May 2nd saw Flashpoint launch at the upper end of Anet’s new 2-3-month release cadence; one during which Guild Wars 2 was treated to Super Adventure Box festival and end of PvP Season 6; which has been a big set-back since the great 5th season. Read on for our thoughts of Flashpoint, the penultimate episode.
As a caution, this review will contain spoilers to the developments in story, so proceed at your own risk if you have not yet played through the new episode yet.
The story of Flashpoint does not tarry with ending speculations left after the previous episode; Lazarus the Impostor is revealed already in the first instance where the player meets up with Kasmeer back in Rata Novus responding to Taimi’s summon to check out her research on the Elder Dragons. Marjory also shows up; having lost Lazarus’ tail, and the group are about to test Taimi’s new machine on her experiments, one which she speculates should be able to kill both dragons (Primordus and Jormag) by pitting their energies against each other, when Lazarus shows up with his detail of mercenaries.
By Kasmeer’s idea of how mesmer illusions work, the Dragon’s Watch members set up an array of mirrors to break Lazarus’ illusion and finally reveal his true identity. After an initial skirmish where the heroes defend golems repairing the mirrors broken by Lazarus’ mercenaries, the player lures Lazarus into the crossfire of reflected beams from the mirrors and breaks his illusion, revealing him to be none other than a weakened Balthazar, the God of War.
Kasmeer breaks down in a state of awe and fear of witnessing one her Gods; whereas Marjory gets struck down and paralyzed by Balthazar as he escapes with Taimi’s device, leaving the Dragon’s Watch group to fend for themselves against a horde of mercenaries streaming into the Rata Novus lab. However, Taimi’s supervisor, Phlunt, returns to the scene with a force of peacekeeper Asura and eventually the threat is removed.
Balthazar however escapes with Taimi’s machine (a modified version of Omadd’s Machine) to an area by the Ring of Fire called Draconis Mons, intending to use the machine himself on Primordus and restore his own power.
Which brings us to another part of the update; namely the new map.
The new map is another, brilliant piece of environment art and vertical challenge. First of all, getting there the first time requires playing the first story instance, after which Taimi and the Pact readies transport via submarine from the Rata Sum Port Authority. This transition leads to a seamless, immersive approach to the new map – as has been the case with all maps in Living World Season 3 – rather than opening world map and waypointing to a new, unknown location.
Draconis Mons itself – Latin for the dragon’s mountain – is a volcanic island in the Ring of Fire islands. We learn that the island used to be submerged, but with the rise of Primordus, the volcano raised and the seas beneath shifted, undergoing transformation into lethal Sulphuric Water that boils due to the Elder Dragon’s presence. The vegetation of the zone is rich in minerals and flora; and the nature of such importance it has attracted druids to watch over it. Survivors from Rata Novus also moved here and started building a colony, Rata Arcanum, but their establishment and a terraforming device an Asura named Zinn developed brought the anger of the druids upon them and the Asura survivors were all killed.
A new mastery – a personal highlight of this episode – is introduced, Oakheart’s Reach, which acts as a grappling hook to make it easier (and exciting) to navigate this vertically layered map. And you can use the new mastery while you glide, opening countless possibilities for getting around. The map itself works as the other new LS3 maps; repeatable hearts, karma vendors allowing the new map currency “Fire orchids” with a combination of either karma or unbound magic, offer new rewards (minis, endless tonics, crafting recipes, etc.)
And another personal highlight is the Houndskin Mantle reward skin for completing the new meta achievements; which goes a long way to cover for the lack of cloaks in Guild Wars 2, and completing my main character’s look to satisfaction with his wolfskin mantle.
Back to the story, on arrival to Draconis Mons, the player soon learns from a simulation Taimi shows, that the use of her new machine would indeed be able to kill two Elder Dragons in one fell swoop, but at the same time most likely destroy Tyria. It is now paramount the player manages to retrieve the machine from the hands of Balthazar who intends to use it to kill Primordus and absorb his power. With the aid of the Elder Druids, the player manages to ascend the volcano and glide down into its heart, where a confrontation with Balthazar follows. Balthazar is too pre-occupied with the machine but summons his two hounds – Temar and Tegon – to deal with the player. While this fight goes on, Taimi works to overload the device, and eventually the two protagonists manage to thwart Balthazar’s plans and the device explodes.
Epilogue and further speculation
A surge of Jormag’s energy can then be seen lunging into Primordus, apparently sending the Elder Dragon back into a slumbering, pre-awakening state, and Taimi assumes Jormag has suffered the same. Balthazar is also gone for the time being; having failed to absorb Primordus’ magic power for his own.
So what happens now? The imminent threat of two dragons is suddenly gone; or is Braham going after Jormag, unknowing that the death of another Elder Dragon might well spell the end of Tyria – or will it? Are the Six Gods returning, or is Balthazar pulling an “Abaddon”? As Lazarus the impostor turned out to be Balthazar; what then of the real Lazarus, does he stand a chance of revival or is he in an even more dire (sic) state than before with one aspect missing? Do we move on from the subdued Primordus and Jormag to focus on Kralkatorrik now, launching a new campaign into the Crystal Desert?
One thing is certain; the finale of Living World Season 3 will contain answers to one or more of these questions and have a huge impact on where the story will take us next, in the upcoming expansion (~ est. autumn 2017) and the next season of Living World coming after the expansion (~ Q1, 2018).