PAX South and Heart of Thorns

Okay. It’s not a secret anymore. The world now knows about it. Guild Wars 2 is getting an expansion at some point in the semi-near future, as was announced this past weekend at PAX South.

I would have written about it sooner, but I was at PAX, and I couldn’t even try and make a post from my phone due to terrible cell reception. And at this point, there’s more writeups of the info that was shared and what we now know than I could count. The speculation is through the roof. But just being there was such a special, amazing experience, which began on Friday upon arrival.

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These nifty little cards were being handed out at the entrance to the convention center, and I must say, they are nice. The GW2 HoT logo is in a beautiful shiny green, which is why the picture looks rather strange, and it’s a lovely heavy and nicely sized card. Mine is going to be hung up on the wall with the rest of my GW2 artwork. And really, it was just really neat to immediately see these upon arriving at the convention. This is big. Companies are not going to go through the expense of printing something like this unless it was for something big and important, and I also thought it was just a nice little thing to have and collect.

Saturday was the big day, though. Saturday morning was the panel and the announcement. We were lucky; we got to get in this line.

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Thanks to this, we were seated right up in front – fifth or sixth row, and almost dead-center in the theater. I could not have asked for a better spot to be; it was amazing. We also had the luck of being in a spot where we were clearly visible on the stream when they showed the audience; my phone was blowing up with texts and tweets from people saying that they could see us. It was great. ArenaNet had put small inflatable bats at each seat for everyone; when inflated they made a ridiculous amount of sound when hit together. Noisemakers so we don’t destroy our throats screaming? I can go with this.

Now, I just have to say this much. The atmosphere in that theater was insane. Everyone was so excited, so hyped up for whatever we were about to be shown. The room was just full of this really intense feeling that can only come from having so many people who are so eager to find out about something in a small-ish area.

And then Jennifer Hale walked out on stage to start things off, and everything blew up. In a good way.

My cell phone doesn't have the best camera. Oh well.

My cell phone doesn’t have the best camera. Oh well.

Okay. So before I started writing this post up, I sat at my computer for a good half hour just staring blankly at it, because I had absolutely no idea where to start with this. I still don’t know. But there was so much cool stuff talked about. Revenant, the new profession (I need at least two). New maps, with a heavy emphasis on verticality, which will greatly increase the amount of new stuff we can get in a zone. Masteries, which give us neat things like the ability to hang-glide, read ancient languages, and even new collections which will allow crafting precursors (FINALLY). Specializations, which let professions play with new weapons, skills, and traits. Staff ranger – the Druid – was specifically mentioned, as was necromancers getting to use greatswords. There’s new content, obviously, GUILD HALLS, a new SPvP mode, a new WvW map…

And here’s the thing. They barely scratched the surface on what we’ll be getting. We know two specializations, and the trailer showed two others (a mesmer with a shield and an engineer with a hammer). We know that the Revenant profession is a heavy armor profession and channels powers from legendary heroes of the past – it holds a striking similarity to the Ritualists of GW1, complete with the blindfold – but nothing else. We know only a little bit about what kind of Masteries will be available. There’s so much more info about this that they are going to be gradually revealing to us.

I was, to say the least, incredibly excited.

We went to the GW2 party that evening, and it was just the same feeling all the way through. Excitement. Happiness. Wanting to know more. And, well, it reminded me a lot of something else, and I wasn’t the only one that had that thought:

It was just like the time leading up to the release of Guild Wars 2, all over again. Excitement. Happiness. Impatience to learn more. Not wanting to wait to play, but knowing it’ll be worth it. There was a very definite feel to the community during the pre-launch days, which has been gone for quite a long time. It’s returned. And I love it. I love seeing people come back to the game that haven’t played in a while. I love seeing everyone just so hyped up about things. This sort of thing, this is the community that I know and love. And this is the feel of it that I’ve missed so much.

So, well done, ArenaNet. Well done on keeping this such a closed secret for so long. Well done on such an amazing presentation. Well done on doing such an amazing job at revitalizing the community and so many people’s love of the game. Thank you, Rubi and Stephane, for letting me chatter excitedly at you at the party, and Lis for hanging out with us throughout the weekend and not cracking at all. Thank you to everyone who let that panel go off without a hitch. And thank you, to everyone at ArenaNet in general, for, well…this. There’s nothing else to be said there. Just, thank you.

Now, to wait impatiently for more info…

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No Turning Back

With Tuesday’s release, Point of No Return, the second season of the Living World has come to an end, and boy has it done so with a bang. The name is an incredibly accurate description of the events that take place – there is no going back from what has happened. A terrible truth has been learned, the attack has been launched…things have changed.

Okay, before I start too much, I’m just going to point out that this will be rife will spoilers. Good? Good.

So, finally the threads have come together (for the most part). If there was one thing about this storyline, it’s that frequently it felt like we were pursuing a number of disparate threads; the sudden switches between the content of the different instances could be jarring at times, as it didn’t feel like there was much to link them together. Jumping back and forth between directly fighting the Mordrem and things like digging around the Priory could seem weird. This patch brought together most of those events, but there’s still tons of questions left.

I just love this loading screen.

I just love this loading screen.

So, in a fast summary, previous episodes saw us trying to find out what the Master of Peace had been up to while the Pact readied to launch their fleet. Going to the Priory brought us to Ogden Stonehealer, a familiar face to Guild Wars 1 players, who led us to Glint’s Lair. There we found that the Master had been protecting Glint’s egg. We track down the Master, but he is killed, and Caithe steals the egg and vanishes. The Pale Tree is distressed by this fact and gives us “memory seeds”, which we use to relive moments in Caithe’s early life, in an attempt to find where she had gone. We also essentially witness the birth of the Nightmare Court through these memories, which revolved around Caithe and Faolain trying to find Wynne, another Firstborn, who knew a secret about the sylvari that Faolain was determined to discover. The previous episode saw us faced with a cave that was locked with unknown magic, but that we needed to gain entry to.

Point of No Return picks up with our character returning to the Priory with Marjory to find out how to enter this cave. This instance is another GW1 lore bomb; it will certainly be very familiar to those who played Prophecies. Don’t forget to interact with that Old Mirror! Having found what we needed (hopefully), we head back to the Silverwastes to meet with Logan, Eir, Zojja, and Trahearne, before setting off to where we must go. Camp Resolve falls under attack from the Mordrem first, and they are barely fought off. Do make sure to stick around for the dialog after the fight ends – the conversation between Zojja and Logan is quite funny (clearly the years and events of the game have healed the rift between the two quite well), and there’s a rather sweet one between Eir and Braham.

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The third and final instance, The Mystery Cave, is the heavy one. Once we gain entry, we’re faced with a massive cavern, with everything a glittering gold color, and there is an entrance (blocked with a sandfall) of a massive, ancient structure. This cave reminded me heavily of Elona; in particular it reminded me of the Hidden City of Ahdashim.

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Scattered through the cavern are a few objects – some chairs and mugs and a blanket – which the game makes a point to state how odd it is to find something so ordinary in a place like this. Near the blanket is the place for the final memory seed, and we learn what happened so long ago.

First of all, I believe that this is the point where Faolain fully embraced the Nightmare, and where Caithe finally turned away from her and stepped back. Having finally tracked down and cornered Wynne, Faolain is so determined to learn what this secret is that she decides she will torture it out of her fellow Firstborn. Wynne is terrified by this; she knows how far Faolain’s cruelty will go. She begs Caithe to kill her, knowing that if Faolain found out this secret, she would not keep it to herself, and it would mean the end of the sylvari.

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And so we learn that sylvari were created by the jungle dragon, Mordremoth. Born to be his minions. When you confront her back in the present, Caithe confirms that what you saw was true – that she did indeed murder one of her fellow Firstborn, and that sylvari were indeed born of Mordremoth. She also says that at this point, the secret will make its way out either way – sylvari have been starting to lose control of themselves. She then vanishes with Glint’s egg, saying to remember that she is on the same side you are.

Okay. I have to admit. I am not exactly happy with the revelation that sylvari are dragon minions, and that old fan theory being proven to be true. I have never been a fan of it. I don’t like the idea that a playable race was made to be minions of a dragon. It just sits poorly with me…plus I love sylvari too much to want to think that my beloved flowers were created by a dragon. However, it does add an interesting depth to sylvari and the game’s lore, and I certainly cannot complain about the presentation of this information. But there are still questions that this brings up.

The first is, what exactly is the Pale Tree? The popular theory has always had her seen as a champion of Mordremoth, but with how things have been presented it does not point at this being the case. Rather, I believe her to be something of an anomaly, with the early tending of the sapling by Ronan and Ventari, as well as the teachings on Ventari’s tablet, subverting her nature to be opposed to the dragon. There is also the Dream; this is something that not even she fully understands, despite being the guardian of, and she’s the only one who can directly access. It is known that there is at least one other sylvari tree in Tyria, and the single sylvari that has been met from that tree, Malyck, had no connection to the Dream and knew nothing of it.

So I believe that what we currently know points at the Pale Tree likely not, in fact, being a champion of Mordremoth; she was actively working to protect the sylvari race, and Mordremoth sent his champion, the Shadow of the Dragon to directly attack her. The Dream and Wyld Hunts are also concepts that are unique to sylvari born of the Pale Tree, so far as we know (we know the Dream is, at any rate), and it’s worth remembering that at current, if you play a sylvari, you currently have the Wyld Hunt of destroying Mordremoth.

Somehow I doubt the dragon had any control over that.

gw222So my personal theory remains much as it was the last time I wrote about the topic of sylvari and corruption – that it is a strong connection to the Dream that is important for protection of sylvari. Some things have changed, however; knowing now that sylvari are the creation of Mordremoth explains their inability to be corrupted by the powers of the other dragons. It also explains why the two sylvari we know to have been corrupted by Mordremoth, Scarlet and Aerin, were able to have that happen – Scarlet learned things she shouldn’t have and made herself Soundless, and Aerin also was Soundless. Cutting themselves off from the Dream made them open to Mordremoth, who was able to then take control of them. The Pale Tree is currently in a weakened, near-death state, which likely is the cause of sylvari starting to lose control; without her to guide the Dream and her children, her protection against the dragon is become weaker and weaker.

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So the big question here is (or one of several, anyway), what is going to come of the sylvari? Clearly not every sylvari will come under the thrall of the dragon – it’s simply not possible for that to happen without turning many players’ characters evil. Caithe appears to still be fully in control of herself despite being highly secretive and running off with what everyone considers to be the key to defeating the dragons. In the second cutscene you see, Canach is present, facing off against a large mob, and states “Stop treating us as monsters, we are not the enemy.”

Just what is protecting some sylvari from this corruption while leaving others open? I’m guessing it’s any number of factors; a strong connection to the Dream, a powerful Wyld Hunt, a particularly strong will in an individual, or the presence of especially powerful magic could all be things that lend to this. As sylvari players, we have the first three present, coupled with the fact that our current Wyld Hunt is to kill Mordremoth. Canach is the very definition of stubborn, plus his recent association with Anise means that he is frequently in the company of an exceptionally powerful mesmer, which could be assisting.

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What role will the Nightmare Court play? We see Faolain in the cutscene in the midst of a fight, but it’s not obvious what side she is on; she impales and kills a being that does not look to have any vines or other corruption around them (like other creatures scene in that part), however, so I’m doubting she’s on the side of good. I would hazard a guess that the Nightmare Court, due to their darker natures, will be more open to corruption, despite the fact that they still maintain a connection to the Dream. I had assumed previously that the Nightmare Court would be likely to side with the rest of the sylvari in a fight against the dragons, but with what we now know, I’m finding that less likely. It’s far more likely that they would revel in the chaos and let themselves become corrupted, seeing Mordremoth’s corruption as freeing others from Ventari’s teachings.

And the most important question. WHERE IS ALL OF THIS GOING. Well, right now we have something of a hint…

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…and shortly we will know more. This logo was leaked early Tuesday morning by someone doing some digging around and discovering that NCSoft had trademarked the name “Heart of Thorns”, and then it was shown at the end of the second cutscene. It was followed with when to find more information – at PAX South. And, well, I really think we’re finally getting an expansion announced. People have said that before, but I think this is it.

Several things here to look at. First is the very fact that the name has been trademarked. None of the other LS stuff has had that happen. Usually trademarks are only filed for if it’s something big. Second is the fact that the second season is over with, and realistically, very little has happened other than set up a much larger story. Third is the panel at PAX South itself. It is a Saturday panel in the main theater. Saturday is a prime day at any convention – that’s when the big things happen. That’s when the most people are there. It’s always the busiest and biggest day. Then, the fact that the panel is in the main theater. That is huge. Looking at the PAX South schedule, there are only ten panels (and two concerts) in the main theater. A very notable fact there is that the GW2 panel is the only game specific panel. The panelists listed? Colin Johanson and Mike O’Brien.

Add all of that together. Trademarked name for something teased at the end of a LS season with an announcement at PAX, on Saturday, in the main theater, being the only game to have a panel there, and who is presenting the panel…they are absolutely announcing something huge. They would not go to that much effort for something like another LS season.

Also, I feel the need to point out that I will be at PAX South, and so I am just a tiny bit excited to be at this panel and see what’s going to happen.

We really have hit a point of no return. If nothing else, the title of the episode is true in rather a number of ways.