Guild Wars 2

The Weekly Map Recap, Week 38 – Siren’s Landing

Welcome to the Weekly Map Recap, a series where we look back at one map in the game each week. We’ll look with a critical eye at how each map represents its theme, proves faithful to its lore, and implements its design. We’ll see how effective its gameplay is, whether the art holds up, and the forecast for the map’s long term retention. With 52 maps to date, it’ll be quite the journey!

Links to the previous entries in a reply at the bottom!


38 of 52 – Siren’s Landing – Level 80

Siren’s Landing is a bit of an odd duck. Living World Season 3 was originally going to be only five episodes, until the team was given additional time to add another. Within the story of the season, that means that this map and its associated instances have always seemed disconnected and unnecessary. But the map itself is separate from that, and actually benefits in some ways from being disconnected from the main thrust of the plot. It gives the map a chance to breathe and just gives us an ‘update’ on how the world is progressing outside of the main plot, and throws a lot of neat lore at us to boot. Is the map necessary? No. But it’s kind of more fun as a result.

Theme/Concept – 7/10

At a fundamental level, Siren’s Landing is all about growth. Everything from the sylvari presence on the map, the boat full of saplings, and subplots about relationships (both between characters and between the sylvari and Mordremoth/Zhaitan) all points to a map that’s interested in showing time passing, and wounds healing.

Orr is cleansed. What does that mean? This map deserves bonus points for doing what few open world areas ever do in Guild Wars 2 – giving us a real update on the world and what’s happening in it outside of the Commander’s journey. Conceptually, the map ties together several different thematic threads: the Risen have lost Zhaitan, the Sylvari have lost Mordremoth (and to a certain extent the guidance of the Pale Tree), and the humans have lost their gods. Each of these groups have to tackle how they live/adapt to a world that is changed and where they do not have a greater power to turn to (although the Unchained don’t do that super consciously). This is an idea that is played with further in the Jahai Bluffs map – one reason that that map is another one of my favorites, from a thematic perspective.

The main way we see these themes present on the map itself is through the growth of the landscape. Orr is healing – slowly, but surely. I wish that there had been perhaps just a touch more of that, but it’s understandable that they didn’t want to overhaul that many assets.

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Lore – 10/10

Siren’s Landing is just a treasure trove of lore. This is one of those times where you can tell that the writers sat back and said to themselves: “Okay, we have some extra time. What deep lore plot threads can we play with?” There’s fantastic stuff here about the gods, with parables for all six (including the hidden Parable of Abaddon), dialogue referencing Kerrsh and the Cipher quests from the first game (which was a series of teases for the Elder Dragons and a number of other long held lore mysteries), and even a Priest of Abaddon who gives the alternate perspective that Abaddon was just very pro-human and felt the humans could handle things if the gods simply empowered them.

Beyond that, we’ve got great sylvari stuff throughout. There’s a lot of small-scale but great story beats here, from relationships and settlement founding all the way to how sylvari feel about Mordremoth and the Unchained. Given that the sylvari are in many ways the ‘central race’ of the GW2 story from vanilla through the end of HoT, it’s great to get an update on them and their place in the world.

Design – 6/10

Siren’s Landing is another LWS3 map that feels like it’s an attempt at combining HoT sensibilities within a vanilla map framework. There’s even some GW1 thrown in for good measure, though mostly this is just a fun easter-egg mechanic than anything that is really attempting to implement new practice in GW2 map design.

Looking at the map from above, we’ve got a southeastern edge which is essentially ‘safe’, and doesn’t contain many events or dangers. It’s connected to the jumping puzzle Abaddon’s Ascent by shallow water. To the west, we have five renown heart areas which double as meta areas. That’s right: here we have a map meta which is essentially composed of five smaller meta events, each of which has a ‘power up’ and ‘defend’ state. There is no central world boss or equivalent. When all the shrines are powered up, the map is in a ‘win’ state for the players, and the rewards in Abaddon’s Reliquary can be accessed.

There is a vague sense that this is another attempt at an Invasion of Orr map, but it doesn’t have the sense of movement across the landscape or any real sense of impact from the individual event chains. The map state doesn’t really change, other than the unlocking of GW1-style resurrection shrines which are essentially reskinned waypoints. While that mechanic is not nothing, it definitely doesn’t feel like there is a front of battle moving across the map, or any real ‘progress’ in the continued taming of the map. Compare that to, say, the original settlement of Southsun Cove event – which is not too dissimilar in theme and idea to this map – and it's clear that this map is held back to a certain extent by its inclusion of renown hearts. With renown hearts, no part of the map can ever really be ‘unclaimed’ – the players can never be pushed out, because there’s always these little npcs that represent settled and tamed areas to the players.

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Gameplay – 6/10

The gameplay on the map is fine. The added mastery – the echoes – are fairly engaging and enjoyable, though it's bittersweet given that they don’t reappear on any other map. And there is a fair amount of variety in enemies, especially in comparison to vanilla Orr – that’s absolutely something that the developers tried to address.

But there’s a couple things that don’t work, I think. Leading the pack is the Dwayna area – while a really cool idea, being focused on gameplay in the air (like Bloodstone Fen in many ways), the actual area ends up being frustrating to navigate. The final boss of the area, a wyvern, is also particularly awkward to fight.

While the overall map has a much higher enemy variety than the original Orr maps, many of the most annoying mobs return (such as the armors/swords/bows and gorillas). In general, each of the major metas is straightforward attack/defend, and not particularly engaging. This is definitely a map where the small details and side stories are the highlight of the show, rather than the core gameplay loop.

One huge highlight of this map is the jumping puzzle. Those who were scared away from jumping puzzles by the style that dominated leading up to the Chalice of Tears can rejoice for this puzzle. It is definitely an older style, more in line with the Southsun Cove puzzle or the new Lion’s Arch one.

Art – 6/10

Like most Orr maps, your mileage may vary for the artwork. The problems of Orr environmental art aren’t removed here – much of the architecture and landscape doesn’t feel like it could ever have been a habitable or civilized environment. It’s just too alien, too monumental. While there definitely needs to be a good amount of that in Orr, there’s just no assets that seem like down-to-earth places for humans to live. The problem is made worse in some ways by how tightly packed the different god areas are, and how completely separate they are visually. It feels like everything was plopped down by a designer. Now, given that these are the private reliquaries of the gods on Tyria, maybe that’s all appropriate. Again, your mileage may vary.

That said, one of the core complaints about the Orrian maps – their color palette – is improved on here. These maps are bright and have a crazy amount of color, really bringing out the inherently vibrant Orrian architectural assets. Many of those already have lots of color to them (focused on shifting oil-slick hues), but the lighting previously didn’t do them justice. The Abaddon reliquary and enemies have some cool visual style, and the jumping puzzle brings back some great shipwreck architecture that we hadn’t seen since vanilla.

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Long Term/Retention – 6/10

This is definitely one of the least popular of the Season 3 maps. There’s just not a lot of reason to hang out here if you aren’t actively pursuing the relic backpieces or the season-wide legendaries. Part of the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the pearl currency you can get from the Abaddon reliquary is randomized lottery style. You can luck out and make loads of pearls much faster than any other of the LWS3 currencies, but you also might not. Give me a slower but stable currency gain any day of the week. I believe this map is still pretty good for Unbound Magic, maybe someone can correct me. There might be some crafting route I don’t know about.

Overall – 7/10

Siren’s Landing is another example of a LWS3 map that wants to be a meta map but struggles in the implementation. It represents another attempt at the ‘invasion of Orr’ concept first expressed at launch – conquering shrines to open up access through the map. But again it’s resistant to actual change on the map because of the presence of renown hearts – and the rewards from the Abaddon chests seem undertuned – they’re highly variable. The meta events are all separate and don’t have a sense of flow. The jumping puzzle on the map is an odd return to a vanilla style – but writ large. Finally, the map gets lots of bonus points for really giving a sense that the world is living – that in a return to Orr we get a sense that our adventures do matter. In that alone, the map should be given kudos.

———————————————–

That's all, folks! What do you think of today’s map? Any fond memories, or strong complaints? How well do you think this map stands up in comparison to all the others? Next week, we'll be taking a look at the Path of Fire era with a PoF Primer.

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