Grothmar Valley is the open world map added to Guild Wars 2 with the Icebrood Saga’s prologue, Bound by Blood. Going east of Ascalon, we take our first step into the Blood Legion Homelands, a place where I wasn’t expecting such natural beauty. Of course, I appreciate the industrial charr aesthetic of the core game, but I never thought to see it paired with heart-shaped leaves fluttering down across bright landscapes. Veterans of the original Guild Wars have reported a pre Ascalon Searing vibe.
It’s not just the scenery or the novelty of being in a new map which has me prancing through the fields, rocking out at concerts and burning effigies though. It is truly a delight to be in Grothmar Valley, especially when you can turn a blind eye to the rising charr nationalism slide right into racism.
So! With your other eye wide open, take a look at some of the cool stuff you can find in your visit to the valley.
The Main Events
Around the map, you can find boards which point you to one of four different meta-events. Amusingly, the board tells you when the next event will be in Tyrian time, so you might want to check the Grothmar Valley wiki page for a more practical event timer. Each one of these events reward a key representing one of the High Legions.
Venture into the Doomlore Ruins with The Haunting of Doomlore Shrine meta-event. In the northeast section of the map, a thick mist hangs over a haunted forest. Ash Legion runs the mission, but event npcs from all Legions take part, including Flame. Eager to prove the worth of his Legion, Shaman Brightblaze is the star of the show as he uses his spells to reveal the necromancer ghost who haunts these ruins. Fight Murakai, Doomlore’s Bane (a returning boss from Guild Wars) to earn the Ash Legion Key.
Participate in The Ooze Pit Trials with the hopeful gladia who seek a place in a new warband. This is an interesting event where after you pledge yourself to Blood, Iron or Ash at the start, you must then complete the lane with tasks corresponding to the Legion you picked. If all lanes are successful, everyone joins together to fight a Champion Prismatic Ooze (another returning boss, this time from Guild Wars’ dungeon version of the Ooze Pit). It’s clearly an exercise to promote unity between the Legions, which is what Imperator Ruinbringer is all about these days. This lands you the Blood Legion Key.
Get pumped for Metal Legion as they perform A Concert for the Ages! This event has surpassed all my expectations for an in-game concert. It features three songs which are awesome enough to enjoy on their own (Fear the Metal Legion with its thought-provoking lyrics, Bound by Blood with its subtle propaganda and the Ballad of Soulkeeper dedicated to the awesome Vigil leader), but you’re not here as an audience member. You are here as a volunteer to help Cidd, their asuran roadie and your job is to keep the audience hyped! Jump in the mosh pit, fix the electricals, step in as backup dancers, stop crazed fans from killing the band members… there’s so much to do and that’s not counting the epic finale featuring the boss Pyrotorrick, a flaming dragon-shaped stage ornament that’s gone haywire! If the event is a success, you’ve got yourself the Iron Legion Key.
As night falls in Tyria, head over to the Flame Legion camp to take part in their Ceremony of the Sacred Flame. Here’s something I never thought I’d say — I love the treatment of Flame Legion in this patch, so participating in their ritual, which is somewhat like our world’s Olympic Torch, gave me warm feels. The gist of this event is that you must carry the sacred flame up a path and to the effigy, however no player can hold the flame for very long. You have to throw the flame either to other players holding an unlit torch or onto the ground which players with unlit torches can run into to pass the flame along. Once the effigy is burning, beat it up and receive your Flame Legion Key.
The keys you’ve earned from the above meta-events can be earned daily and are used to unlock the Vault of the Khan-Ur, the entrance to which can be found in the Doomlore Ruins. There are a few chests to loot, but the main one is the Chest of the Khan-Ur which awards you a “Recovered” Charr Artifact. As a fashion wars player, I love the skins which are possible drops here, including some awesome High Legion weapons and an elusive charr-only helm. There’s also a tiny chance to get the new infusion, Heart of the Khan-Ur.
While you’re here…
Next to the Vault of the Khan-Ur is the most beautiful jumping puzzle I’ve seen in the game — the Gauntlet of the Khan-Ur. Like the Ceremony of the Sacred Flame, you must carry a flame from the beginning to the end of the puzzle via a torch. Fall in the water or get soaked by the rude frogs and you’ll have to run back and light a torch again. Luckily, there are two bonfires you can light along the way that serve as checkpoints.
Even if you’re not a fan of jumping puzzles, it’s still worth swimming though to have a look at the fantastic environmental design. There’ll be an Ancient Grothmar Coin and a vista for your trouble.
So Many Events
The best thing about the events on this map is the variety. Here are some events that aren’t your usual fare.
- Take part in the Iron Legion run demolition derby by riding around in small charr tanks and blowing up other players riding small charr tanks. Yes, other players! It’s an open world pvp game where if you’re blown up, you’re thrown up into the air via an ejection seat and can immediately grab another tank to get right back in.
- Deadeye or not, show them cubs your sniping skills at the Training Grounds. You’ll stand on a floating platform and have to shoot various targets while your camera is in action mode. It’s like the Shooting Gallery adventure in Verdant Brink, but bigger.
- Fancy a career change? Be a sous-chef! Help Mellitus prepare meals for the hungry charr by picking up the food he calls for, grilling or chopping them as required, and then throwing them at his feet (it’s the best way to make sure he catches them). This is very much like the fun (or infuriating) Pot of Soup Mastery Point in Amnoon, but repeatable and without the stress of completing a certain amount of ingredients in one run.
- There’s also bartending to try at the Rank ‘n’ File pub. It’s as easy as listening out to which drinks the charr call out and bringing it to them before the timer above their head finishes. It reminds of the kind of mobile games my friend’s daughter plays where she runs her own restaurants.
- Also, kick some cubs off a grumpy, retired charr’s lawn. Erasmus Fangstorm is a veteran who’s being harassed for speaking to the outsiders (that’s us and the gang). He definitely doesn’t deserve the hassle. Shoo the little ‘uns and beat up the older miscreants.
- If you manage to find you way into the secret Ash base (and not the few tents they have up for show), you’ll be able to access a stealth training course complete with moving dummies to avoid. And no, it’s not as bad as that one Renown Heart.
Enjoy it while it lasts
Grothmar Valley is a permanent map, but it has a wonderful festival vibe which keeps it distinct. Unlike festivals however, there is an underlying tension. Dotted around the map is ambient dialogue pertaining to hate crimes committed against merchants of other races. Some of the lines over the tannoy are also more than problematic, for example ‘Warband before individual. Legion before Warband. Charr before Legion. Charr above all.’
Now things are set to get much worse. During the Icebrood Saga Announcement, we were warned the tone would shift towards a more Lovecraftian one in the coming episodes. Though we can’t expect any more peacetime celebratory maps for a long while, I hope we’ll get something like this again the next time an Elder Dragon falls.