Flameseeker Chronicles: Stories Guild Wars 2 could tell without dragons

    
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Thus far, Guild Wars 2’s story has revolved largely around the six elder dragons. The base game’s personal story crescendoed with the slaying of Zhaitan, the undead dragon, and the first two seasons of the living world and the game’s first expansion led to the death of dragon number two, Mordremoth, the jungle dragon. In season three we got the plot twist that killing dragons is actually bad for the environment, so we decided to put the ice dragon Jormag and the fire dragon Primordus to sleep by having their magical energies cancel each other out. After a quick detour to kill the war god Balthazar in Path of Fire (you know, no big deal), season four thrust us immediately back into the fray against the crystal dragon Kralkatorrik. While he’s not dead yet, we’ve kicked him in his branded teeth, and now we’re left on the worst cliffhanger since Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Best of Both Worlds.

Assuming we deal with Kralky this season, that leaves only the unnamed ocean dragon, and nobody wants an all-underwater zone. Short of discovering more Elder Dragons (please, no), it seems as if ArenaNet is going to have to take the story in a new direction, be that in future Living World chapters, expansions, or Guild Wars 3. So what kinds of stories could Guild Wars tell without falling back on dragons?

GW2: Civil War

For a game with “Guild Wars” on the box, there are surprisingly few guilds warring with one another. I think it’s high time that we changed that.

The three orders that make up The Pact started out at odds with each other and ended up banding together to fight the Elder Dragons. With the dragons no longer a threat, it’s easy to imagine The Pact quickly falling apart. I can see it now: The Vigil accuses the Order of Whispers of stealing secrets and keeping information from the other orders, and of course it was, because that’s what the Order of Whispers does. The Durmond Priory rolls its collective eyes and seals itself away with its collection of secrets and artifacts, while an increasingly paranoid Vigil strikes out against the Order of Whispers. In the middle of it all is Marshal Thackeray and the Commander, trying to hold everything together and avert an all-out civil war.

Since we’re already speculating wildly here, there could even be multiple variations on the story depending on which faction the player decides to ally herself with, showing the motivations and perspectives of each side.

I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

The Largos and the Unending Ocean

I know I already said that nobody wants an underwater zone, and if we end up with an aquatic theme, it would probably be to go after the ocean dragon. But dragon or no, what I would be more interested in is learning more about the Largos, the race of aquatic hunters who have been teased a couple of times in Guild Wars 2 but never really explored. We know they’re assassins, and we’ve been told that their homeland in the north has been overrun by some kind of “horrors,” but what exactly does that mean? I’ve always loved the concept of underwater cities in various sci-fantasy settings, and I would love to see ArenaNet’s take on one for the Largos. Areas that take place inside aquatic dome cities could break up the awkward three dimensional movement that underwater travel brings.

Also, the Largos wear breathing masks similar to those worn by players, but are those for them to breathe underwater or above it? Why are they so distrustful of land dwellers? Are those wing things part of their body or artificial? So many unanswered questions!
Also, any excuse to include the Quaggans again would be a welcome one! Coo!

Cantha

Guild Wars 2 players have wandered all over the locales of both the original Guild Wars campaigns Prophecies and Nightfall, and a lot fans have been asking when they’ll be able to visit Guild Wars Factions’ East Asia themed Cantha region since day one. What have the people of Cantha been up to in all of these years? Have they also had to deal with repeated horrible catastrophes, or is mainland Tyria just special?

Personally, I’ve always been sad that ArenaNet almost gave us playable Tengu, but opted for the Charr instead. Nothing against Charr, but lots of games have cat/beast people; playable bird people seems like the much more unique choice. Given that the Tengu were originally from Cantha, maybe this could be their chance to add them as a playable race? There are a lot of reasons why we’ll probably never see a new playable race in Guild Wars 2, but I can dream.

Attack of just some regular dude!

Does everything we fight really have to be a world-eating dragon, disgruntled god, or some servant thereof? I really liked the beginning of Living World Season 3 because the bad guy ended up being Caudecus – just a regular old human who used his magical prowess for evil. As any Star Wars fan will tell you, there comes a point when you don’t have to keep one-upping the story or it just starts to get ridiculous. “The original trilogy had a moon-sized space station that blows up planets? Well the sequel trilogy obviously needs a planet-sized space station that blows up multiple planets!” After seven years of this kind of plot inflation, Guild Wars 2 could use a little bit of dialing back.

Also, a plain old mortal villain is a lot more relatable. It’s something any player character could have fallen into given some bad circumstances and surrounded by the wrong crowd. It also gives the possibility that the villain could be redeemed, which is something that I feel doesn’t get done enough, and something you certainly can’t do with dragons that are simply programmed to consume everything in their path.

The Guild Wars franchise takes place in a rich universe with a lot of life to it. There are many stories out there just waiting to be told. The Elder Dragon arc has served us well for more than seven years, but there are still many other ways the story team could go. I’m sure our readers have some great ideas that I haven’t thought of! I’d love to read some of them down in the comments!

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
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Anton Mochalin

I find “lesser” stories more natural in gameplay than one big story with dragons and all that save-the-world stuff. I really enjoyed lvl 30-50 Order of Whispers missions with Tybalt, they felt really personal and immersive and I would really appreciate many small stories about Order of Whispers operatives infiltrating all parts of Tyria instead of one more slay-the-supervillain blockbuster story with zero immersion.

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Natalyia

While there are certainly many places and stories to tell in Tyria that don’t involve Elder Dragons, you’re missing a couple that haven’t yet been dealt with – at least not permanently.

Primordius (the Earth dragon that has the Destroyers as its minions) woke in GW1 and was put to sleep in Eye of the North, the entire dwarven race sacrificing itself to eternal stone in the process. We’ve convinced it to take a nap again, but it’s in no way been dealt with long-term.

Jormag (the Ice dragon), likewise, is snoozing at the moment. Given the nature of the Norn, even if we convince Braham to let sleeping dragons lie, that’s not a permanent solution either.

So there are three Elder Dragons left to balance (although so far, all we seem to do is end up killing them, despite best plans to the contrary.) Two of which aren’t at all aquatic.

There’s also Cantha, “the Empire of the Dragon”, where we met at least one intelligent dragon that wasn’t (intentionally) our foe in GW1:Factions. Much like Glint, Kuunavang might have been a “freed” lieutenant of an Elder Dragon, but nobody knows for sure, and you’d think there would have at least been a hint if the Forgotten had liberated her – so if not them, then who did?

I would love (please!) to go back to Cantha, it was my favorite of the original GW1 campaign settings, and seeing what they’d do with it in GW2’s engine would be a treat.

And there’s certainly room to take a breather from the constantly-escalating end-of-the-world roller coaster we’ve been on. The SeaDragon (Bubbles?) hasn’t been a visible threat, and the other two are currently asleep. If we manage to deal with Kralkatorrik and not wake them up, then spending some time on less cosmic issues would be welcome – not to mention the need to come up with an actual plan for what to do now that we know just killing them isn’t really an option either.

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Eamil

Primordus’s awakening was only delayed 50 years – he’s been awake and active in the underground of Tyria for almost the entire game. But the article does actually address the fact that Primordus and Jormag are currently dormant, not dead – the point is their dormant state allows the plot to move somewhere else for a breather before we have to deal with them.

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Natalyia

It does, but so far every time we’ve killed one, the pulse of the stored energies has woken one up as well as made the general situation worse. That there are two napping is nice, and if they want a breather they can have one – but given past history, the Sea Dragon isn’t the only place they can go without leaving the Elder Dragons behind (for better or worse.) And while Primordius has mostly lurked for all of GW2, Jormag has a bunch of angry Norn all set to go pound on him.

If I had to bet, I’d bet we’ll see the “solution” to the Fire and Ice dragons before we see Bubbles. But only ArenaNet knows… at least, I hope they know.

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Eamil

Bubbles is still an active threat while Primordus and Jormag were drained and made dormant at the end of LS3, so it makes sense to me that we would deal with Bubbles first.

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Eamil

A lot of story decisions made in the game’s early stages feel like they’ve become an albatross around the game’s neck from a storytelling perspective. For example, the “this is your story” tagline is utterly meaningless 30 levels into the game aside from the most minor of callbacks, yet enough things in the backend are dependent on those choices that making any changes to the early story to improve its pacing would be a nightmare. (Home instances also never lived up to what they were supposed to be and ANet has made no effort to change that in the game’s entire existence but that’s a separate rant.) Also, setting the game after the full emergence of six world-ending threats means each one individually is an urgent matter to be dealt with, which makes it VERY hard to justify breaking off and exploring something else for a while.

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Greaterdivinity

I find the more personal stories way more interesting than the broader narrative arcs surrounding the dragons. I’d love to see them do a lot more in terms of exploring more of the current characters in our “guild” (if that’s still what it’s called) and potentially expanding it with new additions.

Also, I’d love to see more exploration of the racial dynamics within the broader conflicts. We’ve seen hints of racial issues from time to time, but I don’t think any of them have boiled over into full blown conflicts if memory serves. Each race still has their own specific non-dragon related problems, either internally or with other races, and it would be super interesting to explore those further.

I really feel like their storytelling shines much more when it’s focused on a smaller scale rather than the broader, sweeping arcs.

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TomTurtle

I think the story has suffered because of how many playable races they included making it harder to give proper attention to each. It’s noticeable with the playable character and how certain races would have acted differently to the events we encounter. The Norn’s identity as a whole has been neglected so much in comparison to how they were presented in the first game.

Guild Wars 1 had a strong point of focusing on one race, and I feel its story benefited from it. Of course that also comes with the downside of missing out on more visual variety. I’d personally have gone with the GW1 approach, but I understand why many like what we have now and why it’s too late for that now. At the very least, it’d have been smarter to have the playable character silent to not have to spend so many resources on voicing all the racial and gender character combinations.

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Greaterdivinity

I’d love to see an expansion/living story season purely focused on internal Tyria politics and racial issues. Like, older fractures between the races that were barely being held together due to the threat of dragons re-emerge once the immediate dragon threats are dealt with.

Expansion arc deals with preventing an all-out war between the races (potentially instigated by very mortal forces with ulterior motives), LS episodes delve deeper into each of the race-specific fallout of this conflict and working to address each races specific issues.

Shit like that. I love me some dragons, but I’m ready for some smaller stories and some central conflicts that don’t revolve around “THE WORLD IS GOING TO END!”.

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Tobasco da Gama

“The original trilogy had a moon-sized space station that blows up planets? Well the sequel trilogy obviously needs a planet-sized space station that blows up multiple planets!”

Technically, Starkiller Base was a de-escalation from the Extended Universe nonsense about the starfighter-sized ship that could blow up entire star systems.

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Nathan Aldana

ah, the good ol Sun destroyer.

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Arktouros

Personally I’ve found the whole GW2 story line to be exhausting and they seem to go out of their way to create some sort of deus-ex machina character who’s always showing up at every impossible scenario and just fixing it all. A big part of what I liked about the story before Season 3 was that we weren’t the Pact Marshal, we were just the Commander in this huge Pact organization. You were a critical component, but not the whole thing. Since moving on from the Pact story that’s gone away and now it feels like we are everywhere and everything capable of solving it all as everyone else around the character is useless and waits for us to solve everything.

I honestly can’t say where I’d like to see it go at this point. From them recycling the plot of Nightfall to that nonsensical mishmash story that was Season 4 I struggle to think of a direction they can go that would respark my interest.

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TomTurtle

I think the most interesting stories in the Guild Wars franchise have been ones not focused on the Elder Dragons. GW1 had a good variety of villains with interesting designs. The best villains of GW2 have been ones like Caudecus, Balthazar and especially Joko.

I’ve long wanted to move on from the Elder Dragons threat despite knowing full well that’s the major premise of the game. At the very least, Season 3 and on started to diversify things a lot more and not solely focus on the Elder Dragons. That we got an expansion where we didn’t even focus on overcoming a direct Elder Dragon threat says to me ArenaNet recognizes that the story needed to be mixed up some.

My only worry going forward is that we’re going to be dealing with Kralkatorrik past this season and continuing on into Season 5. I’m getting sick of dealing with the purple crystal brand being everywhere.

Also, Cantha plzkthxbai.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I think where it all really fell apart for me is that they started so many stories only to leave them unfinished. They treated storytelling the same way they treated feature design by allowing for iteration and a LOT of features and stories in the GW franchise went unfinished because of it.

I think the studio would benefit by a directive that stories have to be seen through whether or not the writer who started the story is there to finish it. I think that’s mostly the problem. It’s not fair to the fans that invest in these tales to wait for stories to be finished only to never be told that they won’t get finished simply because the writer responsible is no longer with the company.