No other MMO does mounts like Guild Wars 2. Its creatures are more than just a buff to the player's movement speed—a way to make crossing large maps slightly less annoying. Instead, they're traversal tools, puzzle solutions and combat initiators, each designed for a specific task that's fun to perform. The force of a Raptor's long jump; the twirling grace of a Skyscale's midair dash; the power of a Springer's somersaulting attack as it knocks down enemies caught in its blast radius. There's joy in the way they move, and in the way they let you move through the world.
With next year's End of Dragons expansion, a new mount is being added to the roster: the Siege Turtle. As a feature point, it sounds neat: a two-player mount, designed to let a friend ride along with you. But I have to admit that, when it was announced, I was concerned that the large, lumbering beast wouldn't feel as good to use as its stablemates.
My fears were unfounded: the Siege Turtle feels great, as I discovered when me and my copilot Fraser got the chance to take it for a test run.
You don't so much ride the Siege Turtle as drive it. Fittingly, for such a large animal, it handles like a truck, starting slow but building speed as you move. It even has a speedometer, which lives above the endurance bar—similar to the Skyscale's flight meter. As you approach top speed, entering the speedometer's red zone, the Siege Turtle becomes harder to handle, drifting into corners as it struggles to control its own momentum. This sense of constantly changing speed gives the Siege Turtle its own personality among the growing roster of mounts, and helps it achieve the base goal of being fun to interact with.
Thought has clearly been given as to how the Siege Turtle fits into the current stable. It does a little bit of everything, but not as well as the mount custom designed for that particular role. At full sprint it's faster than a Skyscale's standard speed, but slower than a Raptor using regular dashes. It has jump jets that let it lift into the air, but it can't reach as high as a Springer's jump. It can travel through water, but unlike the elegantly floating Skimmer, it simply sinks to the bottom and walks along the surface.
It means that it's a great generalist mount that rarely feels at a disadvantage when traversing a space, even if there are other, better tools at your disposal. Really, though, the main reason to use the Siege Turtle is its combat utility. Unlike the other mounts, which despawn after performing their engagement skill, you can remain on the Siege Turtle throughout a fight. For the driver, that means a Slam attack that sees the Turtle smash down for big damage against groups of enemies, albeit on a lengthy cooldown. To unleash its true combat potential, though, you'll need a copilot.
The player who spawns the Siege Turtle is the driver, but they can be boarded by one other player in their party or squad. The second player's job is gunner, spamming ground targeted siege blasts. The numbers may change as the Siege Turtle goes through beta, but we were doing around 7,000 damage per target with an attack that can hit up to ten enemies in its radius, which also inflicts burning. It hits hard, but is balanced by the ammo counter. Currently you can hold up to five shots that recharge over time—faster when the Siege Turtle is moving at full speed.
The idea is that the Siege Turtle should provide good burst damage, but that its DPS quickly falls off. It's great for clearing groups of smaller enemies, but in sustained, single target fights, it should always be more effective to hop off after the initial burst and use your weapons.
As a combat mount, the Siege Turtle can take a beating: at 40,000 it's got a big health pool. To balance this it also has a Defiance bar that dismounts you when it breaks, making it vulnerable to crowd control effects. You feel tanky, but not invulnerable. In our test, being dismounted caused a lengthy cooldown before I could resummon the Siege Turtle, although ArenaNet says that this will be looked at during an upcoming beta.
Naturally the Siege Turtle also inherits the mechanics and buffs of the wider mount system. If you've earned the Crystal Champion masteries of Living World Season 4, you'll gain access to the various bond skills that let you share health, recharge endurance and launch off the Siege Turtle's back. You'll also gain the passive bonuses from each mount's shared mastery, and, when you've maxed out the Siege Turtle's own masteries, give a 50% health boost to all other mounts.
The copilot's second option is a speed boost, which can be used to collaboratively mitigate the deceleration effect of turning, as well as ensure faster ammo recharge. The key for ArenaNet is that partnering up should allow for actual collaboration—letting players work together rather than simply performing their own assigned jobs. The Siege Turtle's mastery line helps reinforce this aspect too, with one option letting the driver help further regenerate ammo using the default slam attack.
Even just drifting around an existing map, bullying groups of open world enemies, we were having fun—I can't wait to see massive convoys patrolling the world at large. In End of Dragons' own maps, though, it sounds like the Siege Turtle will be, at points, more integrated into the action. The Siege Turtle's damage type is unique, meaning there will be enemies that will be particularly weak against—or resistant to—its attacks. There are cool applications to this: it opens up the possibility, for instance, of a world boss with a specific phase that requires players to jump on their Siege Turtles to break its shields.
Still, ArenaNet says it won't overuse specific content that can only be accessed with a Siege Turtle. This is in part because players will have to do some work to acquire it. ArenaNet says the quest to unlock the Siege Turtle will be longer than the Raptor or Springer, but (thankfully) shorter than the Griffon or Skyscale—instead pointing to Season 4's Roller Beetle as a comparable quest.
One place you won't see the Siege Turtle is in World vs World—at least not yet. I mentioned the possibility as a throwaway comment, expecting it to be shot down, but ArenaNet designer Ben Kirsch said that, actually, the team has been thinking about how they could implement them in Guild Wars 2's massive PvP wars since the beginning. With the upcoming world restructuring—changing servers for alliances—and the expansion's new set of Elite specialisations, the feeling is that it would be too destabilising for the moment. Instead, ArenaNet wants to talk to the World vs World community, and figure out if and how they want such a feature—for instance, perhaps as a new siege option that could work similarly to the existing Siege Golems.
Even if they're contained to PvE, Siege Turtles are going to be a huge part of Guild Wars 2 next year. It's a solid traversal option, and its combat utility makes it stand out from the pack—ensuring there's plenty of reasons to hop aboard with a friend. For me, though, the most crucial thing is that it passes the basic test: it's fun to ride, continuing Guild Wars 2's tradition of having the best mounts in MMOs.
You'll get to try the Siege Turtle for yourself—along with all of End of Dragons' Elite specialisations—in the upcoming beta event starting November 30.