Flameseeker Chronicles: First impressions of Guild Wars 2’s The Realm of Dreams, launching today


Can you believe it has been more than half a year since we took our first steps into the mysterious, long-teased Wizard’s Tower in Guild Wars 2: Secrets of the Obscure? This expansion’s structure has been different to say the least, with an initial release that was noticeably lighter, with just enough content to justify calling it a true expansion. Many of the features we would normally expect to be launch features were slated for later last year and into the current one, including its third map, various masteries, the new legendary armor obtainable in open world PvE, and expanded weapon selection for each class, the latter of which we are getting in lieu of a new elite spec.

Today marks the release of The Realm of Dreams, the second of three post-expansion releases, and with it, the addition of both the expanded weapon types and new legendaries, as well as other assorted goodies. But first, let’s talk about the all-important map addition and its associated story.

One of my biggest frustrations with SOTO’s first followup release, Through the Veil, was that the section of the Inner Nayos map it added was super tiny. Players thought The Icebrood Saga’s half-sized zones were weak, but while it was packed, this approximately one-third-sized map still felt really cramped to me. It was hard to go anywhere without one edge of the zone or the other dominating your screen, and the big wall of fog blocking off the rest of the zone felt like a really video game-y contrivance. The addition to Inner Nayos that comes with Realm of Dreams, I am happy to report, looks to be a bit larger, and when combined with the first section of the map, it goes a long way toward making this feel like a normal zone and not something still under construction.

The zone itself has more of what you would expect if you played the first section of Inner Nayos: very otherworldly with many odd constructs that all appear to be organic. As you push further into Inner Nayos, however, you will start to see Eparch’s red corruption tendrils everywhere. The narrative team was proud of the way this map and its story showcase the more average, everyday Kryptis who aren’t necessarily able to fight for or against Eparch’s army but are still caught up in the middle of The Midnight King’s schemes.

ArenaNet wanted to show us the new meta event in the newly opened area of Inner Nayos, which involves rallying the local Kryptis population to fight a giant Kryptis wyvern, Knaebelag. Interestingly, I assumed that this zone’s meta event(s) would be similar to Drizzlewood Coast or Gyala Delve, where each map addition lengthens the meta event, but that is not the case. Each meta can be triggered independently, so commanders can choose to do the meta events sequentially or skip straight to the one added today – or if there are enough people for each, both can run in parallel. If you are lucky, the final boss of the new event may drop the flashy Knaebelag’s Fang ascended sword.

The story to this release is largely centered around finding a much-respected retired Kryptis general and convincing him to join Peitha’s cause. He used to work for Eparch and has tried to remain neutral in the Kryptis rebels-vs.-loyalists civil war, but Peitha believes he can be swayed, and if he can, many neutral Kryptis will rally to his cause. Once again, the story is short, similar in length to an Icebrood Saga release, for better or for worse.

More exciting than the new story is the addition of one new weapon type for each class! The devs present confirmed that this unlock will be given to anyone who simply plays up to a certain point in the story, similar to weaponmaster training. Additionally, there will be a way for players to pay for this unlock with WvW currency if all of this PvE fluff isn’t your thing.

If you spent much time playing the expanded weapon proficiency beta back in November, you likely noticed that the balance was a hot mess. For instance, the Necromancer, which is in desperate need of power DPS weapons (power Necros literally don’t have an offhand where pushing buttons doesn’t lower your DPS vs. autoattacking) got dual swords that were somehow worse than the existing mediocre power weapons and buggy to boot. On the other end of the spectrum, theorycrafters managed to build a pistol Guardian that parsed about 25% higher than the current top DPS. And don’t even get me started on the Engineer’s clunky shortbow.

If you read the dev blog from earlier this month, you already know that the combat team has heard these concerns and has clearly taken them to heart. I am still nervous that balance of these new weapons is going to be messy for a while – a second round of public beta testing would have made me feel much better – but after messing with them for a bit, I can tell you they definitely feel more reasonable. I’m no minmaxer, so I can’t speak to where the viability of any of these weapons will ultimately fall, but it certainly seems to me that the designers have been hard at work on the balance for these new weapons.

Also as promised, this patch brings with it the new obsidian legendary armor. Long-time Guild Wars players will of course recognize this new armor’s inspiration, the prestigious obsidian set from original flavor Guild Wars, with the chunky heavy set being modeled after the original Warrior set, the dagger-covered medium set taking inspiration from the Assassin set, and the dainty light set pulling in elements from both the Elementalist and Mesmer sets. None of it is a one-to-one recreation, but the influence is strong and clear.

These armor sets aren’t as showy as their raid cousins; as far as I could see, there was no fancy animation when you went into combat or anything of that nature, and you will look less like you just stepped out of a fantasy anime while wearing this set. But ArenaNet’s team actually presented that as a positive, saying that many players were frustrated that the original legendary armor didn’t really go with anything that was not a part of the set because it was so much more intricate and flashy than most skins in the game. While that is certainly true, I also imagine that the decision to go with less conspicuous skins for the obsidian gear was also made in part in an attempt to appease those players who spent hours and hours in raids to get that ostentatious armor, who might be discontent that open-world players now have a path to the same account-wide stat-changeable gear as they do – and might be even more peeved if they were visually similar.

If you want to craft your own set of obsidian armor set, be prepared to do a lot of rift hunting and events in the three SOTO maps, as each piece requires a significant amount of currency from each of these, as well as the usual heaps of crafting materials. Legendary relics are also coming with this patch, but we were given no details on their construction, other than to remind us that if players own at least one legendary rune, they will receive the legendary relic for free upon logging in.

If difficult instanced content is your thing, you may be interested in the new challenge mode for the Temple of Febe strike. The designer said it should be similar in difficulty to Harvest Temple, and expects it to take a few days for even high end players to crack all of its mechanics. Those who complete it will have a chance at the new possessed infusion or an ascended backpiece that looks similar to Cerus’s back claw… things, and it should complete any outfit involving Oneiros-Spun armor or Saryx weapons.

This patch also brings with it two new convergence bosses. Like the Demon Knight and Sorrow bosses, one of these two will be picked at random for the final phase of the convergence. Demon Knight and Sorrow will alternate with the new bosses every week, so be sure to play them while you can if you are interested! Doubtless, there will be a schedule forthcoming on the wiki.

The story may leave me feeling like we’re back in the Icebrood Saga days of small blips of story content that don’t quite satisfy, but taken all together, this patch is pretty substantial. In particular, I can’t wait to see how the new weapon proficiencies shake up the metagame.

We have just one more update in this expansion cycle, which promises to finish the Inner Nayos map and conclude the story. I am hoping for a little more substantial story that brings in more of the Wizard’s Court and Astral Ward. There was a lot of cool worldbuilding going on around Tyria’s secret wizard societies during the base expansion, and I’m sad that it has been relegated to more of a background element in favor of the Kyrptis and their internal strife. But hey, even if this expansion’s ending is disappointing, we have been promised a new one later this year, so at least we won’t have long to wait until a new story comes along!

Now, if you will excuse me, my Guardian needs to go shoot some bad guys with her shiny new pistols.

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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