I had always been a WoW (World of Warcraft) player, enjoying running around Azeroth and getting lost in The Exodar or muttering “Of course the Crossroads are under attack” whilst giggling at the double entendres from my Troll or Blood Elf, but the subscription fees were putting me off as a new, single, parent. I struggled to justify paying a monthly fee when care of HRH I didn’t know whether I would get to play two nights or none. I cancelled my subscription, and left my poor Troll Mage to languish whilst I pined after my MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlay Game) fix.
I was without any form of MMO for about a year and a half before I was introduced to Guild Wars. I had been visiting some friends and one was attempting a jump puzzle with his character. I was instantly curious, and he told me a bit about the game, though he and his friend much preferred the first incarnation of Guild Wars. From what I was told, I knew I would enjoy the game: for a start there was not one but two magic-using classes (my weakness), three if you count Necromancers.
I may have started rambling about it a lot on Facebook, as I have a tendency to do when something piques my interest, and I found myself with a digital copy of the game as a birthday present care of a very lovely friend. Even with all my excitement, it took me a little while to get to the game, what with the toddler and all, but once it was online I was struck with the differences between it and WoW (to be explored in a later article, actually) and with just how darned pretty the game was.
The first thing I found myself adoring was the character personalisation screen. Not only do you create your characters to look as you wish, but you can choose from a number of options for the character’s history, and facets of their personality, giving what feels to me like a higher degree of character creation control. Choosing in Character Creation to make your character “Charming”, for example, means that responses to NPCs (Non Playable Characters) are different to if you had chosen to make them “Fierce”.
Once your character is created and named, you are taken through the story equivalent of a tutorial. For the Norn race (the race I appear to have fixated upon) your character is to take part in The Great Hunt, led by the Norn hero Eir Stegalkin. In doing this, your character earns the title of ‘Slayer of Issormir’ and it is how they are referred to. Once the tutorial-type events have been completed, your character is urged to “help others” in the map area, and you have the option of completing tasks for “Renown Hearts”, which gain you XP (Experience Points) and Karma Points, as well as setting you on the track for Map completion then World Completion.
Personal Stories don’t end after the tutorial events; depending on what options were picked during character creation, your character is given a quest to follow on. In addition to Personal Stories, there are World Events, such as the recent Battle for Lion’s Arch, that are over-arcing through the game, as well as seasonal events, that you can interact with or ignore as your preference dictates.
Aside from the in-depth character creation available, Personal Stories are a very large part of the reason I can’t stop playing this game; it is not a necessity to have others questing with you, as the Personal Story events tend to be at your character’s level, and if it is higher you are reminded that it is such. Oftentimes your character is accompanied by NPCs in the event, giving you some backup. Further on into the Personal Story, your character begins getting options (choose to side with the Order of Whispers or the Vigil, for example) and your choice shapes how the story plays out. With this ability, it almost guarantees you have a different personal story each character you play with, moreso if you play with different races.
Personally, I have a character from all races but the Asura (as I’m really not particularly fond of that race) and in doing so I get a different gameplay. Your choices as a Human, for instance highly differ from than of your choices as a Norn or a Charr. Even within a race, the choices taken are invariably not the same for each character you create, giving different gameplay once again. For example, I have a Norn Thief whose path is strongly differing from the Norn Ranger I created earlier, the two giving me completely different options and storylines once past the Great Hunt. Your Personal Story takes you across the map bit by bit, rising in level as it does so, introducing you to new areas and new things to mine/gather/chop down/kill the heck out of. Such a character-driven game means I struggle not to start feeling for the NPCs that my characters spend prolonged periods of time with, whether I think they’re awesome (Eir Stegalkin) or annoying beyond all belief (Lord Faren).
The different map areas of Guild Wars 2 fascinate me, and I thoroughly appreciate the “Vistas” that your character can hunt down for XP and Map Completion, as they gave a panorama-like view of the area your character is in. The detail that goes into the Vistas makes hunting out even the most irritatingly-awkward-to-get-to ones worth it.
Rolling map area events are also a great way to earn XP and items. Areas such as the Frozen Maw, Godslost Swamp, and Queen’s Forest all have Champion foes that require defeating, generally by dint of hoards of players whaling on said foe. Champions are designed not to be easily defeated by solo players. In addition to the Champions, smaller events happen on a rolling timescale, easier to do as a solo player.
Crafting in Guild Wars 2 is both easy and confusing in one fell swoop, especially to one used to a different MMO’s ways. Gathering for all crafting professions can be done by anyone, even if your character hasn’t chosen a craft, meaning your character’s Collection Slots can be filled with all manner of gathered/mined/chopped-down goodies ready for whichever craft required. Unlike WoW, “recipes” for dishes/armour components/weapons are rare; mostly your character learns to make things by either them opening up when your crafting level increases, or by using the “Discovery” tab at the appropriate crafting station, clicking on different crafting components until something works. It can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to level a character’s crafting skill up, but it’s also quite fascinating.
Another thing I have been thoroughly enjoying about Guild Wars 2 is the ability to constantly change a character’s armour colour at will. If I desire my Mesmer to have pink and purple armour on Monday, but blue and green on Tuesday, I can, and it costs nothing. If I have a particular weapon or armour I am fond of the look of, I can use gems at the Black Lion Trading Post to purchase Transmutation Charges if I haven’t received them in chests or at the end of Personal Story arcs. Transmutation Charfes can swap the attributes of weapon or armour with another, leaving your character able to have that level 80 sword but it still looking like the level 50 one you liked the appearance of so much, all in a hand-dandy menu in your Hero Panel. Right now I’m getting used to the charges-instead-of-stones business, as that was a change that happened just recently in the April Patch, but I’m sure it won’t take too long.
Gems can be bought with real cash (gotta make their money somehow I guess) or by transferring in-game cash over. Obviously the latter technique takes longer. Gems can be used to buy any number of things, from Black Lion Keys to open Black Lion Chests that are often dropped by bosses, to character assists like the Copper-Fed Salvage O’Matic that means you don’t need to buy any more salvage kits. You can also purchase instant bank access from wherever you are, summon a Black Lion Trader to sell items on wherever you are, or buy Miniatures to follow you around the world. Buying any of these things is entirely optional, as the game is playable – and enjoyable – without requriing spending any more money than what was spent to get the game itself, another plus point to me. That said, I have purchased some Gems to get things that I really want (Black Lion Keys, as they’re pretty rare to drop, Gathering Thing because my chef could do with better ingredients, extra character slots because I’m obsessed) but it didn’t detriment my gameplay or enjoyment thereof any without using Gems.
There are a few things about Guild Wars that frustrate me, such as the lack of Mounts (running is so slow) or spells from back in my WoW days, but overall I find the game much more enjoyable, and as much as I miss my Blood Elfs, Trolls and Draenai, I feel that I will be sticking with my Norn and Charr for the foreseeable future. So, I’m on Gunnar’s Hold, come play with me! Let’s take the Champion Train and see if the Shadow Behemoth shows up on time! 😉
All images are (c) Guild Wars 2 // ArenaNet, sourced as direct screengrabs from the game itself.