Flameseeker Chronicles: Why you need to play Guild Wars right now

The fourth pillar is story. Raise your hand if you are completely sick of hearing that statement or some variant of it. It was about a year ago that "story" became the watchword for MMO studios, and since then it's been tossed around a lot.

I've honestly gotten to the point that I sort of roll my eyes when I hear it, but I've been rethinking lately thanks to Guild Wars 2. I know it sounds fangirly, but hear me out -- follow along after the jump and I'll explain further.

Wait, I have to kill whom?

The Guild Wars 2 Catacombs dungeon is what changed my mind, honestly. If you haven't yet, take a look at the intro cinematic. This is what players will see upon entering the Catacombs dungeon in Guild Wars 2. If you've not played Guild Wars 1, this is a good introduction to the backstory so you know what's happening. You get some great voice acting, cool art, and a little heads-up on what you're going to find when you head down there. It's pretty impressive stuff.

Now let's look at it from the perspective of a Guild Wars 1 fan. We lived some of this history; we were there. We saw the destruction of Ascalon at the hands of the Charr. We watched Adelbern progress from determination to frustration to rage, to the point of disowning his son. When we heard about the Foefire later, it wasn't really implausible because we'd seen the writing on the wall. We'd watched Adelbern become someone who would conceivably be willing to destroy the whole thing rather than abandon it to the Charr.

If you're not a Guild Wars 1 player, Rytlock is holding an awesome flaming sword. If you are a Guild Wars 1 player, Rytlock is holding Sohothin, and there is a world of meaning in that brief image. Sohothin is Prince Rurik's sword, the one we all wanted so badly when we first started playing Guild Wars way back when. It was a bit of an icon, and once the Guild Wars 2 books arrived and we found out that it had fallen into Rytlock's hands all those years later, it was even more of a symbol of all the difficult things that have come before.

Once inside the dungeon, it gets even better. Looking at the screenshots, we've seen reveals of some very familiar architectural styles, and if you've spent some time in the pre-Searing Catacombs, it's going to be so much more immersive.

Fighting Kasha Blackblood, Master Ranger Nente, Ralena Stormbringer, and Vassar is a very similar situation. If you're unfamiliar with the history of Tyria, then they are some powerful mini-bosses before you get to the end. If you're familiar, then they are the ghosts of old allies: your very first teachers in the world of Guild Wars. Now they're undead and warped into enemies bent on killing you, and you've got to take them out first, as sad as it might be. Finally meeting up with King Adelbern is the same thing, only a little more intense.

Can it stand on its own?

The dungeon is fantastic, don't get me wrong. If you have never touched Guild Wars 1 a day in your life, you are still going to appreciate this. The environment, the surprises, the difficulty, the combat... I bet you'll like it.

However, the heart of the entire thing comes down to story. Everything here -- the Catacombs themselves, Adelbern and his lieutenants, even the anonymous ghosts along the way with their Guild Wars 1 professions and skills -- has a rich backstory that brings the whole thing to life.

I find that true of everything I've seen of Guild Wars 2 so far, even as far back as PAX Prime last year -- the sunken statues of the six gods, the ruins of old familiar areas, and so on. There's an underlying love letter to the longtime fans of the game in the form of backstory, and it makes the current story so much richer.

Let me reiterate: You can fully appreciate and enjoy Guild Wars 2 even if you've never touched the first game. But it's like the difference between watching an old movie in its original form and watching a digitally remastered version. The colors are brighter, everything is sharper, and you notice a ton of little details you wouldn't have otherwise seen.

The Hall of Monuments has long been a reason to dive into Guild Wars 1, but all the new information we've gotten has really brought home another reason for me: story. If you haven't picked up GW1, I really encourage you to consider it. Don't just use it to grind for Hall of Monuments points (although that's a great reason too). Take your time and enjoy the journey, gathering those HoM points along the way. Play through, particularly in Prophecies, paying attention to what's going on and who's involved. Guild Wars 2 has a story -- possibly one of the best stories in an MMO -- and these people and places are the heart and soul of it.

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at rubi@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.