Flameseeker Chronicles: Fully unpacking Guild Wars 2’s Rising Flames

    
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I’ve been aching to share more of my thoughts about Guild Wars 2‘s second Living World instalment for Season 3 and am finally convinced that enough time has passed for most of you to have experienced the story for yourselves. You’ll remember that my last edition of Flameseeker Chronicles shared my launch day first impressions, but a fuller breakdown seemed most necessary since I had played such a small proportion of the content in advance of its release and was asked to keep my impressions detail-light to avoid spoilers anyway.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll give you a rundown of the goings-on in Rising Flames and will again present the best and worst parts of the story from my perspective. If you haven’t had the opportunity to play Rising Flames in its entirety just yet, I recommend skipping this article for a while until you do unless you’re happy for some major story spoiling to happen: There will be several spoilers throughout the article for those who haven’t played this episode.

Rising Flames: The story so far

Just in case you need a recap for context, I’ll provide you with a summary before launching into my opinions on Rising Flames. The story begins immediately where it left off in the previous patch, and we find our character venturing back to see Taimi in her lab after she dropped the bad news about Primordus over the radio-like communication system she stashed in our backpacks. The lore injection for this chunk of the story is quite heavily frontloaded in my opinion, and we discover in Rata Novus much more about how dragons operate.

Taimi’s teachings

The player character, with the help of Rytlock and the guidance of a giant holo-Taimi, use a Rata Novan virtual reality floor of sorts to face off against some simulated nasties while Taimi collects data and explains that she had assistance to complete the simulation chamber from Moto since it falls beyond her specialities. She throws in another unexpected curveball: Jormag is also active, as confirmed by Braham in some short words to Taimi.

We learn that Primordus is in fact on the move, as we might have already suspected, and Taimi also explains — through her work on Spencer the weirdly preserved chak — dragon-magic types and the prismatic nature of magic’s composition, leading on to how that affects its absorption by the remaining dragons. Each dragon holds power over a particular magical aspect, and all aspects make up the full spectrum. When one dragon dies, its domain of magic is free for the taking, and other dragons can take on its power and attributes, creating some interestingly horrific minion combinations that will be harder than ever to vanquish.

Rytlock has to unceremoniously leave the party early when some Black Citadel grunts rather comically take him back to explain the magic he now wields. He is stripped of his rank for his blatant disregard for command as well, which I was rather shocked at. As if Primordus’ movements didn’t already push us to explore Ember Bay, a battered and hysterical Asuran comes through the portal to tell us of the talented scouting party’s demise, which pushes us on to the Fire Islands.

The Fire Islands

Upon inspection of Ember Bay, we fight warped enemies and take note of the unusual seismic activity in the area, presuming that the tectonic disturbances are caused by Primordus moving. We eventually stumble upon a spherical device that has stumped the Asura scout who is present, but a local Skritt seems to understand the object more and links the sphere to seismic pressure and Rock Face. By gaining the trust of the local Skritt, the player character eventually gets to see this Rock Face in an attempt to activate the devices and release the pressure that is building up deep below Ember Bay before an eruption occurs.

Rock Face turns out to be an ancient dwarf (well, a fragment of one anyway!) called Rhoban, which I found totally exciting since we only know one other of his kind in Guild Wars 2. This poor chap has been damaged at some point, and the Skritt here work on his behalf and have set him up on a chair in the centre of their camp. He’s a chatty chat, if a little grumpy, and he explains that the other dwarves were killed by Primordus and the destroyers and that turning the machines back on is crucial for the safety of the island and wider Tyria.

The machinery can be activated only by dwarves because nothing critical to the salvation of Tyria is ever simple, so poor crumbly Rhoban gives you his chipped pebble of a thumb to go about the task of activation. If you explore the dialogue options with Rhoban, you’ll gain some much-appreciated insight into the stony dwarves and their prophetic mission, which forms a great Dwarf History 101 for those who are rusty on the lore. I found it a bit of a bombshell that his little group of dwarves maintained this island for all that time without our knowing, especially since he warms that the explosion would be catastrophic should the player character not act quickly to lower the seismic pressure. Jeez, Rhoban… didn’t you think to train your Skritt pets to do a little maintenance if it was that important?!

The character must activate all four of these artefacts with the help of a stone thumb and Scout Torm, which acts as a handy way to incentivise island exploration. We end up at an ancient Mursaat fortress to find the last pressure release sphere, and our characters must disguise themselves to get past the stronghold’s defences. Mursaat tablets are dotted around the fortress steps, unveiling some much-needed yet contradictory history of ancient dragon battles. Captain Grumby’s ghost helps you piece some Mursaat armour together and your character heads inside the fortress, where you find a dwarven camp around the sphere and signs of the poor chap’s demise in some scuffs on the floor.

2016-10-04-4Back to Tarir

Upon activating the final sphere, the mountain decompresses with a controlled eruption and the character returns to Rhoban. While chatting, you become a wee tad woozy and have a strange vision of Glint’s egg hatching in Tarir. Going to investigate, the character finds Marjory and Caithe are already awaiting the hatching with Ruka, who soon confirms that the vision is true: Cue some immense ickle baby dragon cuteness and more mistrust of Caithe. We don’t get much time to bask in the sweet baby celebrations, however, as the fortifications on the chamber fail, and an attack is the first welcome to the world poor little dragon baby sees.

We defend the baby against the destroyers for as long as we can until the destroyers pile in on us in numbers we couldn’t possibly defeat. Lazarus then pops up and remarkably chooses to slay the destroyers for us and save Glint’s spawn, explaining that he does not come with ill intentions. Once the imminent threat is diminished, we get to quiz Lazarus on his actions and intentions. He insists he is a reformed character who has been reborn, and he confesses that he knows about the dead dragons and wishes to join us in destroying another.

The Luminate urges us not to trust Lazarus and tells the commander that such lines were fed to the ancient races in an attempt to placate them too. Although we probably are on the side of killing the Mursaat, Jory decides that more can be learned by working closely with Lazarus, and she feels that she can learn more of death and develop her necromancy through taking responsibility for him. All this time, Caithe has been transfixed with the baby and has been silently observing, so our suspicions and attentions are immediately drawn back to her when Lazarus agrees to stick with Jory for questioning. We learn that the little baby is called Aurene, and we charge Caithe with watching her and her chamber.

What I rated

It goes without saying that Taimi made me chuckle aloud yet again in this episode. I loved the nod to Moto and the Super Adventure Box wackiness in the opening episode of this chapter because it was nice to both see the game mode tie into the rest of the lore and also just for the sheer hilarity of fighting a simulated, pixelated monkey. I equally adored the Jormag story bomb since dealing with several active dragons is much more realistic than knocking them down one by one for the sake of the story’s trajectory. It makes perfect sense that the remaining dragons would now have a bee in their bonnets and would attempt to become as powerful as possible to both capitalise on the abilities of the now-free death and plant aspects and also to bolster themselves against the Tyrian races in case of a showdown. It was also supremely satisfying to learn for sure that each dragon kill will empower and embolden the others because it’s something that I wasn’t alone in suspecting for quite a long time. Lazarus’ face turn and everything about baby Aurene also both deserve a special mention here!

What I hated

I think the episode knocked it out of the park in terms of content and story, so my hate section isn’t as dramatic as it could be and is a list of pretty small complaints in the grand scheme of things. As much as I appreciate the massive scope of the new zone, I found the implementation wasn’t as stellar as I first expected it to be, but that’s not to say that I’m not greatly enjoying the change of scenery.

As many of you suspected, the hearts are indeed a little on the meh side upon repetition, and now that the buzz has worn off, I do find the Skritt presence a little gimmicky. Plenty of effort was spent in creating diverse locations for the artefacts that juxtapose the hostility of the island itself, but I find that the carnival and Skritt pirates detract from the grand reveal in some way. Suffering carnival folks with no customers to speak of and servant Skritt who worship a talking rock are perhaps pushing the lightheartedness a little bit too far for my tastes. Having said that, I found the related dialogue is charming, and I would hate for the game to depart from the charm of its silly side, so call this more of a replayability gripe than a full-on negative point.

What’s next?

There’s so much to run with in terms of loose threads that I honestly can’t pinpoint where we’ll head from here. Aurene, the Mursaat split, and Primordus are all heavy priorities, of course, but I imagine we’ll need to meet up with Braham in the next episode to discuss Jormag too. I would love to see charted activity for the remaining dragons by the end of the season too, even if it’s just a cursory nod in their respective directions while we handle the two who we know to be active. I still want to see all those who were hurt in the previous dragon fights, especially the Pale Tree and Zojja.

Over to you!

What did you think? Does baby Aurene make your hate or rate pile? Who do you see in her in terms of aesthetics? Do you trust Lazarus? How would you prioritise the mammoth pressures the commander faces? 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.