We dispatched Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer in search of the meaning of Wintersday. Unfortunately, he didn't send us any presents.
It started, innocently enough, with a snowball fight. I was casually wandering through Lion's Arch, admiring the hovering Asuran snow-making machines, when I was pelted by something soft and cold. Another followed the first, itself followed by barely concealed giggling. But this wasn't a player picking on my diminutive Engineer. Instead, NPCs and players were making the most of the snow, in a way that made it difficult to tell which was which.
Wintersday began with the illustrious Toymaster Tixx, a benevolent Asuran who traverses Tyria inside a giant airship, dispensing gifts and presents on his journey. Assisting him in this ginormous feat of generosity is Toxx, a unique golem built from Tixx's own esoteric designs.
Lately, it would seem that Toxx has developed unintended aberrations in her festive protocols, resulting in malfunctioning toys that desire more liberty than is granted to mere machines. Fortunately for the Toymaster, each city has been stuffed with heroes eager to venture inside his airship and prevent these annoying automatons from causing more catastrophes. Considering that the vessel contains a miniature snowscape featuring all the major cities and landmarks, it's huge amounts of fun to pretend you're a giant laying waste to a population of angry robots.-
While completing all five Airship events rewards you with enough parts to build two miniature princesses, soldiers or other toys of your own, getting the whole set of five will require a trip to the Black Lion item store. There are also some incredible winter costumes (which can be dyed all manner of colors), skins that change weapon appearances to resemble wooden toys, and mystery boxes that contain random items.
Toymaster Tixx has also managed to persuade the Mystic Forge resident, Djinn Zommoros, to construct a giant Snow Globe that houses three new games. The first is a bell-ringing game, where teams of three try to play a song in complete harmony. It works as a cross between a memory game and Guitar Hero, but it's managed to earworm me with about three different tunes. What's even more incredible is, since the bells are available as a consumable (or an incredibly rare permanent one if you're lucky), that pages on Reddit have cropped up with charts for a number of other popular seasonal songs. Part of me is hoping for more of these items to emerge in future events, enabling a Guild Wars 2 band-camp jam session.
The Snow Globe also hosts the most vicious form of snowball fight around. Instead of relying on profession-based combat skills, this team-based PvP event asks players to choose one of three different roles. The scout has rapid-fire snowball skills suitable for dashing around, while the heavy gunner is great for popping up shields and throwing in ice mortars. The supporter, meanwhile, can transform into a giant snowball, knocking the opposing team over like skittles. Although there's an objective involving capturing presents and carting them back to base, it's occasionally ignored in favor of Snowball Mayhem.
Any seasonal event in Guild Wars 2 wouldn't be complete without a challenging jumping puzzle, and Wintersday fails to disappoint. With melting snowflakes and vanishing present blocks, it's a puzzle that will keep you smashing your spacebar.
Out in the wider world, impromptu snowball fights can be started by finding patches of Magic Snow, sculpting it to form a Snowman in the process. It's worth constructing these cold-weather friends, as 50 will earn you an achievement toward the seasonal title of Apprentice Toymaker. Presents packed with malfunctioning toys can also be found in the open, with rewards lurking inside for those brave enough to poke the parcel.
With such a mammoth amount of merriment on offer, I've honestly been amazed. It's clear that ArenaNet has learned from previous events in order to make Wintersday an incredible experience for everyone, not just endgame players or PvP fans. Because the airship battle sidekicks everyone up to level 80, and because the open-world presents are even in the starting zones, Guild Wars 2's winter event is something everyone can enjoy. This is a winter event done right, setting a brilliant standard so far. Even the music (available on Soundcloud) is spot on.
With another two stops before Toymaster Tixx finishes his journey on the 20th, I'm waiting for the inevitable Toypocalypse in Lion's Arch. Will the city survive, or will yet another landmark be crushed, this time under the foot of a fifty-foot-tall mechanical princess?