Flameseeker Chronicles: First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s Visions of the Past Steel and Fire

    
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Just three short months ago, ArenaNet teased us in its 2020 content preview for Guild Wars 2 with a new type of story content called Visions of the Past. At the time, it wasn’t clear what this was going to mean for the game, and after the last episode, we mused about how The Eye of the North might be connected to it. But today, all of those mysteries will be revealed, as Visions of the Past: Steel and Fire, releases, and players finally get to jump into the scrying pool and learn a little more about Ryland Steelcatcher.

A quick note before we dive into today’s update. I definitely saw ArenaNet’s expansion tease last week, and don’t worry – we’re excited to talk speculation soon! But even ArenaNet is calling the release window for the next expansion “the distant future,” so I would rather talk first about what’s new today. There will be plenty of time for musing on the expansion in the coming months!

First, let’s talk about the new 10-person instance. I was curious to see how this differed from a traditional strike mission. If strikes are an instanced version of a world boss, this is an instanced version of a meta event. I was excited to hear that it does not require 10 people to play like strike missions; it scales (to a point) to your party size the way an open world group event does. As with strikes, players can enter either with their prebuilt party, or in public mode that will automatically populate with other players entering the public version.

When players enter Steel and Fire, they will step into the role of a nameless, faceless Charr recently recruited to the renegade Steel Warband, and their character’s appearance will change to suit. The instance takes place during The Ice Brood Saga’s first chapter, Whisper in the Dark. The new recruits are tasked with helping the Steel Warband scout a route through the mountains. You will have a new experimental tank with you, operated by Ranoah Grindsteel, to help you out along the way. At any time, players can hop onboard the tank and use its gatling gun (protip: you can hold down 1 to fire continuously), grenade launchers, and harpoon gun. You will have to bring your own ammo, though, which can be found along the road or dropped from certain enemies.

Along the way, there is no shortage of enemy encounters, and, to keep things interesting, from time to time, other members of the Steel Warband will initiate a mini-event which, if passed, will cause them to help you out. You may be challenged by Cinder Steeltemper to slay more enemies than her, which will cause her to switch to her powerful flamethrower. Nicabar Steelweaver may ask you to gather enough ingredients within a time limit, which will grant players buffing potions. Or the sniper Vishen Steelshot may challenge players to a short jumping puzzle to reach an ideal vantage point, allowing them to use her sniper riffle for a time.

A surprise appearance is also made by the Stone Summit Dwarves, who players of the original Guild Wars may remember as a splinter group from the friendlier Deldrimor, who are long thought extinct. The Steel Warband takes a shortcut through their territory, and they are not happy to see us. Be sure that at least one of your party helps out Vishen, as her sniper shot is the only thing that can break the cannon Dwarves’ shields, and let the players who remain on the ground pick up their cannons. After the mission is over, players can investigate the fate of the Stone Summit Dwarves. Spoilers: Things have not been going well for them.

I don’t want to spoil any of the story that goes on in this instance, but, as you can imagine, it gives us some insight into Ryland and his Steel Warband, Bangar Ruinbringer, and, as teased in the trailer, the untimely death of Almora Soulkeeper.

The squad version of this instance also has a challenge mote, similar to ones previously seen in raids and fractals, that can be activated to up the difficulty and the reward. Challenges include making the mission fail when the tank is badly damaged, increasing the power and/or number of enemies along the way, and powering up the final boss. I like that players can tune each of these settings individually, rather than just having one switch that activates hard mode.

Speaking of rewards, upon completing the mission, players will be rewarded with a Steel Warband weapon. Players can upgrade it several times, changing its color and ultimately unlocking the flame jet version that the Steel Warband members use. The exception is the Flamesaw (which people crazy enough to go to PAX East 2020, like me, had the opportunity to have their photo taken with), which always has the flame jets, but the flames appear in different colors as it is upgraded.

Another big part of this update is to the Eye of the North. We got to briefly visit Aurene’s new digs at the very end of Shadow in the Ice, but with Steel and Fire, the Eye has become a new upgradable hub area, similar to Sun’s Refuge from Season 4. Players will be able to add crafting stations, vendors, bank access, and black lion traders to the Eye of the North. And yes, the old Xunlai Chests become bank access, in case you were wondering. The Asura Gate now serves as a launching point for strike missions, and can be upgraded to also take players to Lion’s Arch, each of the racial cities, the player’s home instance, and the Lion’s Arch raid hub. Now that players can jump into strikes from the Eye of the North, all strikes will be available to any player who owns Path of Fire, even if they don’t own the story chapter associated with the mission.

Speaking of strikes, with this release comes a new currency, called prophet shards and prophet crystals, each available in red, green, and blue, which can be turned in for pieces of ascended armor, as well as new cosmetic skins, such as the new Runic armor sets. Acquiring all of the pieces of the Runic set will unlock a matching cape. It’s a really cool set, which matches the recently introduced Illuminated Boreal weapon set perfectly, so be sure to check them all out in the gallery below!

To help you acquire these new currencies faster, there will be a new daily promoted strike mission, which will change daily and will yield bonus rewards when completed. It has never been more rewarding to jump into a strike mission!

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about those returning season 1 missions. I’ve been asking for a way to play season 1 over again since… well, since season 1; I actually missed a chunk of season 1, so I have always wanted to experience for myself the parts that I missed. I’m sad to say, though, that there is a bit less to these instances than I was hoping. I was hoping we would actually get to be introduced to characters like Rox, Braham, and Canach. Instead, it simply drops players into a instanced, soloified version of some of the dynamic events from season 1 with no setup, no backstory, nothing. It feels like the barest of effort was put into it, which is disappointing to say the least. I guess I should be grateful that we got anything at all, but I’m a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more effort put into making it something that will catch new players up to speed on everything that happened in season 1 and why they should care about these characters that are now a main part of the story.

ArenaNet’s representatives were tight-lipped as to whether or not there would be more Visions of the Past, either in the form of Steel and Fire or reliving the events of season 1. “We’re excited to see what players think of this release,” they said, “and will use that response to inform future content development plans.” Personally, I really liked this new format — it has the larger scale feel of a raid without the pressure to “get gud,” and with more variability in difficulty and group size — and I hope to see more in the future. If they bring back more season 1 content, I would really like more context to be given, even if it’s just a short video or even a Star Wars-style text crawl. Overall, though, I’m quite happy with this update. It’s light on story, but the new instance is fun, and I’m pleased with the convenience offered by the updated to the Eye of the North.

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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TomTurtle

I’m still irked that they’ve continued to increasingly try to push Strike Mission bosses and subsequently raiding. I got into GW2 originally looking forward to being free of that kind of thing. I just get annoyed whenever I see some kind of push towards that type of content.

The new Strike Mission challenge on the other hand is enjoyable and is a bit reminiscent of a dungeon experience but more carefree.

The LWS1 instances only remind me of how far the game has come from the game’s earlier days. And yes, they sorely lack context. Much of that context was given in limited-time open world content back in the day.

Overall, this is more content than I’d have expected in between story episodes. I like a bunch of what they’re doing here. I’m glad ArenaNet found a way to explore story beats that our characters would not personally be a part of.

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McGuffn

All or almost all the context to season one came after the fact in season 2 and that’s been in the game for years.

Playing through it as it happened it was just “Here’s the 2 races that have nothing to do with each other teaming up this month! For some reason.”

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Anton Mochalin

Seems like they didn’t care much about the actual story integrity then. I’m now playing S2 and there’s that moment when player character enters Scarlet’s house in Dry Top and says “I think this is all about Mordremoth” and that’s the first time the name Mordremoth is actually mentioned in the story and everyone else around replies “oh surely that’s Mordremoth” or “do you really think it’s Mordremoth” as if they all had known for long who Mordremoth is. Oh yeah, surely it’s Mordremoth, it’s perfectly clear, who else that could be? xD

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Greaterdivinity

Yeah. I kinda want some of the gear from the strikes with the new currency, but I have beyond zero interest in doing more strike BOSSES.

ArenaNet needs to understand that the reason for low raiding participation is less that it’s “hard” and more that people just didn’t come to GW2 for traditional raid bosses. A lot of us came to GW2 to get AWAY from that as a primary driver of content.

If they keep expanding with more strike MISSIONS I’ll be pleased as punch. IMO this was a good first one, and I hope they go this direction moving forward rather than just throwing more content at us that many have zero interest in.

Look at the context for why players are/aren’t engaging with something, not just the raw data. Data without context isn’t terribly meaningful.

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Greaterdivinity

Welp, story progress is borked and Anet is working on a fix (can’t launch instance after the first strike mission).

I actually dug the strike mission, though wish it was a bit shorter. I’d be super down if they made more “event” based strike missions moving forward. This one was fun, and much more enjoyable than the boss strikes IMO. Still no interest in “raiding”, even stripped down, but still very much interested in doing public events with randos.

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Greaterdivinity

They fixed it quickly which was nice but…

Is that it? The new strike (which is good IMO, but a bit long) and another like 10 minutes of story? Because like…I dunno, I was expecting more than like 30m-1h of “stuff to do”.

Not interested in farming strike bosses for the gear as I have little need of it and don’t like those diet-raids.

I don’t know why I was expecting more but I’m a bit taken aback at how tiny this particular update is. Oh well, time to put GW2 back on the shelf again for a while.

Was kinda excited about EOTN and progressing my own little zone, but between it being shared with everyone (apparently) and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much beyond adding some crafting tables I’m not sure why it exists at the moment. I’m sure/hopeful there are plans to expand it and make it meaningful, but it’s pretty underwhelming for me.

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Emiliano Lozada

Welcome to GW2. I don’t expect anything else out of NuAnet.

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Greaterdivinity

Follow up – There ARE 4 S1 instances, they just don’t make that obvious. Achieves show where (generally) to get the items needed to unlock them in EOTN so there’s that. Grabbed them all and will give it a spin later when I’ve got some time.

Wish they’d breadcrumb to it a bit, because there’s no indication that it exists in-game outside the achieves.

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McGuffn

Yesterday I read the write up about the new chests and color shards on the gw2 website and I think I walked away dumber.

Stop making everything so complicated. You can’t even explain it in a few paragraphs. ffs.