Elder Dragons and their minions are running rampant in Guild Wars 2. That’s nothing new, since that’s been the way of things since the launch of the game eight years ago (though not for much longer, if the upcoming expansion’s title is to be taken literally). What is new in the next update is a type of group content that plays like a combination of an instance and open-world encounter, providing a kind of flexibility that was at the core of Guild Wars 2’s early design.
Guild Wars 2: The Icebrood Saga: Champions, Chapter 1: Truce – I think I got all those titles in the correct order, but ArenaNet’s jamming all of them in there, so I’m going to do what I want and don’t criticize my punctuation choices either, OK? – brings a new kind of content to the game, in the form of Dragon Response Missions. In a broad sense, they’re similar to other Tyria-wide emergencies we’ve seen in years past, where Something Bad is happening in Places and you need to go there and Deal With It.
In a DRM – look, I’m going to abbreviate as much as I can – you’ll take your party of one to five through a portal in the Eye of the North. There are three different DRMs in this story chapter, with more to come in the next few installments. The content scales depending on the number of players, and you can designate your instance as public or private. If it’s public, other players can join in and help you with the first part of the DRM, which has you fulfilling a variety of tasks. Complete them and you’ll get a buff to help you in the second part of the mission, which is a more traditional slugfest against a bunch of baddies and a boss.
In our session with ArenaNet, we traveled to a DRM in Metrica Province, right outside Rata Sum where new asura players usually get their (sizable) feet wet. The ability to re-use areas that are rarely traveled by advanced players was one reason why DRMs are instanced, rather than being open-world, Designer Joe Kimmes told us. Conveniently, there are some fire caverns nearby, which Kimmes had forgotten about until they were brought up in a meeting, making them a perfect spot to battle the minions of the Elder Dragon Primordus.
That’s in the second phase of the DRM. In the first, our team of four had five minutes to perform three tasks: repair defense golems, rescue scientists, and destroy destroyers. Though we were in a private group, if we’d have been public, another player could have joined us for this part of the mission, giving it a kind of open-world, jump-right-in feeling despite being an instance.
The second phase was monsters, monsters, and more monsters, culminating in a fight with a boss that retreated and led us to more monsters at various health breaks. If I’m being honest, this part felt a little grindy and the boss itself seemed like little more than a big ball o’ hit points. Maybe the scaling was off a bit, owing to the relatively new tech, but even if that’s the case, its attacks and defenses didn’t seem particularly innovative. Hopefully, being the first iteration of DRMs, ArenaNet can improve upon the content to make the second part as interesting as the first.
Even so, I’m giving Dragon Response Missions a thumbs-up for now. The flexibility of team size and the ability for other players to jump in and help out is just the kind of versatility that ArenaNet showed off in the game’s early days. I’ve long argued that GW2’s instanced content, whether dungeons, fractals, raids, or strikes, should echo this sentiment, so it’s nice to see a step being taken in that direction. “We’re always trying to find better ways to get this kind of group content in front of players,” Kimmes said about DRMs, which originally used 10 players, but that was “trickier” to scale, so the dev team capped it at five. Whether they’ll continue in the long term is still an open question, but I hope they, or something like them, will see further development.
DRMs aren’t the only new content coming with this update. While there’s no new zone, like previous updates have offered, there will be Faction Mobilization events every few weeks. These are global events that players can participate in for extra rewards, calling their various allied factions to battle. They last for about a week and have daily achievements that offer tokens that can be traded in for rewards. At the launch of the update, the Crystal Bloom will be active and you can fulfill their obligations to get the Crystal Bloom Axe skin and recipes for Dragon Slayer weapons.
One last note, in case you missed it: Voices are returning to Guild Wars 2 with this update, as both the current chapter and the previous two will get voice-over work added. I recognize that conditions are what they are, but it was always still a little odd that GW2 seemed like the only game with extensive voice acting that did without during the pandemic. In any case, it’s nice to see – or hear – this being added back to the game, as long as it can be done as safely as possible.
ArenaNet’s got an aggressive release schedule for the next few months, so DRMs should have time to grow and improve into the early part of next year. In my limited experience, they seem like a good idea, and it’s nice to see ArenaNet still trying to innovate, at least a little bit, as Guild Wars 2 reaches the latter part of its first decade. It bodes well for the expansion, which needs to knock it out of the park to reverse some of the negative trends that have been plaguing the developer for a while now.
Release notes for Truce can be viewed here.