Flameseeker Chronicles: First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s A Star to Guide Us

    
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We’ve had just enough time to digest that epic trailer, and now A Star to Guide Us is live. This is the fourth episode of Guild Wars 2‘s fourth season, and what an episode it seems to be. I got to tinker around with an early dev preview of the patch over the weekend, putting a couple of hours into the build before today. This episode is set to be the mid-season climax to end all mid-season climaxes: Aurene is growing in power, and the trailer is all about her fast-approaching rise against the elder dragons.

In this episode of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll discuss what I can from the playthrough and will share my first impressions of the episode. I can’t promise much in the way of juicy details: Much of what we discussed and saw during the playthrough is far too spoilerific for this first impressions piece, and I was asked to keep the major arcs to myself for now. Nevertheless, I will talk about the trailer, the playthrough experience, and the additional goodies that are part of this patch. I don’t have the space to do a recap of the last episode here since so much content is dropping at once: Before you read on, note that there will be mild spoilers below for both the last episode and this one.

The trailer

I couldn’t launch into my opinions without briefly hinting on how wonderful the episode trailer was. Anything to do with Aurene usually does have me hooked, admittedly, but that was a grand build-up. It’s clear that much of this episode is going to hinge on Aurene, and judging by the prioritisation of content shown to us in our playthrough, I think that the trailer does a fantastic job of cutting to the heart of the episode without getting too spoilerific. I love how the evolving instance, new map, and heart of the story each get their limelight moment in the trailer. It’s so cleverly crafted and I just wish we could get these trailers a little earlier to really keep the hype going from episode to episode.

The trailer really makes us question Aurene’s role in the narrative going forward: Who will Aurene be, and can she ever live up to legacy? The weight on the young dragon’s shoulders is extraordinary, and we know already that Vlast ultimately couldn’t cope with the pressure. Can our little Aurene? Will she have the time to come to terms with her fate before it meets her? It’s such a fascinating story arch. The final references to visions of the future and multiple possibilities are chilling: It seems that the fate of the world is far from certain, and the key to success lies with Aurene.

The map

The new map, the Jahai Bluffs, sits within Kourna once more. We didn’t spend much time on the open map during our press playthrough since most of the content we were exposed to was instanced, but I had a little run around and really adored the visuals and quirks. We’re already familiar with many of the key elements we’ll run up against in this particular locale: Branded scarring is ever-present in Kourna, influencing the dangers we can expect to find out on the Bluffs.

Just as with the other maps this season, its space is open, the skies are the most beautiful thing to watch, and the map feels positively alive with happenings and interesting points to note. One amazing feature is the tornados that propel characters into the air: The views you’ll have so high up are just breathtaking. Check out the screenshot gallery to see some fantastic aerials.

The episode

We commenced our playthrough midway through the episode on chapter 3, Legacy. Palawa Joko met his demise and this has created a power vacuum in Elona: tensions are running high and once-united factions are shattering and reforming in the wake of his death.

Click to reveal spoiler!
As WoodenPotatoes correctly surmised in his trailer breakdown, an offshoot of the Awakened forms called the Free Awakened.

Trying to hold the peace proves rather difficult when a stubborn Aurene crashed the summit: Considering she just ate the old leader, this isn’t the best move ever. Events conspire to help push the fact that Kralkatorrik is the main opposition to the realm as the elder dragon shows off some new powers. Koss shows up and informs the commander that there is one safe place left, which is the old Sunspear encampment, Sun’s Refuge, which is where we commenced our playthrough.

We spent time getting the new instance ready to be a safe haven for those fleeing Kralkatorrik: I really can’t say too much about what occurs down there, but this is some unmissable story evolution that is well worth playing through for yourself. The press audience audibly gasped and oohed throughout the segment, and its contents were really shocking. I am actually bursting to get playing the next chapter and onwards today to find out what happens by the end of the episode.

One hilarious factoid I can share without being too spoilerific is that our big bad Braham is scared of spiders, which cracked us all up as the exchanges in the dusty old Sunspear base progressed. You will have noticed the spider webs from the trailer: Someone had to do quite a bit of cleanup in there, and who better than Braham?

The instance

I had a great time just taking in the sights within Sun’s Refuge: The development team was able to explain how the instance will evolve as we uncover more of its secrets, and I know for certain that this process alone will massively increase the replay value of the new content. The base is equal parts nostalgia and modern GW2 mechanics: Expect all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from the emergent toolset ANet has been using recently. I won’t go into specifics of where the expansion opportunities lie since you’ll have far more fun learning for yourself, but trust me when I say there are some fantastic mysteries to solve in the Refuge.

The armour

The upgradeable, two-tier armour set for the episode is just stunning: All the glow sections are dyeable, which gives the set an amazing array of looks. I adored the looks created by Heather Conover, Living World episode 4 team lead, during our playthrough and cannot wait to don the armour myself. I’m thinking it’ll look best on human toons, but have a tinker and send me screenshots when you get it.

The legendary

Xiuquatl is a gorgeous little piece of weaponry: It’s inspired by ancient water civilisations and comes with a minion that will follow you around. This piece has everything — glow, floating embellishments, stone totem details — and is, to my eye at least, one of the most tasteful legendaries on offer. It has a gorgeous water-themed footprint trace as well, which looks stunning trailing behind more delicate characters. I’m seriously considering tweaking my necro build to use this one!

The mastery

The episode comes with a new mastery, of course, this time related to your mount and called Bond of Vigour. This sits next to Bond of Life in your mount controls and massively improves your endurance recharge rate, which really helps you escape from danger and makes racing and griffon flight much easier. The Bluffs is such a dangerous map that the new mastery really is essential for getting around without being too waylaid by minions.

The raid

Sadly, I can’t tell you anything new about the Mythwright Gambit raid as it wasn’t part of my preview experience. I can point you to the cool raid video ArenaNet crafted, though, and I will say that I’m most definitely eager to sink my teeth into the new content. Come on: Try to tell me the concept of raiding the mystic loo isn’t hilarious and I will call you a liar, I tell ya!

Over to you!

I cannot wait to get playing today: I hope you’ll keep me updated with your thoughts as and when you experience all the patch entails for yourself. I am almost overwhelmed by how much is dropping at once, and while clearing the story content will be my main focus at first, I’m also sure I’ll start that legendary journey, and I’m bursting to play the new raid.

I’m also really excited to get back to Flameseeker Chronicles after some time away: Things have been crazy in Tina Land, and I’m so glad to be back. I can’t wait to bring you further thoughts on A Star to Guide Us and perhaps some new raid guides too. Let me know what you’d like to see 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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Jim Gust

They really up’ed their game when it comes to story telling. The characters we see I genuinely care for them even Taimi, who always has the magical answers to everything except for… just play though the story. There were a lot of feels here and it felt right.

What I’m not liking is this we are all going to be friends now with the different factions. I know we killed your God but maybe we can work together now just isn’t sitting with me. I hope it gets more gritty and real when it comes to working with all of those groups. Make me believe we are in danger not only from the dragon but from those we are forcing to help us.

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Thomas

I, too, have played through the story, and this is the first time I’ve been able to get through the story missions totally on my own, so maybe ArenaNet is listening to those of us who want story missions to focus on story rather than regularly getting our clocks cleaned. I was actually able to focus on the story this time, which I thought was pretty good.

The only part where I died repeatedly had to do with my epic inability when it comes to jumping puzzles or — rather — in this case “raptor leaping” puzzles.

Still and all, I enjoyed this chapter very much. Well played, ArenaNet!

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Greaterdivinity

Welp, played through the story and that was definitely one of the better ones they’ve done IMO. Need to dig through the zone and collections more and unlock more of the cave stuff, but damn…feels and shit.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

One of the coolest ideas for a raid ever. Seriously.

The story seems a mix of How To Train your Dragon and Dany Targaryen’s arc in ASoIaF. That part seems kind of lazy to me, but then again storytelling hasn’t always been the high watermark of this franchise so no surprises there. I hear it’s been getting better too, but this just seems like a story cobbled together from other stuff. Couple that with the dozen or so references to ASoIaF already in the game world as weapons or city names etc. and there’s a little too much Game of Thrones cribbing going on for my tastes.

latorn
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latorn

Pretty cool map and everything, but it’s a shame that Sun’s Refuge is already being abandoned on the day of its release. :(

Since its reveal in August it was really the big feature I was looking forward to enjoying more than once.

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Joseph Meyer

I’m loving the content thus far. :)

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Greaterdivinity

That bit about Braham…there’s another LS episode you run into spiders with him in (I think it’s the Bitterfrost one) and now I’m wondering if they make any mention of it (replayed it recently but didn’t pay much attention to the dialogue). I’ll have to give it yet another replay (which I need to do for an achievement…stupid last boss) to see if there’s anything.

Oh well, I’m home today so getting this sucker downloaded so I can dive right in once I finish work!

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Alex Willis

Argh I feel so far behind in GW2. I never did HoT, and while I got PoF I only went to unlock the zone. I want to dive back in and get back on the horse (or, err, rabbit), but it seems so intimidating. Every time I go back in I get sucked into WvWvW and PvP and never leave! I’m broken.