Guild Wars 2 has always been a game built on a few iconic characters that carry the story of the game. Unlike World of Warcraft where hundreds of characters and storylines intertwine, Guild Wars has focused on a deep story centred around a select few small groups and organisations. This gives players a heavy investment in the content they are seeing in each release, as it expands upon the core characters’ story and follows trails that we as players are deeply involved in.
The latest Living World episode in season 3, A Crack in the Ice, has not only seen a big development in one particular character (looking at you big baldylocks Norn), but also the advancement of a story that has been around since launch. Warning: from this point the night is dark and full of spoilers, so if you are still yet to play this episode, I advise spending the time to get through it before going ahead.
The Fang of the Serpent, a great fang torn from the Elder Dragon Jormag’s mouth by the legendary Aesgir, has been sitting in The Great Lodge for over four years now, and despite my best efforts swinging a level 4 guardian hammer at it, this powerful tooth has been immune to even my most vigorous attacks. Jormag’s dentist needs a pay rise! Norn legend says that, one day, a powerful warrior will be able to damage the tooth, and on that day the Norn will be ready for an assault and Jormag and to reclaim their homeland. I was not that Norn.
Crushing my hopes and dreams in one fell swoop, Braham Eirson took up the mighty bow of his late mother Eir Stegalkin, infused it with an ancient scroll of fiery power, and shot an arrow straight in to the what was previously unmarked tooth! I’m absolutely thrilled that the path of player character being the one to break the tooth wasn’t taken (not for lack of trying), but I do have a grievance with how this was done.
Yes, this was pretty epic, a flaming arrow making a crack in an icy fang, heralding a fresh assault on Jormag and his forces. But after our last interaction with Braham, rather than feeling positive and hyped for this assault on the dragon, I was left feeling angry and bitter about the entire enterprise, and extremely (extremely!) frustrated at the big guy.
In our last interaction with Braham before he takes bow to tooth, Braham is disgusted with players for creating a new guild and asking for his membership, believing it to be a slight on his late mother by not joining Destiny’s Edge and honouring her memory. As if that is not bad enough, he then tells players (breaking hearts in the process) that he is glad that we did not join this legendary guild, as Eir would not have wanted us. All this amongst other barely disguised insults and a general rudeness was a huge kick in the teeth for players. But to top it all off, after all our hard work trying to find elegant solutions to the problem (like Dragon Showdown 1329AE, Primordus v Jormaq!), Braham tells us he is going for a head on assault on the dragon of Ice, and spits on the research we have been undertaking with Taimi.
If this was intentionally written to frustrate players, it worked. Reddit was all over the broody Norn faster than Karka over face. Whilst I think this was the appropriate reaction from Braham, I think that it has also put many of us in a position where the old story has been once again shafted to make room for new developments in the newer characters. The story of the tooth was such an epic part of the Norn identity, that giving it to Braham has taken away any hope of a new legendary Norn rising, or the return of the Spirits of the Wild to help us shatter the tooth, and instead put it all on one character and his bow of fire.
One of the coolest things that did come from this is we finally have a backstory for the first Dragonhunter. Despite the fact that some of us have been spamming traps and putting glassy thieves in the floor with our Piercing Shots for over a year now, we have just been given the lore on an Elite Specialisation that extends further than just ‘Later, cub’. Opinion on the story doesn’t matter here, all that really matters is that Arenanet is delivery to players something that we expected with launch, and it’s another example of them trying to fulfil some lost expansion promises, which although should have come with the purchase, is still commendable.
But if Arenanet requires the death of their classic characters in order to progress story, as we have seen in the past, then we are likely to lose many more characters needlessly to fill a hole in the plot. Marjory has already taken up her dead sister Belinda’s Greatsword, much like Trahearne wielding Riannoc’s Caladbolg, and the Greatsword been given to all Reapers as their elite specialization weapon. Logan, your heads on the chopping block too, we need to get rid of you so in her grief Queen Jenna can take your shield and become the world’s first Chronomancer, bending time to find a way to bring back her beloved.
The problem isn’t that we want to hang on to these old characters and never let the story progress, but more that they have so much left to do that has been scrapped in order to advance these new developments. All of Destiny’s Edge is looking like they will be long gone before we revisit Kralkatorik, and their chance to avenge Snaff and Glint. Trahearne at least got to see the cleansing of Orr and the death of Zhaitan before we chopped off his leafy façade. Removing the old characters will close even more doors to the story, and I desperately hope that the people who fought alongside Glint will at least get to meet her legacy in Aurene before they join Eir and Trahearne in the history books.
Season 3 has definitely kept me totally engaged so far, and though I am not thrilled with everything that’s happened, it’s been one of the most interesting and content rich periods of release that the game has ever seen. Arenanet is doing a great job so far and I hope they keep it up, just not at the cost of destroying their rich world history and characters, where the only way to progress a son’s character is to kill off his mother and turn him in to a punching bag for all our hate.