Of all of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons' new features, Jade Bots—revealed last week in the release date announcement trailer—could well be the most useful. Skiffs are a fun social activity, but we've already got Skimmers for water traversal. Siege Turtles are ace, but they're ultimately just another mount. Jade Bots, though, are set to enhance a variety of the things players are already doing throughout Tyria, and offer even more utility in the new maps the expansion will bring.
A few weeks ago, I got a chance to test out a build of the game with Jade Bots enabled. The first surprise was that ArenaNet is finally giving Jewelers something more to craft than just Xunlai Electrum Ingots. Your Jade Bot has its own menu in the Hero panel, where you can equip power cores—tied to the Jeweler crafting discipline. My bot was equipped with a Tier 1 core that gave a vitality boost to my character. Presumably we'll see more powerful effects at higher rarities.
In addition to power cores, Jade Bots also feature two modules: sensory arrays and service chips. While my preview character had nothing available for the latter, the former was equipped with a low-level Mount Energy Booster that—as the name suggests—enhanced my mount's energy regeneration by 10%. ArenaNet says modules will offer a variety of effects—there's also Skiff speed boost—and the studio seems excited about the versatility of the system, mentioning that they can easily add new modules in the future, as rewards for events and activities.
In addition to the passive bonuses of cores and modules, the Jade Bot also features a number of active effects tied to its Mastery track. There's a glide boost that gives players a kind of mini-updraft—propelling you upwards while gliding. There's also a personal waypoint that you can place anywhere in the game's open world maps. And there's the rescue protocol, which will revive you when you go down—albeit with a cooldown between uses.
Outside of the global abilities, there are also a handful of interactions built into the End of Dragons maps specifically. Throughout Cantha, you'll find Jade Tech batteries that your bot can use to earn charges. These are spent on specific interactions; opening Jade Tech chests, powering defence turrets, or interacting with consoles to earn a variety of buffs.
There's also ziplines, which let you quickly travel between fixed points on the map. And consoles that let you take direct control of your Jade Bot, flying it around the nearby area. ArenaNet suggests this will be a boon for exploration and discovery, letting you reach parts of the map that Skyscales are too small to access. It's also a screenshot tool: even when controlling your drone, your character will perform any emote you enter.
Ultimately the Jade Bots reinforce my impression of End of Dragons, that its focus is less on something transformatively new, and more on enhancing the things that players are already doing. The Jade Bots are a jack-of-all-trades, with utility in buildcrafting, exploration, gliding and more. It's a disparate feature list wrapped into a cute little robot, that—while not being an obviously flashy feature in and of itself—has the potential to make moment-to-moment play more satisfying.
End of Dragons arrives later this month, on February 28.