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.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!