Only 540 days, or a year and a half, passed between the release of End of Dragons and Secrets of the Obscure, the two most recent expansions for Guild Wars 2. A complete change from the past, when players had to wait several years . for new expansions. But to compensate there was the “Living World”, mini-addons so to speak, divided into episodes and seasons. They were free when released, but you had to pay for them later if you “missed it.” That’s over now: more frequent smaller extensions with free post-release updates. Secrets of the Obscure is the first content pack based on this system. Consequently, we first wanted to wait and see what a post-launch update would bring in this new era.
“Lifting the Veil” on November 7, 2023 was the starting signal for us to give SotO a review. This was already a major concern for us before, because the new expansion represents a new beginning, not only in terms of the payment model, but the story and the game world also leave behind ten years of dragon hunting.
From dragons to demons
What’s particularly interesting for lovers of lore and history is that we truly leave familiar kingdoms behind: the new areas of SotO are located far from all known points on the map and at high altitudes, beneath the atmosphere of Tyria. There reside the Astral Watch and its eager Rift Hunters, both parts of an arcane community that has long protected the game world from demonic threats, more specifically the “Cryptis.”
In contrast to the more isolated demonic monsters of the past, the Cryptis form an organized empire led by the so-called Midnight King Eparch. The cruel tyrant has dark plans and wants to finally tear the veil between this world and the dream world of demons. Of course, any means is acceptable, so we and all members of Astral Watch have to deal with mental attacks again and again, while actual cryptic monstrosities pose painfully real threats.
The war above the clouds against bloodthirsty nightmares is a welcome change from the magitech style of recent years – no more Asura shenanigans, charr machinery, and jade technology! Return to spell circles, arcane tools and all manner of mystical magical arts. Finally, the Astral Guard is also led by the Court of Wizards, powerful magic-using individuals sworn to protect Tyria. Its members are all interesting characters. A former norn shaman of the spirit worm. An ancient Jotun from the time shortly after the fall of his people. A skinless stone dwarf from an alternate reality. And we even have a damn Mursaat as our ally. So Lazarus was not the last!
Each member of the court, but also their subordinates, are fantastic visions of a wide variety of stories and peoples, delighting not only GW2 fans, but also GW1 fans. Finally, the Wizard’s Tower, the legendary location of Kryta, is the new “capital” of the expansion.
As a former “commander” of the covenant, we’re even a celebrity there: Astral Watch members have followed our ten years of fighting the dragons with the greatest enthusiasm, which is the typical “New expansion, let’s hunt wild boar” sentiment. ” from the MMO genre averted. The story also directly explains why Astral Watch simply watched the world almost go to hell and we had to save it. Short version: While we were taking care of this world, the magical guardians were also very busy: the fact Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik destroying the Mist World was of no use to the mages above the clouds. Speaking of which, what did we find there?
What is the new map design like?
The zones are very different from other areas in GW2, literally. After all, the Skywatch Archipelago is all about floating fractals, while Amnytas is a golden city made up of individual islands at high altitudes.
When it comes to the archipelago in particular, at first you might think it’s just lazy recycling: there’s a Shiverpeak area, the Maguuma jungle, Kryta buildings, desert segments, and even part of Cantha’s Jade Tech Metropolis. But do not worry! These corners of the map are structured in a refreshing enough way to make visits worthwhile. Not only because of the lucrative events, but also because of the exciting stories these areas tell. What if the utopian city of Rata Novus had never fallen? What if Baltasar, god of war, had subjugated Elona? What if the dwarves hadn’t had to give up their existence as a species in the war against the destroyers?
Everything is especially lively thanks to the vertical structure: these maps are made simply for griffins and sky scales. Thus, we run through the air at lightning speed, chase events and overcome one task after another on the archipelago as in Amnytas. New skills help us a lot.
The scale of the sky reigns over the clouds.
Among other things, SotO finally brings with it the universal domain, with which all players have access to the sky scale. Previously, the flying mount was firmly intertwined with the world of the living, so it was not unlocked for all players and was in no way taken into account in the map design. With Skyscale as an expansion feature, the new Skywatch Archipelago, Amnytas and Nayos zones (post-launch map) are structured in such a way that mounting is a given. Especially since players also receive temporary access to the pangolin before it activates. By the way, if you already have the kite, mastering it will unlock great extra bonuses that will make flying even more luxurious.
There are new Skyscale skills for both beginners and experienced riders. For example, he learns how to use Heart of Thorns updrafts and ley lines with Skyscale and Griffin. Or shoot fireballs with which you can specifically attack new flying and ground opponents. Since the Nayos area opened, your Skyscale can even deal siege damage. This was previously reserved for the End of Dragons turtle. But aside from the strengthened Skyscale, the second important domain is clearly the Heart of the Dark.