Last year, there was a Guild Wars 2 update titled “War Eternal,” but that title might have been better applied to today’s update, Jormag Rising. The charr civil war from the previous episode, No Quarter, is still ongoing, though the battlefield has shifted slightly. Instead of capturing and holding territory from the charr separatists under the thrall of the Elder Dragon Jormag, you’ll be assaulting their citadel, taking the fight to the enemy’s doorstep and bringing them down once and for all – well, until the event timer resets, at least.
“We wanted it to feel like it was the next step from Episode 3’s,” said ArenaNet’s Kirk Williford during our press preview last week. The setting is the northern reaches of Drizzleword Coast, just a stone’s throw away from the last update, and allied forces have pushed forward to take the fight to the doorstep of the Frost Legion stronghold. Unlike last episode’s “conquer and hold” WvW-like mechanic, the goal here is just taking down five tribunes, one in each sector, something Williford compared more to “behind enemy lines” action than traditional front-based warfare. You’ll also be able to “chain” together the two metas, from Episode 3 and 4, if you want; if one is active, then the other won’t be.
Early parts of the meta have no time limits, but things become more critical once the final stages kick off. Once inside the citadel, you’ll fight a series of battles that are meant to feel like instanced content, each with its own special mechanics. One of the centerpiece battles is against a giant charr tank that moves (slowly) around the battlefield and has to be stripped of its armor using grappling hooks attached to wonderfully rhyming “charr cars” that players can climb into. For another, you’ll have to break open the tanks containing Jormag’s blood that the Frost Legion is using to convert its members into dragon minions. (Just, uh, make sure to clean up your mess. No, really, that’s a mechanic.) For the climax of the episode, suffice it to say that you’ll be facing a familiar foe in a new way.
One interesting point that came up during our preview was how the dev team is using war horns to signify changes in strategy during huge metas. In previous installments, you might have heard verbal instructions from NPCs (“Go for the head!”) to signal players as to when a new tactic was called for, but with no voice acting in the last two chapters, ArenaNet had to get a little creative and substitute a war horn call to let players know to pay attention to a new directive.
There’s one more content piece I’d like to talk about from the preview. I’ve generally not been a fan of GW2’s adventures, the little timed mini-games you bash your head up against for an hour as you try to shave that extra second off your time to achieve the highest rank. There’s one in this update, though, that I’m really looking forward to trying again, but it’s not for the rewards. You’ll transform into a raven and be able to free-fly through the zone – ostensibly to zoom through hoops and complete the one-minute adventure, but you’d be forgiven if you just felt like flying around and exploring the zone from … well, a bird’s-eye view. Normally hostile mobs will ignore you, and you can even tag points of interest if you need them to complete your zone exploration. Me, I’m just going to go where the wind takes me.
Players will have the usual slew of rewards to work toward. The Dominion Tribune weapon sets are based on the five different legions: Flame, Frost, Iron, Ash, Blood. If you’re looking to upgrade your previous weapons, you can get Upgraded Stormcaller weapons (from Episode 3) or Empowered Boneskinner weapons (from Episode 2). There’s also a /shiverplus emote, upgrading the /shiver emote from Episode 2.
New this time around is the Frost infusion, which turns your character’s flesh blue and icy and makes them an honorary member of the Frost Legion. There’s another infusion, too, based on one of the norn Spirits of the Wild. Williford said the team was striving for “one cohesive experience with rewards” this time around, which might explain why things are more about upgrades than they are about totally new effects.
If you’re looking for something a little more game-altering, the United Legions Waystation Mastery has been upgraded, adding three new levels. In addition to an upgraded Electromagical Pulse, you can also stealth your mount, but the coolest of the three is the Charr Medizooka. Even when it comes to medicine, the charr use comically over-the-top guns. The Medizooka can be equipped from any Waystation, and one of its skills launches you high in the air, letting you rain down healing as you peacefully descend via parachute.
If you liked Episode 3’s take on things, you should enjoy Episode 4, which is similar and yet different enough to not feel totally the same. I wondered about that, especially with regards to how quickly this installment is coming out – just two months after the last one. Williford told me that his team had “developed a pipeline that allows dev teams to work more efficiently, and our ability to expand maps between episodes has allowed us to maintain that bi-monthly pace over the last several months.”
Does that mean we’ll see Episode 5 around late September? Remember that there have been six episodes for the previous two Living World seasons, so a two-month pace would put Episode 6 just before the holiday season. That would give the dev team a nice break to regroup and make the final push for the expansion in first three months of 2021. If there’s a plan, I’d wager that’s it, and maybe this one will fare better than my last prediction regarding Guild Wars 2’s release schedule.
Learn more about Guild Wars 2: Jormag Rising here.