Civil war has broken out amongst the charr in the Icebrood Saga’s latest episode, ‘No Quarter’. We join the United Legions as they battle against their own deserters and former friends in Bangar’s ever-growing faction, Dominion. Here we’ll face off against Ryland’s Steel Warband, in a struggle for territory, while dealing with charr politics and the brutal face of war.
No Quarter released on 26th May, under unusual circumstances. Part of the development of this episode was done while the devs were quarantined at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With work-at-home orders in effect, it was impossible to gather voice actors and writers safely into the studio to record lines.
Exploring Drizzlewood Coast without voice acting was an unusual experience, where my feeling of missing out was somewhat mitigated by the cuteness of the characters’ emotive mumbling. Despite this missing component, Drizzlewood Coast served the story and I loved it.
As a meta map, Drizzlewood Coast is filled with events, but a lack of voice acting meant NPCs couldn’t call out the various goings on as they usually would. To take care of this, Kirk Williford mentioned in Episode 100 of Guild Chat, events were marked out by flares or drums. This sounds immensely more immersive than hearing the clear voice of an NPC standing Spirits knows where. See a flare? Someone needs help. Hear the drums? Something’s going down. (For the sake of this argument, ignore the big text appearing on screen whenever a territory needs help.)
When a territory does need help, what do you do? Waypoint? Pfft, that’s so asura. Instead, click on the territory you wish to reach, and as long as it’s one already under the Legions’ control, your Commander parachutes in from a copter. It’s a great detail which feels very charr. You even need to spend war supplies to make the jump, because it ‘costs a lot to maintain these choppers’ as Eliza Skysight tells you.
While war is a big part of Drizzlewood Coast, at its centre you’ll find Breakroot Basin, the only permanently neutral section of the map. It’s a beautiful body of water with several waterfalls and giant roots interspersed within the area. I think it’s here we see how potentially gorgeous this region of the world could be, if it had not been for the crushing advance of Bangar’s army, followed closely by the entrenchment of the Legions.
As lovely as it is, Breakroot Basin is not an escape from reality. The sirens of war can be heard even from here. The audio team did a remarkable job of creating terrifying sirens warning us of Dominion’s heavy bombardment and imminent takeover. It’s an interesting cover for resetting the map.
Walking around the various battlefronts of Drizzlewood Coast, one noise I couldn’t get used to was the buzzing pulse of the propaganda speakers — a method of psychological warfare employed by Dominion. For a while, I would stomp them all on sight, hoping that’d be the end of it. They’re pervasive little buggers though. Destroy as much as you want, they’ll always return. It’s an inescapable barrage of messages from the other side, presumably twisting truths, while promising a place in the greatest charr achievement in history: subduing Jormag.
In the Northern edges of the map, damp greenery makes way for biting ice. You’ll find this place as you make your way up the two lanes of the meta, taking you closer to Bangar’s trail. The ice reminds us how close we are to Jormag’s influence. Even if we’re victorious at the battle of Wolf’s Crossing, Bangar is still far closer to Jormag than we are.
Like Bjora Marches, Drizzlewood Coast will be expanded with the next episode, Jormag Rising, where we cross into the icy territory. You might have expected an invisible wall or some unscalable terrain to stop you from breaking into the Northern half early. Actually, it’s unseen snipers. How sneaky. Explorers of Brisban Wildlands prior to the second half of Living World Season 2 might remember a similar approach used to discourage players from approaching Fort Vandal.
This is where I miss voice acting the most. Usually, my initial exploration of a new map is filled with sudden pauses to eavesdrop on NPCs’ chatter. There’s still the mumbling to pull your curiosity and if you whip the camera towards the noise, you’ll be able to discover little stories in the speech bubbles.
One of the first sets of dialogue I spied upon was from two pairs of charr in the United Legions Base Camp. By ‘listening’ to them in turn, you can discover the tale of how one charr, trying to get the romantic attention of another, ends up being suspected as a spy because of his dodgy behaviour. It’s hilarious, but it’s also the first taste we get of the soldiers’ trust issues during a civil war. Is the soldier beside you on your side or theirs?
The regret of fighting against those you knew is more explicit in dialogue from an Ash Legion Shadow in Vloxen Mine. She had been ready to fight anyone…except members from her own legion.
Another interesting quote I found was on the beach side of the map, where the Seraph are assisting Iron and Blood soldiers. After capturing Lighthouse Point, an Iron Legion Engineer calls the Seraph Guard beside him a ‘skinbag’; which is a new phrase to me, but clearly a slur. I guess not every racist charr is on Bangar’s side of the war. We have some questionable characters on our side too (coughSmodurcough).
Around the same area, eavesdropping on a Blood Legion Soldier rewarded me with the revelation that Ryland had been seen as ‘more hungry for power than Bangar’ even before all this. It seemed absurd at first, but considering Ryland’s meteoric rise through the ranks, maybe there is something to it and why he’s chosen this path. Indeed it matches Ryland’s own words in the Darkrime Delves instance: ‘Bangar’s always dangling another opportunity. But if I play my cards right…’ I’m curious to see where his story goes next, and to find out if it’s as ominous as these quotes imply.
Thankfully, the conversations of Drizzlewood Coast are not all doom and gloom. I did come across two charr discussing the latest Snargle novel. Something something steamy hot springs.
Two big name characters we meet in the open world are none other than Snarl Backdraft and Galina Edgecrusher. You might remember them from the Personal Story, during the course of which these two went from embodying the rivalry between legions to the cooperation of the Pact (albeit with some added bickering). Now they stand once more as an example of inter-legion collaboration.
On a more personal note, when we saw them last at Fort Trinity, Snarl and Galina were just coming to understand their feelings for each other. Now they’re definitely together! The confirming statement comes from Snarl, who says they’ll probably name their cub after the Commander. Aww!
Also taking up the spirit of inter-legion collaboration are the Flame Legion Shamans who can be seen infusing Iron Legion ammunition with their magic. They’ll explain the difference between what they’re doing now and what Flame did during the Molten Alliance, which involved the sacrifice of female shamans’ lives to infuse dredge weapons. There’s also some neat exposition for how Ephram was against the Alliance, cementing him further as one of the good guys.
On a happier note, if you’re playing a charr Commander, the warband member you chose in character creation can be found in the United Legions Base Camp. Having not been in touch with them since the early moments of Personal Story, we can finally answer a question that’s been on charr players’ minds for years: What happened to the Commander’s warband?
Unfortunately, it’s not good news. The rest of the warband, which had grown in your absence, are either dead or defected. If they’ve defected, you might actually meet them in battle. At the end of the map meta, several named champions spawn to protect supply caches. If their names seemed familiar to you, this is why. The Commander’s old friends are loyal to Steel now.
The members of the infamous Steel Warband are the main antagonists of this episode. While Cinder and Ryland play their part in the main story, Vishen, Ranoah and Nicabar play theirs in the open world. Just like in Steel and Fire, Vishen seeks the high ground to snipe targets and Ranoah attacks from within her trusty TT6-B Devourer. Nicabar can even revive his teammates with a tonic, but instead of supporting them from the ground, he now does so from his copter. The meta culminates with their deaths at Wolf’s Crossing.
As someone who’s played the Forging Steel instance countless times, I had mixed feelings about this. They were the enemy, but I didn’t want to kill them. I liked them! In Guild Chat Episode 100, Novera King explains that evoking these feelings was intentional, as it is meant to mirror the charr’s collective feelings during the civil war. Both sides are killing former friends. This made Steel’s deaths far more evocative than the deaths of Braham’s former guildmates.
The Steel Warband was the linchpin of Dominion’s control of the region, which makes their defeat at Wolf’s Crossing a huge win, regardless of how it may personally feel. Upon victory, Crecia and Ephram shout out ‘One charr!’, co-opting Bangar’s own phrase to use against him. The message here is clear: Bangar divides the charr, while the United Legions brings them together. It’s literally in the name.
The missing voice acting of this episode was definitely felt, but the quality of story in Drizzlewood Coast still meets Guild Wars 2’s ever-rising standards. Still, I can only imagine that when the voices are added, the new lease of life it’ll bring to months-old content will be phenomenal.