Flameseeker Chronicles: Breaking down Guild Wars 2’s End of Dragons expansion teaser trailer

    
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Flameseeker Chronicles: Breaking down Guild Wars 2’s End of Dragons expansion teaser trailer

Last, after a lot of build-up, during a stream dedicated to the 8th anniversary of the launch of Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet finally released its teaser trailer for the game’s third expansion, called End of Dragons. As we had already surmised from the single piece of concept art, this expansion is indeed going to be set in the long-requested Cantha region, which was the setting of the Factions campaign of the original Guild Wars.

Though it is only a minute long, this gorgeous cinematic packed a lot of information and hints at things to come, and for this week’s Flameseeker Chronicles, I wanted to break down everything we saw, and speculate on what it might mean. If you haven’t yet, take a look at the video below, and buckle up for a wild ride.

The trailer opens with a flyover of what is immediately recognizable as Shing Jea Island and Kaineng City. If you had any lingering doubts that this next expansion would be taking us to Cantha, they just evaporated. There are a lot of twinkly, magical lights bordering the screen and seemingly flying along with us. It reminds me a little of the times we’ve seen visions through Aurene’s eyes, but with a green glow instead of a purple crystal motif. Are we perhaps seeing through the eyes of another dragon or magical being of some kind?

We hear a voiceover, which we later learn to be Kuunavang (we will get to her in a minute), saying “This land… It’s a monument to mortal resilience. They built new lives upon the very thing that sought to end theirs.” On first watch through, my mind went immediately to the Jade Sea. Guild Wars: Factions players will recall that the Jade Wind — a magical explosion that was caused by the game’s primary antagonist, Shiro Tagachi — turned the sea surrounding Cantha to jade. The Luxon Armada, a formerly sea-faring nomadic people, adapted to this by building homes for themselves atop the frozen waves. This seems to fit the bill for what Kuunavang is talking about here.

Some Guild Wars 2 fans, like Wooden Potatoes in his excellent analysis videos, disagree with this theory, however. He, and many others, point out that the Jade Wind was more of a magical accident than a thing that sought end mortal existence. They point to the stone serpent-dragon-like structures that appear on the screen the moment after Kuunavang says the words “the very thing that sought to end theirs.” While most of the terrain featured in the trailer is familiar, these are not. Some believe that the Canthans have already faced and defeated a dragon threat, either the unnamed Deep Sea Dragon or one of its minions, and that the city has been rebuilt atop the remains of that dragon, which we are seeing here, perhaps harnessing the magical energy the creature released as it died to empower the city and/or its residents in some way. Perhaps the Tyrian races are only being invited to Cantha now because they are beginning to lose control of the magical energies (or the dragon itself). I suppose we will have to wait to find out.

Next, a second voice is heard in response to Kuunavang. “Mortals are little flames,” it says, “Brilliant, hot, then gone. Those who face eternity easily forget what a lifetime means. What an ending means.” It is at this point that we get out first glimpse of Kuunavang, snaking her way into view and saying, “You know it doesn’t have to be this way.” “No, Kuunavang,” the second voice responds, “it does. They need me.”

If you aren’t familiar with Kuunavang, just know that she was a non-elder dragon who appeared in the Factions story. Her design was quite different from the other dragons in Tyria, drawing inspiration more from East Asian dragon designs than Western ones, in keeping with the East Asian theme of the campaign. She is normally friendly toward humans, but during the Factions story she was corrupted by Shiro’s magic, forcing players to beat the corruption out of her and bring her back to her senses. And… that’s about all we know about her. Kuunavang and Glint, along with her Scions, are the only dragons we know of that aren’t all about destruction and gobbling up magic. We know that Glint was originally a champion of Kralkatorrik and was purified by the Forgotten, but we get no such backstory for Kuunavang or reason for her benevolence. It looks like that is set to change soon, as Kuunavang seems to be advocating for mortals to the unidentified voice, and this trailer makes it feel as if she will be a major character in the story of this new expansion.

Speaking of the second voice, who is that, exactly? A popular theory is that the voice belongs to the deep sea dragon. We know that we’re going to have to deal with this particular threat sooner or later, and, as we discussed recently, the addition of the underwater skimmer mount has a lot of players speculating that this next expansion will be much more heavily aquatic than previous entries. If Kuunavang is a (former?) minion of the sea dragon, this would also fit with established theories that the sea dragon resembles a sea serpent or aquatic hydra, given Kuunavang’s more serpentine form.

If this second voice is indeed the sea dragon, it would seem that, rather than being driven mad by absorbing the cocktail of magical energies as Kralkatorrik was, the sea dragon is in full control of its faculties, and genuinely believes that the cycle of the Elder Dragons rising, consuming the world and its magic, then resting again, is something that is necessary. “They need me” could refer to the other Elder Dragons; deep sea dragon wants to end the mortals to save its fellow dragons, half of whom have been slain by one particular mortal already. Perhaps dragons, being immortal, are more important in its eyes. Perhaps it believes that the mortal races are harming the world with their use of magic, and only the Elder Dragons can set things back into balance by destroying them.

If the idea that the second voice is the deep sea dragon sounds too straight forward and obvious, there are some other theories out there that might appeal to you more. Wooden Potatoes, for example, points back to the end of Season 4, to Kralkatorrik’s dying word “Mother.” He proposes that the second voice could be the dragon mother, come to avenge her fallen scions and defend the remaining three, perhaps even with the goal of setting the magical chaos caused by defeating two dragons (and replacing one) back into balance.

This would certainly be an interesting plot twist, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to me. For one, we know absolutely nothing about the Elder Dragons’ mother (The Eldest Dragon? The Elderer Dragon?) other than the fact that Kralkatorrik cries out to her as he dies. It seems like a better bet that we ArenaNet will have us face a threat we know exists rather than introduce a new one. I suppose Mother could be an ally — over the millenia her children have all forgotten their mission of helping the mortal races rather than destroying them or some such, and now she’s here to help us bring them to their senses — but the concept of a good, helpful Elder Dragon has already been done with Aurene, and a helpful dragon mother seems like it would just be a sudden one-up of a plot they spent years building.

Finally, we are treated to the logo for the new expansion, and its title, End of Dragons, along with the tagline “The cycle is reborn.” We’ll get to that in a minute, but what I want to talk about first is the logo itself. The logos for the base game and its two expansions have all shared a similar dragon motif, with slight alterations to represent Mordremoth and Kralkatorrik. This logo is no different, featuring a blue dragon with fins stylized like a tidal wave, but this logo has one major obvious difference: There is a second dragon in the negative space below the logo text, forming a sort of yin-yang of dragons. This lends further credence to the idea that this expansion will heavily feature the under sea dragon, but why are there two? Is one Kuunavang?

This seems unlikely; for one, we just saw Kuunavang a second before, and she doesn’t really resemble these twin dragons. Besides, the dragons in the logo have always been Elder Dragons. Is this another, possibly friendly, dragon that will ultimately replace the sea dragon, as we did with Aurene? Possibly. Perhaps we’re taking this too literally, and the logo is simply highlighting the dragon cycle mentioned in the tag line. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m sure we will have new information in the coming year, as ArenaNet has also confirmed a 2021 release date for End of Dragons.

Now, let’s get back to that title, End of Dragons. This implies that this expansion will, one way or another, involve dealing with the Elder Dragon race once and for all. We have known since Season 3 that killing all of the Elder Dragons will have disastrous consequences for all of Tyria, so that would seem to be off the table. And we still don’t know what will happen to Jormag in the end of the Ice Brood Saga; we assume we will have defeated Jormag by the end, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Is there a chance that Kuunavang holds the secret to purifying lesser dragons, as Glint was, so we can replace the Elder Dragons with mortal-friendly versions, as Aurene did? There really isn’t enough to speculate on at this time.

A lot of players have expressed concern that the End of Dragons could signal the end of Guild Wars 2, a game that has been heavily centered around the Elder Dragons since day one, with only brief detours between dragon hunts. “The cycle is reborn” could have a double meaning, both for the in-game cycle of dragon destruction and the real-world cycle of content development. The idea of Guild Wars 3 has been kicking around for quite a while now, and this seems like the kind of thing that would lead into that. I have mixed emotions about this, but if ArenaNet has something new and (hopefully) better up its sleeve, I’m willing to hear its pitch.

There was a lot to unpack in this one minute trailer, and I know others will have theories of their own to share down in the comments. I’m getting really excited for the future of this game, and I hope we don’t have to wait too long for more information!

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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Rob Hagaman

I’m excited for the new expansion; but I also think it will be the ending for Guild Wars 2. The game is dated, now. I might argue it was dated a lot faster than the original was. They put all their architecture on DX9, and the game has horrible multi-core support. It’s still more playable on a 4.5 GHz core than on a 2.5 8 core CPU. DX11 is out, and they’re working on DX12. It’s still a beautiful game, but the framework is showing its cracks.

The bigger problem is its storyline. The dragon thing is getting old. We’ve taken out three of these world baddies, now. It’s getting to be old hat for our characters. Now, it just feels like they have a wheel with the dragons on it they spin, and where it lands is what they focus on. “Well, it looks like this year it’s Jormag. Let’s get started!” If this next one isn’t the ending of it all, we still have Primordius to slog through. It’s why I think this will be the last expansion we get, and they will be going to GW3 after this. Besides, I think they will have pressure from upstairs(NCSoft) to do something more profitable, as this game hit its profitability ceiling a few years ago.

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treehuggerhannah

I could be ready for GW3. I don’t think GW2 is dead by any means, but when you consider that the Cantha expansion is due in 2021 and they would need time to actually develop the successor, the timing for the actual release of a potential GW3 might be pretty on target.

That said, I could also get behind GW2 continuing as-is but moving beyond the dragon plot. They’ve done a lot of things with it that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s been going on a long time and it would be fun to see them tread new ground. I don’t want the same plot to just continue indefinitely; if you know that they will just keep finding ways to prolong it, it’s going to be increasingly hard to make the story feel like it has any stakes. Plots are more meaningful if they have a beginning, middle, and end… not just an infinite span that never breaks the status quo.

Either way, I’m excited to see where things are headed for Tyria!

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Natalyia

It’s interesting. The second voice doesn’t feel like the antagonist to me – like TomTurtle it feels more like Kuunavang is pleading with it not to do something self-sacrificng.

The Deep Sea Dragon is one answer – one plausible reason we haven’t had to fight it is that it’s not an antagonist. That the Canthans managed what the Forgotten did not and gave it (or a scion of its that replaced it) a perspective on the Cycle akin to Aurene’s. It hasn’t been fighting the other Dragons because it knows what will happen – seems a bit odd that it hasn’t contacted us or Aurene over the years now, but…

On the other hand, Jormag hasn’t been *technically* lying to us – and it’s warning us about something that we’ll need it to face. It’s converting the Charr into more than the mindless Icebrood that have been bedeviling Holbrak for all these years, and if it was Primordous you’d think it would just say so – we know about that one. So if the enemy it’s warning us about is the Deep Sea Dragon, and we’re going to Cantha to face it, then who’s the other voice?

Lyssa (or at least one aspect of her) seems a possibility at least. She’s a duality of Lyss and Ilya, and goddess of illusions. Balthazaar used her mirror to deceive us, and she’s the only of the Six he didn’t curse at the end. Kormir comments on Lyssa having to be convinced to leave, and her belief it was futile. Maybe Lyss or Ilya stayed behind for her own reasons?

Other options would seem increasingly less plausible in existing lore. Could be someone entirely new. From her comments it seems that it’s someone immortal (or nearly so) that Kuunavang can’t stop from doing something that she’d very much rather they not. If it’s not an immortal, but just someone very wise, it would have to be someone Kuunavang respected enough not to force – the Empress?

Whatever the case, very much looking forward to returning to Cantha.

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Toy Clown

Kind of kicking myself for removing GW2 off my computer a few months back! I realized I hadn’t actually played it in years, only logging in for anniversary gifts and to download story chapters so I wouldn’t have to pay for them if I went back. Just never went back!

A while back they announced no more expansions. GW2’s gameplay also moved away from something I no longer enjoyed much, of which left me in crippling pain at some points with the crazy solo fights that were torturous on the wrists. When I was in tears from the pain, I knew I had to stop playing.

That’s what I battle with when I get excited about Cantha. I loved Luxon lore the most and even RPd a character that had Luxon roots, even if watered down through several generations! Then there’s Bubbles! Finally! (At least I think it is!)

Think I’m going to have to sadly walk away from this one.

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Natalyia

If it’s mechanical stress from the gameplay that’s the issue, you might want to look at this playlist of open-world PvE builds from WoodenPotatoes Open World PvE Builds

They’re all set up to be high “quality of life” builds for the various professions, and some of them (in my experience anyway) aren’t crazy clickfests. None of them rely on anything more than exotic gear.

Should be able to get a feel from how “active” the power usage is from the videos, so might be worth a look anyway.

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Toy Clown

Thank you for the link! I’ll go check it out.

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Bruno Brito

Sadly, most of them require elite specs. I loved the intent from WP, but it would be nice to get builds for those without xpacs too.

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Natalyia

It’ll be more work for some classes – but if you watch the first couple videos the principles behind what he’s doing there aren’t that tricksy. Focusing on maximizing critical chance, and leveraging synergies with the runes/sigils and the class skills/traits to get boons up as often as possible.

Then look at the core trait lines and weapons and leverage them. The elite spec gives you one new weapon, but he doesn’t always use it, and two of the three trait lines in the builds will be core ones, so you can just those as-is, and then pick one more from the base game.

It’d be easier to just go with the ones he’s done, but you can start there and get something similar for most of the professions.

I’ve messed with most of them (sooo many alts) but I generally end up doing some tweaks after playing a while.

One to try is the pistol/pistol thief with one pistol in the main hand slot of one weapon set, and one in the off-hand of the other weapon set. Then leverage the weapon-swap (which doesn’t change your skill bar when done that way) with something from this list:
https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Sigil#On_weapon_swap

I have the elite specs, but you can make a fine pistol/pistol thief without them and the various stealths give you some nice ability to run away if things go south.

But you can start with any of those and just pick something else instead of the third trait line and go from there.

miol
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miol

Rather than the “End of Dragons”-argument, my concern is more about playing their last trump card – Cantha!

That’s their last piece of content Anet can get many still really excited for, since Anet was never really capable of exciting a critical mass for something totally new in GW2!

Sure, they seem aware of that and are clearly piggybacking on Cantha to get as many players over to new pastures! But with their recorded history of trying new things, failing and backtracking again and again, doesn’t make me confident!

How many here would be excited about a Southsun Cove/Karka themed expansion? Maybe some, but certainly only a fraction of a fraction than for this coming exp!

Cantha and its transition after, is actually Anet’s last chance for a not zombie-like existence in the long run!

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Eamil

I would like to think that part of the reason for Icebrood Saga is so they could spend more time developing Cantha fully – by which I mean even after the entire Path of Fire patch cycle there are still large areas that were in GW1 that GW2 left entirely untouched.

I have a hard time putting that kind of faith in ANet, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

miol
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miol

Actually between the saga model and now the Cantha exp, it is also an example of backtracking on new things, as they wanted to get away of the exp model with sagas:


https://massivelyop.com/2019/09/04/guild-wars-2-studio-says-it-knows-that-theres-a-demand-for-an-expansion/


https://massivelyop.com/2019/09/14/guild-wars-2-talks-about-2v2-matches-and-swiss-tournaments-in-an-interview/

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Malcolm Swoboda

Is it so bad if they have this as the final expansion, then go to Seasons (continuing) and Sagas (to replace expansions) from then on, while developing an unconfirmed Guild Wars 3 for sometime? (Leaving things open for more expansions if they feel the need to, of course.) And end with a farewell Saga by mid or late 2020s? That’s a long run for a game and will likely cover at least nearly everything in the story that it needed to.

miol
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miol

Yes, because in your example there wouldn’t be by far enough money for the longest and most expensive type of game development!

The decline of income with sagas (and maybe only sporadic exps) after Cantha would be too steep to shoulder it (actually wasting what they got back by Cantha), forcing them to develop slower and slower, making milestones longer and longer to be able to reach, until you find yourself in a studio of only 10 employees you can afford and with that, multiplying development-time xx-fold, until you face reality!

^ But as I already mentioned, Anet backtracked from sagas towards expansions! And if you saw the quarterly reports and compare between saga and exp, you would know why!

As I said, they need a really smart plan on how to keep enough momentum after Cantha for a life beyond it! It’s their last good chance!

But your suggestion of going back once more to sagas would be even worse (than “zombie-like existence”) and actually break Anet’s neck trying that, like so many others, who underestimated the development of new MMOs and on how to finance it!

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Malcolm Swoboda

They’re not going to get the funds for a GW3 through GW2 alone. Seems more immaterial to me. They sell the case to highers to invest in it. For all we know, that’s all this expansion is for.

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Bruno Brito

May the new expansion bring housing and the old talent system with improvements.

But i’ll be happy with just housing.

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Furin

God if they made Guild Wars 3 happen, brought back the gw1 skill system and did whatever else they wanted I’d play that and nothing else for the next 10 years. But that’s asking for the impossible on top of the impossible.

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kowachi

First, that was a beautiful trailer, one of the best I’ve seen in a while. I hope this and the Steam release are a sign that A-Net might finally be working towards making a bigger push to market the game to a wider audience.

Second, after last year’s “restructuring”, I think GW3 is off the table. At least for now. So, my theory regarding the tagline “The Cycle is Reborn” is that it’s simply a reference to GW2 entering a new ‘era’ of storytelling that was hinted at when A-Net originally pitched the Icebrood Saga. Getting rid of the Elder Dragons (however they choose to do so) and focusing on a new storyline, possibly involving more magical and Mist-based shenanigans (judging from the very magicky vibes I got from the trailer), would probably fit in with that new ‘era’.

Either way, it’s starting to feel like A-Net may finally be righting the ship since the disaster that was 2019, and I am personally very excited for GW2 in the coming year(s).

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TomTurtle

I’d welcome moving on from the Elder Dragon plotline. The most interesting story beats, to me, have been focused on other threats who have much more down-to-earth motivations and personality. As flat as the story was, Guild Wars 1 had much more interesting antagonists compared to GW2.

I’m hesitant to believe that the second voice is the deep sea dragon and that this entity is against mortals. It sounds more like they want to help mortals, possibly even make a sacrifice to do so that Kuunavang doesn’t want to see happen to them. Though it really could go in a number of ways, and I imagine I’ll be fine with whatever the story turns out to be.

I’m just excited for Cantha and assumedly new elite specs, both of which I’ve been waiting for a while. I hope they include new human customization options like what they did with Path of Fire for Elonians.