So here’s a funny story: I was literally in the middle of writing an article titled “The time to make the skyscale more accessible is now” when the embargoed PR for Guild Wars 2’s new Secrets of the Obscure expansion hit our inbox. Amid story details and combat system additions, I saw the words I was both hoping for and dreading: “Acquiring the fan favorite Skyscale mount will be easier in Secrets of the Obscure.” With a sigh, I started reworking this article into what you see today, which is all the reasons why the upcoming Skyscale changes are great for Guild Wars 2 players, new and old alike!
The Skyscale was a time sink between living world seasons
Let’s not kid ourselves, the skyscale grind is a serious pain. Way back in May of 2019, when ArenaNet’s devs took us on a tour of the War Eternal episode and showed off the Skyscale, they glossed over the monumental task of unlocking the thing (note, the devs present were the ones who designed the mount’s mechanics, and they likely weren’t the ones deciding how it would be unlocked). At the time, I sort of assumed that unlocking it would be more involved than the somewhat trivial roller beetle, but surely it wouldn’t be worse than the griffon, right?
I was dumbfounded when I looked on the wiki a few days later and saw everything that was involved: 250 of each map currency from Season 4, a bunch of charged quartz, a time gate, and most frustrating for me, multiple scavenger hunts all over Tyria. Estimates of how long all that takes vary widely based on what you already had unlocked and how familiar you are with the map, but I would wager that, on a fresh account, most players are looking at an excess of 50 hours to get the skyscale.
I learned that day to ask more questions about unlock requirements during my press previews!
Why so much work? Well, remember that, when the skyscale was released, Guild Wars 2 was just wrapping up the post-Path of Fire Season 4. We didn’t know it at the time, but not only would there be the usual lull in activity between content cycles, but the next expansion was also a long way off, and we would instead get the scaled-back, more Living World-like Icebrood Saga. ArenaNet knew that a content drought was coming and set this up as a long-term chase objective. It’s fine, I guess, to give players a long-term project to do between expansions, but when it’s something extremely useful and desirable like the skyscale, you are just setting up future generations of players for a lot of frustration.
It requires the entirety of Living World Season 4 to unlock
Are you new to the game, recently made your way through End of Dragons, and want that cool dragon mount you’ve seen everyone flying around on? Well, prior to Secrets of the Obscure, your only option was to drop $12 worth of gems (and of course, you can’t buy gems in less than $10 increments, so that’s de facto $20) and play through the entirety of LWS4 just to get it.
Is it worth going through more or less a whole expansions’ worth of content just for that? Kind of, actually! Especially since it’s great content. But it still has to be frustrating that this thing seemingly everyone has is so far out of reach for casuals and first-timers. I’m so glad that new players will have the option of getting the skyscale in a much easier fashion this August.
It is a lot of fun to use
I’m not saying there’s no learning curve to use it or that it doesn’t get stuck in trees and other random geometry frustratingly often, but even so, the skyscale is one of the most fun flying mounts you will ever have the pleasure of riding. Press the dodge key and woosh! You roll-dash forward. Latch onto a wall and hold the jump key to vault skyward. It isn’t as fast or agile as the griffon, but that’s kind of the point; it’s so much more usable when in a confined space. Once you master it, you could easily retire the entire rest of your stable of mounts if you wanted to.
Why should the game’s most fun mount be gated behind a giant grind? Shouldn’t the game put its best foot (claw?) forward?
Veterans just assume everyone will have it
A fully-upgraded skyscale, and all of the other mounts for that matter, are just something that the average person who regularly plays Guild Wars 2 just sort of assumes everyone will have. I don’t think this is done with malicious intent; most people I run into in the game aren’t sneering down on newbies who don’t have their dragon mount yet. It’s just been a thing for us for so long that we’ve kind of forgotten that not everyone has it and maybe how much work it was to get it. I really hope Secrets of the Obscure alleviates this kind of unintentional gatekeeping.
It’s extremely useful
The skyscale is a lot of fun and incredibly useful for traversing the world of Tyria. I would never want to go back to doing Heart of Thorns’ maps, for example, without the skyscale’s unique ability to ascend, hover, and wall launch. A lot of people see this as an argument for why it should be a long grind to get, but I really don’t see it that way. Sure, when it was new, it was a novelty – one might even say a prestige mount. But over four years later, the novelty has become the default. Telling new players they should have to tough on the ground it out while you fly over them on your winged lizard isn’t going to motivate them; it’s just going to push them out of the game.
We don’t have all the details on everything involved in the new way to get the skyscale that’s coming with Secrets of the Obscure, but unless ArenaNet is just lying through its teeth (and why would it?), it’s bound to be better than the current route. I’m glad that newer players will start this expansion on more equal footing with those of us who have spent years playing this game. I’m also glad that ArenaNet didn’t neglect to reward the work of those who also unlock the skyscale the old fashioned way, with upgraded masteries that aren’t necessary but do add some nice quality of life.
So good job, ArenaNet! Thanks for reading my mind!