Today, The Charr go to war in a last gasp attempt to avert an apocalyptic mistake. The Icebrood Saga is back and we got ahead of the main assault to take a look at the latest instalment of this adventure in Guild Wars 2.
Episodic updates are a long-established norm for ArenaNet’s hit MMORPG. New challenges arrive almost monthly and the unfolding narrative brings Tyria to the brink of destruction as often as it saves it. Now, the latest instalment in The Icebrood Saga finds Dragon’s Watch and the Commander back in the trenches, staring down an internal struggle that might find an Elder Dragon swallowing Tyria whole.
Players who have been following The Icebrood Saga will already know that the enigmatic and powerful Bangar Ruinbringer, once Imperator of the Blood Legion and now supreme commander of the Dominion forces has led his own influential army in a march towards the Elder Dragon Jormag. With a misguided belief that Bangar can overcome and control the insidious ideas of this ancient force of nature, these wayward Charr warriors must be stopped before they release destruction upon every citizen in Tyria.
March Into The Trenches
With a somewhat muted entry in The Icebrood Saga preceding this new adventure, with Visions of The Past: Steel and Fire, No Quarter needs to impress if it hopes to live up to the enormity of the stakes at play. Stepping into Drizzlewood Coast, players will find a new map and a huge forest full of verticality and utterly crammed with activity. Umbral Grotto marks the jumping-off point for this new encounter and a staging post for the legions of Charr that stand against Bangar and his forces. Take a top-down look at the location and you’ll find that it is split up into nine areas of activity, each of which has multiple lanes winding through two very obviously different biomes. While much of your time might be spent in the westernmost mountainside, don’t let the placid looking eastern beaches fool you into thinking this is a holiday soldier. This deliberate design and the outposts that sit steadfast in each region are just the first hints of what’s to come when players forge a path into the depths of the Drizzlewood Coast.
Players who march out of Umbral Grotto towards Petraj Overlook and other unexplored areas of the map will find this verdant zone isn’t just large, it’s designed to funnel all activity easily towards several major points of contention. While explorers with Skyscales and Springers will probably find the map surprisingly open and unrestricted, the rest of us will quickly find ourselves head-on with entrenched Dominion forces. Much like the Silverwastes, No Quarter borrows combat concepts from Guild Wars 2’s World versus World game mode with a few of its own twists. Instead of following the lead of the Silverwastes map system, where the Pact largely holds outposts in a map-wide meta that relies on coordinated timing, Drizzlewood Coast concentrates on a more linear push to victory.
No Quarter directs the Ash, Iron, Blood and Flame, legions through a total of seven heavily defended locations. Where the Mordrem were mostly mindless monstrosities that needed weeding out of the desert, Dominion forces that infest the frontlines of this conflict are much tougher to defeat. Again, borrowing very directly from WvW breakout systems, the Allied Charr Legions at Umbral Grotto are always ready to dispatch an assault force into battle. This is when it becomes clear that taking an outpost is just about achievable on your own with these NPCs along or the ride.
Cut through the grunts that get in your way and this new episode reveals yet another new mechanic borrowed from WvW. Taking an enemy outpost takes some effort and siege weapons are required to even get into Dominion occupied fortresses. Catapults, ballistae, arrow carts, and flame rams are all available to purchase for use on the coast and are a nice nod to a game mode that many PvE focused players might not encounter much. Unlike WvW, this siege is instantly deployed by default allowing an assault to maintain plenty of momentum. Ram through the front door and you’ll face off against well-prepared NPCs wielding the odd ballista, arrow carts, and catapults. Players can, of course, turn the tide with their own siege but will still need to bring down No Quarter’s equivalent of a Keep Lord. Drizzlewood’s map-wide meta push is an interesting take on World Vs Word systems that I certainly enjoyed. Overall the push-pull of the systems employed is an interesting concept and makes for a busy if sometimes a little unthreatening experience. It does, however, raise some questions. After defeating the Dominion, overcoming keep forces form the Lighthouse Point to Fort Defiance, why return to the front lines? Is there any reason to take the war to the Dominion after completing the story missions in this new map?
Fill Your Bags
Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes. While the Silverwastes map meta is a gold train that had surprising longevity, Drizzlewood Coast is likely to build on that and more. There is plenty of loot to salvage, grab, and collect throughout Drizzelwood Coast, with a number of events cycling through the map. The Dominion isn’t going to let the allied Charr and Pact forces simply remain in control of the coast and its forest. This constant push-pull through the lanes prove invaluable for gathering a new map currency, War Supplies. These supplies are available as rewards for a number of activities and serve an equally flexible purpose. Form building siege weapons to purchasing another set of important consumables. War supplies aren’t just useful for the war effort, they’re great for personal gain. Trading these at particular NPCs provides access to Cache Keys, used to unlock loot around the map. If this sounds familiar then you would be correct. To allow players to more easily locate these valuable treasure chests, the Charr have developed Signal Boxes, again available as reward drops from beating your enemy into submission. This produces a core gameplay loop that worked tremendously well in SIlverwastes and likely will again. Coupled with achievement-based currencies like the Charr Commendations, the intent seems to be to incentivise a sustained loot train that will support the wider map meta beyond the next instalment of the Icebrood Saga
Alongside the loot left lying around this new map, No Quarter introduces two weapon collections for players to invest time and effort into, each with their own achievements. The new Tengu and Stormcaller weapon sets are two very distinct weapon types providing plenty of customization for a variety of characters, as well as lots of challenge for anybody chasing the connected achievements. Plenty of other options are available, indulging a set of legion themed backpacks, helms, and my personal favourite, a repeater rifle that ejects a cartridge when spent.
Mastery and Movement
With so much to collect and customize, the brand new United Legion Waystation should get plenty of use while hordes of players churn through the coast. The is United Legion Waystation a new addition that provides players with access to a number of additional gadgets and enhancements that will make life a little easier out in the open world. Entering the fight as a mastery line, this new skillset gives players a few neat new gadgets to use across any PvE encounter, and yet I feel like it won’t be where I’m investing my mastery points quite yet. Instead, I will continue to delve into Essence Manipulation lines. While the United Legions Waystation provides players with an electromagnetic pulse and a remote charge, Arenanet has widened the utility of the Vigilance, Resilience, and Valor Essence Manipulation lines to make them invaluable in Drizzlewood Coast. While taking down the enemy, players invested in these abilities will find Dominion forces dropping orbs that provide the same noticeable boon to thwarting attacks and taking down foes as first arrived several months ago.
Should your push into enemy territory fail or you need to back up the Pact quickly, then a cool new feature is also on offer. Charr copter pickups are all set to drop para-commanders into action over areas of Drizzlewood Coast that have been flipped to allied control. It’s a minor point but a nice little map addition that could have acted as a more useful
map-centric mastery than the United Legions Waystation, but that’s just my take on the matter.
There’s a ton to do in Drizzlewood Coast and we’ve barely even delved into the depths of the story missions. The Icebrood Saga has given Guild Wars 2 an opportunity to focus on two of the game’s more underutilized races. While this episode moves away from the Norn focus, it still allows those of us who haven’t dived as hard into the murky water of Charr politics to experience the to and fro of these warriors with a cast of compelling characters that might even tug at your loyalty to the more established characters in the game. While we can’t talk about the finer details, we can say that the story is, as always engaging and takes a look a the impact of strife in every camp. With characters we already know and feel for entrenched on both sides, your own divided loyalties might even be tested as the plot reaches a devastating conclusion. Don’t expect an easy ride this time, and while the and while the lack of voice acting is a little bizarre, it makes the work of the audio teams all the more impressive when you face off against the final hurdle in this epic adventure.
Whether you’re busy divining Charr scrawls, leading the charge through Port Cascadia, or trying to convince Ryland and his warband the folly of their ways your contribution is noted and absolutely necessary soldier. We can’t wait to get in and Give No Quarter when the latest episode in The Icebrood Saga, available now for free. Just log into Guild Wars 2 now to unlock this free update and find out what’s ahead for Bangar and the rest of Tyria.