A while back, I briefly touched on how Guild Wars 2 (GW2) – a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) that I still play to this day – helps fuel my writing muse. It’s ironic, too, because I largely focus on science fiction while GW2 is high-fantasy, yet elements from it commonly inspire parts of my world building. Then again, I enjoy reading a good fantasy story myself, too, so I thought I’d be nice to share just how I got into the series, and why its narrative has stuck with me so strongly. Bear in mind there will be some SPOILERS.
I ended up getting into the original Guild Wars (GW) series over a decade ago, with it being recommended by an online role-playing friend of mine. We both had an interest in video games, and I loved the idea of jumping in with her friends and family for some cooperative action as a Ranger (One of the main professions their party was missing, which I enjoyed). The fact that it didn’t have to pay a monthly subscription helped seal the deal; running around a fantasy setting was just being a side aspect for me at the time.
Now admittedly, Prophecies, GW’s first installment, didn’t have the best narrative, as I frequently found its dialogue cringy and quite a few of its characters shallow. Yet it got originality points for integrating more unique fantasy elements – like the warmongering, feline Charr and human god pantheon – alongside more familiar ones. This helped it avoid falling too much into Tolkien-esque territory that often involved the overused orcs and elves trope. It’s this, along with the plot occasionally mixing things up, that helped make its tale otherwise palatable for me.
As time went on and I played through the other expansions, though, I found myself starting to appreciate the lore and landscapes of Tyria. There was a surprising amount of detail and nuance to the world’s history, with regions including some great eye candy, too. Plus, once I had completed the last expansion, Eye of the North, I found myself smitten with some of its newly introduced characters and races. Particularly the egotistical Asura, and their “A magic sufficiently analyzed becomes indistinguishable from technology” personas.
Along Came a Sequel
Eye of the North had also done a good job in setting up my hype for the franchise’s next evolutionary leap: Guild Wars 2. Its first trailer had both me and my buddies ecstatic, not just because of the upgraded, artistic visuals and expanded gameplay; but because of the additional, playable races. Asura were particularly on the menu for some of my guild mates, although for me, the Charr were my starting race of choice. Largely because of their steam punk technology and burly character design.
Plus, they had originally been antagonists in the first game, which was another reason why I was so excited. GW2 is set 250-years after the events of the first series, with the Elder Dragons now rising to threaten Tyria’s residence; and it’s that time jump that brings with it a huge amount of changes. Some that had already been previewed in the trailer, making me very eager to get into the nitty gritty details.
Not only that but I loved the premise an Avengers-style team-up between various members of each race as a response to the global threat. Especially since they’re so distinct from one another, from the diminutive but arrogant Asura, to the towering, adventuring Norn, and so on. It helped that Arena Net, the game’s developers, had greatly improved their dialogue by Eye of the North, making me very eager to see just how they would play-off one another.
It’s this legacy aspect that’s one of the reasons I’m still around GW2, as I love seeing how they build on the established lore through out their ongoing, Living World narrative
An Evolving Story
Speaking of narrative, although the Personal Story for your player character at GW2’s launch was a flawed experience, it did set the stage for future story content. Specifically, what would eventually be called Living World content: episodic, story driven patches that create a single, progressing story-line. Much of which started out as experimental, once-off world events that gradually introduced a new cast of supporting characters. Ones who were just beginning their own journeys, with our player character not only intertwining with theirs, but also bringing them all together as a group.
This resulted in a more relatable experience, as we got to see what drove these characters, and over the course of the first season, witness some endearing dynamics form. A favorite of mine being the caring, small-tall relationship between genius Asura Taimi and the hot-head Norn, Braham. Not only that, but as the story progressed through the form of replayable content, including expansion and future seasons, we got to see these characters really grow and develop.
New threats rose, old characters died, and bonds between them and mine were strained and tested. It’s by the end of the fourth and latest Living World season, we see – through grief, joy and hardship – our guild, Dragon’s Watch, become a close, tight nit family. One that feels very personal to me, and my Ranger main, Alhendra Rodain – who I love envisioning as a descendant of my original GW character, Shayan Rodain.
Given how this last season has been left so open ended with the birth of a very special Elder Dragon, I look forward to seeing what future events are in store for my group.
Although there are plenty of other reasons I stick around GW2 (Sometimes that infamous grind for that fancy weapon), it’s the constantly changing story that has been its major sticking point. Others have been the jaw dropping artwork and environments, to its magic system and even its character creation system. A lot of which I would love to delve deeper in separate posts, but for now, I hope you enjoyed this cathartic recall.