Guild Wars 2: The Icebrood Saga Episode Five – Power launched today, dragging Tyria even closer to a cataclysmic end in this mmorpg. With fire and ice inching close to home and carnage spilling out across once peaceful settlements, we took up arms to check out the latest chapter in The Icebrood Saga.
This time around, there’s no putting Primordus back in the bottle. The fire dragon is active and it will take the efforts of every available faction to push back the wave of destruction that has wreaked havoc in the heart of Tyria. Setting out from the safety of The Eye of the North once more, commanders cutting a swathe will find a familiar fight awaits. Power is the follow up to November 2020’s Truce and another chance to push back the chaos, rescue a few souls, and gather allies in the quest to take down the Elder Dragons. With an even more active Primodrus in play, this means even more Dragon Response Missions, a ton of extra loot, and some new potential allies in this mix.
New Allies, New Adventures
Anybody jumping back into Guild Wars for this new entry in the Icebrood Saga can expect a similar set of scenarios to Truce and some very obvious end goals. Players grabbing their sword or staff will find themselves thrust straight from the safety of Aurene’s Sanctuary into a range of new instanced challenges, this time things cutting a bit close to home. Four new Dragon Response Missions are open for players to take on, in addition to last year’s battlefronts. Fields of Ruin, Thunderhead Peaks, Lake Doric, and Snowden Drifts all play host to their own invasions and while they have a familiar format, this second push feels far more engaging than my first stab at the Destroyers. Now we’re finding the result of our recent adventures unravelling before us, the newest Dragon Response Missions provide a sense of urgency and scale to the closing chapters of this ongoing story. With monsters lumbering up to the front door of Divinity’s Reach and breaching the barriers of Ebonhawke, the chaos that rattles through Tyria continues to ratchet up in scale. Familiar fortresses are ravaged by fire, villages are under attack, and Lake Doric is utterly unrecognizable. Following on from the defense of Metrica Province, it is great to find even more fortresses and capitals under threat, but the result of this encroaching destruction is far more than a mere skirmish.
The overall immersion of this second swing at the format feels like it has taken a huge leap forward. From the moment you jump out of The Eye of the North the scale of this episode is clearly a step up on Truce. Entire maps are littered with allied and enemy forces, the environmental change is far from light touch, and enemy placement feels far more deliberate this time around. Voice acting and character dialogue is, as always, excellent and each mission fits as part of a cohesive narrative, although much of the overarching presentation might seem unchanged from the last episode. ArenaNet has used the stay of leave between active deployment to vastly improve the experience in Dragon Response Missions. Wedged between two Elder Dragons and their forces, you can throw yourself into the action, knowing that it certainly is not going to be a mindless march through the trenches. The Dragon Slayer Mastery Line means you’ll continue to grab bonuses for taking down dragon minions while pushing on towards victory and much like during Truce, the Dragon Slayer Mastery track isn’t the only way to cut down enemies even faster. Commanders can call in re-enforcements if necessary, and anybody finding themselves overpowering their enemies can continue to add extra difficulty using challenge options.
While the four new Dragon Response missions immediately seem grander than their counterparts, these repeatable portions of content, even with challenge modes on, still come filled with a similar series of open world events, full of civilians to rescue, lines to hold, or simply skulls to smash before moving onto a bigger boss battle. Sure, a few new mechanics are littered around the missions but the core events aren’t fundamentally very different after peeling back the refinements. Taken at face value, without any difficulty adjustment, this made the previous Dragon Response Missions a large fire and forget affair, topped off with an underwhelming quagmire of a boss encounter. This time, however, ArenaNet’s new boss encounters are worlds more engaging than their predecessors.
Delve into the Thunderhead Peaks, in particular, and you’ll find this cute little morsel, seen above, and a challenge that is as interesting to extinguish as it is to admire. I won’t spoil the encounter but the visual and mechanical design of these final foes provides plenty of variation, from shock waves to exploding ordinance, and the odd break bar. This won’t overwhelm hardened raiders, yet the unique design of each final fight makes every Dragon Response Mission feel fully fleshed out and purposeful.
Like any good dungeon run, the shiny loot is of upmost importance, and this time around two new sets of Dragon Slayer Weapons are available to collect. Once again, faction-specific time based currency is on offer for playing during particular windows and lets players to get their hands on Azure and Crimson Dragon Slayer weapons. These enhance the existing weapon sets with a thematic hue and, alongside a small subset of achievements, are the primary reason to get grinning through Power. This isn’t the only major piece of loot, however, with a Deldrimor Stoneskin Infusion giving characters a stoic look that will fit right in with the newest allies to the cause.
Of course, this all builds on the existing format from Truce, meaning that content continues to be very short. The difference, this time, is that both the ambient storytelling, level design, and boss encounters have a much grander scale and feel much more engaging. This might be one grind I can get behind. You can check out more about Guild Wars 2: The Icebrood Saga Episode Five – Power over at the official Guild Wars 2 website now. And pick it up for free if you own Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire.