At the end of the last episode, our ragtag band of heroes had suffered the devastating loss of Aurene, the Scion who was supposed to help us win the war against the Elder Dragons. We take up the fight once again in the final Living World Season 4 episode: War Eternal. From that name, it does indeed sound like we will never be rid of the Elder Dragons.
A “Surprise” Twist
We rejoin the story as Caithe summons the Commander to Thunderhead Keep in order to help with Aurene’s body. The forlorn mood–no hope for the future, no plan for how to move forward–lasts only a short time. In preparation for burying Aurene, the Zephyrites begin singing away the branding crystals that hold the dragon. As she is freed, we realize that she is still alive! As many people predicted, eating Joko granted her the magic to survive the Branding.Through her death, Aurene was able to face her fears and now she is ready to face Kralkatorrik. With her champion aboard, Aurene creates a portal into the Mists and goes in search of the Elder Dragon, hoping to drive him back to Tyria. Once in the mists, we quickly find Kralkatorrik and return him to Tyria by severing a wing and causing him to fall through a portal. The Elder Dragon is buried beneath a series of islands pulled from the mists. Together, his body and the islands make up the next map, Dragonfall.
The new series of islands created by Kralkatorrik is found south of the Ruins of Orr in the Unending Ocean. Now that Kralkatorrik is back in Tyria, we can secure our positions and destroy him. The Pact Outpost where we are met by our friends after exiting the Mists, is on a rocky outcrop reminiscent of the Silverwastes. The Pact is joined by Glint’s ghostly forces, the Olmakahn, Corsairs, a group of Sunspears, and a ragtag force of people saved by Aurene calling themselves the Order of the Crystal Bloom. With Rox leading the Olmakahn west and Zaiem taking the Crystal Bloom to the far side of the island, we are able to explore this interesting new map. On cue, Gorrik has some data and supplies he’d like us to collect.
For the first few maps in which this trope appeared, it was fine. However, it is definitely starting to wear thin. Unfortunately, I doubt we will ever see the end of “fetch quest to open the map” gameplay. Before we can begin Gorrik’s mission, we need to scout the area from the high ground…despite the Corsairs and their Airships surveying the perimeter.
The rocky outcrops are joined by Kralkatorrik’s tail on one side. To the south lies a slice of Melandru’s Realm from the Mists. Here, the enemies are similar to those found in the jungles of the west:
From the Pact Outpost, paths also circle westward and southward. Beyond Kralaktorrik’s tail lies the island from Balthazar’s domain. Here, the land is scorched, populated by fiery beasts such as salamanders and hydras. Additionally, roving bands of shadow beasts, abyssals, and shadow elementals can be found stalking the scorched cliffs and burning forests. Here, the Crystal Bloom has set its camp and waypoint. Across from Melandru’s realm, taking up the final third of the map, lies the Underworld section of Dragonfall where the Olmakhan are struggling against spirits and other forces from the Underworld.
I thoroughly enjoy the variety found in this map and the concept for creating it–pieces of the Mists torn through a portal by an Elder Dragon–is quite clever. When a former Guild Wars 2 player wandered past me and asked where I was and if I was really riding on a dragon, I could tell that my answer intrigued him.
To Kill a Dragon
While we’ve been exploring the map, Rox has been fighting off spirits and skeletons along the west coast of Dragonfall where the Underworld slice of the Mists fell, and Zafira, the Priestess of Balthazar, has set up a sniping position. All the while, Taimi and Sayida circle the area in their airship, providing air support. Finding the high ground as Gorrik had suggested and scouting the island, we see that Kralkatorrik is buried, surrounded by a thick brandstorm. However, his severed wing is not far from the Pact Outpost. When Gorrik and Taimi learn this, they realize simultaneously that if we could harvest some of Kralkatorrik’s blood, we can improve upon the dragonblood weapons!
While Taimi works on getting a chopper to collect dragon’s blood, she sends you to meet her “research assistant”, who turns out to be Braham, and retrieve Gorrik’s instruments. Gorrik’s instruments measure seismic activity and help him create a detailed map of the new area’s substrata, which pinpoints where Kralkatorrik is buried. We travel across the map in order to secure readings for Gorrik. As we do so, we are informed that unfortunately, there is too much static interference near Kralkatorrik’s wing for a chopper to retrieve the blood. Instead, we have to find another way to reach the Elder Dragon’s blood.
Once we place the final seismic instrument for Gorrik, we realize that Kralkatorrik has broken through the surface into the ley-lines and is using the energy to heal. If we want to kill the elder Dragon, we are going to need to hurry! While the others think of a way to stop Kralkatorrik from feeding on the ley energy, we hurry to the far south to meet Caithe and Aurene, who says she’s found something and needs our help.
Far to the south, along the cliffs of the Underworld, we find Aurene watching over a new species of dragon, the skyscales. She takes a few with her to help her keep the Elder Dragon subdued and we are left in charge of taming the others. If we succeed, we can ride one of the skyscales up to the top of the wing and collect blood for our improved weapons. The skyscale mount is unlocked by completing a number of different collections. Luckily, we can borrow one near the severed wing and continue the story without finishing off the collections first. I must admit, the aspect I found most enjoyable about the skyscales was their ability to clamp onto the sides of cliffs. With as often as I fall or miss a jump, it came in quite handy, allowing me to reposition my camera and myself in order to clamber up or around to where I was meant to be.
Once we have a skyscale, we’re able to make our way to the top of the wing and collect Kralkatorrik’s blood. While there, we destroy the cause of the static interference allowing choppers to continue collecting blood while we meet with a pair of Zephyrites who fuse the real dragon’s blood to our spears. After a quick field test, we are ready to finish the Elder Dragon once and for all. Aurene instructs us to try looking for a weak point near his claw.
Confronting an Elder Dragon
Meanwhile, the camps have been improving and preparing to face the Elder Dragon in a final battle. As we hunt for a weak point, Gorrik builds a series of disruptors and uses them to remove the brandstorm from Kralkatorrik long enough for our forces to attack. By targeting the dragon’s weak points, we force him into a crystal cocoon. Once he has crystalized, we are able to begin the final assault. Yet, even after we have attacked all his weak points, the Elder Dragon continues to heal. Taimi and Gorrik hypothesize that Kralkatorrik has fallen into a ley line artery and they cannot cut him off completely. Despite all our efforts, he will return unless we do something desperate. With Aurene, Zafirah, Rytlock and Caithe, we make our way into the labyrinthine caves beneath Dragonfall, looking for a way to cut off the ley energy. With Taimi guiding us from the airship, we are able to trace the power down to where three ley lines are feeding the unconscious Elder Dragon.
As the last of the ley lines fall, Kralkatorrik is bombarded by the Pact forces outside the cave systems. However, even though they kill it, a presence remains inside the crystal dragon and we have to enter him to find it and kill the final remnants of the Elder Dragon. Leaving the others behind, we enter Kralkatorrik with Aurene and…hope for the best. This is by far my favorite story prompt. We fly into Kralkatorrik and discover a crystalline world full of the same magic that creates the branded and the brandstorms. The magics here are unstable, fighting with each other instead of existing in harmony.
Kralkatorrik greets Aurene, saying his heart belongs to her. Aurene can feel the pain and suffering that burdens her grandfather. Before we can take his heart and destroy it, a darker version of Kralkatorrik, Kralkatorrik’s Torment, appears and attacks, trying to defend the fracturing heart. Through this battle, we learn that Aurene is not tormented by the magics but that they belong to her. Kralkatorrik also comments on Aurene’s deathless state. With Kralkatorrik’s Torment unconscious, we are able to enter a second battle phase and claim the magics that are warring inside the Elder Dragon. The Facet of Fire and War, who looks surprisingly similar to Balthazar, is first. As we sever its ties to Kralkatorrik, the Elder Dragon’s Torment reawakens and attacks again. Once it is knocked unconscious, Kralkatorrik informs us that his Torment is polluting his senses and promised that the pain would cease if everything was destroyed. With the Torment unconscious, we have another chance to sever more magic from Kralkatorrik. This time, we face the Facet of Root and Madness, a pudgy two-legged dragon like Mordremoth’s inner self. Once again, we face Kralkatorrik’s Torment and after knocking it unconscious a final time, we learn that Kralkatorrik heard Aurene’s first words and that Glint’s understanding of his vision was incorrect: his vision never terrified him; nothing scares an Elder Dragon, not even death. With one final push, we are able to defeat the Facet of Shadow and Death, gaining Zhaitan’s magic for Aurene. As Kralkatorrik’s Torment awakens once again, it screams out that Aurene has betrayed her kind but her grandfather corrects the Torment saying that Aurene is the first of her kind. With the Torment defeated, we destroy Kralkatorrik’s heart, bringing him peace at last, and taking his magic for Aurene as well.
Overall, this is a worthwhile final battle with an Elder Dragon. It’s difficult enough and long enough to be plausible. Best of all, perhaps, is the conversation between Aurene and her Grandfather, showing that the Elder Dragons are not merely all-devouring monsters. With Kralkatorrik defeated, Aurene transforms into a crystalline Elder Dragon and disappears into the distance. The world saved once again, we board Sayida’s airship and “sail into the sunset,” returning to Lion’s Arch and leaving the imbalanced magic problem for another day.