I’ve neglected my blog of late, for which I cry your pardon dear blog reader. My absence must be blamed purely on the majesty and wonder of Tyria – a fantastic, dangerous and exciting place that has captured my imagination. Not against its will, you understand, for that would be absurd. I wanted to explore places previously envisioned inside my mind, made real (sort of) through the marvel of Guild Wars 2.
Before I lead you along the path of my adventures, first let me introduce you to Slooder.
That’s him on the left. He’s a strange chap wouldn’t you agree? He’s my alter-ego in Tyria. His race, the Asura, hail from the great city of Rata Sum, in the far west.
Looks a a little like an angry Gremlin doesn’t he? I don’t blame him. Slooder is a Necromancer, one who wields dark magic to bring agonising destruction to his enemies and life to his allies.
For many years I was an explorer of the mighty world of Azeroth, made famous by World of Warcraft. My interest in its adventures waned and died for reasons I dare not discuss here. A tale for another post perhaps, when time is not so keen to press forward and share my current journey with you.
Like so many others I waited with barely contained patience for Guild Wars 2 to open its gates to curious and fearless explorers of virtual worlds. Being a nerdy lover of fantasy fiction I yearned to set foot on new unspoilt shores and battle through heroic quests. I needed something fresh and exciting to indulge my imagination and after a considerable break from trekking through Azeroth, I was eager to stretch my legs and seek fortune in a new frontier.
The races of Tyria are interesting to say the least.
The grizzly Charr – large bear like creatures, The mighty Norn – a bold Viking style people, The Sylvari – not so much people as plants, The normal (boring if you like) Humans – like us but with big swords, and finally the Asura – a strange and quirky race I fell in love with instantly.
The Asura are the smallest races of Tyria, but what they lack in height they make up for in voice. Ever boastful about their technomagical achievements and inventions, they show no fear in tinkering with time, space and matter, sometimes with unexpected results. I liked the idea of creating a tiny being able to wield vast power alongside his allies.
And so Slooder was born.
I played a healer in World of Warcraft, and thrived on the ability to keep my online pals alive as we battled against all manner of beasties. A rewarding role that matched my personality, and still does to this day. Yet when new horizons beckoned I felt a change of heart. My new persona was to be dark and mysterious, if quirky and slightly insane, but still able to heal my fellow allies.
For those of you familiar with online MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role-playing games – yeah, a mouthful I know) you’ll know the score already. But for those in the dark, let me explain. I’ll be quick. Standard fare goes something like this:
- Create a character – choose a race, male, female, then class or profession – magic wielder, swordy person, hunter bow and arrow type, and so on.
- Follow the quests and story lines across the world, picking up gold and new items – better clothing, weapons, spells etc that enable you to fight bigger and badder beasties.
- Group with other players to overcome fearsome beasties for social fun, glory, honour and lots of lovely loot.
You’ll note the word “social” there. These games are designed with a social element in mind. You can run around the world on your own, though personally I find that becomes rather mundane over time. Grouping with players from all around the world is the exciting part.
Oh the sights!
Tyria is stacked with soaring vistas of breath-taking beauty – dark lands of mystery, enlightened enclaves of mysticism and epic quests to test your resolve, courage and honour. With each new land I was challenged to seek out those out-of-the-way nooks and crannies, interesting points of interest, and test my abilities to earn new skill points.
This isn’t simply another online fantasy game where you grind away mindlessly killing everything in sight for meaningless XP. In this great land you are encouraged to explore and rewarded for your efforts. There are always new and amazing sights around every bend in the road. The landscape keeps you wanting to find out what is over the next hill and fuels your desire to know what lies at the end of a dark ravine.
And it’s not all pleasant lands of greenery, lush vegetation and hard-working country folk. There are dark and scary places to venture, if you dare. Wild centaurs and pirates will hinder your travelling plans and do their level best to hunt you down. You must be determined to hurl light into darkness, to rescue the weak from the brash and brazen, and yet despite all your bravery, skills and abilities, victory is not always guaranteed.
Death lurks in every corner, waiting to cut you down to size and laugh at your attempts to exact revenge and issue forth your own brand of justice.
Dynamic and ever-changing world.
There are no real safe havens in Tyria. Perhaps in the big cities, yet even there you’ll learn that danger is only a few steps away. Wherever your travels take you a new event is unfolding. The world ticks on with or without your presence.
A local merchant might call for your aid in some remote township. You can choose to help or continue on your path. Either way that merchant will press on and face the perils of the lonesome road alone. Later on you might happen across that same merchant, stranded and besieged by beasties, once again calling out for your help.
There are “Heart Events” everywhere, designed to keep you interested in what’s going on all around. They encourage you to care about everything from putting out fires, feeding live stock and training local guards to helping the locals overcome threats from dangerous bandits – the skittish Skritt who love their “shinies” – the Dredge who dwell deep in the bowels of the earth – the Grawl who roam the wild places looking for trouble.
You have the power to make a difference. And that is what makes this game so fascinating. You truly feel as if you’re in a world that never stops and your actions can alter the path of those less able than you.
A story just for you!
Setting aside the social gaming aspect for a moment and ask yourself why so many people play fantasy games at all?
The wonder of adventure? Sure, all you need do is stride out and find it. Around every bend in the road, tucked away on a rocky outcropping and in small hamlets – you’ll not go wanting for deeds of might, heroism and humble tasks like feeding chickens and rounding up stray Dolyaks.
Discovering a rich history? Indeed, take the time to dig a little deeper than the standard kill and loot habit and you’ll see there’s a rich and interesting history to this world. Linger long enough in any populated area and you’ll be witness to any number of conversations, some are clandestine that require you to “listen in” and others bold and earnest, declaring news of warring factions and dark shapes that emerge from the murky woods to terrorise villages.
For me the over-riding reason to play these games is to envelop my senses in a story. I want to be swept along on fantastical adventure, from humble beginnings to battles of life or death. For the first time I’ve found a game that caters to that desire. I’ve played plenty of games that have a story at their core, from Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario to Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and so on.
Guild Wars 2 differs to these as right from the start it asks you who you are. It’s not a simple case of design a character and play, this game asks about your history, your family, regrets, desires, where you came from, where you want to go and who you want to be.
Based on what you choose your story will be different each time you start a new character, to a degree of course, there are only so many story lines to go around for now. When you’re happy with the design of your character and having made your choices, you choose a name for your character, a sort of declaration of your virtual persona.
Throughout your adventures you can choose to venture off the beaten path and learn more about those choices. It’s not exactly an original idea but it uses it great effect, encouraging you to learn all you can about your past and who your character is.
And as your progress through that story it provides you with a sense of accomplishment, that your story matters in that world, that you have survived the challenges and hopefully emerge a wiser and more accomplished person for it. Be that your virtual or real self, after all, many stories have morals to teach, why not ones from a virtual world too?
Dip in or become immersed.
One huge bonus Guild Wars 2 has over other games is that it’s free to play. No monthly subscription. Just buy the game and away you go. And considering the utter wealth of features available it really is astonishing value. You can use the Black Lion Trading Company to buy gems (using real world currency) where you can purchase additional items and bonus’s but nothing you can’t find in the game for free if you have the time and dedication to look.
The fun thing about the BLTC is that it offers another game play element, that of trading. You can buy and sell in-game items with gold earned from quests, BUT you can also buy and sell Gems using your real world cash. There’s a thriving economy with forecasts, highs and lows, average prices and so on. I’ve barely touched on this side of the game but it sure is fascinating stuff!
And that’s another bonus. You don’t have to sit in front of your PC for hours or days at a time to get anywhere or feel that sense of accomplishment. Because there’s no subscription you don’t feel pressured into playing because you’re paying for it and need to get your money’s worth. Dip in for a quick adventure, wonder through one of the amazing cities, use a dye or two to change your clothing. Or, if you prefer, settle in for an evening of epic fantasy exploring, hook up with friends to share stories together.
I’m not a salesman for Guild Wars 2 by the way!
When it comes to your downtime there are choices aplenty – cinema, dining, sports, gym, horse riding, doggy stuff, gigs, train spotting, pole dancing, theatre, mountain climbing, stamp collecting – an endless list of leisure pursuits I’m sure you’ll agree. When money’s a bit tight I tend to reel in spending on luxuries and think about what I’m likely to get most pleasure from.
I love reading and my kindle is a joy (I’m reading Cloud Atlas at the moment – awesome!) And when the cold grey fingers of winter flex across the UK, I prefer to nestle in my chair, drink and snack close at hand, and journey forth into unexplored country.
The writer in me yearns for adventure, and when I’m not creating my own story I travel through one that feels custom-made for my imagination.
As for you, dear blog reader, how do you feed your imagination?
Books, movies, wild white water rafting, gaming like me, or something else?
- Five Reasons Guild Wars 2 Has Great World Design (dconstructions.wordpress.com)