War Eternal, the final chapter in Guild Wars 2‘s fourth season of the Living Story, has a lot of ground to cover. As it is the last entry in the season, you’d expect the war against the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik to wrap up, but there’s a snag in that plan. At the end of the last chapter … well, I’ll avoid describing exactly what happened, just in case you still haven’t played it. Suffice it to say, things are looking grim for our heroes following a devastating loss.
Hope, like war, springs eternal, however, and at the start of the new chapter, Tyria gets a new lease on life, which I also won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say, no, the world doesn’t end. You do get to fight on, taking on Kralkatorrik one final time in a series of battles that we got the chance to try out in a press preview event put on by ArenaNet last week.
They’ve asked that we not go too into detail on exactly what goes on with these battles, but I will say this: As hard as I’ve been on previous updates, with the tedium of their storylines and lackluster zones, War Eternal does a much better job of things. The story battles, along with what happens after the conflict, are climactic and enthralling without seeming tediously overwrought, and the new zone is exactly what I’ve been wanting from the game for years, ever since Heart of Thorns launched.
Kralk-ed wide open
Since I can’t delve too deeply into the story – there’s still an embargo on some of its aspects until after this article goes live – let’s talk about the new zone, Dragonfall, which is the part I’m most excited to try out when it goes live. We only got to briefly take a look at it during our demo, but, short of having a hundred-plus people online for a couple of hours to do the zone-wide meta, there wasn’t much else we could do.
Yes, I said “a couple of hours to do the zone-wide meta.” Dragonfall is “inspired by Silverwastes and Dragon’s Stand,” Game Designer Jason Reynolds told us in his initial description of the zone. Big as he is, Kralkatorrik himself forms a part of the zone, and his enormous writhing body flopping around the landscape startled me when I first glimpsed it on the edge of my screen.
Like the meta events in those other zones, there are three lanes, and players – lots of them – will need to move down the lanes, doing events and progressing the overall meta. Once the camps in each lane get to max level (“about an hour to an hour and a half to complete,” Reynolds said, though he expects players on live servers will trim that down), it will trigger a meta event to prepare for the end of it all. Then it’s the final battle with Kralkatorrik, which actually ties into the story instance. Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense.
As in the Silverwastes, anything you do will contribute to progression, so you don’t have to worry about people being upset that you’re in the map and not contributing to the meta, which has been an issue with other “big meta” maps, like Dragon’s Stand. There are both solo and group events, so you should be able to find something to do at all times.
The map is permanent content, so even after you’ve done the story, you’ll still be able to come back and visit old Kralky and kick his dragon butt. Hey, if the Pact is still lost in the Maguuma Jungle after three-plus years, this can last forever, too.
Make your flight plans
The other primary new features of this update are a new hovering/flying mount, the Skyscale, and a new legendary greatsword, Exordium. The Skyscale can be unlocked relatively easy, with effort approximating what it took to get the Roller Beetle, and follows a similar lore-based approach of “nurturing” a Skyscale from egg to adulthood. The Skyscale offers unlimited hovering and can also has limited ability to climb sheer surfaces, which is sure to help with some of those tricky jumping puzzles throughout Tyria.
Like other legendary weapons, Exordia has special effects that are designed to make it worth the effort of acquisition. In this case, not only does it have the typical glowy effects you would expect, but it also changes its configuration and effects based on the skill used while wielding it. Each class that can wield a greatsword has a different set of skills, and those all produce unique effects, making it a weapon with a truly personal touch.
Before our session ended, I had to ask at least a little bit about scheduling and the effect February’s layoffs played into that. When ArenaNet started doing these regular story updates, they were intended to come around every three months or so, a schedule that it stuck with for quite a while. The last update came in December, five months ago, and it’s easy to think that the recent unfortunate events played into that.
“We’re not expecting, as a rule, for episodes within a season to come out this far apart,” Global Brand Manager Lis Cardy told us, confirming that this was, in fact, an exceptional case. Being that this is the final episode of the current season, though, the time frame for the start of the new season, as well as the exact distance those episodes would be from each other, was not something she was willing to share just yet.
All in all, I like this update, more so than I’ve liked nearly everything else this season. I can say that because I’m actually back playing GW2, after nearly six months away in anticipation of what this one will bring, so that’s something. There is one aspect of the story that I’m not a fan of and that I think will not be well-received by the community, though it’s something I can’t tell you just yet because of that unusual embargo. You’ll find out about it early enough in your adventures.
Still, everything else that’s present in the update, including the first meta-event map on such a grand scale that the team has done in several years, has me itching to play for the first time in a long time. And if it’s a sign of what Designer Linsey Murdock was referring to when she talked about making the game less “formulaic,” then I’m all for it.