In this episode of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll start off with a short recap so we’re all up to speed before I discuss my first impressions. I played for around 45 minutes and we didn’t go into any key story details, so this article shouldn’t reveal any more lore spoilers than the episode trailer, but if you’d prefer to go in without any info about the patch at all, give this one a skip until you’ve played yourself.
The story so far
I’ll quickly run through the whirlwind that was A Bug in the System, just in case you missed it or need a recap. The episode kicked off with the infiltration of an Inquest transport facility: After her near-miss at Fahranur, Taimi noted that one broken portal led to a massive Inquest base, but had no means to reach it. She was distracted and quiet, and it eventually emerged that she learned one of her college friends was working for the Inquest. Trying to find Blish became a priority as he was a portal specialist, so his location was likely where Joko’s gate hub was, so the commander and company set off through the transport facility in disguise to permeate the main base.
The party ended up travelling to a nearby hub as the main Rata Primus gate was malfunctioning, and found themselves inside a gruesome side lab that was full of test subjects who were being exposed to all sorts of horrific diseases… for ‘science’. The group stumbled upon a strange looking Charr who was about to be infected with a mysterious disease, but she is soon rescued and actually proves invaluable in the team’s escape from the now-triggered building self-destruct sequence caused by the commotion. Along the way to the roof from which the party jump to safety, we discover distress messages from Blish’s brother Gorrik that explain how Joko’s Awakened have ruined the main Rata Primus lab.
The strange Charr, who we now know as Boticca, leads us to her village and elders and helps us explain to her Olmakhan people how much danger lies on their doorstep with the Inquest and Awakened. While the elders were deliberating, the Inquest launched an attack on the village in retaliation for our great escape, and sadly one of the elders died in the battle despite Aurene’s help. This did help seal their decision to aid us, however, and the relationship Rox began to form with the tribe was a lovely small detail here too. Aurene took to the air for the commander and lent her sight to her greatest friend, allowing the party to gather some intelligence about the well-defended Rata Primus cube. To tie the pieces together in preparation for an assault on the base, the commander disrupted their communication tower, positioned Rox and Braham with the Olmakhan, and asked Sayida for her aerial assistance.
When ready, Rox led the ground assault for the Olmakhan while Braham and the commander infiltrated Rata Primus with the help of Sayida’s airship. The scene was pure chaos: Awakened and Inquest were in battle, making the dash to permanently seal Joko’s gates a challenge. Ultimately, the commander made it to Blish and Gorrik, but Blish’s consciousness had been transferred into a golem. Gorrik just had time to tell us that Joko was there to steal the scarab plague uncovered in Fahranur when the containment vault alarm was triggered, and sadly Joko sacrificed Lonai to get away with the deadly plague. Taimi, Blish, and Gorrik planned to work together to stop Joko’s deadly plague warfare, and this is where we begin episode three.
My playthrough experience
Our guided tour began at the third chapter of this episode, Tactical Triage. The lead-up story threads are yours to uncover, but we know that Joko has declared war and we need to prepare for a bloody battle. Triage really is the operative word in the chapter title: The commander must assist shipwrecked corsairs, investigate claims locals farmers are making that scarab eggs have been found in their land, get a status report from Gorrik, and befriend the local heket tribe, a highly endangered — and highly mistrusting — brand of hylek. This war machine needs fodder if it has any hope of standing against the Awakened, and the commander doesn’t want to waste any time in uniting all available forces.
One of the strangest yet most important discoveries of this chapter comes from checking in with Gorrik: I don’t want to spoil the happenstance as it is really quite darling, but he is the key to making the gorgeous Kourna map as interesting to explore as it is. I also really enjoyed the farmland investigation thread, and the heket’s area is one of the richest in terms of design in this episode. I won’t get into details about what each arc involves so you can enjoy it for yourself, but suffice to say there are twists and turns in each arc that keeps the introduction to Kourna’s reaches interesting. I didn’t have time to help the corsair in my playtest, but that just leaves me with more to do when I play properly.
The map itself is very large, and I can definitely get the sense that it was built with large-scale encounters in mind. The land is marked by the challenges it has faced and the stark contrast between its stark peaks and sandy dunes is simply beautiful. It is filled with people who are making the best of a harsh environment and even worse overseer, which is evident in every NPC conversation, action, and visual detail around each town or village. One detail that caused many laughs in our playthrough was a statue of Joko that has amazing voice lines attached to it: I’ll not spoil any as the team worked so hard on this one item, but I highly recommend going to listen. The final point to note about this map is that it has been designed with the whole suite of mounts in mind, so the range of vertical and horizontal access options for key locations is deeply impressive.
The roller beetle: Excellent mechanics, but watch for motion sickness
I adore the roller beetle mechanics: I can guarantee you that all the mount race zones are going to see nothing but beetles for the foreseeable future! These resilient little speedballs begin at a modest roll and gain speed as you travel, which makes for amazing navigation across Kourna’s dunes. Tricks are an inherent part of that speed and the airtime gained by this little guy is seriously impressive. I admit to shouting and cheering several times when we all decided to spend time in a dune-heavy portion of the map that the devs designed for beetle use, and while there it was explained to us that when the team did the math they discovered that the roller beetle “real-world” speed equivalent tops out at around 130 miles per hour!
It really does feel exhilarating to navigate a map at that speed: I adored the sweeping angles the rolling motion created and I loved it when I managed to hit tricks and keep my momentum going. The mount can be used to break special doors with a scarab symbol on them for added loot or quick access to some areas as well, which is a lovely bonus. This takes a little while to master as you’ll need to build up speed to successfully bash the doors down, but it isn’t so tricky as to put you off trying.
Sadly, I do have to point out that the speed, tricks, and airtime comes at a cost: I started to feel fairly heavy motion sickness after 5 or so minutes of rolling around on the beetle’s back. I do suffer from motion sickness quite easily, however, so I’m interested to see how the general feedback goes throughout the episode’s launch window. The first iteration of the raptor made me feel awful too and that was fixable, so I’m holding out hope that this mount can also eventually be enjoyed by those with delicate tummies like me. The development team admitted that the roller beetle was a massive design challenge: The experience would be dampened if tiny, normally inconsequential terrain details such as a little rock or lump slowed him, which was a huge undertaking to get right. I feel that the team did get the balance right on this one, which is a fantastic achievement.
Over to you!
I am hoping that there’s a way to make me able to use the roller beetle without losing my lunch, but other than that I found my first steps into the new episode were highly enjoyable. I can’t wait to see how the battle with Joko pans out, and I am hoping that nothing too tragic happens to my loveable guildmates in the process of stopping the plague. This is GW2, however, and the developers don’t really mind messing with my characters, so I can’t call any of them safe! The Blish thread intrigues me: Taimi seems to marvel over his new state of being, and I wonder if she comes to harm in the story thread whether her friends might be able to save her consciousness in the same way? What does death in Tyria really even mean if there are ways to do this? That’s perhaps a thought for another day and another article, but it is worth a mention.
Let me know how you find it and feel free to keep the updates coming in the comments section. I love to read your initial reactions to the story developments as they happen.