I previously reviewed episodes 1-2 and liked the exercise, so here I go with episodes 3 and 4 of LWS4. As previously, I will be structuring my review along the following 3 criteria:
1. Story (how interesting, what excited me most, etc.)
2. Map(s) (the metas, how well I liked the look, structural setup, etc.)
3. Comparison to previous content (expansions and seasons)
Season 4 Episode 3: Long Live the Lich
This started well, with Gorrik's trial and "Lord" Faren's shenanigans. Then Joko appeared, again a bit out of nowhere, and we were sent to invade Gandara. We also get sent to the Tomb of Primeval Kings for "advice", but basically we just get the adherence of a ghost army. So we teleport to Domain of Kourna and have to secure the "landing zone": I think this was a great narrative idea, but gameplay-wise, the stealth golem arm got old mostly because it was over-used when going beyond the starting town. I would've preferred getting the town secured, and then going on a skirmish to get the outer parts. Anyway, eventually we push into Gandara, get through Joko's contraptions and confront him. Going through the palace and the lasers was fun, and the fight with Joko was also fun and not over-done. Appreciated meeting the Beastmarshall one last time before that. No spoilers, but while funny and enjoyable, the ending of the Joko saga was as abrupt as its beginning. One really nice touch was being able to view a prophecy of the final cutscene while flying in Kourna.
Domain of Kourna itself was somewhat underwhelming. Cool to get the roller-beetle collection, but isn't it a bit... excessive? I want to keep going through the story, but doing the collection would slow me down immensely, so that's just not going to happen. At release though, I understand it would give you something to do. Still, it feels excessive even in those circumstances. A few places on the map are locked unless you get the mount as well, which was disappointing. The feel of the map was also somewhat bizarre, and I honestly didn't even do the meta once, I simply didn't care for it and even was repulsed. One heart I enjoyed doing was Arjok Farmlands, figuring out the Joko statues inside the houses was nice, because the big statues throw you off as to the objectives (until you do the story). Appearance-wise, it didn't click with me. Maybe I missed some things, and was rushing, I don't know.
On this point, I also want to mention the Deepstone Fractal that was released with this Episode: I think it's a very good fractal, solid stand-alone story and good mechanics all around. I would love to learn more of the dwarves, and I like thinking this is a foreshadowing to Thunderhead Keep, which I understand also goes a bit more into that.
Season 4 Episode 4: A Star to Guide Us
I liked this, quite a bit. From the conference of the four powers of Elona and its shenanigans, to the investigation of the "twilight zones" of the Mists on the map, and ending with a pretty dope sequence of finding and reigniting the fire within Sun's Refuge, not to mention the lore-rich collections you got there (which I didn't do but would've been exactly what I would be looking for in a LW release when it comes to story), it was all topped off by huge character developments (Taimi and Blish, Aurene after her visions, etc.). The part about Balthazar's sword felt a bit like filler, but this does not take away from the fact that in this episode, the overt and subtle story-telling was some of the best I've seen in the game. Also, how dope was it to navigate the sniper boss?!?!?!?!
I don't really have much to say here. I realize now, writing this review, that except for its place in the story, I didn't spend any time playing the map as its own thing, meta and all. I will probably revisit it because I think it's navigationally interesting and I've heard good things about its meta, but it does indicate to me that compared to all other LW episodes, this is the episode where the notion of a map meta as a feature was pushed away by the very strong, and diverse story-telling. I also didn't yet play the raid wing that released with this episode (Mythwright Gambit): what do you guys think about it as a raid wing?
This is probably my favourite episode yet, of S4 and all other seasons. I loved Sun's Refuge in terms of gameplay AND story, character development was off the charts and filler content was minimal. Of course, this is subjective: I'm not playing the game where this is the latest release, but rather in a context where I just want to do the episodes to finally be up-to-date. In this sense, this is my favourite GW2 episode and, honestly, my favorite part of storytelling from the whole game, except (maybe) for the Tybalt storyline.
That's it for this post. What do you guys think about the metas from these two releases? Have any insights about the raid wings or hidden story points? Did you hate the story, instead, if so why? Cheers!