I Am Error: A Guild Wars retrospective, part 2
|December 21, 2011||Posted by S.A.Perkins under I Am Error|
Continued from part 1.
The first expansion, Factions, is more of the same, adding a shorter yet no less epic main storyline and two more classes, as well as a whole new Asia-themed world to explore, which is my favourite yet. The enemies aren’t as varied as I’d have liked because the same overarching villain is fought throughout the story and his servants basically comprise the enemies in most missions and areas, but that isn’t to say they aren’t good to fight – they’re tricksy little buggers who decide to explode with area-effect nonsense every time you kill one, and my paper-thin assassin with super low health was basically screwed once I’d weakened down a group of five or so, because once the others in my party finished them the area damage I got hit by consisted of so many waves of pure death that I was left as a twitching mess on the floor until one of our healers decided to take the time away from patching up slight boo-boos to resurrect me. The main villain, Shiro Tagachi, was cool as shit however, wielding two massive swords – which I of course harvested from his dead body because I am a sickening grave robber and don’t give a righteous arse about it – and being generally badass at all times. I mean, he was immortal up until the last fight, when he made the rather silly decision to return to his mortal form (and I still have no sympathy for the arse kicking I gave him afterwards).
The two classes that were added were two very different roles, and hadn’t been used in the original game, so they added a whole new depth to the party system. The assassin was a close range DPS with quick heavy damage attacks that chained together for omega-level effect, and the ritualist was a supporting magic user who summoned spirits and used spirit-related powers to bolster the party and give some extra damage when needed. At long last, you could actually have eight different classes for the eight-man levels. Except that no one ever did, of course, and I ended up undertaking the last mission with three monks, two warriors, an elementalist and a mesmer. I still maintain that the mesmer is ridiculously good at PvP, or indeed against anything, thanks to a spell that deals damage of Olympian proportions onto whosoever attacks them, which is alright against normal enemies but pisses me off to an incomprehensible level when I’m trying to kill one of them player-on-player. The good thing is, the mesmer isn’t coming back for Guild Wars 2! Or so I hope. There’s still one more class to be announced, and if Empathy rears its grotesque elephant-man head then I will cry tears of anguish as my hopes of victory decrease by one hundred percent.
The second expansion, Nightfall, contributed the biggest addition to the gameplay since the original game, which was heroes. Rather than use AI henchmen, who were okay in a pinch but blindly followed you and did nothing until you initiated the fight – and I did not like being the focus of a dozen angry plague-monsters intent on causing severe death to my cotton-clad visage – Nightfall gave you heroes, a new kind of henchmen that levelled up with you, could be customised with attribute points and weaponry and a skill set of your own making, and could be commanded individually using unique command panes that also let you tell them which skills to use when, which believe me was a massive help considering how long it took the AI to realise our damage-soaker was lying in a pool of his own blood and could possibly do with some resurrection.
Nightfall also had a larger campaign than Factions and took place on another brand-new continent, Elona, which was themed around Africa. Its missions followed Factions‘ lead and added three-tiered rewards for missions and also had diverging storylines, where a decision you made in-game allowed you to take one story path but forced you to forgo another, until you finished the main quest line, at which point you could go back and complete them. This made Nightfall a much more personal game than Prophecies had done, and is why it ranks above the original game in my opinion. It added another two classes to the game, the Paragon, a commander who could use shouts to heal and buff allies and debuff enemies, and the Dervish, a scythe-wielding religious nutcase who used the power of the gods to wipe the floor with the remnants of whatever he/she had just turned into a gooey mess, especially when they used their Avatar abilities to turn them into monstrous-looking kill hoarders. The story was on a whole new level to the others, even tying in the original campaign and Factions by revealing the villain behind all three campaigns, and the journey you took to get through the game was a lengthy yet worthwhile one that was engrossing and more awesome than either of the other campaigns. Guild Wars just got better and better, with more content being added and things being constantly improved upon. The option to take one character through all three campaigns was one I loved, and I still have content to work through as my main assassin.
Then they released Eye of the North, the new mini-expansion (which was actually gargantuan), which was the first released that needed another of the previous campaigns to play. It took place in Tyria once more, but in completely new environments, with a bigger story, huge consequences and a whole host of great characters and side quests. While it added no new classes, Eye of the North added a whole lot more, offering a roster of new heroes, four skill sets that could be unlocked by gaining faction points with the new races involved in the storyline, and a series of new locations that made it that much more different to the others. A return to the familiar Shiverpeaks gave some nostalgia, but then you were taken to the Charr Homelands, which was almost a return to Ascalon before the deities decided to crap all over it, then to the Tarnished Coast, which had dinosaurs. It was a jungle-like environment filled with dinosaurs. Do you have any idea how cool that is? There were a lot of dungeons in place of missions and you ended up in quite a few cave environments, but it worked. And at the end, you got to see the reveal of the big bad evil guy who causes all the stuff to happen that basically dicks over the entire world and sets the scene for Guild Wars 2. There was the new Hall of Monuments, which let you horde achievements like a Gamerscore starved Xbox player and which will give your new Guild Wars 2 character better equipment, and there are tons of new armour pieces available to craft. Eye of the North did the job of starting the bridge between this series and Guild Wars 2, but it didn’t end there. Not by a long shot.
Content is now continuously released via patches available for free that expand on the storyline and contain epic new adventures that players who have completed the previous four campaigns will be able to participate in, showing how the lands change between now and the two-hundred-and-fifty-year time leap to Guild Wars 2. The content is still incoming, and I’m looking forward to playing through it if my time permits it – damn university! – but I know that old players keep returning, and to keep players going for more than four years is a great achievement, considering the amount of WoW players that suddenly realise there actually is an outside world, full of interactive things just waiting to be experienced. I’m guessing once that the Pandaria expansion hits most people will rethink their lives and realise that they really do need to reconsider their stance on games. I mean, come on, it’s just Kung Fu Panda but with worse animation and without Jack Black… although that might be a good thing.
Is Guild Wars still awesome? Hell yeah it is. Is it a WoW killer? Well… no. Unfortunately, Guild Wars has only just started its grand quest to scale the mountain of gold and bones upon which stands the great fortress of Blizzard, and only when Guild Wars 2 comes out, and believe me that game will be awesome, will Arenanet stand a chance at toppling them from their throne. Though let’s face it, that’s kind of impossible. Blizzard would probably just buy Arenanet if they thought they were going to be some serious competition.