After playing through Guild Wars 2’s new Living World episode, War Eternal, which is live today, I am still speechless. This is, in my opinion, quite possibly the most epic story ever to come out of ArenaNet, and I’m not too proud to say that I teared up more than once during the press preview. The final showdown with Kralkatorrik – which you had to know was coming – was incredibly well done, both in terms of cinematic spectacle and fun gameplay mechanics.
I don’t want to spoil any of the story in this piece because you really need to experience it for yourself. However, Living World is about more than just the story, and I’d like to unpack some of what this excellent update contains.
Let’s start with the feature I was most excited about: The new dragon mount, the skyscale. I wasn’t sold on the look of the skyscale at first. Its proportions are kind of weird; it has a tiny head and gigantic wings that fold down the entire length of its body and tail. While walking on the ground, its animations look like they were only slightly modified from the griffon.
But then I saw it in the air, and my opinion changed instantly. Those massive wings look perfect as it spreads them and uses them to fly in place. The devs explained on their recent stream that they made them twice the size of the griffon’s to sell the idea that those wings have enough power to keep you hovering. As with the other mounts, all of the animations are superb. I thought the dash/dodge animation was especially cool; the skyscale gives a massive push with its wings, then folds up and does a barrel roll.
I’ve seen a lot of people asking what the difference is between the skyscale and the griffon, and questioning if we even need this. The skyscale differs from the griffon in that while people will inevitably call both “flying” mounts, the griffon is more of a gliding mount, whereas the skyscale is more of a hovering mount. ArenaNet keeps describing the skyscale as a “helicopter,” and after messing around with it for a bit, I finally understand what the devs mean. The griffon is great for traversing long distances or diving really fast off the top of a mountain, but it has always felt awkward when trying to maneuver tight spaces or claw your way up a steep incline. The skyscale is more of a short range, precision flyer. It lets you hover, fly up and down in place, and it loses altitude slowly as it moves around. It doesn’t travel as fast as or as far as the griffon, but that’s not what it’s for.
As ArenaNet’s developers were showing Tina and me around the new content, they were quick to say that they didn’t want the release of the skyscale to invalidate any of the other mounts. While it does similar things to the springer and the griffon, they wanted it to feel different.
Did they succeed? Yes and no. On the one hand, it does indeed feel different from the griffon. As I said, the skyscale is more about precision flying, and the mastery that gives you the ability to grab onto a wall and launch yourself up will get you to many places that the griffon and springer could, but also many they could not.
On the other hand, though, it is functionally very similar to the griffon. Honestly, while I’m a huge fan of the griffon, I’m not sure I could recommend spending 250 gold and several hours to get it if you have access to the skyscale, at least not as vehemently as I would have before this patch. I haven’t had a ton of time with it outside the new zone, but I’d venture to guess that the number of places where the griffon will get you where you want to go and the skyscale will not are few and far between.
If you’re swimming in piles of gold, then, by all means, get the griffon. Diving off of a high place in a guild hall or other wide open space and zipping around in the air is a blast. But if you’re going to have to clean everything out of your bank and forgo buying good gear just to get it, save your gold and just grab the skyscale until your virtual financial situation improves.
Another exciting thing about this patch is the new map. ArenaNet conspicuously hasn’t talked much about this map, and it turns out that it’s because the very name and location itself is a bit of a story spoiler. Don’t worry, I’ll try my best to tiptoe around that. The devs described the new map to me as a cross between Dry Top and Dragon’s Stand; there is a new map meta event, with three different lanes, each with a different theme, with a boss fight at the end.
A really cool thing about this map is that players can actually use several masteries from previous Living World chapters to navigate the map. For instance, that super cool vine grappling hook from the Draconis Mons zone is back, as are lava tubes and updrafts. None of the masteries will be required to contribute, but they will make things a lot easier for you. I’m really glad they gave these masteries usefulness outside of the one map where they were introduced, as many of them were really fun and I always felt like it was a waste to restrict them to just the one map. A fun touch was that your NPC allies will sometimes arrive to help out at events. For instance, Zafira showed up and sniped a few branded for us from the rocks above.
The brandstorm, an environmental effect that was present in some of the Path of Fire maps that would cause players to be struck by damaging lightning whenever they touched the ground, also shows up in this map, but it is made much more manageable by the skyscale’s ability to stay off the ground for a good while. ArenaNet pointed out that there are even skyscale nests around the zone, so players who haven’t actually unlocked the mount can “borrow” one to make getting around these areas easier. Our time during the press demo was limited, so I didn’t get a chance to actually play through the whole map event, but I’m really excited to try it out with everyone today!
As a reward for playing on this new map, players unlock a new armor set, Mist Shard. It looks really nice, but if you need some more bling in your life, you’ll want to upgrade its skin to Blossoming Mist Shard, which looks similar, but with added crystal formations. I’ll drop some screenshots of each set down in the gallery below. My Mesmer definitely needs this!
Speaking of new gear, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the new legendary greatsword, Exordium. Quite honestly, when I heard there was a new legendary greatsword coming, I wasn’t that excited. The whole legendary crafting thing has always seemed to me like a lot of work for a fancy skin, and there is no shortage of fancy skins in Guild Wars 2 that are much more accessible. Plus, the legendary greatswords we’ve had for years are still, in my opinion, some of the best looking legendaries in the game.
Once I saw Exordium in action, though, I was actually really impressed. Of course it looks great while your character is idle. That’s no surprise. When drawn, it puts a cool effect on the character’s hands as they hold it. It’s different, but, again, nothing we hadn’t seen in other recent legendaries.
But what really makes this greatsword unique is the way it transforms when used. Each class that has access to greatsword actually has its own unique transformations that appear when you use it for specific skills. When a Mesmer throws it, it becomes a four pointed glaive. When a Reaper Necromancer spins with it, it becomes a scythe. It really has to be seen in action to be appreciated. ArenaNet explained that, lore-wise, it is made from crystal that can read your mind, and transform itself to adapt to your needs. I thought it was a nice nod to Glint, the crystal dragon from Guild Wars 1 who could read minds and see potential futures and who set in motion important events that are still unfolding.
I can’t wait to dig into everything new in this update, and I think that if you’ve enjoyed any of the living world content so far, you’ll want to get in and see this. Be watching for Tina’s follow-up next week, when she’ll discuss the amazing new story of War Eternal after the community’s had a chance to digest it all without being spoilered. I was absolutely floored by everything that happened, and personally I’m excited to read her take on it all!