No Turning Back

With Tuesday’s release, Point of No Return, the second season of the Living World has come to an end, and boy has it done so with a bang. The name is an incredibly accurate description of the events that take place – there is no going back from what has happened. A terrible truth has been learned, the attack has been launched…things have changed.

Okay, before I start too much, I’m just going to point out that this will be rife will spoilers. Good? Good.

So, finally the threads have come together (for the most part). If there was one thing about this storyline, it’s that frequently it felt like we were pursuing a number of disparate threads; the sudden switches between the content of the different instances could be jarring at times, as it didn’t feel like there was much to link them together. Jumping back and forth between directly fighting the Mordrem and things like digging around the Priory could seem weird. This patch brought together most of those events, but there’s still tons of questions left.

I just love this loading screen.

I just love this loading screen.

So, in a fast summary, previous episodes saw us trying to find out what the Master of Peace had been up to while the Pact readied to launch their fleet. Going to the Priory brought us to Ogden Stonehealer, a familiar face to Guild Wars 1 players, who led us to Glint’s Lair. There we found that the Master had been protecting Glint’s egg. We track down the Master, but he is killed, and Caithe steals the egg and vanishes. The Pale Tree is distressed by this fact and gives us “memory seeds”, which we use to relive moments in Caithe’s early life, in an attempt to find where she had gone. We also essentially witness the birth of the Nightmare Court through these memories, which revolved around Caithe and Faolain trying to find Wynne, another Firstborn, who knew a secret about the sylvari that Faolain was determined to discover. The previous episode saw us faced with a cave that was locked with unknown magic, but that we needed to gain entry to.

Point of No Return picks up with our character returning to the Priory with Marjory to find out how to enter this cave. This instance is another GW1 lore bomb; it will certainly be very familiar to those who played Prophecies. Don’t forget to interact with that Old Mirror! Having found what we needed (hopefully), we head back to the Silverwastes to meet with Logan, Eir, Zojja, and Trahearne, before setting off to where we must go. Camp Resolve falls under attack from the Mordrem first, and they are barely fought off. Do make sure to stick around for the dialog after the fight ends – the conversation between Zojja and Logan is quite funny (clearly the years and events of the game have healed the rift between the two quite well), and there’s a rather sweet one between Eir and Braham.

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The third and final instance, The Mystery Cave, is the heavy one. Once we gain entry, we’re faced with a massive cavern, with everything a glittering gold color, and there is an entrance (blocked with a sandfall) of a massive, ancient structure. This cave reminded me heavily of Elona; in particular it reminded me of the Hidden City of Ahdashim.

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Scattered through the cavern are a few objects – some chairs and mugs and a blanket – which the game makes a point to state how odd it is to find something so ordinary in a place like this. Near the blanket is the place for the final memory seed, and we learn what happened so long ago.

First of all, I believe that this is the point where Faolain fully embraced the Nightmare, and where Caithe finally turned away from her and stepped back. Having finally tracked down and cornered Wynne, Faolain is so determined to learn what this secret is that she decides she will torture it out of her fellow Firstborn. Wynne is terrified by this; she knows how far Faolain’s cruelty will go. She begs Caithe to kill her, knowing that if Faolain found out this secret, she would not keep it to herself, and it would mean the end of the sylvari.

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And so we learn that sylvari were created by the jungle dragon, Mordremoth. Born to be his minions. When you confront her back in the present, Caithe confirms that what you saw was true – that she did indeed murder one of her fellow Firstborn, and that sylvari were indeed born of Mordremoth. She also says that at this point, the secret will make its way out either way – sylvari have been starting to lose control of themselves. She then vanishes with Glint’s egg, saying to remember that she is on the same side you are.

Okay. I have to admit. I am not exactly happy with the revelation that sylvari are dragon minions, and that old fan theory being proven to be true. I have never been a fan of it. I don’t like the idea that a playable race was made to be minions of a dragon. It just sits poorly with me…plus I love sylvari too much to want to think that my beloved flowers were created by a dragon. However, it does add an interesting depth to sylvari and the game’s lore, and I certainly cannot complain about the presentation of this information. But there are still questions that this brings up.

The first is, what exactly is the Pale Tree? The popular theory has always had her seen as a champion of Mordremoth, but with how things have been presented it does not point at this being the case. Rather, I believe her to be something of an anomaly, with the early tending of the sapling by Ronan and Ventari, as well as the teachings on Ventari’s tablet, subverting her nature to be opposed to the dragon. There is also the Dream; this is something that not even she fully understands, despite being the guardian of, and she’s the only one who can directly access. It is known that there is at least one other sylvari tree in Tyria, and the single sylvari that has been met from that tree, Malyck, had no connection to the Dream and knew nothing of it.

So I believe that what we currently know points at the Pale Tree likely not, in fact, being a champion of Mordremoth; she was actively working to protect the sylvari race, and Mordremoth sent his champion, the Shadow of the Dragon to directly attack her. The Dream and Wyld Hunts are also concepts that are unique to sylvari born of the Pale Tree, so far as we know (we know the Dream is, at any rate), and it’s worth remembering that at current, if you play a sylvari, you currently have the Wyld Hunt of destroying Mordremoth.

Somehow I doubt the dragon had any control over that.

gw222So my personal theory remains much as it was the last time I wrote about the topic of sylvari and corruption – that it is a strong connection to the Dream that is important for protection of sylvari. Some things have changed, however; knowing now that sylvari are the creation of Mordremoth explains their inability to be corrupted by the powers of the other dragons. It also explains why the two sylvari we know to have been corrupted by Mordremoth, Scarlet and Aerin, were able to have that happen – Scarlet learned things she shouldn’t have and made herself Soundless, and Aerin also was Soundless. Cutting themselves off from the Dream made them open to Mordremoth, who was able to then take control of them. The Pale Tree is currently in a weakened, near-death state, which likely is the cause of sylvari starting to lose control; without her to guide the Dream and her children, her protection against the dragon is become weaker and weaker.

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So the big question here is (or one of several, anyway), what is going to come of the sylvari? Clearly not every sylvari will come under the thrall of the dragon – it’s simply not possible for that to happen without turning many players’ characters evil. Caithe appears to still be fully in control of herself despite being highly secretive and running off with what everyone considers to be the key to defeating the dragons. In the second cutscene you see, Canach is present, facing off against a large mob, and states “Stop treating us as monsters, we are not the enemy.”

Just what is protecting some sylvari from this corruption while leaving others open? I’m guessing it’s any number of factors; a strong connection to the Dream, a powerful Wyld Hunt, a particularly strong will in an individual, or the presence of especially powerful magic could all be things that lend to this. As sylvari players, we have the first three present, coupled with the fact that our current Wyld Hunt is to kill Mordremoth. Canach is the very definition of stubborn, plus his recent association with Anise means that he is frequently in the company of an exceptionally powerful mesmer, which could be assisting.

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What role will the Nightmare Court play? We see Faolain in the cutscene in the midst of a fight, but it’s not obvious what side she is on; she impales and kills a being that does not look to have any vines or other corruption around them (like other creatures scene in that part), however, so I’m doubting she’s on the side of good. I would hazard a guess that the Nightmare Court, due to their darker natures, will be more open to corruption, despite the fact that they still maintain a connection to the Dream. I had assumed previously that the Nightmare Court would be likely to side with the rest of the sylvari in a fight against the dragons, but with what we now know, I’m finding that less likely. It’s far more likely that they would revel in the chaos and let themselves become corrupted, seeing Mordremoth’s corruption as freeing others from Ventari’s teachings.

And the most important question. WHERE IS ALL OF THIS GOING. Well, right now we have something of a hint…

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…and shortly we will know more. This logo was leaked early Tuesday morning by someone doing some digging around and discovering that NCSoft had trademarked the name “Heart of Thorns”, and then it was shown at the end of the second cutscene. It was followed with when to find more information – at PAX South. And, well, I really think we’re finally getting an expansion announced. People have said that before, but I think this is it.

Several things here to look at. First is the very fact that the name has been trademarked. None of the other LS stuff has had that happen. Usually trademarks are only filed for if it’s something big. Second is the fact that the second season is over with, and realistically, very little has happened other than set up a much larger story. Third is the panel at PAX South itself. It is a Saturday panel in the main theater. Saturday is a prime day at any convention – that’s when the big things happen. That’s when the most people are there. It’s always the busiest and biggest day. Then, the fact that the panel is in the main theater. That is huge. Looking at the PAX South schedule, there are only ten panels (and two concerts) in the main theater. A very notable fact there is that the GW2 panel is the only game specific panel. The panelists listed? Colin Johanson and Mike O’Brien.

Add all of that together. Trademarked name for something teased at the end of a LS season with an announcement at PAX, on Saturday, in the main theater, being the only game to have a panel there, and who is presenting the panel…they are absolutely announcing something huge. They would not go to that much effort for something like another LS season.

Also, I feel the need to point out that I will be at PAX South, and so I am just a tiny bit excited to be at this panel and see what’s going to happen.

We really have hit a point of no return. If nothing else, the title of the episode is true in rather a number of ways.

Corruption

I have not written anything about the living world story so far, but there is one aspect of it that has caught my interest and I’ve been thinking on a lot the past few days. Namely, the subject of sylvari and dragon corruption.

If you remember, some time ago (nearly three years ago!) I wrote on that subject, back when the sylvari redesign was first revealed. One of the things that was included with the new sylvari information was a very neat little bit of info – that sylvari cannot be corrupted by the dragons; they simply die instead. I found this fact endlessly intriguing, and had some ideas on it. Interestingly enough, at some point in the interim that bit of information was removed from the sylvari page – it’s no longer documented there. Doing some digging through the Wayback Machine shows that this information was removed at some point between May and September of 2012 – so it must have been taken out with the site redesign that occurred around the game’s launch. There are a few mentions to this fact in the game itself, however; I managed to find one of the personal story quests that makes mention of the incorruptibility of sylvari, and I’m certain there’s at least one or two more mentions, but I can’t find them.

It seems, though, that this inability to be corrupted is something that is changing. Before I go further, I am going to just go ahead and point out that this will have spoilers for Gates of Maguuma. It’s been just about a week, so I’m not going to avoid them any longer, but they’re there. If you haven’t yet played it, read on at your own risk. There’s also spoilers for Season One, but…that’s been over and done with for some time now, so do they really count as spoilers now? Anyway.

I also want to point out, since people always mention it – Nightmare Court corruption is not the same as dragon corruption. They wish to “corrupt” the Dream and free the sylvari from Ventari’s teachings. There is no indication at all that this has anything to do with dragon corruption, which is what is meant when “corruption” is spoken of.

I just really like this screenshot from the end of season 1.

I just really like this screenshot from the end of season 1.

Scarlet Briar was, undeniably, crazy. Whether or not she was actually corrupted by a dragon, when she looked into the Eternal Alchemy with Omadd’s device, she saw something that terrified her – something that would haunt her for the rest of her life. It was something that broke her mind. That caused her to break away from the Pale Tree and throw away her previous life as Ceara. When it comes down to it, we don’t actually know a whole lot about her motivations, why she wanted to drill into the ley lines. We can only make guesses based on what we know of the nature of magic in Tyria, what we know of the Elder Dragons, and what we know of Scarlet herself.

It is known that the dragons consume magic – this is something that was a large part of the asura personal story, and is brought up again several times later in the personal story. Ley lines are essentially rivers of magic that run beneath Tyria’s surface. During Gates of Maguuma, we learn that there was a ley line hub near Prosperity, that was discovered by a miner. There is also a drawing you can find in Scarlet’s room of what appears to be a map of Tyria, with the Pale Tree at the center of it.

(Some people have also pointed out that this map bears a remarkable resemblance to the Realm of Torment of Guild Wars 1 – which raises some interesting questions…)

Scarlet’s actions at the end of Season One had the result of awakening a dragon – something that we still don’t yet know the full consequences of. Whether or not she intended to awake Mordremoth is up for debate – in her journal, Scarlet said that she must “confront it and put an end to this madness”. It could be that she saw Mordremoth, saw the destruction that it could cause, and by trying to interrupt the ley lines was attempting to prevent it from awakening. On the other hand, the argument can be made that by drilling the ley line, she was essentially calling to the dragon, to awaken it. We don’t know, and we may never know.

One thing that is mentioned is that the only things that Scarlet could have brought into the chamber – when her mind was opened to the Eternal Alchemy – were things already within her, which suggests there was something she knew that was kept hidden from her. We can only speculate on what that thing could be.

So, we have a new dragon awakening somewhere in the jungle. The Zephyrite ship was brought down over the Maguuma Wastes, and we find out during the story who did it, but we also learn some interesting things about the Zephyrites in the process. For example, the fact that they were essentially followers of Glint:

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And that they use the magic inherent in her remains to fly their ships and also for the aspect crystals.

Now, the question can be raised – just what were they doing heading off in that direction? They tend to visit out of the way locations, but most of the Zephyrites are of Canthan or Elonian descent, and there’s simply nothing out in that direction anyway, that we yet know of. Cantha and Elona are both south of Tyria, so it is odd that they were flying northwest. And there was Glint’s baby from Guild Wars 1, that as of yet we don’t know the whereabouts of…

There was also Aerin. He was a sylvari that was originally a trader at the Labyrinthine Cliffs, and convinced the Zephyrites to let him join them. You find out during the investigation of the crash that he was the saboteur that took down their ship. It was also said in dialog during the quests that Aerin was a Soundless.

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This is highly relevant; the Soundless are a faction of sylvari who have chosen to cut themselves off from the Pale Tree and the Dream. They are not like the Nightmare Court – who keep their connection to the Dream, but have turned their back on the Pale Tree. They, for the most part, simply want to live their life without the pressures and burdens that being a part of the Dream entails, and meditate regularly to keep this connection closed.

Which is very similar to what Scarlet did – she was, for all intents and purposes, Soundless herself. Marjory, during the investigation, says that Aerin reminds her of Scarlet. There is also an interesting point in the fact that, if you encountered Aerin in the Cliffs, he was very much not a Soundless – he would talk about the Pale Tree and even pray to her, so him becoming Soundless is a very recent event.

There is a popular theory going around that the Pale Tree herself is in fact a dragon champion. This is not a theory I’m a particular fan of, but I do have to admit that events make that idea make more and more sense. If you speak to her of Scarlet, she mentions having tried to protect Ceara from herself, which ties back to the idea that there may have been something she had known that was kept from her.

And this all ties into the fact that sylvari are supposedly not able to be corrupted by dragons…and yet it appears that two of them have had just that happened. Both were Soundless, cut off from the Dream and the Pale Tree. Both of those had ties to the newest dragon that has arisen. Mordremoth, the jungle dragon. If the idea that the Pale Tree is a champion is true, then it would make sense that she could protect her children from the corruptions of the other dragons, but also that her protections from Mordremoth may be weaker, and that an active connection from the Dream is needed for this protection to work.

There is one potential gaping hole in this, which is Malyck. However, I’m not sure he’s as much of a hole in the theory as he could be; he has not been seen since the personal story steps with him early on. While he has no connection to the Dream, he also says that he has a feeling of distance and loss instead. He went west into the Magus Falls to try and find his Tree, but never returned. And if you encountered him in the personal story, there is mention of him in the Nightmare Chambers from the Tower of Nightmare. It may simply be hallucinations, but it may also be that Scarlet encountered him – something that is quite possible, considering the direction he set off in. We simply don’t know what has happened to him or what he may have found. And it’s worth pointing out that west is where Mordremoth is supposed to be now awake.

I hope that sylvari and corruption is something that is brought up at some point in the Living World storyline. I would love to see some concrete information about it at some point. I’d like to find out what happened with Malyck, and what caused Aerin to become Soundless. I’d love to find out what Scarlet’s ultimate motivations were with her studies of the ley lines. So many new questions…

Assault on the Arbor

Later today, we’ll get the latest of the Living Story updates, Twilight Assault, where a new evil has moved into a known Nightmare hideout…

Okay, so, I am something of a sylvari fangirl, as has been evident from before I even started this blog. They have been my very favorite race since they were first announced, and they remain so. When the Living Story began, I had been just waiting for us to get some sylvari story involved in it, and Scarlet became my favorite new character introduced essentially immediately. I had been hoping that she had been one of the missing Firstborn; sadly she is not, but her backstory is still immensely interesting.

Suffice to say, getting the chance to preview this patch had me very excited. Scarlet has decided to move into Twilight Arbor, making it her new base of operations, and Caithe and the Lionguard both want to track her down and root her out. This patch is going to follow in the footsteps of Tequatl Rising, in that it introduces massive, permanent changes to the game, and in particular the Twilight Arbor dungeon.

Party 1This patch introduces a new dungeon path to Twilight Arbor, but the number of explorable paths remains at three total. The Forward/Up path in TA has always been pretty widely regarded as bugged, if not completely broken (those spiders at the end…shudder), and Scarlet’s new path will be replacing F/U entirely. Scarlet’s path is intended for level 80, whereas the rest of TA’s explorable paths are still at level 55, so this required some change in the dungeon’s initial entrances, as obviously the previous method of picking which path you want to do would not work here. When you enter, you’ll encounter Caithe talking to a Lionguard, and you can talk to her and choose to either go after Scarlet, or take on the other dangers of the Arbor.

It’s worth noting that Caithe states that she has her own reasons for wanting to go after Scarlet. Caithe has always been a dark and secretive one, so that just makes me curious if there is history there between the two that hasn’t yet been revealed.

Deciding to track down Scarlet opens a path for you to follow, and shortly after entering it you are boosted back up to level 80. The initial areas are not so different from the usual Twilight Arbor dangers that we are all used to – volatile blossoms, and Nightmare Hounds, Husks, and Vines to fight. But things do change rather quickly, and it becomes apparent that something twisted is going on here.

Sometimes you see things like this.

Sometimes you see things like this.

As this dungeon path was worked on by the groups that did the Molten Facility and Aetherblade Retreat, there will be similarities between those two dungeons and this path. However, one thing I noticed fairly quickly is that there are more puzzle-like elements involved here that will require a lot more group coordination than either of those dungeons did…or that most dungeons in the game require, really. As someone who runs dungeons regularly, I am pleased by this. I like content that requires a fair amount of coordination (and the entire strategy doesn’t focus on a single broken skill, like Tequatl does). At the same time, it doesn’t look like it’s anything that will be terribly difficult; just things that will require people to communicate with each other and coordinate what they’re doing.

One such example of this was a room that contained a sort of maze of fire; through this maze you had to lead a pair of oozes to the opposite side to open the doors, while keeping them out of the fire and keeping them from getting killed by lava elementals. Both oozes needed to get to the end at about the same time, and they were also hostile enemies; AOE attacks could kill them, and they can do devastating attacks if you get too close to them. You also have to watch out for certain enemy types once you start finding Twisted Nightmares; certain ones will set off an alarm until they die, calling in more enemies. Leaving them alive for too long will quickly turn a fight from “we can do this” to “OH GOD WHAT’S HAPPENING WE’RE ALL DOOMED”.

"This job's easy. When Scarlet says to kill, you kill. When she says 'I'm bored', you hide."

“This job’s easy. When Scarlet says to kill, you kill. When she says ‘I’m bored’, you hide.”

We didn’t get to see much of the dungeon in the preview; it was just a taste of what things were going to be, and it only went to the first boss fight. This first boss fight, by the way, looks to be an immense amount of fun; you get to fight two interesting characters known as Sparki (an asura in a suit similar to the bosses at the end of Molten Facility) and Slick (a norn reminiscent of Mai Trin’s lackey at the end of Aetherblade Retreat). The fight itself is another that requires a fair amount of coordination between players; it reminds me with a less intense version of the Molten Facility end fight combined with the mechanics from the Ghost Eater fight in Ascalonian Catacombs.

WIthin the dungeon, of course, there are other new things. There are, for example, aetherized versions of the usual Twilight Arbor weapons, which have a blue glow and are a rare drop from enemies in this new path. There are also aether key pieces, which you can collect; five of them will combine into a key that can open chests found in Twilight Arbor. And, as ever, there are new sets of achievements to earn, along with new rewards to be gained from them – a backpiece and a mini are up for grabs this time around.

This sylvari-loving dungeon runner? Cannot wait to get her hands on this patch and be able to dive in and play through the new dungeon path. My interest has been piqued, and I’m looking forward to digging up more about Scarlet as well as learning this new path, as this one is here to stay!

Dance Dance Revolution

I really wish I had been able to play in the stress test yesterday, because at long last the /dance emote was added in. And I love dancing in games. Whenever I’m idling or waiting for something in Guild Wars, I hit /dance (or, if I’m on my Dervish, /dancenew to spawn the disco ball and then /dance). They’re just fun.

So I was slightly sad that I didn’t get to play with them myself. Then I started watching all of the dance videos on youtube and was just…dying laughing. On one hand, I was slightly disappointed because there’s only one dance per race – no differences for male or female characters. On the other hand, that’ll make syncing up the giant dance parties that will happen (as they always have) a lot more entertaining and easier.

And of course the dances themselves are great. Everyday the humans are shuffling, norn are doing the Carlton, asura like to pop, the charr do the haka, and the sylvari have a very energetic (and cheerful) Punjabi dance. There’s a video here that displays all of them, along with their inspiration (and music).

Also, if somehow you haven’t yet seen this, you need to. Looks like naked dancing in GW is a tradition that will never die.

A pair of star-crossed sylvari

Caithe and Faolain.

Two of the Firstborn sylvari – one born of Night, the other born of Dusk. Together the two left the Grove to explore Tyria, to see their world for their own. They became friends and lovers, but they are no longer.

That fact is not for a lack of trying on either of their parts, though.

I’ll admit that these two have intrigued me for a very long time. Caithe of course I instantly liked from the start, along with my love of the sylvari in general, and as I wrote about last week, the Nightmare Court – and it’s leader, Faolain – is also something that caught my interest. The fact that the two had been friends – one of the main characters of the game, and the leader of the evil sylvari faction (for a lack of a better term) – I thought that was neat, and was hoping it would be explored in-game.

And then Edge of Destiny came out, and it became clear that Caithe and Faolain’s relationship was not one of merely friends. They had been far more than that to each other.

(On a sidenote, I was amused at so many people completely missing that fact, to where Ree stated that yes, they were lovers.)

Their story – what we know of it, anyway – is the classic example of star-crossed lovers, of love gone tragically wrong. Two young friends who set out to explore the world and fall in love, until events tear them apart. Faolain is described as being a dark contrast to Caithe, having black hair, nails, and eyes. Caithe is a melee fighter; as a Thief she takes advantage of weak points in her enemies to bring them down quickly. We don’t know what profession Faolain is, other than that she is some sort of spellcaster; with her sorcery to back up Caithe’s physical fighting, the two would have made a formidable team.

We do not yet know what happened between the two of them. We don’t know what event it was that cause them to begin to walk towards the Nightmare. We simply know that it happened, and while Faolain embraced it fully, Caithe was able to step away before it took her as well. I am fervently hoping this is explored in-game (and I have an inkling that the Twilight Arbor dungeon will do just that). But, at the moment that Faolain fell and Caithe turned back, the two were separated from each other, no longer able to remain together as lovers.

And it’s pretty clear that this fact deeply hurts both of them, and that they still very much love each other, though they cannot be together.

Faolain, for her part, is desperate to have Caithe back at her side, and to bring her to the Nightmare Court. She does all she can to accomplish this. During Edge of Destiny, she poisons Caithe, with joining the Court being the only way to safely remove the poison, and then proceeded to shadow her throughout the book. When the poison made Caithe ill enough to nearly kill her, though, Faolain brought it back into herself, which turned her arm thorny and rotten, but leaving Caithe alive and well. Even as the head of the Nightmare Court, she’s not willing to kill her love, and harms herself to heal Caithe. Still, Faolain is determined, stating to Caithe that “Your heart belongs to me”. She wants the two to be together again – and for Caithe to be at her side in leading the Court.

Caithe is more of an enigma. During the book you do not see much that indicates that she still misses and loves Faolain, but she also strikes me as the sort that will put duty above personal matters. She is one of only two people who have seen Zhaitan and lived; she knows the threats the dragons bring. She is fully focused on that fact, and even after things fall apart in the end she wants to try and keep fighting on. But in-game…she’s a bit different. Time has passed, and reuniting the group is something that seems impossible. She’s instead turned her concerns to more local matters, while waiting for someone else brave enough to help her face the dragons.

Distance is the least of her problems, though…

There’s also a very melancholic air about her, though. She’s not happy, and there are hints all over of that fact and that it’s tied to Faolain. In the story parts that I played, Caithe dodges the subject of the Nightmare Court’s leader whenever it’s brought up, saying she doesn’t want to talk about it. You can find a book in her home titled “Long Distance Relationships: 10 Ways to Make it Work”. During the most recent stress test Dak was playing his sylvari and I tagged along for part of his personal story, where I caught part of a conversation between Caithe and Trahearne where Trahearne said that it was good to see her trust someone again. Though time has passed, Caithe still loves Faolain, and still wants her back. And it definitely strikes me that she would do almost anything, short of turning to Nightmare herself, to be back with her.

And so we have two sylvari, torn apart but still deeply in love with each other, still wanting each other, and both more or less heartbroken by their separation. Both willing to do almost anything to get the other back…but for the two things that would work. Caithe will always walk the edge – I’ve mentioned how much darker than other sylvari she is – but she will never embrace the Nightmare. And Faolain won’t – or can’t, if what Caithe said about never being able to turn back – give up Nightmare. The two are doomed to always plead with the other, but never to succeed. That barrier will always be there. And eventually things will come to a head between the two. As the dungeons are part of your personal story but revolve more around the members of Destiny’s Edge, if there is a big confrontation between Caithe and Faolain, it will likely happen in Twilight Arbor, the Nightmare Court dungeon.

Part of me can’t wait to see what happens, and very much hopes that more of their backstory is revealed during that. But another part of me dreads it, because whatever happens it will likely not be good for either character.

There will be no happy ending for Caithe and Faolain, no matter what happens.

Stepping into Nightmare

The Nightmare Court is not a subject I have written much about so far, despite the fact that, really, they fascinate me a lot. Of course, all things sylvari do, but the Court in particular is something I was interested in seeing more about.

But they were also a topic that we never really learned a huge amount about. However, with the Court being heavily a part of the early sylvari storyline, we’ve seen a fair bit of them now.

One thing that struck me about the sylvari is that they remind me of Jedi. Honor, helping others, and standing against evil is the core of what their society is based on. I also got the impression that the Nightmare is similar to the Dark Side of the Force – once you fall, that’s it. During a story quest I was doing, I even had Caithe say as much to me. Once that corruption takes hold, you’re done for, and there’s no going back. Caithe herself is described as walking the edge of Nightmare, due to her love for Faolain – she above all knows how dangerous it is, how futile it is to try and rescue someone who’s turned to Nightmare, and yet she cannot keep herself from trying to save her love and bring Faolain back to her.

Caithe herself I found to be especially dark for a sylvari – and also heartbreaking, in some ways. She’s not afraid to take actions that others would balk at – there was one point in the personal story where we had more or less captured a member of the Nightmare Court to get information. Caithe wanted to kill her after getting the info, and my character said, no, we should let her go. Caithe agreed…and then proceeded to kill the Courtier anyway. I was actually quite surprised at that. There’s also the fact that she’s very hesitant to talk about Faolain at any point I’ve seen so far, and there’s a certain book you can find in Caithe’s home that just made me go “…awwwwww…”. And yet, despite this, I can’t see any way that Caithe would ever completely give in to Nightmare. She’s tasted it and prowls the edges, but it’s the one thing she wouldn’t do to get Faolain back.

So. The Nightmare Court. Their main goal is to free sylvari from the teachings of Ventari’s Tablet, not believing that human and centaur philosophies are right for a completely new and different race. They also want to embrace and understand the nightmares found within the Dream, instead of simply ignoring them or trying to get rid of them. They wish to eventually corrupt the Pale Tree herself with these nightmares, freeing the sylvari from what they think are the shackles of Ventari’s teachings.

Of course, they do this by committing acts of evil in order to try and bring these nightmares to life wherever they go. I would compare them to the Dark Jedi of Star Wars, if not for one important difference – Dark Jedi tend to be destructive and horrid for their own selfish gains. Nightmare Court sylvari genuinely believe that what they are doing will eventually change and improve the sylvari race and their society.

In a Nightmare Court disguise

I’m sure most people won’t agree with the Court’s view, but they see the atrocities they perform as a means to an end. Among the members of the Court, there’s quite a large variety amongst how they act and behave. Among the Courtiers I met in the game, there was Sariel, a former student of Faolain’s who reveled in violence, Gavin, who did not care much either way and simply saw it a way to complete what he needed to do and still had a strong sense of honor, and the Knight of Embers, who was cold and deadly. They each have their own methods, their own views of things, while sharing the same ultimate goal.

If there is one thing that the Court tends to be, it is obsessed. They are constantly plotting and finding ways to try and spread Nightmare. They are constantly (forcefully) recruiting new members. If they think that something will help them with their goal, they will do it, no matter what it is. They are truly relentless, resorting to mind control to help turn sylvari to the Nightmare when needed. While it says on wiki that Courtiers have every last bit of virtue they had destroyed, I don’t 100% agree on this point – as I noted out above, there are Nightmare sylvari that still have strong sense of honor which is, after all, a virtuous trait. Of course, we don’t know how common sylvari like Gavin are within the Court – are many of the higher ranks that way, or is he an anomaly? Only time will tell.

One thing is for certain – the Nightmare Court will never be able to be completely defeated. It is based on an idea, and killing the members of the Court will not stop that. The Nightmare is born within the Dream, and it’s not unreasonable to think that it’ll be possible, even now, for sylvari to be born to Nightmare.

This is one thing I’m impatient to learn more about as we play through the game, and I’m especially excited to play through the Twilight Arbor dungeon, which is entirely about the Nightmare Court. There’s so much that can be explored here, and I definitely want to see what happens when Caithe and Faolain meet in game.

Some simply shiny sentences showing skritt sentiment.

Dak here, with an in-depth look into one of my surprise favorite elements of the game.

So I briefly mentioned the skritt in my last post talking about the asura.  Now, I’ll be… not so brief.

The skritt are a ratlike race who, along with the asura, were originally living in the depths of Tyria but were driven upward by Primordus and the Destroyers.  They are opportunists, but not scavengers – rather than dig through your garbage, they’ll mooch off you instead; doing their best to convince you you don’t really need that neat shoulderpad, or if your backpack is really heavy they’ll be happy to relieve you of any unnecessary items.  They’re also exceptionally curious, so if they get their paws on an unknown device, they’ll eventually sort out how it works and why.

Now, what makes the skritt so interesting?  They communicate in a high-pitched, almost inaudible chittering, through which they can relay a vast amount of information in a very short time.  While a single skritt is only capable of basic tasks and survival skills, through this chittering a group of skritt can work together to solve a problem.  The larger the group, the more complex the tasks it can tackle.  While a single skritt is rather dim, a big enough group could potentially rival an asura in intelligence.

Over the beta weekend, the skritt were available for interaction at last.  I first encountered them in a fort just south of Artergon Woods: a pair who had been trained for the simple task of guarding supplies.  I was instantly enchanted when I heard them concentrating so hard on guarding that they were, in fact, saying “Guarding.  Guarding guarding!” back and forth to one another.  My amusement was interrupted by a sudden hylek attack on the fort, which a group of players and I managed to repel. (one thing to point out, I love how whenever an event begins, a group of players seem to materialize from nowhere to join in and make the event more… eventful).  The invaders successfully routed, the Lionguard commander in charge of the fort decided it was high time to take the fight to the hylek and regain their stolen items, and sent a single skritt named Rikkiti to a Lionguard assault force near the hylek village.  The event is then to escort her as she runs the message to attack.

Rikkiti started out dutifully enough, but soon was distracted by the much more interesting moa nests by the side of the road. “Stuff stuff stuff!” came her shrill cry, until an angry moa (which we swiftly subdued) scared her off and she fled back to the path.

Imagine, if you will, the sight of some 20 people of all races chasing after an eager, innocent skritt as she quite accidentally attracts the ire of a giant grubs, a golem, disgruntled krewemembers, hungry raptors, and a full pack of apparently teleporting jaguars, with shouts of “Ooh, shi-hi-hinyyy!” and “What’s that!” It was quite the unexpected quest, and a ton of fun centered on a surprisingly endearing individual.

“Sheriff want shinies back. Rikkiti get shinies!  Teach hyleks stealing bad.”
“And did our ineffectual sheriff offer any thought on how precisely we might accomplish that?”
“Yes… no… what?”
“(sigh)Sheriff say how we get shinies back?”
“Oooh.  Deputy talk like Rikkiti stupid! Rikkiti not stupid!”

All the more surprising was when we reached her destination, and it flowed smoothly into a more traditional event: Destroy the hylek village and essentially burn -everything-.

Rikkiti joined us for that, too, and soon she had gathered all the “shinies” from the decimated village and returned to the fort while we taught the hylek chieftain that stealing was bad.

That event chain left a great effect on me, and I was delighted when I moved north into the Brisban Wildlands and found that there was, in fact, a massive skritt city called Skrittsburgh dug deep into a mountain.  While none of the skritt there were as singularly endearing as Rikkiti, it was interesting in another way: With so many in close proximity, these skritt were, in fact, more intelligent.  They were able to speak about more complex ideas and offer rewards for tasks, and as I delved deeper I found among their piles of hoarded items full, working tailoring and smithing stations.  Only a short way away there were even shops run by entrepreneurial skritt.  In the deepest reaches of Skrittsburgh, skritt soldiers held back encroaching Destroyers from underground.  It was a full, living city, and the race isn’t even a main one!  Kudos to Anet for this sort of dedication and the masterful way in which they fully realized this concept.

While I’m looking forward to the entirety of the game, when we hit launch I’ll be putting aside time to spend with the skritt, whether it’s helping them defend what they’ve rightfully stolen, or just chuckling at their more innocent antics.

Gotta give credit, that is pretty accurate.
…hey! – V

Dak’s Beta Weekend!

Time for my take on the final Beta Weekend!

While Verene spent almost the entire weekend as a sylvari, I immersed myself in the much-anticipated experience of the diminuative asura.  Through what I believe to be a combination of factors, this weekend was a marked improvement over the previous two, and the coming weeks will prove a most grating ordeal of impatience indeed.

Dashing, isn't he?

My character of choice this time around was Zott, a dignified asuran Elementalist from the College of Synergetics, with a particular affinity for the lightning strikes of Air attunement.  His first invention was the Infinity Ball, a remarkable device that predicts the future (and so what if it doesn’t predict it correctly every time?).

The asura experience begins with a call for aid in pacifying malfunctioning golems (not yours, of course), which introduces you to the Inquest.  The Inquest is a sort-of krewe, who believe ethics only get in the way of scientific progress, and without them the true nature of the Eternal Alchemy can be unlocked and so enable them to run the world like a massive machine.  During my beta play, this usually manifested itself in experiments fusing asura with their golems, whether the asura in question really wanted it or not.

The asura as a race are absolutely unique, and my new favorite.  The info we’d gotten from the team in the past always seemed to paint them as rather serious, almost dour scientists, studying the world yet aloof from it.  In actual play, this is far from the truth, and the asura don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as the other races think.  For instance, the first area, Metrica Province, contains a school full of asura children (called progeny).  As you walk by, you hear many bits of childish chatter, and one part that stood out to me was the “your mom” jokes.  Oh yes:

“Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks norn cows go ‘moot’!”
“Well your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks ‘elemental’ is four letters in the middle of the alphabet!”
“…Seriously though, your mom is really smart.”
“Yeah, yours too.”

It was a heartwarming, adorable moment that really cemented the asura as a living race for me.
Other notable looks into asura-based humor included “STA/B-0 the Super Golem,” and another golem labeled “OVR-9000.”

The asura themselves seem to slip and then stumblingly recover their aura of dignity in conversation.  And if you look hard enough, you’ll find individuals who just really, really like bunnies.

Open-ended research could mean a lot of things...

Not so above it all, eh Zojja?

The asura starter area, Metrica Province, showcased the refinement of challenge as we inch closer to full release.  Events did an excellent job of guiding you around the area, keeping your experience gained about equal with your level needed for the next zone you were led into, giving the entire area a very dynamic feeling of organic growth.  The next thing you see is always a fun challenge, but never too difficult to take on.  It felt very good and I applaud them for that careful balance.  It also looks absolutely beautiful, and is filled with plenty of neat things to look at and do (oh Vistas, how I adore thee).  It’s great seeing how much the asura have built up in the last 250 years.  The events to be found were all very fun, and granted a new look at the hylek and the skritt (I will have to write a separate post on my beloved skritt).

My personal story was also a kick, dealing with unfusing golems and, eventually, a new application for my old Infinity Ball that, long story short, led to meeting myself as an evil overlord from another dimension’s future.  Talk about your fun cliches!  Every step was well-executed, and it left me eager for more when the game launches for real.

Actually sitting on top of a giant arch.  About 200 asura high.

Waiting…

The sylvari fangirl report – BWE3 roundup!

Eirlyss at the end of the weekend.

The third and final beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2 has come and gone. We just have over a month left until release now.

This is going to be a long month.

As should be surprising to no one, I spent the vast majority of my time in the sylvari areas. My main of choice for this BWE was Eirlyss, a sylvari Guardian. I did create several other characters (Katte, an asura Warrior, Dairina, a sylvari Elementalist, and Riannah, a sylvari Thief…yeah, I like sylvari!), but I spent the vast majority of the time on Eirlyss. I did play all the way through the personal story available for the beta, having chosen having a vision of the White Stag and finding “Where life goes, so shall you” as the most important of Ventari’s teachings as my personal story choices. I have so, so, so many thoughts on the sylvari storyline that I saw that just…wow. If you’re a Guild Wars lore buff? The sylvari storyline will likely be your favorite. In the beta, a few questions were answered, and more brought up.

And it certainly did a damn good job of getting me extremely patient for launch to see where this storyline goes. A small hint – remember seeds that Ronan found and planted one of, that grew into the Pale Tree? We find out a bit more about that.

I also noticed that the sylvari storyline seems to be the widest and the most concerned with the outside world. Yes, the story is still about you, but what I played of the other storylines (completed human, made a bit into the other three), they remain heavily involved with just you. The sylvari storyline is…definitely less so, and I like this. For example, in the White Stag storyline, I was trying to stop the Nightmare Court from corrupting the White Stag, a creature of the Dream that is a manifestation of hope, to despair and letting it loose back into the Dream to try and corrupt future sylvari. I defended the Grove from an attack from the Court. The “where life goes, so shall you” storyline I don’t want to go to into at the moment (I’ll likely dedicate a future post solely to that) involved trying to keep the Nightmare Court from getting what they referred to as the Harbinger, something or someone they wanted to use against the Grove and the Pale Tree. The sylvari storyline also has the earliest mention of the Elder Dragons that I noticed, with the Pale Tree herself telling her that she believed that you and Caithe would be the ones to face Zhaitan, and that you would be victorious.

Talking with the Pale Tree

So, essentially, I really, really enjoyed the sylvari storyline thus far.

The sylvari themselves are, essentially, perfect. I love how beautiful they are, while remaining something that’s very obviously not human. They have this air of elegance and nobility to them…but if you watch their idle animations, you get to see another side, one of a very young race that is intensely curious, and that is full of innocence. It’s just so absolutely perfect – it looks as though they’re humming something in their head, and sort of idly swaying along with it, along with stopping to look to the side as though they just spotted something interesting, as well as the occasional happy grin.

The Grove is definitely, as far as the capital cities go, the smallest of the five. This, however, is definitely understandable, I think. It’s built in several levels, being more of a vertical city than a horizontal one, which makes sense as it’s built into the bottom of the Pale Tree. It’s also the newest of the cities, housing the newest of the races, which logically speaking is also going to be the smallest in population. It shouldn’t be a massive, sprawling city like the others are.

During the weekend I reached level 25, and got 100% map completion on the Grove, Caledon Forest, Metrica Province, and Brisban Wildlands. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I wish that the asura and sylvari each had another zone that’s just solely theirs – they share Brisban, which is a level 15-25 zone. I can understand why – the Maguuma Jungle and Tarnished Coast are only so large, after all – but the other races had a 15-25 zone of their own! Not fair, says I.

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed playing Guardian. I tried it briefly during BWE1 and thought it was okay, but I wanted to give it another go. I was undecided between that and Elementalist, and decided last moment that Guardian would be the winner. I actually really, really liked it. Yes, it’s definitely the most support-based profession, and normally I don’t like support. But it’s also a very flexible profession, and I enjoyed being able to swap roles quickly and easily depending on the situation. And my ability to provide support was given the ultimate test during an event in Metrica Province.

Being led to our deaths by Mr. Matthew Medina, aka @barefootmatthew. Whoops :P

Ahh, yes. The Fire Elemental in Metrica. It spawns at the end of an event chain if the previous one is failed and…well. “Overpowered” is an understatement. The first time I tried it I had to map out to a waypoint after dying and reset my skills and bust out my staff so I could lend some heavy support. I then spent the entire fight healing people, setting up walls to block projectiles, and ressing everyone as they died. We did manage to succeed at the fight…however, as I spent the entire fight lending support instead of attacking, I got no credit for the fight. No gold, no karma, no experience, nothing. I certainly more than participated – of everyone on that bridge I probably spent the most time alive and actually doing things – but as I did not directly attack the elemental it didn’t count? I was a bit annoyed.

The main issue with that fight is, I think, just a variety of elements coming together and working off of each other to wind up being far stronger than intended. The leadup to the room where the fight is is a narrow bridge, which creates a massive chokepoint. The boss does massive AoE attacks, as well as spawning Embers which also attack.

I wound up getting killed by the elemental another time on Sunday evening – a note of warning, partying up with an ANet dev will likely cause in you dying. I almost feel bad for the random people who spotted the ANet logo as we ran past and followed along only to be led to their deaths…but on the other hand, I think that attempt was one of the highlights of my weekend. Plus now they know exactly how overpowered that event is, always a plus!

The finale, the Hunger Royale (Hunger Games and Battle Royale combined) was certainly entertaining, but I felt like it was hindered by the size of the map. Metrica was just too large for something like that – we spent the most time just running before we’d come across anyone else. Still, I got to send Dak flying as we wound up on opposite teams, so that was entertaining.

I never did get to climb to the top of the Pale Tree, but I did go up into the Omphalos Chamber and found the highest spot in there I could get to, so I guess that wins!

As far as new additions…I love vistas. Some could be quite the puzzle to figure out how to reach, but as I’m a veteran of games like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed (and oh how heavily did vistas remind me of syncing viewpoints in AC!), usually just a moment or two of studying the area gave me a path up. They’re also amazing for taking lovely screenshots of the area, something which I took great advantage of.

Now, if only it were August 25th…

The Pale Tree Climbing Expedition!

So, I was thinking things over.

The Pale Tree is massive. It is described as “towering like a skyscraper over the landscape“, with the lower levels of the Tree being the city of the Grove. The pods that sylvari grow in and are born from are high enough from the ground that a fall from them can be fatal.

Guild Wars 2 loves to let people explore. There are jumping puzzles and all sorts of little goodies that you can find from poking around.

Just how far up the Pale Tree is it possible to climb, then?

As I said previously, I already intend to spend most of my time during the upcoming BWE exploring the Grove. Exploring the Grove includes exploring the Pale Tree itself, of course.

And I intend to see just how far up the Tree I can climb.

I’m sure I’ll fall and die many a time during the attempt. But as someone who likes exploring, who likes to find all of the little details, and who just plain loves all things sylvari, I intend to keep pressing on and see how far up the Tree I can make it.

I wonder if it’s even possible to make it to the top…

 

(If anyone wishes to join me, I’ll be climbing my way up on Eternal Grove!)