The second part of Guild Wars 2's new expansion is out now, and it's taking players to the demon realm

 Guild Wars 2 Through the Veil.
Guild Wars 2 Through the Veil.

Today ArenaNet releases the next major update of Guild Wars 2's Secrets of the Obscure expansion, called Through the Veil. It's the second of four releases that will make up the full expansion's launch, and it adds the first part of the expansion's third and final map—a map that will continue to be expanded in future updates. We're heading off Tyria for this one: The map, Inner Nayos, is actually set in the demon realm, which means much of it is purple.

This is our first real look at how the MMO's new expansion cycle will work—our chance to see what a mid-release update looks like under the reworked system that prioritises smaller, more frequent releases. If you've not been paying attention to Guild Wars 2 this year—despite us naming it our Best Ongoing Game of 2022—it's worth checking out what ArenaNet is cooking. Obscure is a smaller expansion, sure, but the new release cadence is working so far. Anecdotally I've been playing more than ever, in large part because the new daily achievements system is better fleshed out, and far more rewarding, than its previous version.

This release could well enhance one of the more disappointing aspects of the initial release, too. Rift hunting—one of the major new activities of this expansion—was pretty basic in its original incarnation. It's a low level grind—nice in small doses, but hardly the linchpin of a new launch. In the lead up to today's release, though, I got a brief look at Convergences, a new, instanced activity that ties into the rift hunt reward structure.

Convergences are designed for 35+ players, and will be available to play in public form as part of the event timer—similar to the Dragonstorm and Twisted Marionette encounters. Pre-made squads will be able to launch the activity at any time from its home in the Wizard's Tower.

Our squad went in undermanned, so it's difficult to get a true sense of how difficult the actual encounter will be. In terms of complexity, though, there's plenty to dig into. Players will need to split across the map to protect siege engines and kill champion bosses, before coming together to battle a legendary boss. The twist this time is that there's no waypoint on the map. That means if you die during a Convergence, there's no respawning. Instead you're transformed into a wisp, who can help support the team while not directly attacking enemies. This also means there's a set failstate too: if everyone dies, you're done.

As someone who baulked at the idea of running thousands of rifts to collect the necessary materials for the upcoming open world legendary set, this feels like the missing step to make the grind more bearable—at least if the rewards are actually worth the effort.

This release also brings a handful of new Masteries, including an upgrade to the Skyscale's fireball skill that causes it to do siege damage, and a handful of upgrades to Convergence rewards and skills. There's also a new challenge mode for the Cosmic Observatory strike mission. The Wizard's Vault daily system is getting a reward refresh too. Perhaps most importantly, Secrets of the Obscure's story is continuing into the new map, which is nice as the expansion's story so far has been pretty strong. The mostly new cast and new central threat have been a welcome change of pace after a decade of Taimi solving all our dragon issues for us.

A new, demon inspired armour set.
A new, demon inspired armour set.

As for the update's new armour and weapon skins: think demon realm. The armour essentially lets you cosplay as Peitha, your new demonic ally from the Secrets of the Obscure story. The weapons too are all Kryptis themed, meaning they're spiky bags of pallid flesh with which to hit things.

In all it's going to be a pretty major test of Guild Wars 2's new structure. Though smaller, Secrets of the Obscure's launch had enough stuff to keep players occupied for the last three months. Now the question is whether this fragment of new map is going to do the job for the next three months as we wait for it to be expanded further in the third big update. Certainly today's release isn't the most exciting part of the Secrets of the Obscure roadmap. In Update 2, planned for early 2024, we get new weapons for each class, and Update 3 is dropping a new legendary armour set.

We will at least get a preview of the new weapons in a beta week set for later this month, starting November 28. With the beta incoming, I asked ArenaNet's balance lead Cal Cohen what we could expect from the new weapon. "Each profession has its own needs," he says, "so we've been looking at how to enhance the roles available to them all in different ways. For example, staff on warrior and rifle on mesmer are intended for support builds." Starting from tomorrow, daily blog posts at the Guild Wars 2 official site will run through each profession's new skills.