Lands of always-Autumn stuck in Time. Ascalon (Pre-Searing) in Guild Wars. Photo Credit: bouvrie1

Guild Wars is an online massively multiplayer original role-playing game (MMORPG) that was released in 2005. The game is only playable on the PC and was slightly different than other MMORPG’s of its time such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI. Rather than relying on subscription models to fund further development and cover server costs, Guild Wars only required an initial purchase before allowing the gamer to enter its world. The developers, NCsoft relied on selling continued content add-ons and expansion packs to entice current-players to purchase additional content.

The in-game world of Tyria is rather boldly designed, akin to the level progression of Super Mario Bros; including regions which span arid deserts, snowy mountain peaks, rainforests and charred lowlands which are traveled progressively, This world is typically varied enough to offer distinct differences in visuals as you progress through the game, creating clear boundaries between different areas of the map in-line with narrative shifts as players see through the story. When players start the game, they are thrust into the world of Tyria and initially, the kingdom of Ascalon. For the initial first few hours, the player is guided through Ascalon with a series of quests and treasure-hunting exercises, which seek to tutor and ease them into the game’s mechanics. The initial environment is beautiful, with lush fields, vibrant hamlets and even a cave section filled with nasty monsters in need of dispelling. While in Ascalon, players are able to communicate and trade with others in game, but aren’t required to team-up to explore or enter battle with each other. Some players pushed the limits of this section of the game, reaching the level limit through (presumably) countless amounts of hours battling, developing secondary currencies (dyes) and creating temporary characters to pass hard-earned equipment to the full game world where rare items are of higher value. This initial period of Guild Wars however is only considered as an interactive tutorial.

As you play through these early missions, the narrative skips two years into the future and unveils a post-apocalyptic world where the humans of the realm are locked in a constant battle with the evil Charr. After this cataclysmic event (referred to as ‘The Searing’ in game), players find themselves in a dustbowl world confronted with an Ascalon that is a shadow of its former self, unable to return to the quaint kingdom of old. Not only is it an aesthetic change, but the mechanics of the quests change also, each player is no longer able to take on the evils of their world alone, but must team up with other players to have any hopes of survival.

I first played Guild Wars in 2006. All told, I didn’t stick at it for very long, or even finish the game’s story. The problem, I feel was that I couldn’t adjust to the change of pace that takes place after that initial tutorial stage. I was quite happy exploring the kingdom of Ascalon and questing in its fields. I did not always want to rely on the combined strength of others to complete missions or take on seemingly endless scores of villains. In Pre-Searing, the progression was well balanced and the hurdles were smaller. Players could witness their progression through gaining levels and while increasing their skillset, but there was little to rush for. For me, this microcosm of the full game was much more enjoyable than any else of what Guild Wars offered. After this initial training session and the game began, it felt too jarring to now have to focus on teamwork to succeed. From this point onwards the game could only be played with the support of others, meaning that your success in the game was reliant on forming strong strategies with teams of complimentary character classes. It wasn’t always simple though to find a team of players to work alongside, and relying on the games AI team members never provided enough strategy or teamwork to get far in the games more difficult quests. Guild Wars is a game which places teamwork as a primary goal, it’s an online persistent world filled with other human players who want to rely on working with others to win, however it doesn’t feel possible for players to game alone. From an early point, the game pushes players to strategise alongside teams of other players. This of course works out well if you have a team of others to play the game with, but not so much for solo play.