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Flameseeker Chronicles: Who watches Guild Wars 2's watchknights?

Anatoli Ingram

A few weeks ago, I covered a few possibilities for the direction of the Guild Wars 2 patch that was known at the time as The Queen's Speech, now revealed to actually be Clockwork Chaos. The majority of it didn't pan out, which is to be expected when engaging in wild mass guessing; I'll be a little disappointed if ArenaNet has really decided to retcon the hints it previously set up around the Great Collapse, but we know that the Crown Pavilion Arena will probably be revisited at some point and there's always a chance for things to go wrong in lots of different ways. The plus side is that Scarlet Briar is exactly the kind of villain GW2 has been hurting for, and her presence on the playing field is opening up all kinds of potential directions for the plot.

Behind the cut are spoilers for this chapter of the living story as well as Scott McGough's short story What Scarlet Saw. Join me in the depths of hopeless nerditude and let's discuss the new lore elements this release has introduced!

Scarlet herself

Scarlet joins the ranks of characters that have split the fanbase into "love" or "hate" camps. Some people think she's a Mary Sue, which is a term traditionally associated with characters who smell of author wish-fulfillment. I'm of the opinion that the term has been overused and misused to the point that it's lost a lot of its meaning and that it tends to get applied with wild abandon to characters who are simply important to the story or very powerful. Scarlet is both important and powerful.

Her defining character traits are a thirst for knowledge and intense focus. These are the things that make her powerful, but they also have the potential to be her biggest flaws. Scarlet is obsessed with a concept, and it was her complete lack of interest in anything else that drove her to master the things she did. On the other hand, it's all she's mastered. In What Scarlet Saw, she devours any knowledge that relates to her field of interest while blithely dismissing anything that doesn't (much to the frustration of her teachers). It's no wonder she fits in with the equally shortsighted Inquest, who believe in the superiority of their own methods and ideas even as they casually attack the very society they want recognition from.

A player I know expressed some concern that ArenaNet might be trying to cast the Pale Tree and the Sylvari in a sinister light through Scarlet's vision, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. The Pale Tree reminds me very much of Glint: her intentions are likely good even if she has reasons for not revealing everything she knows. In contrast, Scarlet is a true anarchist who values the ideal of freedom from societal expectations without really understanding the consequences. This is possible for her because she doesn't appear to value life, love, or personal relationships at all. What she saw in Omadd's machine may have caused her to choose to be actively dangerous, but she was already on that path; the Pale Tree tried to appeal to Scarlet's better nature, but she never really had one. She's the moral grey area a lot of people wanted from the Nightmare Court taken to the extreme: an id running wild whose goal is freedom from any sort of social contract in order to pursue her own desires. And of course, being utterly self-centered, she thinks that would be best for everyone else too.

I like Scarlet and I find her interesting. The story of GW2 has lacked a major villain with a personality until now, and that's something the original Guild Wars almost always had. We may have been struggling against unseen forces of magic and nature in GW1, but Vizier Khilbron, Shiro Tagachi, and Varesh Ossa were people with motivations that could be understood. The Elder Dragons make unsatisfying rivals because while they're cool, scary eldritch abominations, they're unable to be connected with on a human level by design, and as a result they're scarier and more interesting when they aren't the main focus. Even H.P. Lovecraft usually offset his inconceivable cosmic monstrosities by exploring their effect on human beings rather than dealing with them directly. Scarlet may not be an agent of the Elder Dragons herself, but I'll be surprised if her little crusade to unweave the societal fabric of Tyria doesn't uncover more information about their place in it.

Flameseeker Chronicles Who watches GW2's watchknights
Jennah, Logan, and Anise

Krytan political machinations did find their way into this chapter of the story, although not in the way I'd anticipated: Scarlet's attacks on the Pavilion have exposed a rift between Countess Anise and Logan Thackeray. The two of them worked together in the human personal story with little incident and seemed to get along fairly well outside of some light banter, so it's curious that things have broken down this far. They both care deeply for Jennah, which may in fact be the source of the conflict -- Logan is furious at having been kept in the dark where Jennah's safety is concerned and thinks Anise is deliberately trying to keep them apart, while Anise is... well, pretty obviously trying to do just that. She points out that it's her job to identify threats to the queen, and Logan needs to be doing his job, which is eradicating those threats.

The truth is, Anise has a point. Logan has a long history of losing his cool when Jennah's safety is in question; in Caudecus's Manor story mode he's all but useless without other people reminding him to calm down and think, and while the jury is still out on whether or not it was justified, there was that whole thing with him ditching a raid on an Elder Dragon to make sure Jennah was OK. It's hard not to feel for him a little in this case, though, since Anise has been downright hostile to him since the start of the Queen's Jubilee. If she hadn't apparently tried to humiliate Logan during the first watchknight demonstration by disguising his opponent as Rytlock Brimstone and having it parrot words that would upset him, it might be easier to believe that she's merely concerned about his doing his job; instead, it looks more as if she's trying to make him seem incompetent.

This is, of course, playing directly into Scarlet's hands. We don't know her motivation for specifically singling out Jennah, but we do know that sowing the seeds of discord is at the core of her plans. She didn't succeed in taking the queen, but with a conflict brewing between the leaders of the two factions Jennah can usually count on, Scarlet may have wounded Kryta severely regardless.

I think it's almost too early to speculate on what might be the more sinister implications of Anise's hostility; she's always been presented as a trustworthy figure prior to this, and her sudden snappishness and petty behavior in the midst of a crisis feels a little out of character. This bit of the story seems to be a setup for future resolution, however, and it's mightily convenient that Scarlet managed to gain enough control over the watchknights to change their structure completely even after Countess it's-my-job-to-identify-threats-to-the-queen Anise knew someone had been messing with them. Apparently nobody examined them, and Anise knew exactly how to handle the threat to keep Jennah safe while Logan had to deal with things on the fly... and then she humiliated him in front of Jennah again, using his anger to make him seem childish and neglectful of his actual duties.

Flameseeker Chronicles Who watches GW2's watchknights
Invasions and announcements

Scarlet's invasions will continue to occur after this patch is over, albeit at a less frequent pace. It's been rumored that we'll find out what Queen Jennah's big announcement was at a later date; apparently it wasn't actually supposed to be, "My fellow Krytans, we are under attack by Scarlet and in really deep skritt." These plot points aren't even close to wrapping themselves up, so I imagine things are going to get much worse in the future before we take Scarlet down. That's a good thing, since the longer she's alive and talking, the more information she's likely to spill.

One hot topic in the community -- unrelated to lore -- has been how easy it is to farm gold from this month's releases and whether or not this is good for the game. There have even been forum posts begging ArenaNet to curb farming, which is bemusing since prior to this there were lots and lots of forum posts taking ANet to task for cracking down on lucrative farming spots and exploits. The barometer has swung from "ANet hates farmers" to "ANet is letting us make gold and that's terrible." Before we get too worried, though, it's worth remembering that level 500 crafting is going to be out by the end of the year, and these events have given us ample opportunity to stockpile the materials and gold we'll probably be putting right back into the system in order to get us to the point where we can craft our Ascended weapons. It's likely not a bad idea to take advantage of the windfall while it's there and squirrel away the proceeds if you're at all fond of gear with pink text.

What do you think of Scarlet and the recent story developments? How cool are Scarlet's twisted watchknight thingers with their laser attachments and creepy animations, huh? Are you farming your eyes out or finishing up your Queen's Gauntlet achievements? Talk it up in the comments below, 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 Equip cleansing skills -- just in case.

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