Flameseeker Chronicles: First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s ‘Balance’ chapter, launching today


Another month, another round of Dragon Response Missions. Balance is part three of four chapters in Guild Wars 2’s Icebrood Saga, and things are starting to heat up (no conflagration dragon pun intended). With two elder dragons actively assaulting Tyria, and Aurene, her champion, and their ever-growing alliance caught in the middle, the stakes have never been higher!

If you have played the last couple of chapters, nothing in this release will blow your mind; everything here is the same old DRM formula. There is a pre-event with two different “click the things” objectives and one “defeat the things” objective that give everyone in the party buffs upon completions. After that, we must fight our way through some dragon minions and defeat a boss. This chapter contains only three dragon response missions, unlike the last chapter, which gave us four, but there was a pleasant surprise mixed in as well, which we will get to in a moment.

The first mission takes place in Caledon Forest, starting zone of the Sylvari. Canach radios he will meet us there. Once we mop up the initial assault of Icebrood, we are greeted by a surprisingly squeaky Tengu misfit named Kalidris Sparrowhawk, who begs for our help in stopping the Icebrood assaulting the wall surrounding the Dominion of Winds.

Sadly, we don’t get to enter the mysterious domain of the Tengu in this mission (not that I was really expecting to, since DRMs seem to have been invented as a way to create content using existing maps, not create new ones), but we do get a little insight into Tengu culture. Even though she was only around for the one mission, I thought that Kalidris was a fun and memorable character, and I’m hoping that we get to spend more quality time with her in the future. Surely the Tengu will be involved in End of Dragons, an expansion that revolves around their homeland, right?

Before we move on to the next DRM, however, there is a neat non-DRM story instance, the most extensive that we’ve seen in the Champions chapters. While we were busy in Caledon, Braham declared his intent to Aurene to go with the Spirits of the Wild to seek out Primordus. Aurene shows us a vision from Braham’s perspective, putting the player into his boots, in much the same way as the Forging Steel instance does with the Iron Legion Charr.

Since we are controlling him, Braham uses the skills your character normally has. It’s a little strange seeing Braham, who has always been depicted using Guardian skills with his signature mace and shield, suddenly fighting like a Mesmer or Necromancer or whatever class your character of choice may be, but it works. He also has a neat special action skill for the duration of the instance that allows him to shapeshift in and out of wolf form, a souped-up version of the Norn “Become the Wolf” racial Elite skill. I won’t spoil how this story instance ends, but I will say this: You know that story holding pattern I’ve been frustrated by lately? Well, we’re finally moving somewhere interesting again!

After this instance, we pick back up with Dragon Response Missions in Bloodtide Coast. The Olmakhan have been invited to rejoin the United Legions, with our old friend Rox representing her newfound family. And, wouldn’t you know it, their meeting in Bloodtide Coast is rudely interrupted by the Frost Legion and Icebrood. The boss in this mission is my favorite so far; they create ice walls to shield themselves, and the player must use the cannons on a Lionguard ship that is stranded in the ice nearby to break them down to continue the fight, while also fending off the smaller Icebrood.

I hope you haven’t had your fill of recruiting Charr allies at this point because next we’re headed to Fireheart Rise to help Rytlock Brimstone and Efram Greetsglory convince members of the old Flame Legion to join with the United Legions. In a twist of irony, they are attacked by destroyers, and end up literally fighting fire with fire.

And when the Icebrood join the party? That’s when things get really interesting.

As for rewards, players will be able to earn Tengu Support Marks during their recruitment event, starting today, and exchange them for new reskinned Tengu weapons, which are black with red glowing orbs (very edgy), as opposed to the gold-with-blue-orbs Tengu Echo weapons that were ported over from the original Guild Wars in No Quarter. As always, these rewards will be available for support marks during the recruitment event and will continue to be available on the Tyrian Defense Seal vendor afterwards, support marks being the slightly easier currency to acquire.

Next month, look forward to unlocking the Skritt Swarmmind Scepter skin. I assume that means that the Skritt are the next recruitment race? We reached out to ArenaNet for confirmation and they declined to confirm or deny any upcoming allies, but a Skritt-themed weapon would certainly seem to point in that direction. Either way, this scepter looks like something straight out of Star Wars, so my Asura Elementalist will likely be chasing it. ArenaNet also pointed us toward a new guild hall decoration that is a giant sheet of ice, which will no doubt be useful for bridging pesky gaps that make navigating guild halls annoying sometimes. We’ve got a gallery of all of these rewards here:

The first two dragon response mission releases were hit-and-miss. Most players generally weren’t happy with Truce, and I wasn’t impressed with Power’s missions when I previewed them solo. I have to admit, though, while the story in Power was weak, the second round of missions were a lot more fun and interesting in groups with challenge motes turned on, so I will refrain from passing too much judgement on these until I can play them on the live server. That said, I feel that ArenaNet has continued to take feedback from the first two missions into account when developing and tweaking these, and I like what I’ve seen.

Story-wise, I feel like we’re finally getting somewhere, and I like the direction. Just two more months until this saga of Guild Wars 2 wraps up. I’m still a little worried that the last chapter will end abruptly or unsatisfyingly, but this chapter gives me a little more hope. Until then, I will be on the edge of my seat, waiting for the final chapter!

The Icebrood Saga in review

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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