Editorials

Ascension the Hard Way

Given the paradigm of the Living Story – additions to the world, be they mechanics or maps, growing organically through story – Rytlock’s adventures in The Mists could foreshadow the introduction of a new character class and increased skills. This week, the community is abuzz with news of a possible expansion. However, to remain true to the Living Story concept of organic growth, the disruption created by dumping new classes, new armors, and new maps into the game should be avoided. Instead, the evolving story should provide the impetus for additions.

Welcome to the Wastes

We have already experienced this organic growth through the opening of the Maguuma Wastes. The new maps brought with them new armors, new recipes, and new game mechanics. Given Rytlock’s long absence and his prominence to the story, his future return could herald new professions, new skills, and even new playable races depending upon where he has gone. Since his disappearance in The Dragon’s Reach Part I, rumors have swirled about and teaser images have gripped the speculative imaginations of gamers. Most theories focus on Rytlock’s supposed blindness and his following in the footsteps of Kormir, who ascended to godhood. With the completion of Point of No Return, we are given another possibility regarding Rytlock, that of increased skill – of new character classes – attained through Ascension.

In the original Guild Wars, the ritual of Ascension consisted of three trials: regaining the throne of Pellantia in order to draw the attention of the gods; cleansing the body of physical impurities; and the reforging of the shattered Vision Crystal. Through this ritual, the heroes of the Flameseeker Prophesies called upon the old gods, beseeching their favor in an attempt to obtain the Divine Fire, allowing them passage inside the Mesa at Augury Rock. Successful completion of this trial granted Prophesies characters the chance to change, attaining new skills and abilities by taking additional character classes. Through this mechanic, they were given the opportunity to engage in tactics and marshal new skills in order to face greater dangers within the evolving story. Modern characters now face this same evolutionary challenge. Yet, according to Ogden Stonehealer, there will be no Ascension. Could Rytlock, in his apparent blind state, imply that there is a way to ascend without the ancient ritual? Does his blindness, instead of paralleling Kormir’s rise to godhood, hint that he ascended through direct communication with the gods instead, regardless of Ogden’s admonition?

It is unlikely Rytlock rose to godhood – for the same reasons he would never recognize the gods as masters, as GuildMag’s own Draxynnic stated in his article, Abaddon Will Eat Your Metaphors. It is equally unlikely that Rytlock ascended through ritual as did the ancient heroes of the Flameseeker Prophesies. Instead, Rytlock’s possible blindness implies a more direct route to Ascension, paralleling Kormir only so far as she directly contacted the gods in the Realm of Torment, hoping for a way to thwart the rise of Abaddon. In effect, Rytlock may have ascended the hard way.

The Ascension ritual experienced in Point of No Return, which was meant only to secure the Divine Fire that would then open the sealed Mystery Cave, is a vague echo of the original. In the original first trial, the Chosen sought to gain the attention of the gods by assisting the Ghostly Hero, Turai Ossa, in his struggle to retake the throne of Pellentia inside the Temple of Ascension. Besieged by Forgotten, the Chosen fought to protect Turai Ossa as he called upon the gods, asking them to take notice of worthy supplicants. If Rytlock found himself standing before the gods after following Sohothin into the mists, this would certainly garner their attention without the need for ritual. However, paralleling Rytlock’s story with the original trials swiftly enters into murky speculation at best. The second ancient trial allowed heroes to be cleansed of physical impurities, bestowing them with Divine Fire, just as the modern version of the ritual does. Although we know that Rytlock was performing a cleansing ritual when last we saw him, there is no way to know whether or not he was cleansed by this act. Finally, Rytlock’s performance of the third trial of Ascension – reforging the Vision Crystal – remains completely unknown. Yet, in place of the Vision Crystal and Divine Fire cleansing, could the rise of Mordremoth have provided the gods with the necessary impetus to grant Ascension to a charr? Could Rytlock simply have traded his vision for power?

HoTRytlock

If Rytlock has been blinded, he has not suffered from his new state, given the recently released trailer for Heart of Thorns. By comparison, Kormir did suffer – in Nightfall, once blinded she no longer attacked enemies, nor used skills other than the defensive “Incoming!” If Rytlock is indeed blind and able to fight, determined to stand against the sylvari, his return allows for the organic introduction of expanded skills and a new character class, and his Ascension would act as an impetus for introducing new skills to players; perhaps even a new class.

Given the possible blindness and the hoped-for Canthan content of upcoming releases, it is natural to gravitate toward the conclusion that the awaited ritualist class will reappear – likely reenvisioned for Guild Wars 2 playability. Rytlock’s introduction of this class is intriguingly synchronistic, as ancient human ritualists were able to work a form of magic prior to Abaddon’s gift and Charr also have no use for gods. The possibility of the ritualist may even be subtly hinted at by the Heart of Thorns trailer’s voice over, which states that new insight will be necessary in the upcoming war, just as Rytlock’s tease begins. Ritualists communed with the spirit realm in order to work their magic, relying on an insightful understanding of the powers of their ancestors. Finally, in the trailer, Rytlock’s sword gather’s power before unleashing a wave of flame that easily confronts the advancing mordrem. This action suggests several skills, some already seen in Guild Wars 2 and others reminiscent of the original Guild Wars’ elementalists and ritualists, through such skills as Flare and Splinter Weapon. With special insight and expanded skills similar to those found in the Canthan ritualist, we would be well prepared to face the ever-increasing dangers of the expanding world.

The ritualist Xandra

The ritualist Xandra

Our PAX stream this Saturday may provide further clues!

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