Happy anniversary to Guild Wars 2‘s End of Dragons expansion! Can you believe it has been a whole year? In some ways I feel like I’m still learning what End of Dragons has to offer, but in other ways it feels like it’s been ages, given the lack of new content in the game; the re-release of Living World Season 1 content was necessary but not terribly exciting. But as of today, we finally have our first look at the first part of the continuation of the End of Dragons story, What Lies Beneath!
You may recall from the recent studio update that Guild Wars 2 is shelving the Living World model in favor of smaller, more frequent expansions, with a number of subsequent updates tied to that expansion. What Lies Beneath is the first of two updates to End of Dragons, with a second one, ArenaNet confirmed for us, coming before the start of summer. As for what that summer update – and the updates beyond – entail, we will just have to wait and see.
What Lies Beneath takes players to Gyala Delve, a new Jade Sea mine south of Dragon’s End operated by the Jade Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has discovered a new, powerful form of dragonjade deep within the mine that has the potential to solve the Canthan energy crisis caused by Soo-Won’s death. That sounds great, but of course it’s not that simple.
Yao, former Jade Brotherhood turned Xunlai engineer, has heard rumors of strange goings on deeper in the mine, a thick miasma, and what looks suspiciously like Void energy corruption. The newly formed Friends Detective Agency (yes, Gorrik is still calling it that) and the Commander are sent to investigate. Gorrik is sure that the Void outbreak was contained and that this is something similar but different. You will have to see for yourself what’s causing all this chaos!
The devs directed our attention upwards at several points on our tour of Gyala Delve. This whole area was, of course, originally covered in water, so in addition to the jade tech and mining equipment, bits of coral, fish bones, and even wrecked ships can be seen sticking out of the jade here and there. It’s obvious that the team worked hard to sell the idea that this zone was part of the ocean prior to the Jade Wind.
Gyala Delve is a meta event map, with a feel similar to South Drizzlewood Coast but with fewer, larger control zones. It is a little hard to judge how it will feel with a real group, since my preview with ArenaNet included only a small group and gratuitous dev help to get the press through quickly, but I think I’m going to like the flexibility of the map’s design; squads can split up and take multiple objectives at once, or do them sequentially. There are also a number of optional mechanics to some of the fights. For instance, will your group charge straight into the boss fight, or defeat the channelers first to weaken the big-bad? Will you run with the zerg pushing deeper into the mine, or swing back to prevent your bases, and their accompanying waypoints, from being recaptured by the enemy?
The devs noted that the meta doesn’t follow the two hour timer that many maps are tied to and can be manually kicked off whenever a sufficiently sized group of players gathers at the Excavation Yard in the north on a given instance.
Solo players will, of course, be able to complete the story without running the meta event, though it seems that a siege turtle mount is required to head deeper into the mine, so you will either need one of those or have to wait for a meta group or someone with a turtle to wander by and break through the doors. I don’t think it will be a problem for most, especially since NPCs will provide turtles during the meta event, but your mileage may vary.
The story takes players through a mechanic-light and solo-ified version of the meta event, similar to the way that the End of Dragons story gave players a taste of the EoD strike missions. The story isn’t terribly long, comparable perhaps to some of the Icebrood Saga episodes. It’s a little disappointing that after all this time, what we got feels like only a prologue of things to come, but I think that the meta event will be enough to keep many players occupied.
So what rewards are we fighting for? Well, if nostalgic weapon skins are your thing, keep an eye out for Luxon Hunter’s weapon set, which boasts Ritualist’s stats and will bring to mind the Luxon Armada, being crafted from jade and turtle shells. As a rare drop from the meta’s final boss, players may find Tahkayun’s Edge, a katana-like sword, and Tahkayun’s Reverse Grip Edge, a dagger with the same skin flipped underhand. Fans of the Specter and Harbinger classes who have thus far been disappointed that the headgear in their concept art has remained unobtainable in the game, rejoice! Completing various achievements in this release will unlock the purchase of the Grinning Tahkayun mask and the Minister’s Hat at various vendors throughout the map, and they are available for any armor weight. Last but not least, completing the meta-achievement for Gyala Delve unlocks the spiffy Holo Cape skin. Check out all of these in the gallery at the end of this post.
This update also brings with it the sixth and final set of legendary weapon variant skins, themed after Soo-Won. This is my personal favorite of the variants. Soo-Won’s weapons are translucent and constantly animated to look like flowing water. The trails and occasional kill animations are also watery and are noticeable, but not to the obnoxious extent that some of the previous ones were. I’m not a big leggy chaser, but I might be tempted to get some of these. Again, check out the gallery below for some screenshots of the greatsword.
Gyala Delve is sure to keep open-world players coming back for some time to come, with a finely crafted map and some neat rewards. The story is well done, but a bit lighter than I was expecting. That said, at least it sounds like we won’t have too long to wait until we get some answers. Until then, I’ve got a meta event to farm!