Hanging Out in Tyria

Shocking!Guild Wars is amongst my favorite games for a number or reasons. First, it’s just so pretty. ArenaNet has some of the most talented and creative artists, programmers, and modelers in the industry. I’d play the game just to do the sightseeing even if it weren’t as fun as it is. Second, very low barrier to entry – no monthly fee and it’s structured in such a way that you can jump in and out during a lunch break and feel like you got somewhere.

About six months ago, I started to hear things about Guild Wars 2, and started to see the smattering of news that was being released. My interest in the original was renewed, I got it installed quickly, and even purchased the Factions expansion (last I had played, they were leading up to the release of Factions). Because I’m such a sucker for story, and with the indication that Guild Wars 2 actually builds on the story of the original games, I set myself the goal of working through as much of the original content as possible. I have no doubts that I will pick up the sequel, and with limited playing time, I’m unsure if I’ll ever get back to the first games.

When I stopped playing last, I had gotten a Ranger/Monk as far as Bergen Hot Springs. I left him there. I didn’t have a good feel for the game, and as I didn’t remember much of the story, I just decided to start at the beginning. So far, Drannos has gotten to Yak’s Bend. A few observations so far:

  • What’s going on with everyone standing around? Perhaps I’ve never noticed this in other games, but it seems like this phenomena is unique to Guild Wars. The City of Ascalon is packed with people just standing, doing apparently nothing. I’m more accustomed to a higher level of activity; people I encounter in-game are usually doing something, and even in the common areas (Bree, 21st Hall, etc.) where groups gather, it’s usually for a reason. Ascalon is a field of zombies. What am I missing? Guild chat? A title for time spent logged in? What?
  • I love that ArenaNet gives you all the information on the game (or nearly as good as), but has you rely on your skills and your strategy to actually get through the content. Within weeks or months of most MMOs, there are fansites and online databases of every facet of the game; this doesn’t work well for, say, quest design that intends the player to explore or puzzle out what needs to be done. They can just go to a wiki and look up the answer.
  • While I know that instancing is a huge part of the game’s overall design, I find myself (once again) a little annoyed at how this translates into gameplay. Generall, ArenaNet is pretty good about not making the player run back and forth to the same area over and over for a quest chain. But it still happens, and having to clear an area time and time again when all I really needed to do was pop back into town and run out again, can get tiresome.

Finally, I’m experiencing a serious spike in the difficulty curve once out of Ascalon. I ran most of Ascalon with one or maybe two other NPCs. Now I’m hard pressed to get places with a full group of seven (including my pet). Perhaps I’m doing something wrong? I know the game is centered very much around builds and I’ve never been great at figuring out good combinations – anyone have any suggestions?

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