Flameseeker Chronicles: First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s Icebrood Saga: Power

    
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2021 promises to be an exciting year for Guild Wars 2 fans, with an expansion looming on the horizon. Before we head to Cantha, though, we need to wrap up the story of the Icebrood Saga, which has been with us since the end of 2019. The second of four chapters in the Champions episode, Power marks the halfway point in the war between Primordus and Jormag over the face of Tyria. What do the new dragon response missions hold for us this time? Let’s dig into this new release and find out!

As you may have surmised from the trailer for Power, we end up fighting the Icebrood again over the course of this story. Who saw that coming? I’ll leave the exact details of how and why this happens for you to discover as you play. Suffice it to say that there are four new dragon response missions included with this release, versus three in the previous one, and the first two continue the theme of defending Tyria from the minions of Primordus, while the third and fourth pit the commander against minions of Jormag.

If you played the dragon response missions that came with Truce, you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect this time around. Each mission starts with a pre-event that involves evacuating civilians, killing dragon minions, and various other “click the thing”-type tasks. Completing these objectives rewards the same stat buffs as last time. A small but very welcome improvement that I noticed is that the pre-event now ends as soon as all of the objectives are completed instead of forcing players to wait out the timer after everything is done.

I felt that the latter two missions, which take place in Lake Doric and Snowden Drifts, were pretty on par with what I would expect given the last batch of DRMs. However, the first two, set in Ebonhawke and Thunderhead Peaks, had boss fights that felt especially long and drawn out. I was in one boss fight for well over half an hour, to the point where I legitimately wondered if I had encountered a similar bug to the one that affected some of the first batch of DRMs, which gave bosses the health of a raid boss. I sincerely hope that these fights will be tweaked in the coming weeks, preferably by the time it rolls out today (I am, of course, playing a beta build as I write this). It’s really sad to me that I legitimately don’t know if the fight I’m playing is bugged or just poorly balanced.

Either way, this isn’t the quality I’ve come to expect from ArenaNet in recent years. At least there are enough NPCs in the fight that the boss’s health never resets when you die, otherwise I would never have been able to finish the fight.

Back in November of last year, I wrote that I enjoyed dragon response missions largely because they were more casual, flexible group content with innovative storytelling. I even went so far as to defend that opinion after the community reacted poorly to DRMs (with some caveats, like the lack of rewards and some monotonous boss fights).

I have to say, though, that this release didn’t really grab me in the same way. For one, assuming that I didn’t hit a bug with the first couple of boss fights, the longer fights feel a lot less casual-friendly and more needlessly time consuming.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the in-action storytelling that I liked so much from Truce was sadly all but absent in Power. That’s not to say that absolutely nothing happened all chapter, but it felt even thinner than the very thin story of Truce. I’m not really sure what happened here. Did players give bad feedback over having to fight destroyers while trying to absorb dialog? Did ArenaNet run out of budget — or time, given this release’s proximity to the holidays — for voice acting? Were the writers told to stall for time while the Icebrood Saga grand finale and expansion are in the works?

As you have no doubt come to expect with modern Guild Wars 2 releases, this chapter also unlocks two more masteries in the dragonslayer line. The first is called Great Champion, and increases your stats while being aided by an allied faction and enhances dragon essence buffs. The second, called Blade of Prophecy, gives better drops from dragon minions if you hold the opposite dragon’s boon (i.e. if you played a Primordus DRM and immediately played a Jormag one).

If you are interested in unlocking new allies for DRMs, the mobilizing allies event is back again with this release. This time the Deldrimor Dwarves are up for recruitment — who better to help us fight Primordus? — and, if they are selected to join you in your mission, they will deploy vats of alchemical acid (a throwback to the original Guild Wars) that players can throw at enemies for a bunch of condition damage. If you are interested in unique rewards, be sure to grind out 75 tokens to exchange for the new infusion that makes characters take on the signature living stone look of the dwarves.

If infusions aren’t really your thing, but weapon skins are, you may be interested in the crimson dragon slayer set, unlockable by progressing the Dragon Slayer mastery track. It is a recolor of the original dragon slayer weapon skins from the Truce release, but this time in a fiery red-orange, perfect for melting your way through those pesky Icebrood.

Power could definitely be worse, but it’s far from stellar. It just doesn’t feel like we’re building to a big climactic elder dragon fight in just a couple of months. While it’s better than a pre-expansion content drought, it feels like a holding pattern, both in terms of actual playable content and in terms of story. I’m not mad that we’re revisiting old maps in instanced, repeatable story missions, but at the halfway mark of the “finale,” we’ve had very little actual movement in the story, and it has me worried that the Icebrood Saga, which, on the whole, has had some really interesting story beats, is going to have a rushed, “somebody pulled a ‘fix everything’ button out of thin air and now the dragons aren’t a threat anymore because plot magic” ending, just like the last time Jormag and Primordus were a threat in Season 3.

This story deserves an epic, well-crafted ending, not an anticlimax. Maybe ArenaNet will surprise me and pull it off.

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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EmberStar
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EmberStar

Dying instantly of a massive heart attack is better than being eaten alive in a barrel full of rabid shrews. It doesn’t make *either* actually “good.”

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I keep logging in to claim the account unlock for access to these missions, and I don’t even know why. I don’t have the expansion, don’t plan to get the expansion, and therefore probably won’t ever play them.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I’ve done the same since the start, but I do think I might play them, one day, on my next, better, PC.

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imayb1

I have the expansion but I don’t ever plan to do these missions. I guess I login for the unlocks just to keep my accounts clear of those “Buy Story Season X!” things.

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treehuggerhannah

I’m enjoying it so far. I’ve only done the first three missions (didn’t have time to start another before bed) but they were pretty fun.

The one boss took awhile but didn’t seem overly difficult, just time-consuming. I did a public instance and we had a good crowd of people working together, which I’m sure helped.

I thought the plot was fine. Not exactly unexpected, but it moved along the way it needed to.

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Matthäus Wey

The thing is, yes, it’s an improvement, but that’s probably because we were already at the bottom in terms of quality. It’s clearly better than what we’ve gotten in the last few months, but I’m not sure I’d call that decent if we were talking about any other of the big MMORPGs.

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Natalyia

I’m on the “this one was noticeably better than the last one” train here. Other than the Deldrimor fight, which I think is the one you had take forever, I think the other three were pretty fun, and the two Icebrood ones were notable in not feeling like I had no idea what was going on here issue.

The Deldrimor fight? There’s something wrong there. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but it really does feel like it’s bugged, or badly mis-balanced. The only way I felt like I was making any progress in it was to utterly ignore all the mechanics of the fight and just attack the monster. Every time I tried to do what it looked like I was supposed to be doing (stopping eggs from hatching, getting spears, using the crystals) it felt like things went all to heck.

And the story felt like it moved. More than I expected it to, actually. Last time felt very placeholdery. This one felt like it moved the story forward, if not in an unanticipated direction, but sooner than I thought they’d go there. Of the two chapters so far, I’m much happier with this one than the last.

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SmiteDoctor

It’s sad, reminds me of watching the slow death spiral of Trion.

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TomTurtle

I’ve had similar thoughts playing through this release.

I’m not fond of boss mechanics that interrupt your assault for a scripted event. Yet again, we hit a health percentage, wait for a mechanic, complete it and then rinse and repeat until the next health percentage. It can be done well, but in the case of this execution, it feels like I’m being held back from wrapping things up quickly.

The second Primordus boss fight felt much longer than it ought to be. It at least felt challenging while playing solo, but I can’t imagine how frustrating it’d be to do with a challenge active.

Story-wise, this actually made me feel a bit more excited rather than feeling apathetic as of late. It’s still moving at what at times feels like a slow pace, but that’s nothing new to the Living World content. They’re setting something interesting up, though I cannot accurately guess as to what exactly that will be.

I do like that we get to revisit some older story content, including moving things forward with two notable core factions. It makes the world feel more lived in by advancing the story of older content and not just what brand new area pops up.

Edit: I almost forgot, this patch also brought in some economic changes, particularly with more tradeable stat gear. This is very welcome as there ought to be a baseline exotic acquisition process that doesn’t vary wildly between stat types. It makes gear more accessible.