Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons Review In Progress

GW2 Expansion Cantha End Of Dragons Kuunavang

Guild Was 2 End of Dragons launched on 28 February and after nearly a month back in Cantha we’re finally ready to share our thoughts, feelings, and fears in this Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons Review.

Kicking off from a familiar refuge in The Eye of the North, End of Dragons is the latest expansion for MMORPG Guild Wars 2. It follows on the heels of the epic conclusion to the Icebrood Saga and looks likely to wrap up the fate of the dreaded Elder Dragons after the fa of Jormag and Primordus. We already know that this massive content update will send players back to a much-missed region of Tyria, introduce new and exciting ways to play, as well as track down one more dragon but is the journey worth taking?

A Return To Form

You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been. This might sound a little cliché but End of Dragons is an expansion that is acutely aware of both tis past and future. Washing up on the shores of Old Kaineng immediately sinks players into an entirely new frontier for Guild Wars 2, and one that Guild Wars fans have been clamouring to get back to for years. The isle kingdom of Cantha plays host to this new arm of our adventure, but this is immediately more than just a bit of easy fan service. It’s an opportunity to reshape the experiences of the past and even bring new players into the game.

While ArenaNet once again managed to crash into an expansion, Cantha presents as a welcome change to Guild War’s Heart of Thorns add on. Rather than an unrelenting barrage of pocket raptors, or the jungle predators that waited on anybody stepping outside of core Tyria for the first time, End of Dragons is dense with narrative and early exposition. An obvious starter zone, this opening makes a great jumping off point for players that have had a long lapse or never even attempted to try out Guild Wars 2 before. Fundamentally, Guild War 2 is still the same game veterans will remember, but anybody walking in without a guild full of backup won’t find themselves lost and alone. This openness to new and returning players is further demonstrated as the expansion unfolds. From the simple foraging missions in Old Kaineng to the very obvious combat tutorials, there’s a deliberate attempt to make End Of Dragons accessible to a wide audience and it isn’t about to expect players to simply get good.

End of Dragons does more than just ease players back in. It genuinely seems to open up much of the game, from unlocking previous mastery lines to setting up rent a raptor and providing Siege Turtles for players to borrow. There’s an understanding that not everyone will have every bonus boost or component of previous expansions unlocked that even seeps into several areas of the game. This approach is only really undermined by the game’s insistence on using Living World Season 1 story material. After around eight years this still remains a locked door to anybody that missed it and makes ‘The Story So Far’ recap essential viewing if this is your first time in Tyria.

Setting a Course

Getting out beyond the confines of those first steps is something of a revelation, however. Environmental design has never been something that ArenaNet struggled with. Over the course of the Living World and Icebrood Saga, the Bellevue Studio experimented with a number of ideas, from giant indoor caverns to huge, towering cliff edges. End of Dragons feels like the culmination of all this and more. Most striking is the first steps into New Kaineng City, a futuristic city that brings echoes of Blade Runner to into Guild Wars 2. Part cybepunk future and part magical realm, this modern metropolis is built on the ascent of new Jade technology. The unfamiliar tech adds a neon veneer to the towering skyscrapers that loom over this new map. As a monstrous holographic whales lounge overhead and holographic talking heads blurt ut the latest news, the hum of a thriving citadel echos in the background. It’s a feat of technology that outshines Rata Sum and brings an utterly fresh take on the environmental design we’ve always known.

New Kaineng is more than just a shiny new jewel in the crown, however. It’s a statement of intent. It doesn’t just tease many of the elements that make up Cantha, it adds layers of complexity. The scale and depth of this urban hub are replicated across Cantha. Where players might lose themselves in the backstreets, alleyways, or floors of New Kaineng’s huge towers, The Echovald Wilds delve down into subterranean dungeons where new lore and legions of enemies also await your appraisal. There’s more than these two major maps to explore, and whether you’re gliding up over the Jade Waves or peeking your head into Dargon’s End, there’s a seemingly endless supply of new hidden objectives, points of interest, vistas, and lore to investigate. Don’t expect vast rocky outreaches and deserted wastelands here. Catha is alive and at any time are equally able to leave us awe struck or intrigued by what awaits.



Choose your Weapon

While it might be bustling with life, not all of the Canthan locals are friendly. Whether it’s the jade Brotherhood, the big bad dragon at the end of the line, or even the local Tengu parading through the forests, somebody always inevitably has a beef with The Commander. End of Dragons introduces a wealth of new factions and ways to take them down. While any of the endless Commanders might be able to take on the challenges of Cantha, new Specializations introduced as part of this expansion allow us all to pick a new way to play. Billed as the result of Canthan innovation, these new class changes are an update on a regular theme. Previewed by us prior to launch, the new class specializations are consistent with our initial impressions. They broaden the scope and flexibility for players feeling Scourge is just to cliché and freshen up the way some of our stalwart allies’ handle.


Guild Wars 2: End Of Dragons Hands On With the Specter


Much like the rest of End of Dragons, new changes to each of the core classes feels fresh and unique. This is, generally, quite true of all the new Elite Specializations. The Untamed, Willbender, Specter, Bladesworn, Catalyst, and harbinger are all are solid additions to the existing roster of player options, with the Mechanist and Virtuoso being two of my particular favourites to play. The level of thought given to the way trait lines, the Jade Mech, and each player character’s skills all interact to empower players speaks to the level of focus and details that permeates much of this expansion. Without delving int o a break down of every potential combination and layout imaginable, it’s enough to say that I’m astounded at ArenaNet’s ability to make the majority of these new class options feel like far more than a simple weapon swap.


Other Added Extras

Specializations aren’t the only change to Guild Wars 2’s horizontal progression arc either. The core ethos that players should have a variety of ways to play and adapt their characters without placing anybody on a treadmill of power creep continues in End of Dragons. The multitude of new mastery lines is significant, with players able to expand on into Cantha’s latest and greatest discoveries. Most significant of these new options is the Siege Turtle and Jade Bots. We got a look at the new 2 player mounts before End of Dragons went live, but this cute little critter grows into something unique. While not required to complete the game, and available to borrow through some quests, the Siege Turtle is something of a game changer, encouraging interaction between individuals who might otherwise just scouring maps for some solo adventure.

This isn’t limited to mounts either. While MMOs are inherently social activities, changes to the way Guild halls come together, and the Skiff just provide subtle nudges to encourage and reward player interaction. They are also incredibly meaningful changes, adding progression that escapes the boundaries of the Living World and providing utility across core Tyria. Find a spot of uninterrupted water anywhere in the worlds and expect to be able to fish any stream, all the way back to lake Doric.

gw2 skiffs

From a functional standpoint, End of Dragons adds a huge variety of progression and customization that expands the tools that PvE players have on hand. That’s hugely encouraging for the widest player base that guild Wars 2 has and is the best value for money, although I can’t help but feel that the World vs World game mode doesn’t benefit from this increased focus once again.

With a bewildering array of new tools and a gorgeous new set of maps in front of us, come back on Monday the rest of our Guild Wars 2 End of Dragons review, when we actually experience the wonders of Cantha and maybe hunt down a Dragon. If you’re already convinced by the new tools on offer then you can head over to the official Guild Wars 2 website now to pick up End of Dragons and find out what awaits.

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