Flameseeker Chronicles: Three better ways Guild Wars 2 could have wrapped up The Icebrood Saga

    
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It’s easy to be critical of a game when it lets us down. In some ways, it’s equally easy to fall into the trap of denying the flaws in a thing you love. As much as I love Guild Wars 2, I always want to be honest about its missteps, but I also want my criticism to be constructive when the opportunity arises.

If you read my last Flameseeker Chronicles, you know I was more than a little salty about the way The Icebrood Saga ended. In the wrap-up to that piece, I stated that “there are so many ways this ending could have been handled better.” Today, I want to expand on that a little and talk about what some of those ways are.

The Destroyer Saga

The prevailing theory from the fans is that the original plan for this story was to do a whole second saga, similar in size and scope to The Icebrood Saga, revolving around Primordus. This second saga, presumably originally slated to be a year-long affair, got condensed down, so the theory goes, into 10 short dragon response missions and one instanced world boss over the four chapters of Champions.

Assuming all of this conjecture is true, I think the most obvious way that Icebrood Saga could have done a better job of concluding is to actually finish telling the whole story. Even if there weren’t really plans for a Destroyer Saga, there were certainly a lot of dropped plot threads from The Icebrood Saga that never got resolved (I discussed several of these toward the end of my last column, so I won’t belabor that point). Some fans feel that ArenaNet committed to a story, and that they should see it through to its end, not wrap it up hastily with a half-baked ending because they decided one day that they would rather do an expansion.

This option may have produced a better ending to the story of The Icebrood Saga, but I’m not sure it’s what most players really wanted right now. This is more conjecture, but I think the decision-makers at ArenaNet and/or NCsoft thought they could get away with continuing Guild Wars 2’s development with seasonal content that was cheaper to produce (or at least had less upfront cost) and still make just as much money, but metrics started to show that players were drifting away under this model. Players want an expansion to rally around. Sagas, no matter how you dress them up and what promises you make, simply don’t generate the same level of hype.

Put a pin in it temporarily, come back to it later

So ArenaNet, and its customers, wanted to move on from The Icebrood Saga story. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the story needs to be hurriedly wrapped up, as it was. Another option would have been to hit pause on the current dragon threat and move on to a different crisis in a different place, such as Cantha, that pops up and becomes more urgent, with the implicit promise that we’ll eventually need to get back to the story that The Icebrood Saga started.

There are any number of reasons why the Primordus/Jormag threat would cease to be as imminent as it was. We’ve done this exact thing before. In Living World Season 3, Taimi invents a device that puts both Primordus and Jormag back to sleep using their opposing magical energies. Why did no one think to try this again? If putting them to sleep again feels too cheap, just say that the dragons are off fighting each other in the mists, or somewhere north of the Far Shiverpeaks, or anywhere where we can’t get to them and they (probably) won’t do any harm to anyone anyway. We did that with Kralkatorrik in Season 4; he showed up for a cameo at the end of Path of Fire, then caused some chaos in Amnoon in S4’s opening instance, then we just didn’t talk about him for a few months while we dealt with Joko.

Make the expansion about Primordus vs. Jormag

The conflict between Jormag and Primordus is an epic story and deserves to be told in a big way. If you want to do an expansion, why not make it about that? It’s not as if Living World stories haven’t led directly into expansions in the past. If that had happened, no one would have questioned it. To be fair, if ArenaNet really wanted to go to Cantha next, taking the dragon clash there would feel a bit contrived. Going to Cantha is a good move because nostalgia sells, but it would be hard to move the existing elder dragon fight there without it feeling forced.

More natural would be to do an expansion exploring the depths of Tyria. The dragon response missions revealed that the Deldrimor Dwarves are back, having chased the Destroyers, empowered by the awakening of their elder dragon, back to the surface of Tyria. Rather than wasting them on an instance where we barely interact with them, make them the centerpiece of this expansion. Tell us what they’ve been up to for the past couple of centuries. The Stone Summit Dwarves also showed up in Forging Steel, now minions of Primordus (another plot thread that went nowhere), so show us a renewed conflict between these two ancient enemy Dwarf factions.

Have the Asura rally to take back their lost subterranean city from the destroyers, Moria-style. Maybe have players discover a hidden civilization of Asura who were trapped in the depths for all of these years with no knowledge of or contact with the Asura who made it to the surface, similar to Rata Novus in Heart of Thorns, and can teach us a thing or two about fighting Destroyers.

I could go on about hypothetical Primordus-related plots, but the point is, there would have easily been plenty of material to turn the battle between the twin dragons of fire and ice into a full-blown expansion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a little sick of the “dragon minions are bad, let’s go kill them” storyline over and over too, but if you’re going to do it, do it right.

The ending of The Icebrood Saga was disappointing, but perhaps the most frustrating thing about it was how many other, better ways it could have ended. I’m sure others have their own ideas of better ways ArenaNet could have wrapped up The Icebrood Saga, and I’d love to hear them 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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Natalyia

The Saga seems to have been intended to be a very different thing than it ended up being. I think the state of Tyria is where they wanted it to be, but they just… did the Cliff’s Notes version of the story, and that’s a damn shame.

They should have acknowledged that it wasn’t going to work well, and changed course. Without knowing what End of Dragons is it’s hard to say what possibilities would have worked and what wouldn’t.

But one thing’s clear – they shouldn’t have done the climactic battle between Jormag and Primordus the way they did. Aurene should have done Prismatic Dragon Magic to keep him asleep while the Norn of Prophecy slew Jormag.

That leaves the final battle with Jormag for End of Dragons. Aurene can still be in a magicoma from the effort to absorb Jormag’s energy without awakening Primordus, and they could have begun End of Dragons the way they did the Eye of the North – earthquakes, and the Commander and the Asura and the Dwarves finishing him off deep beneath the earth only to realize whatever’s *now* going to be going on in Cantha is happening.

It’d have been more work for End of Dragons, but the abbreviated ending of the Dragon that began the whole arc so long ago in Eye of the North, with so little attention paid to everything that set up all along the way was disappointing, to say the least.

They’re counting on Cantha to make all that better. And it could. The fight which leads to Zhaitan’s fall wasn’t exactly an epic of great story or mechanics. If End of Dragons is phenomenal, with exciting new features and a stunning rendition of the beauties and horrors of Cantha then it might be worth it for everyone but the lore-obsessed.

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Bruno Brito

Honestly? That’s what happens when you tailor a game for “we’re ok if you do small things and log off” instead of giving you lateral things to do that are not part of the PvE/PvP/WvW gameplay loop. GW2 always had problems with retention, ever since it’s launch, because the game simply lack activities in general. I’m hoping that Cantha rectifies this problem, because it’s weird how a game that is known for it’s great seasonal content has almost no side-activities worth anything outside these specific seasons.

Why is SAB still seasonal? Why are custom PvP modes like snowball fights seasonal? Why is crafting still bad? There’s a lot they could do to improve player retention, and if they weren’t constrained by that, they would be able to tell better stories without rushing anything.

Raap
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Raap

The way ArenaNet/NCSoft handled this ‘saga’ left such a poor taste in my mouth as a fan of the franchise, that I’m unlikely to purchase the next expansion.

Why would I pay money to a company that expresses a complete lack of care for their own product or the player experience? What guarantees can they give that they won’t do this again in the future when they feel like dropping the ball?

And to my knowledge, they haven’t even acknowledged their mistakes here, which is unfortunately typical of ArenaNet…

This is a mistake of such a large magnitude for the franchise, that the only way to recover from it would be to formally retcon it, and have it be portrayed as “a vision of possible outcomes”, which would be conveniently easy to pull off, since all the “downhill” content was placed in instances accessed from the Eye of the North, the same location other “vision” content is played from.

And then lastly, simply bench the actual story for the future.