Flameseeker Chronicles: Unpacking Guild Wars 2’s A Crack in the Ice

I’ve covered plenty of ground since my initial impressions piece went live last week, and I’m hoping that you’ve had time to play Guild Wars 2‘s most recent addition to the Living World’s third season by now because I am bursting to share my thoughts with you all! A Crack in the Ice passed me by rather quickly, but I nevertheless greatly appreciated such a well-paced chunk of story landing on my lap on the shy side of the holidays. My preview pieces are always light on spoilers due to the lack of time I get to sink into the story in advance, especially since I never want to ruin the launch day suspense for myself prematurely.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll give you a blow by blow account of A Crack in the Ice and present the highlights and lowlights as I see them. There are no bones about it: This article will be jam-packed with spoilers for those who have not yet completed the episode. If you’re behind in terms of story, I recommend skipping this one until you’re ready to discuss the story!

gw063-1024x640A Crack in the Ice: The story so far

Precocious Aurene

Just in case you need a refresher, I’ll give you a brief recap of this episode’s key events before launching into my thoughts on A Crack in the Ice. The episode begins with Aurene calling us back to her in Tarir via a vision of her cute self that our characters see. When we make it back to Tarir, the Luminate explains that Aurene has very strongly bonded to us if we’re having such visions and that it is our duty to put her on the right path by showing her through actions how to make kind, valiant choices. Cue a series of cute exchanges with a highly loveable but rather undisciplined Aurene as we attempt to meet the goal of strengthening our bond with her! We show the little beast how to provide for the needy, protect those weaker than herself, and to rise up to dangerous encounters for the good of those around her.

The challenges are successful, of course, though the rambunctious baby dragon does need redirection and guidance throughout to get her on the right track, especially when she wants to play hide and seek rather than face the challenges, some tempting fish distract her or a big scary monster needs vanquishing by her when she’s scared. The positive reinforcement that’s given to her throughout most definitely seems to do the trick, though. Taimi interrupts the commander’s chat with the Luminate to tell us of her latest theory: In short, she is led to the conclusion that the Rata Novans pointed to Jormag being a natural counteraction to Primordus’ magic and she wishes to test the theory. We’re tasked with finding a corrupted Icebrood creature in the Shiverpeaks and decide that we should locate Braham on our travels to catch him up on events since Mordremoth’s demise and to induct him properly into Dragon’s Watch.

gw151-1024x640Heading into bitterness

We head to the Shiverpeaks to make our way into the furthest reaches of the mountain range where we expect to find both Braham, who is hunting for an ancient scroll that is akin to what helped break off Jormag’s tooth, and a creature fitting of Taimi’s research subject requirements. When we find the correct passageway we stumble across a Kodan guarding a firepit who explains that we’ll need to carry the ancient flame of Koda with us in order to continue safely on our journey into the Bitterfrost Frontier. We use the flame to light our path and it transpires that the magical properties of the flame come in very handy in the hostile environment we stumble into as we eventually make our way to the Kodan and Quaggan Sanctuary we’re seeking.

We’re given more information by the settlement leaders and it is confirmed that we are on the right track: Both a suitable creature for Taimi’s research and Braham has been spotted in the area. A rather large spanner in thrown into the works when we learn that the area we need to explore next is far too cold for us to survive and so we devise a plan with some cute Quaggan help to find out how the Svanir manage to survive in the area. The player character infiltrates the Svanir encampment by snatching some Svanir gear from a suspicious pile of corpses left behind in his or her wake and discovers that the Svanir create a special elixir that protects them from even the bitterest cold, and we are rather conveniently handed the ingredients list and directions for making such an elixir.

We gather up suet, berries, and eggshells and heat the concoction at Dragon’s Teeth hot springs, which I have to point out is one of the most stunning little slices of heaven you’ll find in Tyria. Taimi chimes in again and asserts that proximity to the source of a magical overspill caused by dragonslaying has an impact on how likely dragonspawn are to be corrupted: It stands to reason that Jormag’s Icebrood aren’t corrupted in very large numbers since he’s so far away from where Mordremoth was slain. We venture into the Bitter Cold and find what we’re looking for as within a cave the terrain obviously changes and we find both undead and plant-like additions there. We collect the sample Taimi needs after fighting the quirky creations there and head back to the Sanctuary.

2016-11-29-4The cold isn’t the only bitter thing in Shiverpeaks

Back at the Kodan and Quaggan encampment, we learn that have managed to bring trouble to Braham’s door: The Svanir believe it was him who infiltrated their encampment and stole the elixir recipe, so the player character sends the corrupted Icebrood sample to Taimi by courier and heads immediately to his aid. We eventually track him down by following footprints left in the deep snow and happen across Braham, Garm, Frostbite, and Rox cornered by an angry bunch of Svanir. After clearing up the attackers, the Commander explains admits fault in causing the Svanir to hunt down the pair to a disengaged and frosty Braham before trying to fill him in on the happenings since Mordremoth was vanquished.

Braham quickly and reluctantly fills us in about his progress with the scroll and explains that the cave we have found ourselves in is its supposed location. He has been cool and standoffish with us from the start, but mentioning Dragon’s Watch seems to be a huge mistake and he is angered that the Commander would not carry on Destiny’s Edge in memory of Eir and Snaff, clearly insulted by the new guild. His anger and grief is clearly clouding his judgement as we head further into the cave in pursuit of the scroll, so it’s not particularly surprising when he rushes straight into a dangerous encounter with some creepy ice elemental summoners despite our call for more strategic thinking. Rox gets blasted as a result of his stubborn hastiness and is frozen in a block of ice for the duration of the encounter.

Braham barely registers the fact that he has put his best friend in danger as he yells for us to get the ice beast to smash the summoning stones to find the scroll he’s seeking. Many fake scrolls are also hidden in the pillars, however, so we need to keep taunting the beast into smashing pillars until we locate the real thing. Braham uses the scroll on his mother’s bow and defeats the ice beast, which frees an oblivious Rox from her icy tomb. He tells us that he now plans on cracking Jormag’s tooth and that if he succeeds he will then lead the Norn to battle against the dragon, flying in the face of Taimi’s plan and entirely ignoring the Commander’s pleas for a slight pause while Taimi tests her theory. Braham rages that our plans historically risk just as much as his and sets off for Hoelbrak despite our protests, and then the episode ends with a cutscene of his arrow cracking the tooth.

2016-11-29-1What I rated

I really enjoyed the small touches in this episode more than the actual story and its components. The relationship between the Kodan and Quaggan is beautifully depicted in the new zone and I love the reciprocal benefits of the relationship that are shown in NPC reactions and snatched pieces of conversation you hear all around you. Survival is a compelling motivator for such mutually beneficial relationships to blossom, of course, but I feel that the friendship is much deeper than that.

I also actually enjoyed Braham’s reaction to the dragon threats, his mother’s death, and to the Commander’s leadership: I’ve encountered a huge amount of negativity about his attitude, but I can totally see where all that angsty, misplaced anger comes from. He feels that his mother’s death is the Commander’s fault because he carries guilt at relinquishing so much control to the player character when the party was tailing Eir. He is also stung at the choices we have made without him since Mordremoth’s demise, especially since he’s rebelling against our command anyway since our choices indirectly caused Eir’s death.

gw112-1024x640What I hated

I felt that the story was a little lighter than what we’ve come to expect from this season and that some of this episode felt like awkward filler or groundwork for much cooler stuff to come in 2017. I know this will probably cause some of you to think I’m crazy, but as cute as I find Aurene I found the challenges to be overly simplistic to take up such a chunk of this episode on their own. Aurene’s hilarious and adorable motions and chirps were not enough to keep me occupied for so long and I felt as though that section could have been much shorter. A check-in with Marjory and Lazarus would have been an appreciated break in the dragon babysitting, don’t you think?

The commander spoke so passionately about Braham making a dire choice for his people that would cause an unacceptable amount of bloodshed when Taimi’s dragon-vs.-dragon theory had yet to be disproven, but what did they do to prevent him from rushing on and seeing out his plan anyway? We get the cutscene of the tooth cracking, but I find it more than a little disappointing that we never made our case in Hoelbrak or tried to enlist the help of other Dragon Watchers to talk him down or make the case for a brief delay in action to the Norn people.

quaggan_village-1-1024x576What’s next?

That sort of inaction shown in the end of the episode doesn’t sit well with me, so I do hope the next episode opens with some major damage control. It could be a nice way to both involve Canach and Kasmeer in the narrative again, check in on the Pale Tree, distract the Asuran elders away from Taimi’s dragon lair, and perhaps even stay the hand of the Black Citadel in Rytlock’s case: I imagine that the Commander appealing to each of the other races to pressure the Norn into slowing in their pursuit of Jormag could neatly draw in each of those elements.

We have had three episodes of the Tyrian races making all the plays against the dragons, so I believe that the next move will come from the other side. I want Braham to attempt to go after Jormag regardless of whatever outcome the Norn people and other races of Tyria come to, only to be overthrown by some crazy dragon antics that change the playing field. That could lead to a Dragon’s Watch rescue mission that could help forge those bonds again between the battered and bruised guild members. It could go the other way, though: The Commander seems quite sure that Braham will do Braham no matter what is said in argument, so maybe we’ll spend the next episode lining up forces to support him since we’ve failed to convince him to hold off and will win his trust back that way.

Over to you!

What did you think? Did this episode grab you as much as the others? How would you deal with the double dragon threat, knowing what we know now? What would you do about Braham and the chipped tooth? Let me know in the comments!

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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