new crafting material (quartz), a permanent set of new weapon skins, two permanent sets of new armor skins, a permanent drinking contest mini-game (inspired by a certain Order of Whispers storyline mission), an overhauled achievement panel UI, craftable celestial exotic gear, and permanent threshold-based rewards for achievement points.
This update is exciting for the sheer volume of permanent content it contains compared to the last few, even if Dragon Bash is committed to an annual appearance. The achievement rewards system is excellently crafted, and offers gold, laurels, and selectable skin unlocks at set thresholds. It also offers permanent boosts, some of which I don’t agree with. Extra experience may help veteran players level new characters more quickly, but extra magic find and karma only serve to create an economic elite that simply earns more for the same gameplay than newer players, when they already should be doing so thanks to their greater experience and wider social networks. The new PVP map is a welcome addition, but the formula of “capture and hold with a gimmick for each map”has grown stale, and ArenaNet need to implement additional tournament PVP modes as well as a formal guild vs guild mode. The Skyhammer itself is in my opinion too similar to the trebuchet on Battle of Khylo and the cannon on Capricorn to offer anything especially unique.
The new zone can be traversed with an array of temporary movement skills, which are often necessary to proceed. While the new skills look fun to use, temporary skills is the last thing Guild Wars 2 needs as it suffers from a lack of variety in skills, causing classes to invariably grow stale over time. The zone itself is gorgeous, with a vertical layout that separates it pretty well from the rest of the game. There is a scavenger hunt that gets you a model of the city which can be deployed in the existing cities, and activated to view a vista-like cinematic of the city. The skills cannot be used outside of the city, but can be used in a new, kart-racer inspired PVP mode only accessible from the new city.
The armor skins seem to be three-piece from the preview server, including a helmet, shoulders, and gloves. The Hellfire skin is your usual dark and edgy Citadel of Flame flare, and will likely be used heavily by plenty of classes. The radiant set carries on the aesthetic defined by the Guardian starter gear, with a light blue color scheme and ornate decoration. These skins will likely be popular with Guardian players, but have limited appeal for other classes beyond being decidedly heavy armor which can be applied to light and medium armor. Neither set can be dyed, unfortunately. The Zenith weapon skins are a bit more neutral, with a high fantasy kick. They should prove popular with Elementalists given their “crystals and electricity” aesthetic. Overall the achievement reward skins are a strong addition to the game.
The scaling back of RNG is also a welcome change, with quartz being added to home nodes ensuring a steady drip-feed of the new material to fuel the limited-edition recipes being added in the patch. Celestial gear requires 5 charged quartz per insignia, which requires combining harvested quartz at a place of power. It’s a smart way to get people back into the zones, but high-level players will likely just use the one outside Queensdale for its ease of access. Unlike Dragon bash, the skins in this update can be grinded. Crafting materials from the base game and past updates can be used to buy chests which drop a guaranteed amount of tokens with a chance of a golden token. These chests can also be found inside the existing jumping puzzles and (rumored) earned via the PVP racing mini-game. Naturally, the price of Zhaitaffy and silk has already surged, thanks to Dulfy and her test server time machine.
The combination of permanent content, scaled-back RNG, care for PVP, and increased reward for achievements makes this a very strong update, and one of my favorites to date right behind Halloween, Wintersday, and the final chapter of Flame and Frost. Even though mini-games are not something that interest me too much, it is good to see Arenanet committing to add more of them. If spoilers are okay with you, you can jump in Dulfy’s time machine to see the skins, achievement guides, early screenshots, and the achievement point reward details. If you want a video preview, ArenaNet had their developer livestream today, and you can see the recording here.