Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2's rogue's gallery remixes

Flameseeker Prophecies
Guild Wars 2's wicked snake people, the Krait, are nasty on their best of days, and ArenaNet is making them even nastier in the new Tower of Nightmares release. The titular tower has been built in secret in Viathan Lake under a force field, and its unveiling will cause massive changes in the area. The trailer shows us green skies filled with black seeds and sinister winds; at the top of the tower is a plant of some kind. I'm not used to describing plants as lurking or looming, but this one is definitely doing both.

I'm excited for this release because it looks creepy, and regardless of how effective it ends up being, I almost always appreciate it when MMOs attempt to be scary. I like that the lore of GW2 doesn't always take itself too seriously, but when it goes dark, it can hit some disturbing notes. My misgivings about the patch lie in this being the third enemy mashup we've seen: Dredge and Flame Legion, Inquest and Aetherblades, and now Krait and what have to be some extremely persuasive snake charmers.

Krait expectations

At the time I'm writing this article, we know next to nothing about the motivations of the Krait or the identity of their "mysterious ally." We have speculation, some of which is probably pretty safe -- I'll be truly shocked if something covered in plants and thorns and exuding toxins that's known as the "Tower of Nightmares" has nothing to do with the Nightmare Court -- but in the end, most of it comes down to assumptions based on previous living story chapters and educated guesses built on current information. So I'm going to stick with what we do know for certain: The Krait have teamed up with someone, and they've built a big, scary tower with a big, scary plant on top, which is pollinating Kessex Hills with the worst hayfever season Kryta has ever seen.

The setup for this release was very good. We had an unannounced change to the world that really made it clear that something big is going down in Kessex, with plenty of time to explore the clues and come up with theories. Fans called the involvement of a Krait obelisk early, and as it turns out we'll be able to obtain a shard of one for our home instances; this is exciting because obelisks are a big part of Krait culture that exist in text but have never been seen in game. It's been a while since we've seen a direct continuation of the original stories that existed in GW2 at launch, so having the spotlight on the Krait could be pretty neat.

They may not get the spotlight, though, any more than the Dredge or Flame Legion had it in Flame and Frost. The inclusion of an ally for the Krait seems kind of iffy at first glance because the Krait are notoriously xenophobic and believe that they're Tyria's supreme race. Krait interest in land-dwellers begins and ends at enslaving other races for their own awful purposes. Non-Krait have nothing else to offer them that might encourage them to stay their blades, form alliances or attempt to trade. This and their religious fanaticism are the defining characteristics of the race: Krait are one of many, many things in GW2 that have red nameplates and want you dead, but the thing that makes them Krait is the contempt they hold for anything that isn't also a Krait.

Granted, there are any number of things the writers could do to make an alliance between the Krait and a non-Krait make sense; the lore is not sacred -- nor should it be -- and changes to canon are ultimately in ArenaNet's court. The Krait of Viathan Lake may have finally met their match or finally had someone from outside their group offer them something they absolutely couldn't turn down. That might be interesting, if it's acknowledged and explored as a departure from standard Kraitness. But even if the alliance is a moment of worthwhile characterization for the Krait, the bad-guy-teamup is starting to become a feature of the living story, and while I'm usually as fond of unusual pairings as Scarlet professes to be, so far it hasn't done much for me.

Flameseeker Chronicles Guild Wars 2's rogue's gallery remixes

The Molten Alliance had a lot of potential to be intriguing but fizzled after Flame and Frost. The main reason -- for me, at least -- was that the Dredge and Flame Legion forming a team had little to no effect on the factions themselves. Sure, they got a visual upgrade and new abilities that made them more fun to fight, but apart from that, the Molten Alliance takes them entirely out of their individual stories and turns them into Scarlet's mooks. They may as well have been entirely new enemies.

The Dredge and Flame Legion have been "upgraded," but it hasn't led to more attention for their non-Molten forms. The open world is full of Flame Legion and Dredge who haven't joined up with Ol' Cactus Pigtails and her merry band of marauders, yet it doesn't seem like the rise of the Molten Alliance has affected them at all. If the Molten Alliance spawn directly in the middle of a Flame Legion camp during one of Scarlet's invasions, it means nothing. Working for Scarlet doesn't really help them with their individual goals as distinct races beyond giving them more chances to be generically mean. That kind of goes without saying, though; if all of our enemies teamed up to crash down on us like a wave based on the common ground of hating us then sure, it'd be a danger like nothing we've ever seen. But there are reasons that they don't immediately come to that very logical and sensible conclusion, and doing so would also make them a distinctly uninteresting threat blob unless we saw them conflicting and interacting with each other and maintaining their individual faction-specific characterization. What little of this the Molten Alliance had was tucked away in easy-to-miss dialogue and disappeared at the end of Flame and Frost.

Our most implacable foes are still video game enemies. We're going to defeat them; there is absolutely no question of that. The only things that make them frightening or compelling lie in the context we're given for their constant attempts on our lives. And while character growth is a good thing even for the guys we beat up on our way to level 80 and beyond, there's also something to be said for keeping them in their own distinct spheres and using the Team Evil plot device sparingly so that they maintain their uniqueness.

I'm worried that the Tower of Nightmares won't do the Krait justice and that they'll be reduced to the pawns or minor allies of a more important figure who is otherwise unrelated to their established lore, just as the Dredge and Flame Legion were reduced to being the minions of a character who has shown no sign of helping them progress their individual racial goals. All of those villains -- and the Nightmare Court especially -- deserve to have their own stories continued instead of being cast as bit players in someone else's. The Dredge are still undergoing social upheaval. The Flame Legion and Nightmare Court are the nemeses of the Charr and Sylvari respectively, and most of their interesting lore comes from their connection to those playable races. The Krait are horrifying enough on their own. I'm hoping that I'll enjoy the lore behind this update, but I was a little disappointed to see that we're getting toxic Krait who are possibly connected to the Nightmare Court and Scarlet's story instead of regular Krait doing terrible new Krait-specific things. It makes me suspect ArenaNet doesn't think their existing stories are cool enough to expand upon, which was the same thing that made me cast a cynical eye on Super Shredder as a child.

Krait eat people. Your mileage may vary, but as far as I'm concerned there is something incredibly freaky and disturbing about an intelligent being that chooses to eat other intelligent beings; there's a reason people keep writing horror stories that revisit that Hannibal Lecter guy. Krait are terrifying because you can speak to them all you like, but you'll probably never be able to reason with them; you and your humanity and your individuality and personhood mean nothing to them. The Krait were already monsters without the glowy stuff. I'm concerned that the glowy stuff will be overkill.

Then again, that plant growing out of the top of the tower gives me the heebie-jeebies, so no matter what happens with the Krait, I'm still intrigued.

Flameseeker Prophecies
Hopefully this will be a two-part release, and we won't know everything that's going on right away. I'm going to take a quick inventory of what we know that might be related to this patch, just to see if any of it turns out to be important: Scarlet made a deal with the Nightmare Court -- Faolain herself, most likely -- for the use of part of Twilight Arbor. We don't know what she gave them in return, but I find it suspicious that the Krait are coming up with this toxic stuff not long after Tequatl's power surge. My wildest guess is that Scarlet's people salvaged an obelisk and Faolain is taking advantage of the religious fervor of the Krait to use them as guards while she sets up a refined Nightmare Tree at the top and uses the power of the obelisk to fuel its growth, corrupting everything in the area. Now that I've said that, we can all have a good chuckle when it turns out that aliens are behind everything.

I'm definitely looking forward to the new universal healing skill we'll have access to, and it looks as though we might see a new enemy condition in the form of toxin. As a Necromancer, I already eat conditions for breakfast, so I almost hope that toxin turns out to be a specialty effect similar to agony.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone, and I'll see you in the Mists!

Anatoli Ingram suffers from severe altitis, Necromancitosis, and Guild Wars 2 addiction. The only known treatment is writing Massively's weekly Flameseeker Chronicles column, which is published every Tuesday. His conditions are contagious, so contact him safely at anatoli@massively.com. Equip cleansing skills -- just in case.
This article was originally published on Massively.