Flameseeker Chronicles: Possible futures for Guild Wars 2’s strikes and dragon response missions

    
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Guild Wars 2’s Icebrood Saga gave us a new type of endgame group content starting with its prologue chapter: Strike Missions. Each episode introduced one or more of these mini-raids, up until the release of Champions, which in turn introduced us to dragon response missions, which became the new formula for delivering both new instanced, repeatable content, and story for the leadup to the Saga’s finale.

The Icebrood Saga is now drawing to a close, with just a few short weeks until the finale of Champions. The End of Dragons expansion is now looming on the horizon, and while I’m thrilled that we’re getting a new expansion, and I’m suitably ready to move on from the Icebrood Saga storyline, I’ve been pondering what will be done with these two content categories when we move on to the next expansion. I can imagine three possible outcomes:

1. Nothing. Strikes and DRMs are an Icebrood Saga thing and they stay in their current state forever.
2. End of Dragons launches with strikes and DRMs sprinkled throughout.
3. DRMs and/or strikes return as a feature of future Living World releases.

For this week’s Flameseeker Chronicles, let’s examine each of these possibilities.

1. Strikes and DRMs are an Icebrood Saga thing and they stay in their current state forever

It would be perfectly acceptable if both strike missions and DRMs were remembered as a feature unique to The Icebrood Saga and no additional entries were planned. It would be disappointing, as I’ve actually grown to enjoy doing strikes with my guild and DRMs with random pickup groups (or solo), but it’s not like the ones we have are going away. And I have to admit, the number of strike missions we have right now is actually kind of convenient. With the six strikes we have now (not counting Forging Steel, which many players don’t consider a true strike mission), my guild is able to easily run through all of them, including time to teach and maybe wipe once or twice, in two hours. That seems like a nice sweet spot, and if there were any more, we would probably have to rotate some in and out each week rather than extend the length of strike night.

I’m sure that raiders and fractal fans would be happy to have developers freed up to work exclusively on their favorite mission types, which, while similar to strikes and DRMs, respectively, don’t necessarily fill the same niche. It’s not like creating a new category of content only to abandon it later would be out of character for ArenaNet; just look at old world story dungeons, for one.

2. End of Dragons launches with strikes and DRMs sprinkled throughout

Maybe they won’t be called dragon response missions, or even strike missions, but I think there’s a good possibility that The Icebrood Saga was used as a testbed for what new kind of content players might like to see in End of Dragons. The new expansion is bound to have a decent chunk of story content to play through, and I think it would be awesome if some of those instances could be repeatable with groups like dragon response missions. Similarly, while I’m sure the new expansion will receive new raids sooner or later, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the easier, more bite-sized strike mission format interspersed with the full length raids.

Building a whole new continent and adding strikes, DRMs, raids, and fractals to it, even assuming they roll out over a couple of years, seems like a daunting task. Unless ArenaNet’s resources have increased significantly with this expansion, adding new instances of all four types seems the least feasible of the three options.

I would be surprised to see strikes and DRMs completely replace raids and fractals, but I suppose this is also a possibility. They certainly seem faster and cheaper to create than full-blown raids or fractals with multiple difficulty tiers. However, I think the enduring popularity of fractals and raids, despite no new content in years (with the exception of the Sunqua fractal), shows that there is still significant player interest.

3. DRMs and/or strikes return as a feature of future Living World releases

It is also entirely possible that ArenaNet will think of these as two tiers of group content, one for expansions and one for living world releases. Much as expansions give us one big, epic storyline all at once with a pile of masteries to grind through while living world releases give us a smaller piece of a story and maybe one or two new masteries, perhaps expansions will be the vehicle for future raids and fractals, while living world episodes will continue to give us new strikes and DRMs. If this is the case, I doubt that ArenaNet will come out and announce it as such. More likely, it would launch End of Dragons without strikes, wait to see if players ask for more, and then bring it back with Season 6. Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder.

Something else?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that ArenaNet has something entirely different up its sleeve for End of Dragons. Maybe we will get endgame group content that won’t include strikes, DRMs, raids, or fractals at all, but rather something unlike anything we’ve seen before. I’m deep enough in speculation territory already, so I won’t offer any further conjecture on what that might be, but I’m sure the good folks at ArenaNet have ideas that they have never been able to bring to the game. Cantha is, after all, a whole new continent, very different from mainland Tyria, so it’s possible the devs will choose to create a very different endgame in keeping with that theme.

If you want my personal opinion, my preference would be option number two. I’ve been enjoying strike missions, with their raid-like gameplay with a smaller time commitment than actual raids. I’m not sure I prefer them to fractals, but the more I’ve played them, the more I’ve grown to like them. While they are challenging, they aren’t so difficult that they leave me exhausted at the end of my play session, or so hard that you can’t carry one or two group members who are new to their class role or the GW2 endgame in general. DRMs have similarly been a nice activity to jump into when I feel like playing but don’t have anything particular I want to do. The game will match me up with random players during the pre event — or if I’m playing at odd hours, it won’t find anyone, and that’s fine too.

That said, if I’m honest, I think that option number one is the most likely. As I said above, ArenaNet has a history of creating new content types and then abandoning them. We were warned at the start of this Saga that it would be highly experimental, and experimental content is, by definition, volatile. I don’t have ArenaNet’s metrics on this, but I suspect that if I did, they would show that most players have never stepped foot in a strike mission, or perhaps tried the first one or two and haven’t been back since. Maybe I’m wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me if ArenaNet felt its time were better spent elsewhere.

As always, this is all just speculation, and only time will tell what will actually happen. But if you had your druthers, what would you do with DRMs and strikes going forward? Are you ready to go back to old group content formats, or would you like to see more? Is your wish the same as what you predict ArenaNet will do? Let us know down in the comments!

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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TomTurtle

I like what DRMs have accomplished, not so much what they were. That they made story content relevant beyond the initial playthrough is great. That most of the DRM content is a bit of a slog is the bad part.

We’ve seen ArenaNet create more fun and interesting story content before so in the future it’d be nice to see them mix that together with the replayability of DRMs. It wouldn’t have to necessarily come in the standard form of what we’ve come to know DRMs as.

Also, that we’re seeing ArenaNet take a major story fight for this upcoming release and reuse it for a world boss event is promising. More of that please!

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Greaterdivinity

Strikes aren’t my thing, but please lord no more DRM’s. Having tried to play through some of the stories late, only to find that the DRM’s are largely abandoned and I’m doing them by myself, how pointlessly time-gated some of the stages are, and just how stupidly spongey some of the bosses are I genuinely hope we never see them as a main mode of content/story delivery again.

Strikes seem like they actually have more of a purpose, DRM’s feel…rather pointless, honestly. They don’t really add anything to the game world as they’re all accessible through a portal and just re-use existing areas from the open world. Even if I likely won’t ever start doing strikes, IMO they have a place within the game and are a good “lower-cost” replacement to raids for that crowd.