Big Fish, Little Fish, Gargantuan Dragon. What About Bubble?
This week I’ve been unfortunate enough to face Kralkatorrik’s wrath when a lightning storm sent me back into an age of myth and magic. Ok, my broadband died. It did, however, leave me with some time to think about the future of those dragons.
It’s pretty safe to say that every since we got a glimpse of what Scarlet saw, back in 2014, we’ve known that the sea dragon is out there waiting for us. The migration of the Quaggan, the appearance of Krait, and the Karka chaos that ensued in Southsun Cove were all signs that the dreaded deep sea dragon was awake. Repeated polls on the official forums and the general hubbub around the Reddit watercooler seem to suggest that the community want to grab a spear and plunge right into a new adventure that takes a stab at Tyria’s water dragon, but in a game where you can’t even reel in a cod is it really a good idea for us to go looking for our own Kraken?
When Guild Wars 2 introduced underwater combat I was thrilled at the idea of an immersive aquatic experience. The first time I dived in and found spray dripping down my screen, I knew that the ArenaNet had put substantial effort into making the ocean a complete world. Foraging at the bottom of Lion’s Arch was astounding. The remnants of the old city littered the surrounding sea floor and a vibrant world swirled around me. Yet, today the coastal waters are largely deserted. Underwater legendary weapons are a niche badge of honor and aquatic adventures are just something Tyrians tend not to do.
This is not an issue that Guild Wars 2 faces alone, however. World of Warcraft’s Vash'jir zone is a bit of a dead man’s chest, Rift’s Nightmare Tide expansion faced a fairly mixed reception, and Monster Hunter 3’s underwater areas were a lame duck. There are various reasons for this, but in essence, it is because the game’s we play are all land lovers. Some of the most impressive underwater experiences I’ve had in do not face this problem. Games like Abzu and Subnautica are designed to be underwater experiences, and as a result, it is far too easy to lose yourself in their worlds. I’ve spent hours navigating their watery depths and while Guild Wars 2 is a joy to explore, the tide can start to turn when it comes to combat.
Even if you could go fish on your off days, combat, game mechanics, and even your player character are built around a fairly limited axis of altitude. Engineers and Elementalists, for example, benefit from ground-based targetting when there is a ground to speak of. Sure, harpoons help and spears make life a little less problematic but these bring their own issues when trying judge how far you need to swim to skewer a Krait.
Exploration might be one of the things that ArenaNet has absolutely right, but getting around a massive new environment may provide its own challenges if we go below. The world seems to slip by at a much slower pace when you’re hunting the watery undead. It, again, is something that is not exclusive to watching those tiny Asuran feet paddle for dear life, but it is a noticeable change when you get wet. Movement can feel lackluster, dodging seems slow, and camera angles can get confusing. I won’t deny that AnrenaNet’s sub aqua arena is one of the best that I’ve ever seen, but combat would still make it a decidedly divisive area to take future content.
So if it remains to be seen that we would go looking for trouble out in the Unending Ocean, then there are other ways that we might find ourselves facing a deep sea dragon. Speculation and fan fever have proposed everything from a Sylvari sea of thieves to underwater mounts. While I am definitely on board for pirate hats, it seems just as likely ArenaNet will use what they already have. Three other prehistoric wrecking machines. We’ve seen the destruction of Zhiatan and Mordremoth have huge consequences for the balance of magic in Tyria. The two facets of life and death released their ambient energy and we gradually found ourselves fighting a coalescence of their magic. Minions that mixed the attributes of these monsters appeared in Ember Bay and gave us one of our early glimpses of a whole new paradigm that was about to occur. Remaining elder Dragons consumed the defeated dragon’s power and take on elements of their magic. It’s not inconceivable that if we eliminate Kralkatorrik, Bubbles will absorb some of its facets and come waddling landwards to us.
With three land dragons still undefeated, a branded nightmare spreading across the Crystal Desert, and Palawa Joko on the rise, it looks like the immediate future is landlocked. A water expansion might be a great opportunity to try some new things, but it’s a risky business, dipping your toe in that water, and with so many competing targets on land, it might only take the aspirations of one Primordial king for the tentacles of doom to reach Lion’s Arch on their own. Do you think we’re ever going fishing for dragons, or will we never know the name of the dragon beginning with S?