Hands-on: Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 4 Episode 5
A battle with world-shattering high stakes
Guild Wars 2's next Living World episode "All or Nothing" releases tomorrow. In the new episode players travel to Thunderhead Peaks where they will experience the continuation of the Living World story.
In "All or Nothing" players will make their way to Thunderhead Peaks: the area that veterans will remember as part of the final chapters of the original Guild Wars. It was here that players retook Thunderhead Keep from the Stone Summit and eventually made their way to the Ring of Fire Islands for the original game's finale.
Revisiting the area in a modern engine, many years after the original story, means there is room for interpretation and, of course, changes to the environment. Much to my delight, I still saw plenty of Dwarven architecture while exploring.
Hearing the iconic Shiverpeaks soundtracks play in the background while exploring made me reminiscence about the original game, the Deldrimor, and how the Dwarves played a pivotal role in Guild Wars Eye of the North.
The area features many different species, cultures and groups: Humans, Exhalted, Olmakhan, Dwarven, Dredge, Branded, Sunspear, Zephyrite, and Corsair are all represented.
In addition, pretty much every character that played a significant role in this season is also present, further solidifying the feeling that the episode is building up to a finale.
The episode continues right where the previous one left off: Blish sacrificed himself to be able to track Kralkatorrik in the Mists, so now it is up to the commander and the rest of his party to find a way to defeat the dragon.
In the previous episode players learned that the young dragon is scared of facing Kralkatorrik and that she had visions that she would lose this battle. In this new episode the commander must work together with Aurene to grow the bond between scion and champion as the episode leads up to the battle against Kralkatorrik.
The new episode doesn't just feature the continuation of the story, but also introduces the new mount mastery Bond of Faith.
The new mastery is said to fit within the narrative, as it is Aurene who infuses the commander with magic to provide that extra jump necessary to explore the nooks and crannies of the new map.
According to the development team, the Bond of Faith mastery was a feature the studio wanted to introduce with the game's second expansion pack Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, but it ultimately didn't make the cut due to limited development time and resources.
The new mastery allows players to combo into a glider or griffon mount two seconds after using it. If players don't pull off the combo they will receive fall damage immunity and two seconds of evasion.
While Thunderhead Peaks was quite fun to explore with existing mounts and the new mastery, I couldn't help but feel that the map itself will be less attractive to roam than Jahai Bluffs. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it may have been the varying height of the terrain, not being able to fully appreciate the dynamic events during my limited time with the episode, or, perhaps, the story setting the tone.
To me, it felt like a significant portion of the map was a staging area for the fight against Kralkatorrik, rather than something that players would want to spend a significant time on after completing the episode: exploring nooks and crannies and working your way through the story is entertaining, but I can't see large groups organizing around group content as often here.
That being said, the map does feature a meta event to participate in. In the event players must help Logan, Rytlock and Canach retake the Dwarven Keep. The event is a homage to the original Guild Wars that featured a similar story in its Prophecies campaign.
The story itself is nothing short of superb, as is the case with all previous episodes of this season. The momentum, the voice acting, the soundtrack, and the cinematics all come together to deliver yet another unforgettable episode this season, featuring plenty of references to earlier episodes, and even older games in the franchise.
I was particularly amazed by the voice acting of Caithe in this episode (Kari Wahlgren). I always considered her to be more of a supporting character this season, but the way she was portrayed here gave me a whole new appreciation for the character. I'm not one to spoil a good story, so you'll have to play the episode yourself to find out why.
The update also introduces the new fractal Siren's Reef, in which players work to break the isle's curse. The exact details on the new fractal will remain under wraps for players to discover themselves. However, the content was briefly shown in the episode's trailer.
Last but not least, the new legendary longbow Pharus, the new "Diviner" gear set, and the upgradable Dragonsblood weapon set are all acquirable with the release of the episode.
Guild Wars 2 Living World Season 4 Episode 5 "All of Nothing" releases on January 8, 2019.
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