Flameseeker Chronicles: Introducing Guild Wars 2's Dragon's Reach

Can this sharktoothed flopears gnaw through Mordremoth's vines?! Stay tuned!
Today's edition of the Flameseeker Chronicles is a little bit special. We've got the teaser trailer for Guild Wars 2's next living world release, The Dragon's Reach: Part One. We've got some sweet screenshots provided by ArenaNet to feast your peepers on: aw, yeah. And if that's not enough, I got the chance to chat with Associate Game Director Steven Waller about next week's episode. Check out the video, and then read on!

Magdaer, Sohothin, and you

The highlight of the trailer is Rytlock Brimstone doing something that's likely to set any fan of GW2's lore alight, so let's start there. Sometimes, when two ancient kingdoms love each other very much, they exchange presents to ensure that peace continues between them instead of war. This is how the royal family of Ascalon came into the possession of two Orrian swords named Sohothin and Magdaer. Unfortunately, the swords were only a token of peace between Ascalon and Orr, not between Ascalon and everything else. It's entirely possible that peace between humans and Charr would have come about years earlier if they'd exchanged tokens of affection instead of making armor and slaves out of each other, but the Charr were in a pretty dark place back then even if they did just want to reclaim land that was originally theirs.

When the Charr were laying siege to Ascalon 250 years ago, Magdaer and Sohothin were still in the hands of Ascalon's royal family. That family line -- and the kingdom of Ascalon itself -- died when King Adelbern shattered Magdaer to create the Foefire, a supernatural event that destroyed the invading Charr and turned Adelbern's remaining subjects into vengeful ghosts. These spirits see every person who enters the ruins of Ascalon as an invader, and most of them aren't even aware that hundreds of years have passed. They can be temporarily banished, but they reform after a while; some Charr NPCs even talk about how they've been fighting the same ghosts for so long that they've given them nicknames. Thanks to Adelbern's preference for slaying and cursing his terrified subjects over allowing them to flee, life in modern Ascalon is a constant back-and-forth battle with an incorporeal army.

Adelbern was originally chosen as king by the popular demand of Ascalon's people, but he began to lose some of his support as he remained insistent on staying to fight the Charr even as the odds of victory grew slimmer. He and his son, Prince Rurik, had a falling out after the Searing, and Rurik ended up leading a group of Ascalonian refugees across the Shiverpeaks to find a safer home in Kryta (spoilers: It wasn't really any safer). Rurik wielded Magdaer's sister blade, Sohothin, and following his untimely death it lacked an owner... at least until Rytlock Brimstone somehow got his hands on it. Rytlock has kept it for his personal weapon ever since.

For pity's sake, Rytlock. Sword FROM the stone to become king. We've gone over this.
Eir Stegalkin once tried to dig up the remains of Magdaer from inside the Ascalon Catacombs, hoping to present it to Logan Thackeray and remind Rytlock of the connection between them. Although Eir retrieved the shards of Magdaer and claimed she knew a blacksmith who could reforge the sword, Rytlock's disdain led her to consider her mission a failure. It's not clear what became of Magdaer after that.

Perhaps most importantly, Magdaer and Sohothin are said to be the keys to freeing Ascalon from Adelbern's curse. If either of the swords are returned to Ascalon in the hands of the rightful king, the curse will be broken -- or so the legend goes. So it's very strange and interesting that Rytlock, a Charr, is the one getting all sword-returny and curse-breaky in the teaser trailer.

Waller did not go so far as to proclaim Rytlock as Adelbern's long-lost descendant, so anyone hoping to see the Blood Legion Tribune with a crown perched between his fuzzy ears might be disappointed. Waller did say that the Elder Dragon Mordremoth is rapidly revealing itself as the most immediate threat to Tyria. The five playable races may try to put an end to some of their longstanding troubles -- such as killer ghosts -- in order to deal with the dragon, but whether or not those attempts will succeed remains to be seen. Tyria's world leaders have their plates full already with enemies on their home fronts, and this might lead some of them to be more reluctant to drop everything in favor of dousing the ley lines with thousands of gallons of weed killer (hey, it could work). If Rytlock is willing to help, it may be because Mordremoth's corruption has spread into Charr territory and is actively demanding attention.

The main characters are hoping to call together a world summit to discuss the dragon threat, and in order to make it happen, they're willing to leverage whatever connections they have. Of course, that's easier said than done when most of those connections are with people our heroes have been steadfastly avoiding.

Only a total monster could stay mad at Rox. Lookin' real hard at you, Rytlock.
Catching up is hard to do

Rox's choice to hang back and help Braham and Marjory instead of striking the killing blow against Scarlet meant forfeiting a chance to be accepted into Rytlock's Stone Warband, and she's off to talk to Rytlock. Braham and his mother, Eir, barely have a relationship at all; he's off to talk to Eir. As a super-genius Taimi has a little more leeway than most kids her age, but she's still a minor, and it might be difficult to convince Rata Sum officials to let a little girl with a cavalier attitude toward rules and limitations deal with the quickly escalating waypoint destruction.

Braham's prickly interaction with Eir is such a major sticking point for the character that I asked Waller for some insight. Braham even gets a little touchy with the player if you're indelicate enough to mention Eir's name to his face. While Braham's hostility stems from Eir's lack of involvement in his life, Waller said that Braham's situation has changed quite a bit since his introduction. He's facing the threat of an Elder Dragon, building his own legend, and even forming a protective, affectionate relationship with little Taimi. He may have gained new perspective into the choices his famous mother made.

Kasmeer Meade and Marjory Delaqua are conspicuously absent from the trailer. Although Waller didn't comment directly on what Kasmeer might be up to, Marjory is still grieving over the death of her older sister, Belinda, and will return to action "when she's ready."

From the looks of things, Taimi's little excursions into danger sans permission might have gotten her into some trouble. Waller noted that many of the other characters have brought up her mysterious lack of adult supervision, although Taimi has repeatedly insisted that it's totally cool for her to be where she is. She had probably better hope that she can persuade her Asuran guardians to let her contribute her considerable talents to the war effort because it's hard to fight an Elder Dragon when you've been grounded forever.

Taimi is the shape of a bean and about the same size. How can you yell at that?
Odds and ends

This particular release won't unlock a new section of the Dry Top map, although players can look forward to seeing more of it uncovered in the fourth episode. The focus of this upcoming release is on bringing news of Mordremoth's existence to the rest of Tyria.

I asked Waller about a jarring detail in Entanglement that left a lot of players confused: How did our characters know Mordremoth's name well enough to identify the dragon to Kasmeer? Waller said that the player characters have access to the Pact's information and would have heard about all of the dragons while preparing to combat Zhaitan, but admittedly I found that explanation a little disappointing. Prior to Mordremoth's reveal at the end of season one of the living world, the dragon's existence had only been broadly hinted at; even the Durmand Priory seemed to have only vague confirmation that there were six dragons instead of five, and that was one of the biggest lore bombshells uncovered at GW2's launch. Having Mordremoth's existence and name assumed to be common knowledge is anticlimactic, although Waller did say that the writing could have better explained how the player character came by that knowledge.

I also probed for a little further information on the progressing storyline of the Sylvari Canach, as well as the mysterious Krytan locket introduced during the Concordia Incident chapter of Entanglement. Canach is off to lend his services to Kryta's Shining Blade, which lends a lot of weight to the theory that the mysterious noblewoman who bought his billet in a previous release might be Master Exemplar Anise. The Krytan locket is an artifact of great power that has been hidden and guarded by the Durmand Priory; Mordremoth was interested in having it for a snack. It reportedly has the ability to always reveal the current heir to the throne of Kryta, which has led many fans to speculate that Queen Jennah might be assassinated. What other use could there be for an artifact that finds a suitable heir, unless the throne's current occupant is gone?

Waller said that while players may not see potential story hooks like these picked up immediately, they're certainly "interesting" and ripe for speculation. He also cautioned that plot threads which appear to lead to obvious conclusions might actually head off in an entirely different direction. Hopefully that's good news for those of us who are fans of Kryta's young queen.

While Waller couldn't comment on the meaning of the stunning cinematic at the end of Entanglement's final chapter, he did say that the living world team has long wanted to give players a glimpse into what Scarlet saw. Thanks to the modifications Scarlet made to Omadd's machine and the player character being better equipped to deal with the revelation than she was (the story implies that Scarlet was already feeling Mordremoth's influence before entering the machine), we're probably not in danger of succumbing to the same fate as ol' cactus pigtails. Interestingly, although the player character apparently experiences Scarlet's vision, Waller mentioned that not everyone would necessarily see the same thing upon entering the machine.

I still want to know how these vines are paying the waypoint fees.
It's very exciting to see elements from the whole of GW2's game world being brought into the living world, and it's the main reason I've found season two more satisfying than season one so far even though we're only a few episodes in. It makes the game feel more like a place with a history that matters, rather than a setting for loosely interconnected series of events.

I'd like to thank Steven Waller for taking the time to chat about the upcoming release! Are you keeping up with season two? Have you dug up any fascinating bugs in Dry Top? What are your wildest theories about the Eternal Alchemy? Let us know in the comments, 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 biweekly Flameseeker Chronicles column, which is published every other 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.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.