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.
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!
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!
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.
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!