I, like all other players, immediately jumped into the masterpiece known as Season 4's Episode 5 All or Nothing. Playing the game since a little bit before Season 3's release, I loved the lore and story of the game but never did I imagine the scope of how ANet tells the Guild Wars 2 story to be this amazing. LWS4 has beat not only the previous Expansions but also the previous Living Worlds. After dealing with the fallen god Balthazar, we were faced with the Ignacious Palawa Joko. At first, he was merely a joke character that I didn't take seriously until the kidnapping of Taimi. Then, when we face against him in Long Live the Lich, I was blown away by the cinematic marvel of Joko's speech and the harsh realization that perhaps we really are the villain of the entire story. Of course, we kill him thanks to Aurene eating him and consuming his magic, but the story that followed did not fail to disappoint as we turned our attention toward the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik. We learned how the Crystal Dragon was beginning to tear the very fabric of reality to shreds, creating time rifts that displaced the battle of Orr during the Charr invasion, a mystical mushroom cave with rather "high" amusement, and a jungle in the middle of a desert. He hungered for the magic from Aurene, a tiny creature compared to him, but hunted her nonetheless. To locate the Crystal Dragon in his newfound home of the Mists and figure out where he will next appear, we must place a tracker. We search for Balthazar's sword to use as the medium, the conduit, but the process fails and Blish sacrifices himself to become the new tracker. Now... we must kill the Crystal Dragon or be destroyed.
All or Nothing provided us with wonderful music, artwork, a gorgeous map, and an engaging story. The choral music was stunning, no breathtaking, providing a new breath of fresh air that reminded me of the arrangements when fighting Balthazar. The map was a sight to see and offered a change of pace from the repetitive Branded desert theme we have previously seen in Desert Highlands, Domain of Vabbi, and Jahai Bluffs. For the first time, we saw Branded snow and ice. The story... just wow... Where to start? Seeing Gwen' ghost talking about the Domain of the Lost? Caithe's connection with Aurene that altered her appearance and added blue crystals to her foliage? I don't know, but I believe the main highlight is obviously the ending where we finally fight the Crystal Dragon. We had a rather solid plan to confine Kralkatorrik in the mountain, using Aurene to lure him into the Keep. The fight, though slightly reminiscent of the battle with Zhaitan (which I might add was a bit of a parallel in terms of chapter names: Victory or Death and All or Nothing), was something to behold with the new mechanics and how the game took control of the camera to force us to watch certain moments of action. The touch of seeing Kralkatorrik channeling the magic of Balthazar, Mordremoth, and Zhaitan to deliver a devastating blow that Braham deflected us from was cool for lack of a better word. However, the icing on the cake was the cutscene at the end. We seemingly defeat the Elder Dragon, but as Aurene goes to absorb the magic, Kralkatorrik rises for one final attack. Aurene jumps in to help us. There's an explosion. Confusion. Comms down. In our faltering consciousness, we see Kralkatorrik, badly damaged, pull away and leave, before finally fading to black. We wake up dazed and injured, surrounded by purple brand. We stand and struggle down a passage of devastation, hearing the cries of Taimi and other up ahead. Braham meets us, and we ask "Where is she?" In a horrifying heart-wrenching reveal, Aurene is dead, pierced through by the crystals of Kralkatorrik's brand, and all we are left to wonder as Caithe's flowers shatter and our allies mourn is "What do we do now that our only hope is lost?"
When teased about the death of Aurene in A Star to Guide Us, I didn't think ANet would have the guts to kill off our only hope of defeating Kralkatorrik, restoring the balance, and the dragon we cared for since the end of Heart of Thorns. They proved me otherwise by doing exactly what they said would happen. But why? How?
Honestly... I'm still heart-broken and really want to quit Guild Wars 2 cause of this. Not because it was bad, but because of the emotion ANet put in me. I don't see the point in continuing, but then... there wouldn't be a Guild Wars 2 if Kralkatorrik lived and the world was destroyed. So... I have some hope.
Many people have already speculated that Aurene will return thanks to the magic she consumed from Palawa Joko, the undead lich. Others think she is now in the Mists with her mother. Some think we will fight a Death-Branded Aurene (and if we do, perhaps we could cleanse her to return her to normal?) There are so many possibilities... The first one seems more plausible as we never saw the effects of Joko's magic in Aurene since consumption, but the one where we fight a Death-Branded Aurene and cleanse her like Glint to get her back would be amazing too.
Does ANet enjoy tearing out our hearts?
Will there be a middle tiny piece of dialogue with a character, like how we spoke with Caithe about her seeing the Brotherhood, or will we have to wait a total of 3-4 months just for a little nibble of what's to come?
Will we learn more about the Ascension only Dragons can know next episode? Cause that was interesting.
Since the end of the Personal Story, ANet has clearly gotten better with their story progression. How long have you planned this? Did you know or think you'd kill off Aurene the day she hatched? Did you plan this heartbreak from the beginning?
I applaud ANet and their teams and can't wait for more, but the wait will be agonizing.