Flameseeker Chronicles: What we learned (and didn’t) from Guild Wars 2’s spring 2023 roadmap


The most nerve-wracking thing about being an MMORPG player is uncertainty. MMO players don’t like change, and when a change is teased, many of us tend to rush to assume the worst. That said, it is no more wise to assume that change is always good; just ask Star Wars Galaxies players about that one.

I’ll be honest, back in Feburary, when ArenaNet announced the retirement of the Living World in favor of smaller, more frequent expansions, I was wary. For one thing, the post was a bit light on detail, which is where the aforementioned uncertainty comes in. For another, it just gave me flashbacks to 2019’s Icebrood Saga reveal event, during which ArenaNet tried to paint the Saga as a bigger, better version of the Living World that would make us forget about expansions, and predictably, it couldn’t deliver. It’s also bizarre that this game is nearly 11 years old and still struggling to figure out a sustainable release cadence.

I don’t like to jump to conclusions based on a paragraph in a teaser post, so I tried to hold out judgment until we had a clearer picture of what future Guild Wars 2 expansions will look like. With last week’s studio update, we got that clearer picture:

In this new model, the first release in an expansion cycle will introduce a new story arc and setting, two new open-world maps, two Strike Missions, new gameplay and combat features, new Masteries, and new rewards. In the following quarterly updates, we’ll add story chapters, an additional open-world map, challenge modes for the Strike Missions, a new fractal dungeon and challenge mode, new rewards, additions to the new systems introduced in that expansion, and—depending on the release plan for that expansion—new gameplay and combat features.

I’ll be honest, this doesn’t have me jumping up and cheering. An expansion half the size of End of Dragons, both in terms of explorable maps and repeatable content, is hard to get excited about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all doom and gloom either; these are yearly expansions, so it’s not like those two maps and strikes are all we’ll have to play for years and years. I guess I’m still in that uncertain, wait-and-see mode as to whether this model is an upgrade or a downgrade.

Changes to upcoming expansion content wasn’t the only important thing in this studio update. Ever since the announcement of the shift to more plentiful mini-expansions, players have been asking what that means for elite specs. Elite specs have always been a large draw of expansions, and it’s one that many gamers have pointed out are not sustainable forever, not just because of balance concerns but also because there are only so many weapons the team can practically add with elite specs. Any mention of elite specs was suspiciously absent from the February update, but last week’s studio update spoke broadly about new combat options coming to the game:

With our next expansion, our goal is to further augment the combat options for each profession by adding new tools to their arsenal and by lifting constraints that will unlock an unprecedented number of playstyle customization options—while keeping the feel of Guild Wars 2 combat true to its origins. Theorycrafters are going to be very busy.

Dare I say it? Is there any hope that this could be dual classing? It certainly fits the bill of something that could “augment the combat options for each profession” and “unlock an unprecedented number of playstyle customization options,” but this much-requested classic Guild Wars feature seems like too much to hope for.

First of all, how would that even work with classes that have overlapping weapon sets? Would it be only for slot skills? How would that work with Revenant? Or any number of profession mechanics?

Second, let’s be honest, balance is already (understandably) hard enough for the team at ArenaNet to maintain with nine professions sporting three elite specs each. Now add another class’s skills into the mix? Guild Wars 1 did it, but GW1’s balance approach was more “If it sucks, don’t use it” which runs pretty counter to GW2’s “Bring the player, not the class” philosophy. Besides, elite specs have long been a form of dual classing; Specter is Thief mashed up with Necro, Mirage is Mesmer mashed up with Thief, etc.

Perhaps a little more realistic is the idea of dual elite specs of the same class. You would have to pick a primary, because some of them have class mechanics that would be mutually exclusive; you can’t have both Sand Shades and Harbinger Shroud on the same button, for instance. But you could allow Harbingers to use Torch and have access to the Scourge build options. Shared slot skills could be a possibility too, though some of them would have to be disabled without their associated profession mechanic. For example, what would Overclock Signet do if you don’t have a mech? I’m no theorycrafter, but I can imagine that there are plenty of trait combos on some elite specs that would synergize a little too well and need to be reworked.

The most grounded idea, I think, is adding more weapon choices to core classes. Give Elementalist a shortbow, give Necro a sword, give Thief a hammer, and so on, and let us use them with any elite spec. This idea invariably comes up every time elite specs are mentioned, so doubtless ArenaNet has at least considered it. I’m not sure how much value that would actually add to the game; I like elite specs because of their unique mechanics, not necessarily for their weapon unlocks, and I’m not sure there is space in a lot of the classes for weapons that wouldn’t be just a better or worse version of an existing weapon (e.g., Willbender’s offhand sword is just a worse focus).

The idea of creating new weapon sets has been tossed around — greataxes, polearms, terrestrial spears, crossbows, and the like — and as cool as that would be, I don’t think it will happen for the simple fact that it would mean creating a whole lot of new skins; there is a massive backlog of skins, earnable both in-game and from various cash shop means, for existing weapons, and none of that would exist for a new weapon. Personally, I like having my weapons match, and it would make me a lot less likely to use a new weapon if it clashed with my FashionWars.

It would also be awfully hyperbolic to say that unlocking a single weapon per class is “lifting constraints that will unlock an unprecedented number of playstyle customization options,” but then again, this is the same studio that told us – sorry, I have to bring it up again – that the Icebrood Saga would be expansion-level.

The last thing I want to talk about today is the above teaser image, which is our first look at the game’s fourth expansion. GW2 community dataminer that_shaman has worked his magic on the image and found that it was originally called “demon_thumbs.psd,” which I suppose makes sense given the first additional content for End of Dragons leaning heavily into the Oni. Still, these sketches don’t remind me of the tentacle-ridden Oni. So what kind of demon-related enemy could be in the running for our new archenemy?

My first thought was perhaps the return of Dhuum, the cruel god of death before Grenth. He was the subject of a Heart of Thorns-era raid, at the end of which he was re-imprisoned, meaning he could plausibly show up again.

I’ve also seen the other former Human god, Abaddon, floated as a possibility. I was skeptical of that one because wasn’t he pretty thoroughly dead at the end of Nightfall? Then my editor reminded me that Joko was defeated too, but that didn’t stop him from showing up in Path of Fire. The Undead are very much a thing in the Guild Wars franchise.

Finally, some players have pointed to similarities between these concepts and the Shiro’ken, the undead constructs that served Shiro Tagachi in Factions. Of course, the same argument and counterargument apply to Shiro, but the more I think about it, the more I think Shiro, or someone following in his footsteps, is the most likely candidate for the next big-bad. It seems unlikely that the Cantha storyline will be wrapped up any time soon, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we stuck around for another expansion (and given how ravenously so many Guild Wars 2 players wanted Cantha for so many years, I don’t think you will hear too many complaints about that), so why not bring back Factions’ villain? Wouldn’t that be awkward for Revenants running the Shiro legend? I guess time is meaningless in the Mists, so it works.

Of course, these could all be wrong. We will just have to wait and see!


This studio update answered a lot of burning questions but still left us with a lot of uncertainty. Will what ArenaNet has in store for classes keep the meta fresh? Will the new content structure feel satisfying? Only time will tell, as we get more details about upcoming releases and, ultimately, when we get our hands on the actual content. The final story release of the End of Dragons expansion cycle is just a couple of weeks away, so maybe we will soon at least have a better idea of what new foe we will be facing. Stay tuned to the site for more on that when it drops May 23rd!

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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