Guild Wars 2: The Icebrood Saga Episode 5 – Power in Action
Guild Wars 2: The Icebrood Saga Episode Five – Power launched today, bringing Tyria even closer to a cataclysmic end in this mmorpg. As fire and ice take hold near us and carnage spreads through once peaceful settlements, we have taken up arms to experience the latest chapter of The Icebrood Saga.
This time, there is no question of putting Primordus back in the bottle. The fire dragon is active and it will take the efforts of all available factions to push back the tide of destruction that has wreaked havoc in the heart of Tyria. Departing again from the safety of L’il du Nord, commanders cutting through a gang will discover a familiar fight awaiting them. Power is a sequel to the November 2020 Truce and another chance to push back the chaos, save a few souls, and gather allies in the quest to defeat the ancient dragons. With an even more active Primodrus in play, that means even more dragon response missions, a ton of extra loot, and potential new allies in this mix.
New allies, new adventures
Anyone returning to Guild Wars for this new entry in the Icebrood saga can expect a Truce-like set of storylines and some very obvious end goals. Players who grab their sword or staff will find themselves propelled straight from the safety of Aurene’s Sanctuary to a range of new instanced challenges, this time around things fall off a bit closer to home. Four new Dragon Response missions are open to players, in addition to last year’s Battlefronts. Fields of Ruin, Thunderhead Peaks, Lake Doric, and Snowden Drifts all host their own invasions and although they have a familiar format, this second push is a lot more engaging than my first shot against the Destroyers. Now that we find the outcome of our recent adventures unfolding before us, the latest Dragon Response Missions give a sense of urgency and scale to the final chapters of this ongoing story. With monsters rushing to the front door of Divinity’s Reach and breaking through Ebonhawke’s barriers, the chaos that shakes Tyria continues to escalate. Familiar fortresses are ravaged by fire, villages are attacked and Lake Doric is completely unrecognizable. After defending Metrica Province, it’s great to find even more endangered fortresses and capitals, but the result of this pervasive destruction is more than just a skirmish.
The overall immersion of this second swing in the format feels like it has taken a huge leap forward. From the moment you jump off The Eye of the North, the scale of this episode is clearly a step up from Truce. Entire maps are littered with allied and enemy forces, the environmental change is far from slight, and enemy placement looks a lot more deliberate this time around. The voice acting and character dialogue are, as always, excellent and each mission is part of a cohesive narrative, although much of the overall presentation may seem unchanged from the last episode. ArenaNet has used the time off between active deployments to dramatically improve the experience of Dragon Response Missions. Caught between two Elder Dragons and their forces, you can jump into the action, knowing it sure won’t be a mindless march through the trenches. The Dragon Slayer Mastery Line means that you will continue to earn bonuses for taking out the Dragon Servants while pushing for victory and just like during the Truce, the Dragon Slayer Mastery Track is not the only way to reduce enemies even faster. Commanders can call in reinforcements when needed, and anyone who finds themselves overpowering their enemies can continue to add additional difficulties using the challenge options.
While the four new Dragon Response missions immediately appear larger than their counterparts, these repeatable portions of content, even with challenge modes enabled, are still filled with a similar series of open-world events, full of civilians to save, lines to hold, or just skulls to break before moving on to a bigger boss battle. Sure, there are a few new mechanics littered with the missions, but the main events aren’t fundamentally different after the upgrades are made. Taken at face value, without any difficulty adjustments, this made previous Dragon Response Missions a big deal of fire and forgetfulness, topped with a disappointing quagmire of a boss encounter. This time around, however, ArenaNet’s new boss encounters are more engaging worlds than their predecessors.
Dive into the Thunderhead Peaks, in particular, and you’ll find this cute little piece, seen above, and a challenge that’s as interesting to put out as it is to admire. I’m not going to spoil the encounter, but the visual and mechanical design of these latest foes offers plenty of variation, from shockwaves and bursting orders to breaking bar. It won’t overwhelm hardened raiders, but the unique design of every final fight makes every Dragon Response mission feel like it’s fully fleshed out and useful.
Like any good dungeon race, shiny loot is of the utmost importance, and this time around there are two new Dragon Slayer weapon sets available for collection. Once again, a faction-specific time-based currency is offered for playing during particular windows and allows players to get their hands on Azure and Crimson Dragon Slayer weapons. These upgrade existing weapon sets with a thematic tint, and with a small subset of achievements, are the main reason to smile through Power. That’s not the only major loot, however, with an infusion of Deldrimor’s Stoneskin giving characters a stoic look that will fit in perfectly with the cause’s new allies.
Of course, this all builds on Truce’s existing format, which means the content continues to be very short. The difference this time around is that the ambient storytelling, level design, and boss encounters have a much bigger scale and feel a lot more engaging. Maybe this is a problem that I can support. You can read more about Guild Wars 2: The Icebrood Saga Episode Five – Power over at the Guild Wars 2 official site now. And get it for free if you own Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire.