With Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons expansion set to launch some time in February and the beginning of that month looming on the horizon, excitement from the Guild Wars 2 community is building. Cantha has been a long-requested destination, and it’s almost here!ArenaNet invited us to take a guided tour of some of the more interesting, narrative spoiler-free bits of the upcoming expansion and its new zones. Let’s dig in to everything we saw!
Our first stop was a tour of the new Canthan guild hall making its debut with End of Dragons. First off, let me say that in my opinion, the Canthan guild hall is easily the most beautiful and detailed one to date. It offers all of the trappings we’ve come to expect with other guild halls, from guild services and buffs to a private PvP arena. A lot of space was intentionally left cleared for players to decorate, and there is plenty of water for you to cruise around on your skiff looking for fishing spots.
The guild hall is actually on the old site of Shing Jea Arena, where the final battle against Minister Reiko took place in Guld Wars Factions. We were told that this historical significance would be a big part of the more narrative-focused guild hall capture mission. Speaking of which, ArenaNet has heard the cries of small guilds and has made this capture mission scale a lot better to tiny groups (or even solo players), so no more begging/bribing random players in Lion’s Arch to come help you claim your guild hall.
Our next stop was Echovald Wilds and the ruins of House Zu Heltzer, where we gathered and mounted up on our siege turtles. We made our way through the forest to Fort Aspenwood, which Guild Wars Factions players will recognize as the site of a memorable competitive mission, which has since been converted into a research station by the Jade Brotherhood, a group whose goal it is to unlock the secrets of dragon jade at any cost, even if it puts people in danger. They seem to me like the Human answer to the Asura’s Inquest: Like the Inquest, some of them are reckless to the point of being evil, while others seem to truly want to advance their science in unconventional ways (think Gorrik).
We were here at Fort Aspenwood to experience an event chain that the devs were particularly proud of. Note that this is not the map’s meta event, described in the Echovald stream last year, but an entirely separate event.
When the event triggers, the fort goes into lockdown mode as researchers evacuate and begin recruiting players to help them put a stop to the jade mechs that have become suddenly violent. Players must use the cannon from the new siege turtle mount’s gunner seat to destroy shield generators before moving deeper into the fort, then they must split into two groups to destroy the shield generators inside. Even if you can’t find an open gunner seat, make sure to thin the ranks of haywire jade mechs spawning everywhere, as they can overwhelm even the hearty siege turtles if left unchecked.
And don’t worry about trying to complete this event on day one when players haven’t had a chance to hatch their own chelonian friend yet; some of the NPCs will be driving siege turtles of their own around, though I would imagine the event will go a whole lot quicker once most players have access to turtles of their own.
Next, players must make their way into the basement of the fort, where the Jade Brotherhood has been working on a teched-up new version of the Gods’ Vengeance, the superweapon the Kurzicks were trying to complete in the aforementioned competitive mission from Factions. It has been affected by the same mysterious force as the jade mechs, and must be neutralized before it overloads and destroys the entire forest. The Gods’ Vengeance has various phases that are themed after each of the six gods, which is a nice touch.
We were told that this event, and others throughout Echovald, are designed to give players the feeling that “there’s something very wrong happening around here.” What exactly that “greater threat to the forest” might be will be left up to the players to uncover when the expansion launches.
We also got a chance to try out one of the four new strike missions launching with End of Dragons, called Aetherblade Hideout. The boss of this particular 10-player instance is, fittingly, Captain Mai Trin, whom long-time Guild Wars 2 players will remember as the leader of the Aetherblades in Living World Season 1.
As previously detailed, the boss fights of strike missions will appear as part of End of Dragons’ story, but the strike version glosses over the narrative, assuming the player has already done the solo story version; it adds additional, more challenging mechanics. If you liked Icebrood Saga’s strike missions, I don’t think you’ll find anything too surprising or new about this fight, but I also think it will be a fun addition to the current rotation of strikes. “More of the same” isn’t a bad thing.
The devs from the encounters team talked about some of the lessons they learned from Icebrood Saga’s strike missions. While strikes aren’t supposed to be as punishing as raids, a lot of players found that they could get through them just fine while ignoring many of the intended mechanics.
For instance, when my guild does Boneskinner, we usually just ignore the torch mechanic altogether and tack on an extra heal Scourge to cleanse the torment it applies and heal through the extra damage. It’s just faster and easier that way.
But this time around, the encounter designers wanted to keep the content accessible while doing more to punish players who stand in the fire, so to speak – not so much to make them more hardcore but to make sure players are actually learning how to do the fight properly and not just sliding by, blissfully unaware that their healer is carrying them.
ArenaNet also talked about its redoubled effort to be consistent with telegraph design language, so players can more easily learn and predict what’s going to happen, where, and when. So yes, an attack may one-shot you, but you shouldn’t be surprised when it does.
If hardcore is your thing, remember that more raid-like hard mode versions of each of the strike missions will be launching some time after the expansion, with additional, more challenging mechanics and improved rewards in tow.
I went into this preview excited for End of Dragons, but I walked out counting down the days until launch (metaphorically, of course, since we still don’t have a specific launch date). I think there’s a lot here to give fans of Guild Wars Factions nostalgic feels, but the Cantha of Guild Wars 2 also feels so new and different that players who skipped the original Guild Wars won’t feel left out of the loop.
It’s really strange that we’re less than two weeks away from February and ArenaNet is still being cagey about the exact launch date for End of Dragons. On the bright side, ArenaNet’s staff talked at this press preview as if taking for granted that the expansion is still launching in February and promised more information would be coming “soon.” Whether a delay is imminent or not, I’m excited to adventure through Cantha with everyone when the long wait is finally over!