Editorials

When Hope Dies: Episode 5, Season 4 Recap

It seemed like hardly any time had passed at all since we learned of Taimi’s fate and came to the realization that the only way to save our world was to kill another Elder Dragon: Kralkatorrik. At the end of episode 4, we had been painted into a corner. With Taimi dying, Blish sacrificed, and Kralkatorrik eating his way through the Mists, there was very little light. Our one bright spot was Aurene and a glimmer of hope brought by Caithe’s return.

Crystal Power

As the episode begins, we reach out to Caithe for an update on Aurene and on her research into the dwarves and Glint’s Legacy. Players of the first game may recall the Vision of Glint at Droknar’s Forge, hinting at the legacy that the dwarves and Glint shared. When we speak to Caithe, she tells us that she is trying to gain access to the Priory and Ogden Stonehealer so that she can ask about the dwarves and Glint. However, the Priory scholars are reluctant to let a thief into their midst. We agree to hurry over and chaperone her. When we get there, we are shown into the library where Ogden is waiting for us. He claims he’s been expecting us, watching the signs and knowing that we’d be along.

During our conversations with Caithe, we get a glimpse into what she has been up to, raising Aurene and watching over her in Tarir, then stepping back as the dragon grew closer to our character. This is actually sort of disappointing to me. I was hoping for more from Caithe. I was also hoping for more from the dwarves and the meeting with Ogden. I know reading dialogue and text is not thrilling gameplay but it can add a lot to the story and character development.

With Ogden’s help, we enter Glint’s Lair and find Aurene. However, Caithe can only accompany us so far and she has to remain behind while we continue forward with Aurene. Waiting for us within Glint’s Lair are a series of trials and we must prove ourselves and improve our shared power with Aurene before we take on Kralkatorrik. The gameplay mechanics of the trials are straightforward and not very difficult. Aurene’s new abilities, and those we develop ourselves through the trials, are fairly impressive and will come in handy later on in the story.

Here we learn that with the right resonance, the crystals can be molded and shaped, and the energy stored within them weaponized! These properties allowed Glint and the Zephyrites to create the first Dragonsblood Spear. At the end of the trials, Glint asks us to wait a moment. She takes us aside and shares Kralkatorrik’s terrible secret with us: the Elder Dragon once had a vision of a peaceful world without him and he believed this meant that he may be defeated one day. He feared the vision coming to pass and demanded that Glint help him avoid such a fate. Instead, Glint saw it as a great opportunity.

We exit the trials to find Caithe has been waiting for us for two days! We depart Glint’s lair to Thunderhead Keep and now understand that the battle against the Elder Dragon will fall heavily on our, and Aurene’s, shoulders.

Land of the Dwarves

With the new map area, Thunderhead Peaks, before us, we set out to find the Dragonsblood Forge and build enough dragonsblood crystal weapons for our small army. Our first task is to hunt down Ogden and ask after the forge. Here, we learn that the Pact forces have arrived with Logan and Lord Faren, as has a contingent of Awakened and Sayida the Sly’s corsairs. I was surprised to see the Exalted here as well because I didn’t pay attention earlier and didn’t realize they were the ones who would actually be using the forge – along with the Zephyrites – to create the new dragonsblood weapons. Rox and the Olmakhan are also in attendance, bringing back all the main groups that we’ve been working with in the past. The only thing we learn from Ogden is that the Zephyrites and Exalted have been caring for the forge under Thunderhead Keep since the time of Glint. He sends us instead to the forge master Hilna, an Exalted who actually gives us our marching orders… read “fetch-quest forcing us to explore the new map.”

Hilna requires a special oil only the dredge can supply. They are south at the Ice Floe and we have to find our way to them in order to procure this oil so it can quench the crystal weapons that come from the forge. I wondered briefly if this was the same Ice Floe as in the original game, and it is. I will never forget my first time there playing the original Guild Wars, running into a group of mursaat with a party of ill-equipped heroes and dying miserably to Spectral Agony! Luckily, there are no mursaat ambushes waiting for us in the modern game’s Ice Floe, only the Branded and the dredge.

Striking out into the snowy wilds, we find Priory explorers and other members of the Pact. The Branded are a constant headache here but there are dredge and skritt about as well. The map itself is not difficult to navigate nor fight across. There are camps, explorers, and armaments to hold back the Branded. Conversations between the Priory and their skritt helpers are worth a listen to, in my opinion, for those who are just taking in the sights or waiting for one of the map’s meta-events to begin.

The dredge of Ice Floe are peaceful, worried more about the Branded invading their home than they are about us. Their leader, Varya, says they have lost half their people and half their rigs to the Brand. Under these circumstances, she is reluctant to share the little oil they have left. Only by aiding her and her people can we secure the oil we need. Helping them is straightforward and we get to use our Aurene-given dragon powers to shatter crystals, so all-in-all it’s a pleasant enough side quest. With the oil procured, we return to Thunderhead Keep and track down the dwarven tomb of Frodak Steelstar, the caster of the mold for the original Dragonsblood Spear, hoping that his tomb can provide a clue to where we might find another. Rather than clues, we find his ghost!

One of the original members of the Brotherhood of the Dragon, Frodak has been watching us and knows of our escapades. He says we can have a second mold that is in his tomb if we are able to get past the graveling ransacking the place. The fight against the graveling is simple enough and soon we have the mold, which we return to Hilna. Now, with Aurene’s help, we are able to break down Branding crystals and create dragonsblood weapons for our army! Now all we need is an Elder Dragon to use them against.

To Crack a Crystal

As we are testing our new weapons, we notice that ghosts are suddenly appearing in our world. They seem confused and worried. Some, with more purpose, bear messages. Things are not going well in the Mists and Kralkatorrik is gaining power, eating his way through the Realm of the Lost. With Glint’s army all but defeated, we have to hurry if we are going to end the crystal dragon’s rampage. Before we can get very far in our planning, however, the underground base is invaded by Branded minions and we have to fight off the invasion. While doing so, we learn that Aurene is capable of Branding as well! This concerns a number of our allies, but Aurene is still Glint’s scion and the best hope we have against Kralkatorrik. In order to explain herself, Aurene reaches out to Caithe and communes with her. This act reminded me of Mordremoth’s powers and Branding all at once as crystal flowers bloom on Caithe to signify her change.

Caithe is able to lend her voice to Aurene who reveals that she is full of hope and determined to save the world. With the discovery of how powerful Aurene can be and the short time involved, we decide to lure Kralkatorrik to the underground chamber and barrage him with resonating crystals amplified by dredge technology in order to weaken him and kill him. We just have to break it to Hilna that her forge is about to be visited by an Elder Dragon.

The Exalted forge master is less than pleased but resigned to the plan. As she works with Taimi to set up the resonating crystals that will be used to attack Kralkatorrik, we return to Ice Floe to speak with the dredge about amplifying the crystal in order to boost its power and bring down the Elder Dragon. The dredge are reluctant to help and unwilling to suffer any further losses by battling an Elder Dragon. However, they do allow us to scavenge the reflectors off their tanks and Taimi feels she can reverse-engineer and repurpose them. One more quest stands between us and the final battle it seems. Armed with flammable oil, we manage to scavenge three mirrors from the dredge tanks and return them to Thunderhead Keep.

In order to keep Kralkatorrik in position long enough to destroy him with the resonating crystals, we decide to blow up the mountain and bring it down on top of him. As we will be there too, I’m not entirely sure why this seems like a good idea, but there you have it. Sayida and Canach are in charge of this aspect of the plan, but Canach’s detonators are trapped in the wreckage of a Branded airship. We have to retrieve these as well and can do so fairly quickly on our way back to the Keep. With everything finally in order, it’s time for Aurene to lure the Elder Dragon into our trap!

The battle against Kralkatorrik encompasses several stages. First, we lure Branded creatures toward the resonance crystals and kill them, their deaths powering the weapon. For me, this was the most frustrating part of the battle as my allies constantly killed enemies before they were within range of the crystals they were meant to be powering up. Then, once the crystals are fully charged, we rush to the main focal point and unleash the charge, hitting the Elder Dragon. The fight takes place in the Auditorium, a huge space that we have to cross twice during the battle. Luckily, we’ve learned to fly using Aurene’s power, so we can cross the distances quickly. After hitting Kralkatorrik three times, we have the opportunity to attack his eye directly with Aurene’s aid. Amazingly, we finally manage to stun the Crystal Dragon! However, when we cautiously close in on Kralkatorrik, ready to land the killing blow, his eye suddenly opens! Knocked backward by a sudden, point-blank attack, we can only watch helplessly as he rears up for the killing blow. Our consciousness fading, we see Aurene leap to our rescue and as the screen grows dark, we hear what can only be her death!

These last moments take place as a cutscene and there is nothing we can do but watch the Scion’s death unfold. She foresaw it and warned us that it would come, but for me it was still a sad shock. The only thing worse would have been if we’d been forced to kill Aurene ourselves. Still, we don’t know for certain that she’s dead, and when we regain control of our characters, we are forced to stumble through a dismal corridor of stone and crystal until we find the others and at last come to Aurene’s crystalized form. During the third trial, when we first learned to channel Aurene’s power, if you were unlucky enough to be downed, Glint warned us that the scion could not succeed without us, but now we are left wondering if we can succeed without her.

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