The Icebrood Saga: Champions Chapter 1 – Truce arrives today, beginning the final stretch towards The End Of Dragons expansion. With the fate of Tyria seemingly unsure once more and our heroes holed up in the Eye Of The North, we got an early look at the latest chapter in Arenanet’s MMORPG.
After a rather unexpected end to Jormag Rising, the latest entry in the ongoing battle for the future of Tyria is once again heating up, and things aren’t exactly going the way that we might hope. With an active ice dragon in the wind, legions of Icebrood roaming the north, and certain impudent cub now the Champion of an Elder Dragon, it didn’t seem like things could get too much worse. Unfortunately, it seems trouble is rising from a new direction and planting itself firmly in the heart of Tyria.
While Jormag’s shadow still hangs heavy in the air, The Icebrood Saga Episode 5: Chapter 1 Truce finds trouble closer to the ground. If you’ve had a chance to catch the trailer for the latest adventure then you’ll know what fiery threat has bubbled over and is busy scorching the land. The return of dragon minions and destroyers to the core of Tyria brings a whole new set of evolving challenges for any Commander to tackle.
While the front lines of the march to face Jormag found players out in the Drizzlewood coast, Truce returns to the quiet homesteads and open world that made up the backlines of this battle. Foreshadowed by some seriously shaky goings on in the Hirathi Hinterlands in the last few weeks, we now find areas like Metrica Province, Brisbane Wildlands, and Gandaran Fields overrun with invading forces loyal to a new threat. Heading out from The Eye of the North, Truce presents an opportunity to battle back these foes in a rather unexpected fashion.
Until now, we’ve marched forward, expecting each new episode of ArenaNet’s Living World to feature expansive new environments brimming with content and tales of heroism to keep us coming back for more. This time, Truce takes a slightly different approach. After the recent rumblings across Tyria, a seemingly innocuous trip to speak to Taimi results in this episode setting up camp in the heart of the Asura homestead. As waves of destruction begin to spill over Tyria, and uncovers an unlikely ally. While we try our best to keep things mute around the narrative side of things, this episode, it is noteworthy for several reasons.
Truce wanders off the well worn path to kill a dragon. I’ve been one to criticize ArenaNet, especially during Heart of Thorns, when we all knew that Modremoth was dead certain mulch. Truce continues this different approach and while it takes a lot of its lead from the previous episode, there’s a nice change of pace that reminds us that anything could happen, enemies could become friends, but then again they might be cold calculating killers too. Truce is certainly more of a show than tell experience too. While a sound narrative still weaves its way through this gambit, much of this leads us to jump in and experience the heat of battle as Destroyers swarm unprepared cities.
The narrative opening that proceeds this action is, thankfully, fully voice acted this time around. While unforeseen events have been trying for everyone of late, the return of Steve Blum, Debi Derryberry, and more of the fantastic talent that plays a major role in making Tyria so special is entirely welcome. ArenaNet’s sound team have done an excellent job filling the void without the full cast and Krew, but the return to the first fully voice acted edition of the Icebrood Saga since the pandemic hits feels like a wonderful bonus for fans of this virtual world and brings the whole episode alive in a way that makes me wonder if they shouldn’t be absent so we are reminded how important they are more often.
Short and Sweet?
Unfortunately, the appearance of our old friends is, at times, far to short for my own liking. The narrative in this episode largely leads players by the hand and introduces them to the three new Dragon Response Missions. This sliver of action proceeds to jump out from our base in the Eye of the North and sets out three instanced dungeons where players can push back the oncoming threat.
Set back in Metrica Province, Brisbane Wildlands, and Gandaran Fields these mini-dungeons plunge anybody facing the fire and woe that is raging across Tyria into zones rarely traversed outside of festival season, challenging you to defend them from attack. Covered in ash and reeling from waves of creepy crawly crablings, among other minions, these Dragon response missions add something of a different take on this familiar territory without the permanent change that the Nightmare tower inflicted on Kessex hills. There’s something refreshing to seeing a new side of these stalwart backdrops, even while under siege. Plenty of nice nods and faction-specific design is sprinkled across each of the three available encounters, giving them enough charm to make each encounter engaging the first few times around.
Anybody having any issues chewing through the occasional champion won’t be alone during these interventions, with either NPC accompaniment or fully fledged player parties of up to five participants. Whether you’re wading through the fires that burn across Gandaran Fields or calling on reinforcements in Metrica, don’t expect these encounters to be particularly problematic. Despite some great visual work in burning down the local landmarks and some cute little atmospheric add-ins such as the odd Asura Golem, cleaving through each Response Mission can quickly become a grind, even as the difficulty scales up to your party’s capability. Thankfully, there are plenty of rewards for this work.
ArenaNet teased new and returning allied factions in this upcoming adventure. Both the Crystal Bloom and Ebon Vanguard will appear on a rotating calendar throughout the lifetime of this content allowing players to earn reputation with each of the available alliances. Rather than run around a map talking to NPCs and pushing forward with open world events, similar to No Quarter, this favour is earned in instanced battle. While only three Dragon Response Missions are available, there’s plenty of reasons to replay these encounters. The addition of daily missions, a ton of achievements, and challenge modes results in coffers full of faction-based currency which can be turned in for a ton of new skins and weapons.
Axing For More?
Coolest of the new weapon skins that arrive with Truce is the Crystal Bloom Axe Skin, A weapon that represents Aurene’s followers, it is simplistic but utterly flashy at the same time and definitely bringing out my inner Skritt. Alongside this gorgeous new axe, there are two entirely additional weapon sets to collect during your defence of the realm. The Dragonslayer set of weapons, which you can see some of below are a mix of metal and ambient blue hues. There’s something understated about them that, like the Crystal Bloom Axe skin, makes them refined.
The Volcanic Stormcaller weapon set, however, is significantly fancier. Taking the recent Charged Stormcaller weapons and corrupting them with volcanic energy, players who are lucky can grab these as a rare drop while out slaying foreign invaders, making players almost indistinguishable from the burning wreckage of Tyria as they leave a trail of smoke in their wake. It’s about as flashy as this weapon set is likely to get.
While this makes around 33 weapons in total to buy, build, and bag in battle Truce definitely feels like it’s going to be something of a grind to get through. Dragon Response missions aren’t intended to replace Strike Missions and they really don’t feel any more engaging. Running solo, they simply end up being a reminder of what dungeons became. The rewards are definitely worth the effort and the sparse interaction we get with a fully acted voice cast is wonderful, but I feel like ArenaNet has been beaten into submission by current circumstances. Truce is in many ways a great return to core Tyria and a wonderful taster of what I hope will be a triumphant path into End of Dragons, but it ultimately feels like filler at times and will wear thin if you aren’t soley focused on the shiny rewards at the end of this campaign.
You can jump into Guild Wars 2 Icebrood Saga: Champions Chapter 1 – Truce now for free, assuming you own the Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire expansion, and grab some of those epic looking new weapons by logging in now.