Flameseeker Chronicles: The End of Dragons reveal didn’t wow people – and that’s OK

    
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We finally have our first real peek at the features and story of Guild Wars 2’s third expansion, End of Dragons. It has been a long time since this game got a proper expansion, and hopes were high for what was in store. Could we be getting a new class? A new race? Housing? A lead up to Guild Wars 3? It turns out, unless ArenaNet is holding out on us for some reason, we’re getting none of these.

What we are getting is far more mundane and predictable. There are, of course, nine new elite specializations — one for each class — with the usual trappings of a new twist on existing classes and a new weapon for each. We’re getting the two-seater siege turtle mount, a higher tech version of the Luxon siege weapons first seen in Guild Wars: Factions that allows one player to drive and another to act as a gunner. There’s fishing and skiffs, which weren’t really expounded upon, but we know that fishing will be something we get to do world-wide, not just in Cantha. A new set of legendary weapons is in the works, all themed around Aurene and her prismatic crystal. And finally, several new strike missions are on the way, with new challenge modes in tow.

I don’t think folks came away from this announcement feeling totally blown away by what they saw, no matter how excited they may be for the expansion itself. For today’s Flameseeker Chronicles, I would like to break down each of the expansion’s major features and talk about why it’s OK that none of it wowed us.

Elite specializations

Honestly, elite specs are the thing that get me the most excited for a Guild Wars 2 expansion. I love getting to know new ways of playing my characters. The only elite spec we got a preview of was the Virtuoso, the cloneless, magical dagger-throwing Mesmer. For a brief moment when its name was announced, I thought perhaps we were finally getting bards in GW2, but sadly there doesn’t seem to be any musical theming here. In any case, it looks like a nice, power DPS-focused spec for Mesmers who are tired of being asked to run support and want more range than the mirage provides.

I’m excited to see what else ArenaNet has in store for us in this department, and it sounds like we’ll be getting more elite spec info every couple of weeks.

Siege turtles

Sieging two-seat cannon turtles! Sieging two-seat cannon turtles! New mounts in a half-shell. Turtle power!

Ahem. Sorry.

As someone who often plays in duos with my wife or a friend, I think this is a neat idea. It plays similarly to the Warthog in Halo; one player drives, while the other one shoots enemies from the gun turret mounted to the back. When traveling together, there’s no chance of one of you getting knocked off your mount by a swarm of mobs, while the other person runs on ahead, oblivious, then has to circle back around to save their friend.

The immediate question is, why would my friend and I fight from the back of our turtle rather than having both of us dismount and presumably do way more damage? I guess it’s cool that we can finally fight without dismounting, but I can’t think of a lot of situations in which that would be useful… except for WvW. Will we be seeing siege turtles in the battle for the Mists? It would make sense, since they were originally used in Factions’ much loved PvP campaign. If so, this could potentially shake up a lot of WvW strategies, and make a lot of WvWers grumpy if they have to grind PvE masteries. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Fishing and skiffs

I know that most MMO players are tired of the weird fixation that developers seem to have with fishing, but I have to admit that I actually kind of like fishing in various MMOs. It’s a nice time killer while you’re waiting for a queue or just want something low-key to do while you chat with friends and guildies. We weren’t really given a lot of information about what fish would be used for, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a lot more ascended cooking recipes inbound.

Player boats are kind of an odd addition. They don’t seem that different from skimmers, other than, like siege turtles, you can bring your friends along for the ride. Again, we didn’t get a ton of information on these, but given how interesting ArenaNet managed to make mounts, normally one of the most mundane MMO features, I’m betting it has some tricks up its sleeve that we will find out about later.

Legendaries

The generation 3 legendary weapon announcement was both disappointing and understandable. It was disappointing because it was revealed that the entire third generation of legendaries, rather than being a widely varied set, each weapon with its own lore, as previous legendary generations were, would be one cohesive set, themed around Aurene. Perhaps some might prefer the more consistent designs, but the first and second generation legendaries were each so unique and detailed, it’s a shame that this set seems so unimaginative. A lot of players have been saying that it feels no more special than a black lion ticket set, and I kind of have to agree.

That said, ArenaNet struggled has to get previous legendary sets out in a timely fashion, even having to place the last set on hold for a while, and honestly, there are a lot of other areas of the game I would rather ArenaNet focused on than flashy, high-end weapons for the super rich to show off.

Strikes

One of the most surprising omissions from this reveal was the lack of any mention of raids. Raids were a tentpole feature of Guild Wars 2’s first two expansions, so to see them totally ignored was a little surprising. Instead, it was revealed that a number of the instanced encounters from the End of Dragons storyline would be converted into strike missions, the more bite-sized ten-person instanced encounters first introduced in The Icebrood Saga. These strikes also bring with them new challenge modes, which will activate new mechanics for players to contend with.

Honestly, I think this is a good idea. Personally, over the last year, I’ve spent way more time in strikes than I have in raids. They seem like a much better fit for the majority of the Guild Wars 2 player base. They are challenging, but not too challenging, and they respect your time a lot more; they don’t drag on for hours, there aren’t any meaningless trash pulls. There’s just a boss fight, and that’s that. You can do one and be done, or you can do the whole gambit and make a night out of it. And having them be souped-up versions of boss encounters pulled from the expansion story will mean that no one will feel like they’re missing out if they prefer not to participate in group content. Hopefully challenge modes will be difficult enough to satisfy the players who were really hoping for more challenging raid content like that of Heart of Thorns.

None of these features will blow anyone’s mind. There’s nothing huge or particularly ambitious. It’s just another expansion, another iteration on what came before. And I’m OK with that. Would I rather we had gotten something bigger and more exciting? Of course, but ArenaNet has been flagging of late. It has lost a lot of staff, and it has struggled to find a direction as a company. From a failed attempt at a mobile game to the disappointing Icebrood Saga, it just doesn’t always seem like ArenaNet has direction. What it needs right now is a win. A spectacular win would be great, but I’m fine with going for a safe bet that will result in an easy win that will restore player confidence in this game.

And I do think that this expansion has the potential to be a win for GW2. There’s nothing particularly mind-blowing about this expansion, sure, but that’s because it’s sticking to what worked in the past. There are some disappointments and “meh” features in there, but for the most part, it’s more of the same stuff that players loved about previous expansions, and there is something comforting about more of the same. I can still get excited without being wowed.

Also, Cantha has become something of a meme around the Guild Wars community because its fans so ravenously want to return there in the sequel, so, in a way, the most exciting feature of End of Dragons might end up being exploring its setting and experiencing its story. What we’ve seen of Cantha so far looks absolutely gorgeous. I’m interested to see what has been going on in this distant part of the world after all these years, and this dragon jade tech intrigues the sci-fi fan in me.

ArenaNet doesn’t need to come out and wow us. It just needs to stay the course, stick to what it does well, and make End of Dragons a good expansion. So far, I have no reason to doubt that that’s what we’re getting.

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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SmiteDoctor

Let’s call it what it is, Gen 3 Leg Weapons are just a flashier version of a set of Black Lion Ticket Weapons.

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styopa

IMO they have what, SEVEN MONTHS to sustain interest.
I’m not sure why everyone thought they were going to infodump everything in July 2021 for a game not coming out until – supposedly – Feb 2022?

I certainly wouldn’t.
Sure, there’s an argument for leading with your best stuff, but if the point is to SELL GAMES you want to gin up the most interest in Dec/Jan, not July.

For that matter, man, missing the xmas season with a b2p title (ie a much better gift than a sub-mmo) is a dumb, dumb choice.

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Bruno Brito

I’m going to die on this hill:

Elite specs were the worst idea they had, and i AM thinking about the taxi when i say this. Original concept was that all classes could use all weapons in their way, and i think they should go back to that. Tying weapons that could literally improve versatility of classes into elite specs that are literally the opposite of versatility is something i detest.

Now, they dug themselves this grave where every xpac, they need to make a new e-spec that fulfills a role that might or might not need fulfilling ( Spellbreaker ). They put a spec that may interact terribly with your core class mechanics ( Holosmith/Soulbeast ), it might be riddled with bugs or bad features ( Scourge/Deadeye ) , or it might be disgustingly oppressive and terrible design all around ( Scourge/Daredevil ).

Anedoctally speaking, i was playing the 3v3 arenas these days because that’s the competitive mode right now, and jesus fucking christ, who the hell designed this. It’s literally Scourge Wars 2. And the 2 is quite fitting, since you go 2 Scourges and a class that makes the Scourges immortal, like Guardian outputting a lot of Aegis and Protection which are two boons that Necros have little uptime on, and makes them absolute imortals.

GW2 balance is inexistent anyway so moot point, but man, i would like they at least gave the weapons to core too. Keep the specs sure, but allow the original design of all weapons to all classes to exist. It’ll make core specs interesting again.

As of right now, here are the classes status in comparison to their e-specs:

Warrior – Core is on similar grounds to Berserker and Spellbreaker. Full Counter is amazing, but losing the level 3 adrenaline hurts the Warrior’s sustain with the adrenaline traits. Core warrior is way more tanky than Berserker and Spellbreaker, which is the case for most of the core classes.

Ranger – Soulbeast is an absolute upgrade. There exists Core duelist specs, but losing Soulbeast and the way that the Ranger BM talents function with Soulbeast is just no feasible. Also, having Smokescale and Jacaranda, Gazelle and other paid beasts to merge makes a lot of the content trivial. Druid right now is really weak, it offers nothing besides healing, and a Core Ranger will have a better time.

Necromancer – Fuck Scourge. Reaper is ok. Necros will keep being the most oppressive class in GW2 as long as the boon-condition system is designed the way it is. That won’t change. Scourge’s area denial is ungodly, their damage output is ridiculous and they’re still tanky ( albeit Core Necro is the tankiest of the three specs, it’s also the most selfish ). There’s no reason for you not to be a Scourge.

Engineer – Holo is better than Core. Engineer always suffered from what i call the “Chopin Syndrome” where you have to play the piano-like style of kits to achieve what other classes can do. While this was acceptable on release, because Engis could do EVERYTHING, the advent of elite specs made Core completely obsolete. You literally go Holo and do everything a Core does, easier. Scrapper is also busted right now with the quickness build. Both elite specs are really powerful, with Scrapper pulling ahead because of the support it gives.

Thief – Daredevil is literally a improvement upon Core. You lose nothing and you get three dodges. Play Daredevil.

Mesmer – I can’t speak much for Mesmers, beside the fact that both elites completely made Core obsolete. Mesmers seem to be the only class right now that didn’t find a single use for their Core tree. Everything is done by Chrono or Mirage. At least that’s the notion i get from their forums, lol. Chrono and Mirage are really strong, tho.

Revenant – Don’t play them, Can’t tell.

Guardian – Ah, the “favourite Anet class”, as people put it. Guardians are the strongest class in the game, if you believe that the most time being viable is what makes for strength. All Guardian specs are useful, all of them. Most of them change playstyle, Dragonhunter gives you more damage, Core gives you more tankiness and sustain, Firebrand gives you more support, albeit i can’t speak much for FBs, i never played them.

Guards right now have like 3 core builds, which is already insane. And unlike Necros who have staple builds but that suffer through elite specs, Core Guardians are actually meta and rarely fall off. It’s probably a design thing: On a game which values active defense, outputting blocks, aegis, heals and boons seems pretty good, independently of the numbers.

Elementalist – I don’t play Ele but Tempest and Weaver are just better. Again, you lose nothing by taking them, and you get new mechanics.

—————————

Now that my rant is finished, i’ll say i agree with the overall sentiment of the thread…to an extent. At the end of the day, i’m a customer and if the product doesn’t satisfy me, i won’t buy it. I hope it has good stuff and it improves the core gameplay loop because dear god, i wasn’t having fun this week.

Anyway, thanks for coming to my TED-talk.

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styopa

I can comment on Rev – I openworld on a Ren/Herald that I can flip back and forth depending if the need is DPS or “buffs for everyone!” and …it’s crazy. I hate to invite the nerfbat but I feel like I’m playing City of Heroes while everyone else is playing GW. Ren dps is not deadeye, but it’s damned good and stays high. And if you invest the what, 30g in the Sup Rune of Tormenting, it’s kind of…unkillable.

I don’t think they’re that dominant in pvp (are condi builds ever?) but in pve it’s nuts.

I used to main Engy but scrapper and holo make core meaningless. I like scrapper, because it’s so bloody durable, but holo aoe dps (if one doesn’t mind the fiddlyness of the forge) is unquestionable. I tend to run scrapper because open world, drms, etc that extra 20% dps doesn’t matter that much and I can’t count on heals/cleanse from anyone in a PUG.
But even as much fun as their elites are, I still do most of my play on rev because it’s unkillable (I’m always missing dodges as I’m focused on rotation too much), and exp with Herald I can feel like I’m really helping everyone else. Ren for solo and because anyone playing a melee-only class in GW2 that’s NOT immortal is a masochist.

Amusingly an additional challenge is Revenants utility abilities seem to shuffle at random (whups, 7 isn’t that anymore, now it’s 8!) which adds a little excitment when you didn’t mean to power jump at that moment…note that if you go into the ‘help/report a bug’ Revenant is still listed under “Beta features” lol….

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Bruno Brito

I’m a big fan of LI immortal builds. Anything that allows me to facetank champions while drawing is a winner in my book, and for that, i have to tank Soldier/Cleric gear. Guardians, Warriors, Necros are all fun on that regard.

There is a pvp player, Vallun, who made some core starter builds ( not for all classes, some are just too weak as core ), but Thief, Warrior, Guard, Necro and Rev had some.

I really need to buy the xpacs.

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Axetwin .

What you said about Mesmers also applies to Revenant. That class was designed from the ground up around having an Elite Spec to choose from.

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Matt Cramp

I think they backed themselves into a corner with elite specs, but I’m not sure how they could have expanded on classes in a better way. Having a package that combines theme, new playstyle and mechanics changes that lets you market the expansion changes as a coherent unit is a solid one, in theory, even though it’s proved just as hard to balance in practice.

The way other games deal with this is by upping the level cap and letting every skill that doesn’t quite fit with the new playstyle fall into irrelevance, but ArenaNet can’t do that either without upsetting people.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

Mundane and predictable works for XIV’s patches and expansions, hopefully works out for GW2 as well.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

They’ve always had a hook for a new campaign or expansion. Nightfall gave us heroes. Gliders in HoT. Mounts in PoF. The griffons were a surprise. Hopefully there’s a few surprises there for Cantha.

I’m just glad I can play the beta to see if I want to go back to GW2.

The legendaries were the most shocking thing for me. They instantly reminded me of the achievement track weapons. All of them being the same theme was also a headscratcher. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Back in the day they pumped out cash shop skins like it WAS the content and not the monetary support for the actual game play content. Why are legendaries so tough to do in comparison to all the cash shop skins that seemed like an endless stream pouring forth from the artists and designers?

I’d really like to see them get back to doing expansions every other year at least. The living world, chapters, and stories that take the better part of 2 years ain’t it.

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Ewan Cuthbertson

People weren’t that excited with the idea of Gliders when they were announced either.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

For sure. My point is they haven’t really shown us a new game play hook. It’s been all bits of old stuff. A new mount, verticality in Echovald etc. Fishing and skiffs are cool, but those seem like side activities.

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Vanquesse V

I think elite specs was a terrible direction for the game. I mostly play solo so the mount is pointless. There no way I’m grinding for a legendary. Strikes hold no interest for me. Unless they manage to make fishing succeed where all the other trade skills failed then that’s a flop for me as well.

I hope the zones and story are great, but in terms of keystone features for an expansion I don’t think they could have catered less to me personally.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I still haven’t ever gotten the last expansion. Between “half my characters can’t complete the jumping puzzles because whoever builds them doesn’t seem to remember Charr exist” and just the ludicrous limitations on bag space… I just kind of stopped caring. From the little bit of attention I have been paying, it seems like a ton of the stuff they *have* added is stuff I’d never touch anyway. Team only dungeons and “fractals?” Yeah, no. PVP? Not even a little. Raids? I’d rather gouge my own eyes out with a key. Grinding for materials to craft “legendary” weapons? Definitely somewhere between PVP and Raids on my NOPE scale.

I like the character designs, I like the world, the combat was mostly sort of “okay” the last time I tried and at the level my characters are at. So I guess I’m still in the “bitter Ex” phase, where I used to like it, I sort of half want a reason to like it again, but thinking about it mostly just makes me upset.

( OnO )

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Vanquesse V

If this one had come right after the first one I wouldn’t have been too surprised, but the second expansion was surprisingly good and mounts changed the game for everyone. It felt like an expansion made for GW2’s old core audience that got burned on the first one.
GW2 just keeps abandoning both content, systems and playstyles to chase after things they think can pull in new people, current playerbase’s needs be damned.