It's been almost two weeks since End of Dragons launched, and after seeing how things have played out on the live servers, this is still the best expansion ArenaNet has done to date. ArenaNet delivered a good story with plenty of excellent character moments. The addition of incredible new zones to explore and make our way in, new elite specs for every profession, and five new masteries that continue the tradition of masteries change how we play Guild Wars 2.
As I mentioned in my Review in Progress, the End of Dragons story is excellent from the first moments to the last. Even on my second playthrough, I enjoyed the story thoroughly and noticed things I hadn't before. On my second playthrough, I appreciated, even more, all the small moments we got with various characters throughout, which further expanded my understanding of them and their journeys. This is especially true of Kasmeer. She has grown from a character I didn't like much to one I appreciated having around. Her personal growth is one of the starkest of the Dragon's Watch group, and it was beautiful to see it all pay off.
I'm going to leave talking about the story in-depth for a separate article that can have all the spoiler warnings on it. I do, however, want to point out that the pacing of the EoD story was also spot on. Everything felt like it had the appropriate sense of urgency, but they're also moments to get to know both new and old characters a bit better. I would have liked to see more of some characters, but not at the expense of what we received. Trying to give everyone their moment can grind a story to a halt. Even the villain isn't who or what I expected but was executed very well.
Outside of the story, there is a huge thing I'd like to point out. If you didn't like playing GW2 before EoD, you wouldn't suddenly like it now. ArenaNet hasn't taken this expansion to reinvent GW2 and turn it into something else. The primary activities and reasons for doing those activities are still in place. Everything added here enhances the experience and improves upon it, but for players who don't like the horizontal progression and style of always having something to chase, EoD won't change those things for you. This makes me happy as someone who loves GW2, but anyone looking for a reinvention won't find it here.
ArenaNet has done a brilliant thing with EoD, such as considering new players who might not have played through previous expansions or those who might be returning without those masteries. Allowing those newer players to unlock gliding, the raptor, and the springer from doing EoD content immediately improved the quality of experience for those players. Yes, they will still be missing those mastery lines, but it also gives them an even better reason to go back and work on those. Also, right at the beginning of Cantha, there is an intro to combo fields, break bars, and dodging, which is extremely useful. Even as someone who has played since launch, I found the reminder about those things useful.
One of the best things about playing Guild Wars 2 is that they don't need to take the servers down for patching, and even when there are tons of people playing, I don't have to wait in queues to log in and play. Additionally, server stability was nearly perfect. There were, of course, some bugs that needed to be squashed but nothing huge or game-breaking. Overall, maps feel full but not so full it causes issues with trying to get things done. Well, unless you count having an event wander by and randomly joining to later find yourself halfway across the map, not remembering what you originally were going to do. That's something I haven't experienced since GW2 was released, and I'm happy to have that type of distraction back.
One thing which has not gone smoothly is the meta event in the final map, which is designed to be a more challenging fight than most open-world events. I had been concerned that the Siege Turtle was locked behind completing it because the Siege Turtle was one of the banner features of EoD. As such, I wasn't surprised to find players mad about it. Every time new challenging content comes out, there's a period of tuning that needs to happen, and players figure out what they need to do to win. Invariably there will be a period where the event fails more than it succeeds, and tying one of the main expansion features to that challenging content was a wrong choice.
Thankfully they made the first round of adjustments a few days after EoD launched and are continually tuning things, including a recent fix for how often the boss activates its "tail." Additionally, they are implementing another way for players to obtain their Siege Turtle Egg on March 15th, which will further help ease this issue. It'll take 200 Writs of the Jade Sea to get it, so it still won't be a quick process, but at least it's better than having to wait on a finicky meta event. This also rewards players who have been working on this meta without luck, as they will probably have a stock of these writs already. Overall, I am happy they didn't just nerf it to the ground and are giving players another way to obtain the egg.
Some players have complained that all of the old specs were nerfed right before the expansion launched to make the new elite specs more appealing, which is a bit of a misrepresentation. Yes, some nerfs were handed out about that time, but rather than nerfing everything that was already playable to the ground, they nerfed a particular playstyle. Catalyst isn't very appealing to me, so I am happy sticking with Weaver for now, and I haven't had any issues with that. One thing that is for sure is that there is always a substantial balance patch after an expansion launch. It's usually a month or two after they've had enough time to gather data about how balance between all the specs is playing out and address issues.
Having played through the expansion but by no means finished everything I want to in it, I can say it feels like there is as much if not more content to do in EoD than in other expansions. In terms of story chapters, EoD has just as many chapters as HoT (both are 16 EoD starts with Chapter 0 instead of Chapter 1 like HoT does), and three more than PoF does. Even considering that the individual chapters in EoD felt much more packed with content than the two previous expansions, having a much-improved checkpoint system in the story instances also helps those feel even better. Every map is positively full of secrets and hidden things that are rewarding and interesting if you enjoy exploration.
One thing which feels easier to get in this expansion is mastery points. These points are a reward for completing story chapters, but also, many of the mastery points out in the maps are much easier to find (if not easier to get to). End of Dragons is the first expansion where I have had a good stock of mastery points ahead, needing to spend them. I'm sure I'll still get to a point where I'll have finished lines and no points to spend, but currently, the pacing of obtaining the points and unlocking things feels wonderful. Part of the reason it might feel this way is that EoD requires 89 mastery points to fill out compared to PoF's 72 at launch. Additionally, anyone who left during HoT or PoF will be happy to know you won't get stalled out trying to complete mastery lines so you can progress the story.
Overall, End of Dragons feels like ArenaNet has taken all the lessons of both Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire and honed their newest expansion into the best of both. The few areas where things aren't quite there, they are working hard at fixing them in the right way, which will be best over the long term, rather than quick kneejerk solutions. This is the perfect capstone to the story they have been telling for the last ten years, and this expansion makes me excited to see where they will go from here.