End of Dragons is a massive boon for a struggling MMO
While Guild Wars 2 has been a mainstay of the MMORPG genre over the years, it has undoubtedly seen as many peaks as it has troughs. Since the conclusion of “The Icebrood Saga”, the last part of the path of fire expansion, the game has been in a state of limbo common to similar games that reach the end of a major expansion cycle. Now, End of the dragons is set to release as the latest foray into the world of Tyria, introducing a host of new characters and storylines to navigate.
There is no exaggeration how important expansion is to Guild Wars 2 in its entirety. With a host of new MMOs like lost ark and New world available or on the horizon, this looks like a watershed moment for a game that, despite its loyal fan base, has struggled to attract new players in recent years.
Dragon’s Ending Story Progression and Characters
End of the dragons tells a story that fans will appreciate. In the world of Tyria, the dragon cycle brings magic, while the elder dragons rain down destruction. To prevent this, the citizens of Tyria banded together to slay many Elder Dragons, aided by the Prismatic Dragon Aurene. The unintended consequence is the inevitable collapse of the cycle, which destabilizes the world as a whole.
What makes this new story great for fans is that it relates to the main story, making it rewarding for long-time players. End of the dragons brings players back to the continent of Cantha for the first time since standalone Guild Wars Factions came to PC in 2006. After hiding from the rest of the world for over a century, a series of unfortunate events lead the player to be shipwrecked on the shore of a small island before waking up in a cell from prison.
The premise is interesting enough, but it stays in the realm of typical fantasy fare, failing to reach the heights of Final Fantasy XIVthe main story. While there’s nothing wrong with the expansion’s story, it’s certainly not groundbreaking. It’s actually in the smaller subplots of the game that the world created by ArenaSoft really comes to life. The new cast of characters is stellar and retains the comedic charm of their predecessors, advancing the story in a way that’s both exciting and fast-paced.
The dynamic between important NPC personalities works well, from the police bureaucracy on the island to the Empress and her divine right to rule (reminiscent of the game’s sometimes pretentious Asura). There’s a huge range of characters on the island who pursue entirely different professions and seemingly have very little to do with each other, but the dialogue and their involvement in the story clearly defines them as Canthan.
Dragons’ End Public Events
This expansion also emphasizes collaboration between players, primarily through the myriad of public events offered across the continent. These vary wildly in scope and requirements, with some unfortunately bordering on the mundane. One example, which tasks players with moving heavy boxes from docks to another location as a team, is kind of a fun novelty the first time or two, but grinding out that kind of task on a daily basis will almost certainly start to feel like a chore.
Opposed to this are more exciting, faster-paced offerings that involve battling Aetherblades in various settings, saving villages from raids, and helping the people of Cantha. All of this combines to create a world where the player feels like they are participating in an evolving society. Of course, these activities cool off, and over time the effects may lessen, but being actively involved in the defense or advancement of the island and its people is undoubtedly rewarding in its own way. Compared to the mundanity and scale of repeatable quests in other MMOs, these naturally feel more important, almost similar to the progression of the main story.
Beyond that, there is also one activity per region which the developers call the meta-event for that area. It involves more people cooperating than the regular events and happens like an escalation. Beginning against normal mobs in an area, the event takes players through the region battling increasingly difficult enemies before culminating in a fight against a big baddie. This is absolutely Cantha’s standout public feature, offering a much higher level of challenges, rewards, and interaction with other players. Will there be bad runs with players who don’t know each other arguing over what’s best to do? Absolutely – but successful runs will be especially satisfying because of it.
The End of Dragons and the World of Cantha
The continent of Cantha itself is divided into a number of areas which retain the main architectural features that people have built there. Seitung Province This is perhaps one of the most beautiful areas of Guild Wars 2 in its entirety. It is colorful and hugely varied, an appealing mix of townships, waterfronts and stunning natural scenery. The level of detail seems appropriate, making the world feel alive without being cluttered with unnecessary padding or confusing layouts. In particular, the monastery in this area is a real standout, showcasing a combination of the best the expansion has to offer in terms of art style.
At the other end of things is New Kaineng, built on the ruins of the original town. The scale, first seen when the player pilots a boat in the harbor, is off the charts, and it’s hard not to be a little amazed. Peel back the layers of the city a bit and it retains its appeal less effectively than the much smaller Seitung. That’s by no means to say it’s a bad location, but it does feel less alive once the initial excitement of arrival wears off. It falls victim to the fact that it’s so huge, making it nearly impossible to fill it with the detail and richness of other provinces and regions (especially without slowing even mid-level gaming PCs to a painful scan).
End of Dragons New Specializations and Masteries
End of the dragons also adds five new mastery tracks to level up and help players navigate the new world they find themselves in. The first of these, Fishing, offers a new resource that players can collect through what is essentially a fun mini-game. The second is Skiff piloting, which allows access to fishing holes with the most important rewards and new areas of content that were previously inaccessible. It’s a nice new way to navigate a place with so much water and works well with the other masteries to create a complete experience.
Jade Bots adds a new customizable companion based on Cantha’s automated security, and the Turtle Mount path adds a new two-player mount, the Siege Turtle, with room for a driver and a shooter. Both feel well-suited to the expansion as a whole, offering new features that feel specific to new locations rather than general quality-of-life additions. The last of these, Arborstone Revitalization, is the weakest, not doing enough to showcase the Arborstone as an exciting hub for story missions and strikes.
The other major gameplay addition is the nine new elite specializations, one for each of the game’s existing professions. As one of the only parts of the expansion that changes the core gameplay, it does enough to let the meta feel fresh. They naturally increase the possibilities for variation in builds and provide new ways to approach combat situations, something the game has long been asking for. These also manage to avoid falling victim to the classic MMO mistake of creating new additions that are disproportionately powerful to pre-existing specs. This should hopefully mean that there will be a good balance of job specializations once the expansion is released and installed, rather than being heavily weighted by the news.
Guild Wars 2 has been around for a long time, thanks to good core mechanics and a rewarding setup for new casual players and hardcore MMO fans. End of the dragons does nothing to detract from that, instead adding many features, activities, and events that for the most part bring about positive change. There are individual examples that are weaker and feel fuller, but these don’t detract from the overall experience. It helps that they’re almost always optional, offering rewards that can be obtained elsewhere.
End of the dragonsThe main storyline is largely engrossing and the stakes seem higher than they have been in a long time. The introduction, in particular, remains a highlight and is arguably the best setup of any of the Guild Wars 2extensions to date. Whether this will be enough to attract a large number of new players remains to be seen, but there’s certainly enough here to engage existing adventurers.
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