Guild Wars 2 prepares to give us the End of Dragons
If you’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 for some time, you’ll know that the Elder Dragons are the key motivator of the ongoing plot and that dealing with them is the core challenge facing the “commander” that players navigate throughout the world of Tyria. That primary purpose seems to be drawing to a close with the forthcoming release of the expansion End of Dragons, currently scheduled for release in February 2022. Despite the name, however, this has been confirmed to not be the end of Guild Wars 2, as ArenaNet is planning to continue the story even if the Elder Dragons are no longer an antagonist.
The setting for such momentous events is a fitting one, as players will be returning to Cantha, home of the Empire of the Dragon, a place not visited since the events of the original Guild Wars expansion Factions, released over 15 years ago. In the over two hundred years of in-game time that has transpired, contact with Cantha has ceased entirely, ensuring that veterans of the first game will be not be overly familiar with the places we’re going (while still providing plenty of callbacks and easter eggs to make those players giddy).
Expansions: where the elite of Guild Wars meet
Besides the story, the most anticipated aspect of a Guild Wars 2 expansion are the elite specializations, additional playstyles made available to level 80 characters via a weapon that is now equippable for the player’s profession — unlike World of Warcraft, your abilities can change based on the weapons you are wielding. These elite specializations tend to result in hybrid or role characters, or opening up a playstyle previously unavailable to a profession. For example, in the first expansion Heart of Thorns, the Guardian gained the ability to wield a Longbow and become a Dragonhunter, giving them more ranged options than before. Meanwhile, the Ranger could spec into Druid, allowing them to wield a staff and provide a necessary support role that Rangers were previously unable to provide.
Elite specializations have limitations; your build can only have one at a time, although the game does allow you to save builds and gear templates for easy switching. You’re also dependent on owning the expansion that introduced an Elite Specialization in order to play it; if you’re on a free-to-play account you’ll not be able to use any of them. Finally, ArenaNet works hard to balance the professions, so while Elite Specializations sound like they would always be preferable, the designers try to make sure that the “Core” Specializations are also viable for most activities, and in some cases, the most desirable specialization for an activity is not an Elite one.
So far six of the nine Elite Specializations have been announced:
- The Elementalist will wield a hammer to become a Catalyst, summoning jade spheres and using augments to damage opponents both in melee and from range
- The Guardian can now wield a sword in their off-hand to be a Willbender, a highly mobile assassin
- The Mesmer will be able to become a Virtuoso, wielding a dagger and generating psionic blades instead of illusions to assail their foes
- The Necromancer can choose to be a Harbinger, equipping a pistol that fires corrosive bullets, while inflicting pain upon themselves to grow more powerful
- The Revenant can call upon the power of 2 Canthan legends in order to be the Vindicator, using a greatsword and channeling Archemorus to do damage and Saint Viktor to provide healing and support
- The Warrior has learn to wield a gunsaber instead of their normal weapons, becoming a Bladesworn and using flow and ammunition to deal major damage to opponents. When the gunsaber is spent, they can switch to their new offhand pistol to keep their flow going
Travel around Cantha on your fishing skiff and siege turtle
The introduction of mounts in the most recent Guild Wars 2 expansion Path of Fire has vastly changed gameplay, as unlike in World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, each type of mount has its own set of characteristics and abilities — raptors are best for jumping across chasms (at least until you unlock the final mount introduced, the dragon-like skyscale), while skimmers are best for navigating on and — when sufficiently mastered — under water. For Cantha, two more mounts are added to the mix: the skiff, which is designed to allow fishing while on water, and the siege turtle, a Guild Wars 1 artillery unit reimagined as a multi-person mount that allows combat. Like the other mounts, increasing your masteries should allow for expanded gameplay
As for fishing — is there a more exciting bonus activity in a video game?
Ok, fine, fishing is one of those in-game activities that has the potential to drive you insane or bore you to death, so hopefully ArenaNet is prepared to provide a diverting fun experience with their implementation. At the minimum, we know the skiffs will come in some nice colors to show off while cruising the waters of Cantha, and like the siege turtle you’ll be able to invite friends to hang out with you, although it’s a lot less likely to have cannons.
Beta tests are open for all players
To assist in the testing process, ArenaNet has announced four beta events in which players can log in and create beta characters. Unlike other games’ betas, testing is done in the live world via additional slots on your character selection screen, although no progress or acquisitions will be saved and the characters and slots will be removed when each event ends. The first three events focus on three Elite Specializations apiece, and the fourth event will allow you to create a character of any of the new Elite Specializations as well as test out the siege turtle.
The schedule is as follows:
- Beta Event 1: August 17—August 21 — Ended
- Elite Specializations available to test were the Virtuoso, Harbinger, and the Willbender
- Beta Event 2: September 21—September 25 — Ended
- Elite Specializations available to test are the Catalyst, Harbinger, and the Bladesworn
- Beta Event 3: October 26—October 30
- Beta Event 4: November 30—December 4
- All Elite Specializations will be available
- Siege turtle testing
Original posted on 8/19/21. Updated on 9/21/21.
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