Editorials

Point of No Return: First Impressions

[symple_box color=”red” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”] Spoiler Alert: The following impressions article contains spoilers related to the Point of No Return release.
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I’m going to come right out and say it: this is what the living world is all about. ArenaNet have thoroughly outdone themselves with Point of No Return, the explosive conclusion to season two. It’s not often that a video game takes your breath away, but there were several moments that had me captivated.

At Marjory’s behest, our first destination was the Durmand Priory, something of a regular hang out of late. Seeking once more the wisdom of Magister Ogden Stonehammer regarding the sealed cave in the Silverwastes that Caithe and Faolain entered in episode seven, he confirmed a link to the ancient Forgotten serpent race. In doing so, he awakened an echo of Turai Ossa, the Ghostly Hero, who years ago guided adventurers seeking to gain Ascension. Here we found ourselves retracing their steps, not in order to ascend, Ogden informed us, but to instead be gifted with divine fire – magic instilled by the human Gods – which he believed to be the key to accessing the Forgotten cave.

It’s a fun instance and does a good job of introducing players not so well-versed in Guild Wars lore – like myself – to the Ghostly Hero and the Rites of Ascension. The steps that we go through here with Turai Ossa are a truncated version of the full Rites of Ascension from Guild Wars, and likely to be very nostalgic for veteran players. I’m pleased to see them reuse the Priory archives, given the overwhelmingly positive response to it in previous episodes. While I love seeing what our community produces to explain all of the books and relics down there, I rather wish that the Priory would consider hiring a tour-guide! On your second play through make sure to talk to Sous-Chef Seimur Oxbone, whose newest gastronomic discovery proves once and for all that bloodstone dust has no (safe) culinary uses.

Catching up with Zojja, Logan, Eir, and Braham at Camp Resolve

Catching up with Zojja, Logan, Eir, and Braham at Camp Resolve

Divine fire in our possession, we headed for Camp Resolve, where Destiny’s Edge (less the still-absent Rytlock) and Braham were making preparations for an all-out Pact air assault against Mordremoth, deep in the Maguuma Jungle. Our short conversation, in which Zojja has finally found her voice again (welcome back, Felicia Day!), was cut short by a full-blown Mordrem attack; vines creeping from the west of the Silverwastes had finally reached their target. The camp, swiftly overrun despite our best efforts to defend it, was only saved when we managed to scramble to high ground and call in a Pact airstrike. Marshal Trahearne departed to take the fight to the Elder Dragon, while we headed deeper into the Silverwastes to finally see what awaited inside the mystery cave, hoping to find both Caithe and Glint’s missing egg. The fighting is intense, and you’ll find yourself up against all of the Mordrem that we’ve come to know and hatelove over the course of season two. You’ll feel suitably epic when grabbing the signal torch and clambering through enemies to light the flare to turn the tide of the battle. The way that the screen darkens as Mordremoth’s minions pour into Camp Resolve does an amazing job of raising the tension and makes the invasion feel near impossible to resist. What struck me beforehand while talking to Eir, Logan, Zojja, and Braham was their unwavering belief that Caithe hadn’t turned on us. They call her ‘rash’ and ‘a linear thinker’, and protest that she ‘does nothing without a reason’. This is generally the impression that I’ve held since a ‘heel turn’ at this point in the story would be somewhat cliche, but I do very much like the fact that her guild are sticking up for her based on their history together. Make sure to stick around after the battle for a short overheard conversation between Zojja and Logan, where they discuss Caithe running away during a battle… remind you of anybody?

At the entrance of the mystery cave, we used the divine fire to activate the three Runes of Ascension on the door while Marjory, Kasmeer, Braham, and Rox fended off a small number of Mordrem. Curiously, they fled in apparent terror when a portal appeared to grant us access to the cave, suggesting rather strongly that divine fire is going to be our weapon of choice in fighting Mordremoth and his forces. Venturing deep into the cave, through Forgotten ‘echo’ defences, we turned a corner and found ourselves at the opening to a breathtakingly vast golden cavern; the remains of an ancient civilisation. Using the final memory seed given to us by the Pale Tree, we saw a vision of the sylvari first-born. Determined to uncover Wynne’s secret, Faolain threatened torture. Wynne confided in Caithe that they are all minions of Mordremoth, a startling fact that, should it ever emerge, would surely bring about the demise of the entire sylvari race. Caithe killed Wynne, at her request, before Faolain could break her will, and with that the dark secret, known only to Caithe, Scarlet, and the Pale Tree was finally revealed.

We finally discovered Caithe’s dark secret

As the vision concluded, Caithe (still holding Glint’s egg) appeared in the cavern, confirming what we saw with the understanding that it must be the will of the Pale Tree for us to know. Just as we asked her to hand the egg over to us, the Shadow of the Dragon – previously seen in The Grove – descended from above and attacked. We fought and killed it, using the divine fire to draw it out from underground, but Caithe evaded us and was nowhere to be found.

Back at Camp Resolve, the Pact airship fleet had left, and through a fantastically animated cut-scene, reminiscent of Apocalypse Now*, we saw them attempt to rout Mordremoth, only to be utterly devastated by vines lashing out from below. What has happened to the survivors – including Destiny’s Edge – is currently unknown.

Point of No Return is definitely not hyperbole; where can we possibly go from here? We got a real treat at the conclusion of this story with a trailer for what is rumoured to be the first expansion to Guild Wars 2 – Heart of Thorns – and there will certainly be many articles speculating on what we’ve been shown so far. The centre-stage announcement at PAX South can’t come soon enough!

Vinewrath - holder of Carapace chestpieces

Vinewrath – holder of Carapace chestpieces

Alongside the story we also now have access to the final two pieces of the Carapace and Luminescent armour sets; the chestpiece is a reward for defeating the newly introduced world boss – Vinewrath – who I haven’t had a chance to fight yet, but have heard very good things about, with players suggesting that it’s a lot like the well-loved Marionette fight from season one of the living story. With armour sets to complete and a new boss to master, I’m expecting the Silverwastes to be well populated for the foreseeable future. However, there doesn’t appear to be an alternative way at present to obtain the Carapace chest item, which may be problematic if, like with the Marionette, there are a number of empty map copies that are unable to kill Vinewrath.

It probably goes without saying, but this patch absolutely blew me away from start to finish. The story beats were pitch perfect, the cast of characters on good form, and the denouement was jaw-dropping. In the MMO space, it is a huge move to do something of this magnitude to any race, let alone a playable one like the sylvari, and I can’t wait to see how the inevitable tensions play out. I also want to make a point to call out the quality of the animated cut-scenes that we were given. I can’t get enough of the art style and the direction in which it’s going, and hope to see a lot more of the story conveyed in this manner. It really hammers home the TV show dynamic that ArenaNet are shooting for with the episodic living world. The living world approach to content delivery, while unarguably innovative, hasn’t always convinced players; I feel that story of this calibre absolutely validates it, and bodes well for the future of Guild Wars 2.

While this has been an initial look at Point of No Return, we at GuildMag will very much be digging deeper into the details in the coming days. In the mean time, we’d love to know what you thought. What was your favourite part? Do you believe Caithe? Are you going to go online straight away and delete all of your sylvari characters just to be on the safe side? Join the discussion in the comments below.

* Search for ‘ride of the valkyries Apocalypse Now’ if the video is blocked in your region

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