Flameseeker Chronicles: Speculating on Guild Wars 2’s Cantha expansion features

What might Cantha bring ArenaNet's core MMORPG?

    
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I never thought I’d be saying this with a straight face, but yes, Guild Wars 2 is finally going to Cantha! This fan-favorite locale from the original Guild Wars’ Factions campaign has long been requested, but its inclusion has supposedly been complicated by Korean publisher NCSoft’s feelings about the mingling of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultural influences. This conflict resulted in the Canthan district of Divinity’s Reach becoming a literal hole in the ground at the last minute before the game launched.

Because of this, many players believed that we would never see Cantha again. Of course, other sources within ArenaNet have stated that the team simply hasn’t wanted to revisit Cantha, that they had other stories they wanted to tell first. In any case, I’m sure the current devs have their work cut out for them navigating cultural sensitivity in the upcoming expansion, but I’m glad they’re putting in the effort to finally give us this really pretty part of Tyria that is so unlike what we’ve seen before.

Of course, ArenaNet saw fit to give us only the tiniest tease of what’s to come — we literally got only a piece of concept art and a confirmation that it was attached to an expansion coming in the “distant future” — so that leaves plenty of room for us to speculate!

I do have to admit, my knowledge of the lore of the region isn’t as robust as I’d like, chiefly because I wasn’t really a fan of the original Guild Wars; it was Guild Wars 2 that won me over to the franchise. My highest-level classic character is about halfway through Prophecies, and I have played even less of the later campaigns. It just wasn’t my thing at the time. That said, I’m going through Factions for the first time right now, so be watching for a post or two about that in the near future.

Since my knowledge of Cantha’s lore is limited (but growing!), I would like to speculate in this week’s Flameseeker Chronicles about features ArenaNet could bring to the game in this upcoming expansion!

Elite specializations

In my opinion, the centerpiece of Guild Wars 2’s expansions is getting additional elite specializations. Love them or hate them, elite specs have transformed classes from being just OK in my book into some of my favorites. I suppose it’s possible ArenaNet might see fit to forego new elite specs in this expansion — they do cause a lot of balance headaches — but I would be extremely disappointed, and I know many others would be too.

The most obvious elite spec to add would be the Ritualist, one of the two professions that were exclusive to the original Factions campaign. Personally, as someone who loves summoner-type classes, I would love to see the Ritualist come back. The character I’m taking through Factions right now is a Ritualist, and it has a lot of interesting ideas that haven’t really made their way into Guild Wars 2. Of course, from the time of its announcement, the Revenant has been compared to the Ritualist, especially the more support-focused Renegade elite spec. As such, I think Revenant would be the perfect fit for a Ritualist elite spec, but Necromancer would also be a good fit, as both classes deal in manipulating the dead.

The Renegade has the summoning of buffing and debuffing spirits covered, but I think there are a lot more ways the folks at ArenaNet could go with translating this class for Guild Wars 2. GW2 Ritualists could gain access to the scepter or focus for ranged, support-focused casting, and have slots skills that bind spirits that attack enemies (like immobile Necromancer minions) and enchant their allies’ weapons (similar to Thief venoms). I would also like to see a Ritualist elite spec bring back the urn bundles — with mechanics like the Engineer’s kits or the Firebrand’s tomes — that replace the player’s weapon skills, with additional effects when unsummoned.

An East Asian-themed expansion would also be a great time to bring back the Monk, as they were always themed around Chinese Shaolin monks, even when they debuted in Prophecies. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having another dedicated healing spec around, as I love playing healers, but the ones that exist now don’t really strike my fancy. A lot of the Monk’s more protection-themed skills got rolled in the Guardian in Guild Wars 2, so they seem like a natural fit. Thief would also be an interesting choice, especially since they recently got an overhaul that introduced a lot more support options to them.

Thus far, ArenaNet has steered away from borrowing too heavily from using Guild Wars 1’s classes as elite specs (unless you count Chronomancer, which was an unused class concept from a scrapped GW1 campaign), so I wouldn’t expect either of these specs to actually be called “Ritualist” or “Monk,” but hopefully their essences will be preserved in whatever elite specs we do end up getting.

There are a lot of other interesting elite spec ideas out there, but I could go on for a whole post on those. Let me know in the comments if you want to read more about elite spec ideas!

Masteries

The other major addition I think of when it comes to Guild Wars 2 expansions is that of new masteries. And not just masteries that do something cool in one zone and then we forget about them, like so many that we have seen in some of the seasonal content — Thermal Propulsion, Koda’s Flame, Siren of Orr, and Raven Attunement, to name a few — but something that changes the whole way we play the game. Both gliders and mounts did that for the game, and I’m hoping this new expansion will as well.

This could come in the form of new mounts. Wooden Potatoes put out a great video on what kinds of mounts these could be, based purely on what we saw in Cantha in the time of Factions. I love the idea of riding around on a Luxon siege turtle, especially his suggestion for making it a multi-person mount that one player drives while other players fire attacks from its back. The recent Visions of the Past content has already had me wishing for my own tank to drive around, and siege turtle mounts would come pretty close. Rot Wallows are pretty cool as well, and had better at least be a Ranger pet if not a mount.

As for masteries that aren’t mount-centric, I have long thought that the area of the game that could really use some mastery assistance is underwater combat.

I said I wasn’t going to talk lore today, but let me give a little rationale for why I think underwater masteries make sense for this expansion. Cantha is currently divided from the rest of the world by the solidified Jade Sea, which we have had hints was returning to its original liquid state as the Jade Wind’s spell wears off. It seems reasonable to me that the reason we have heard from every Elder Dragon except for the unnamed Deep Sea Dragon is because it is trapped beneath the Jade Sea. The dragon may even be responsible for the weakening of the Jade Wind’s enchantment, which would mean that it has absorbed a lot of magic over the years, and is ready to come out fighting. I think this new threat will be what prompts the Canthan emperor to allow Tyrians back into his domain, to help investigate what is going on beneath the Jade Sea. Perhaps Canthans haven’t developed aqua breather technology, or perhaps they have simply heard of the Commander’s prowess as a dragonslayer/tamer. I could be totally wrong there, but that’s my theory for now.

As any Guild Wars 2 player will tell you, underwater combat is not exactly well-loved by most, but we have had a few quality-of-life tweaks to it in the last couple of years, possibly pointing to aquatic combat’s increased importance.

I think the first underwater mastery should involve enhancing aquatic movement. That could be an underwater mount — perhaps, as Wooden Potatoes mentions, a smaller sea turtle or a Saltspray Dragon — or just some skills our character can learn to help them move around underwater more quickly and easily.

Second, I would love to have a way to let my characters use their terrestrial weapons and skills underwater. I think some kind of mechanic that lets the player walk on the ocean floor — be that some kind of magical gravity spell, or just really heavy boots that are somehow heavier than the metal ones my Guardian is already wearing and only weigh you down when you put them on, because video game physics are weird — would go a long way to making underwater combat more bearable. Bind it to the special action skill, and let me toggle swimming and ocean floor walking at will, switching between terrestrial and aquatic weaponry as appropriate.

Group content

Raids have been a big selling point of Guild Wars 2’s other expansions, and I see no reason why this one will be any different in that regard. I would love to see a new set of legendary armor come with this expansion — even if there is little to no chance that I personally will ever take the time to craft any of it, as raiding isn’t my thing — but I think it’s more likely we will see more trinkets, or perhaps more back pieces (since capes are all the rage in Tyria these days).

Fractals have always been in a weird place, slowly trickling in with Living World updates. I wouldn’t expect to get any fractals at the launch of the Cantha expansion, but perhaps during Icebrood Saga and/or the months following the expansion.

Strike missions, however, are a new type of group content that have no history to extrapolate from. ArenaNet seems pretty all-in on strikes right now, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a handful of them come with this expansion. Similarly, I think there’s a good chance that we will see more visions of the past similar to what we saw with the last content drop. I have personally been really enjoying the 10-person dungeon feel that visions of the past have, and they would be a great way to explore the history of what has been going on in Cantha in the few hundred years since we last saw it.

Less likely possibilities

When I think of expansions to other MMOs, I’m always most excited by additional classes and races. The meta shakeup is always the most interesting time for me, and new races give me an excuse to experience a class, new or old, in a different way. That said, I don’t think we will be seeing either a new class or race in Guild Wars 2.

We already have nine classes, three for each armor weight, which seems like a good number to me. And why create a whole new class when you can add elite specs to an existing one? Elite specs are surely a lot less work, and, to me, can be just as interesting as a new class if done right. Plus, a new class would also need three new elite specs created all at once, unless the developers are OK with it always being behind on the number of options it has. It just doesn’t seem like a good use of developers’ time.

A new race seems like a long shot as well. The most likely candidate would seem to be the Tengu, as they were once considered for a playable race at launch, and their models already exist in the game, using the same animation rigs as the Charr. We know the Tengu were ousted from Cantha, so it’s plausible that, if Tyria were invited back to Cantha, they would want in too.

The problem, though, is that they would potentially require the addition of several new zones for leveling from 1 to 80, a whole lot of new voice acting recorded, and a way to work them into existing narratives. It’s conceivable that you could have Tengu start out at 80 and just be banned from all pre-Cantha story content, but that doesn’t seem likely to please anyone. Sorry, but as much as I would love to play a new race, it just doesn’t seem plausible either. I expect Tengu to show up in the story, though!

If you couldn’t tell, I’m really excited that Guild Wars 2 is getting another expansion after too long of an absence. I have been saying for over a year now that ArenaNet really needs to announce plans for a new expansion, however vague (and this announcement was about as vague as you can get), to restore player confidence and excitement. MMO players want to know that their game has a future, and we love to speculate about what that future might look like, as we have done today. I’m sure our readers have lots of ideas for expansion features that I haven’t thought of, so please, drop those 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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psytic

Id rather they just put skills in the game that you can earn through various bosses ala GW1 rather than full blown elite specs. They always have such a hard time balancing things in this game and undoubtedly they will release them op to encourage people to buy the new expac as they have done in the past if they go this route and leave every previous spec in the dirt.

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Ben Stone

I wont lie, a Ritualist class would probably sucker me back in. It was by far my favourite MMO class of all time. Summoning armies of ghost turrets to heal and DPS.

It definitely shouldn’t come back in the form of elite specs. It deserves its own unique weapon attacks.

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Nate Woodard

I was reading that they changed the mount skill bar and added it to the existing skill bar. Makes me think they might add some form of mounted combat.

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Ald

Call me old fashioned, but i’m always disappointed with expansions that don’t deliver new classes and races.

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Bruno Brito

The core classes need some look at. The last thing GW2 needs right now is more powercreep.

They could bring some core revamps from the ground up. Engineer suffers from a severe lack of identity ( skill-wise, not conceptually ), and Necro is still artificially screwed because it’s the class that counters their entire buff-debuff system.

And housing. For the love of god, Housing.

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Natalyia

They could do a new race (Tengu) that started in Cantha, and couldn’t do PoF or HoT story content. Allowing new Human characters to start in Cantha as well (given the xenophobic nature of the Empire, I’m not sure about Charr/Sylvari/Asura) would be possible as “start in Cantha” options.

Then, much like Factions was in GW1, there’s a point fairly early in the story where the disaster is such that help from abroad is needed and characters from before can join in.

That’d have the advantage (with or without Tengu, actually) of providing a new “ground zero” for everyone to start playing at in the expansion, while still letting people run their “mains” through the expansion too.

And it wouldn’t require re-recording every single voice line in the rest of the game for the new race. I just don’t see that happening.

They’d have to do something about the armor looks for existing armors – my guess is that they’d have to “map” all the armor in the game to a much smaller set of looks. Or just give the Tengu access to a variety cultural outfits, and not make armor visible at all for them. Re-doing every piece of armor in the game for a new race isn’t happening either.

New elite specs seem likely – and two of the underwater weapons (the spear and trident) already exist in the game and would be fine as land-weapons, although they’d need new animations.

Underwater content seems likely. I’m not sure we know the state of the Jade Sea in GW2 – we know *all* the Jade isn’t gone, there are chunks of it in the Priory, if nothing else. But it was implied in GW1 Factions that it was beginning to revert, and it’s been hundreds of years.

We know the Krait were fleeing from something under the water – suspicions are that Bubbles is that threat, and the Inquest were studying something in the Thaumanova Reactor – and no signs of Jade there… I don’t *think* an Elder Dragon can be trapped by anything humans can quarry, but could it have deepened Bubbles’ sleep?

The unique environment of the Jade Sea seems like something they’re just not going to be able to resist revisiting, so I’m gonna guess it’s not all gone.

An underwater mount (dolphin? sea turtle?) seems likely, and would be useful outside of Cantha. Another possibility is Canthan “clones” of the existing mounts – unless they’re going to keep doing the “include all past expansions with the new one” plan (which I think would be smart) they’ll need a way for players without PoF to get the existing mounts. Having mounts which duplicate the functionality of the existing mounts would be one option. Players with just Cantha would get those, players with PoF could use their Raptors or get the Canthan version and pick between the two for each “travel style”.

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Fenrir Wolf

I really hope they do something original with it.

If they just drag up the corpse of Factions as a nostalgia-fest, all it’ll lead to is the obnoxious old-guard claiming it as a victory before turning on it because it’s not all about white people (which is what happened with Path of Fire).

The reason Path of Fire was profitable was because it was accessible and friendly to casual players, it focused on fun new ideas (like the mounts) and it embraced the Masteries system as an alternative to gear grinds or adding more levels on top. Overall though the Living World Season 4 content was far better as content, story, and pretty much in every way.

I don’t know who they think they’re appealing to with this is what worries me.

If they think that it’ll make it more popular and profitable in China then I’m all for that. I can understand that it’s a big market and if it helps a game I love stay alive longer then I’m all for it even though I’m not especially interested in Cantha (Factions was a really awful pastiche of Asian tropes that felt a little bit racist, if I’m honest).

If they’re not going for China though then… Who? The Alt-Righters of the old-guard? It’s not white enough for them. I mean, sure, they’ll claim “going back to the old days” as a victory but then they’ll remember that the old days they actually wanted was Prophecies, so this’ll just make them irate.

The rest of the fans would likely be much more interested in further expansion on the Pact races. Icebrood is still the most fun I’ve had in Guild Wars 2 thus far, it took everything that was good about Living World Season 4 and built upon it. It’s bloody brilliant.

I’d love to see more sagas that follow the story of the dragons and expand upon the other races while they’re at it. I’d love to see something that focuses on the asura, skritt, dwarves, and Primordius more than I’d want Cantha.

From what I’ve seen that’s a pretty common want among the fans. Cantha only applies to the old-guard, it does nothing for the current fanbase of Guild Wars 2 and—like I said—the old-guard just wants Prophecies. They want white dudes and the supremacy of white dudes. Nothing would make them happy other than content focused solely around the Ascalonians committing genocide against the charr.

(And then probably the Elonians for good measure.)

Still, if this is a marketing move to make it more profitable in China then I say… Hey, go for it. I hope it works out. I want Guild Wars 2 to stay profitable. Otherwise my favourite game gets sunsetted and I get to sit around wondering if it’ll ever get a server emulator and that just doesn’t seem like a fun time.

Like I said, though, if it is an appeal to China then I hope they’re smart enough to focus on more original ideas. They could go to Cantha and leave the nostalgia-goggles in the past where they belong. They could do something really original instead, just using Cantha as a setting because no one really cares about Factions anyway.

Like I said, the whole thing was just an uncomfortable mess of racist Asian tropes so it’s not the best thing to pull from. ’07 was a different time for video games. I can’t imagine a cheap smorgasbord of Chinese tropes will appeal to Chinese gamers.

Basically… I just hope they know what they’re doing. I worry. I don’t want Heart of Thorns 2. Once was almost enough to kill Guild Wars 2, twice would deep-six it.

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Nate Woodard

How is Cantha racist? I’m so confused. Cliche? Yep. Definitely. Racist though? Nah.

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psytic

People turned on Path of Fire because it wasn’t about white people? Wait what when did that happen? Cantha is racist? Why would anyone like Cantha its tropey? Why did people like WoW Mists of Pandaria and why is Factions the most beloved expac of GW1? Agree to disagree on this whole post I suppose.

squirrelknight
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squirrelknight

As far as masteries go, I think that Anet needs to get creative. More mounts is safe, but doesn’t really introduce a new mechanic. I’ve been wondering if something akin to acting as a true commander might be interesting; leading armies, building bases, assigning troops to patrols and gathering resources. Those different elements could be different mastery trees. I’m not entirely sure how it would integrate in a multiplayer context, but it would certainly change things up with some RTS elements.

I don’t have too many opinions on elite specs, although I would really like to see pirate themed axe-wielding thieves, aka Marauders.

A good workaround for Tengu would be to integrate level-scaling across all zones, so that you could possibly start in lvl 80 zones, akin to ESO or what WoW is planning to do. They could then open up the player experience in a new Tengu starter zone and have a short personal story that moves between new/old zones. Their story could then take them to Cantha where it merges with all of the other players. Voice acting for the Living Story and the expansions would have to be integrated into the game, or I guess they could just make our Tengu hero a silent protagonist until later.

Also, they should add two new weapon types. Fist weapons and battleaxes!

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Fenrir Wolf

I’d love to see fist weapons!

I’ve long been an advocate of removing levels as well, there’s no point to them really. The systems they have in place for Hero Challenges and Masteries are much more compelling. I’d even go so far as to bloody just drop armour as well and give everyone the same stat groups that they could rotate around (based around exotics) because that’d make balancing so much easier.

I don’t think armour or levels really ever added anything of worth to Guild Wars 2. I got a bunch of exotic gear for my characters from karma vendors and never looked back, the bonuses beyond exotics are so tiny that it’s just not worth it. All it does is creating balancing headaches for the team and they’ve actually said as much! They’ve said that in interviews! The most stupid thing they ever did was add armour above the level of exotics.

If everyone’s 80, then anything below exotics is worthless anyway so I’d just toss out armour with exotics. Just have a stat-build system in there instead. Allow people to attribute points in some way that gives them the stats of different exotic sets and then balance around that. I’m sure that would alleviate so many of the problems with Guild Wars 2’s balancing in both PvE and PvP. Plus, it’d put everyone on an even playing field, including new players who’d be starting at an effective level 80 as well.

I think that they’d pretty much quadruple their playerbase if they embraced how casual their game is. Casual doesn’t mean a lack of challenge (jumping puzzles and certain content pieces can be bloody hard), what casual means is that there’s a lack of POINTLESS, soul-sucking grinds that don’t really get you anything other than bigger numbers which give balancing teams migraines.

They’d need to be brave and step away from their comfortable bubble of familiarity to do that though and I just don’t think they have it in them to try, even though I think it’d create greater long-term sustainability. I don’t know how much long-term sustainability Guild Wars 2 has right now but I can only imagine a marketing campaign about how they’re the first MMO to drop armour and level grinds would do wonders.

I mean, the L33T H4RDC0R3 aside (who’re only hardcore in that they have too much free time on their hands), no one really likes level or armour grinds. I’ve never talked to anyone in Guild Wars 2 who likes them, they’re just a necessary evil. The game would really be better off without either. Start all players off at what would effectively be level 80 with the ability to shift armour stats around and just bloody drop levels and armour. I think that’d bring them in customers hand over fist more than a Canthan expansion ever would.

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Nate Woodard

This I can totally agree with! I hate their armor system so much! It’s absolutely pointless! I would love a proper skill tree and assigning points to stats. They definitely need to embrace their fashion wars and stop with the pointless grind of gear that no one really cares about.

I think you’re right about how casual their game is, too! They know it, they just don’t realize how much more accessible their game could be with the removal of some of the useless systems they have in place.

I can also remember them talking early on about how they were thinking of doing away with levels in GW2 because of how pointless they were. It was the same in the original Guild Wars as well. Once you hit 20, which didn’t take very long once you were out of presearing, all you did was cap skills and do story completion. It was kind of like Minecraft looting. I really liked that system!

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I’m sure I’ll buy the expansion eventually, right now I just log in once a patch to unlock episodes; hell I’m only current up to the last Episode of Season 4. As an Edge Lord I tend to favor dark evil themed characters and unfortunately GW2 Reapers are always at the bottom of the Meta list so naturally I prefer playing WoW for my Blood Death Knight which I can tank with, and my Necromancer in ESO which I can tank with (although I’ve been screwing around with a Dragon Knight lately but DKs in ESO are rather Edge Lordy as well).

Any new content for GW2 is exciting but Asian themes really do nothing for me, there’s a reason why I always refer to that World of Warcraft expansion as Pandyland.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

It’ll be like it was with Path of Fire. We’ll get like 5-6 regions of Cantha. Newb Island, 3 parts of the city and a region or two each of the Jade Sea and the Kurzick Forest.

Part of what made GW1 so rad was that armor and weapons were earnable. In GW2 they’ll just put more dye channels on the cash shop stuff.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

I know, just what we need more dyes! I need another cyan blue dye, that’s just .01% brighter than my previous cyan blue dye.