Forest of the Wailing Lord
As 2011 draws to a close and hordes of hopeful Guild Wars 2 fans look to 2012 for a possible launch, people are beginning to turn eyes back to the Hall of Monuments. (No, stop that. We're not debating launch dates; I'm just saying.) It's been over a year since ArenaNet unveiled the Hall of Monuments calculator. I wrote the Road to 50 Hall of Monuments guide series right away, so you guys probably have the basics done and are looking at some of the more challenging parts of Guild Wars. If you're not familiar with the series, I definitely recommend you check it out -- there are separate guides for those who are starting with only three points, those who are aiming for 30 points, and those who want to go all 50.

With that in mind, I want to spend some time on one of my favorite parts of the game: elite areas. If you've finished all three campaigns and the expansion -- preferably both in normal and hard mode -- and you're ready for a bigger challenge, it's time to take on the elite areas. I'll be focusing on one elite area each week while we wait for Guild Wars 2 news, so follow along and let's get you started on the first area: the Fissure of Woe. Ready, set, kill!

General tips

We're going to focus on the Fissure of Woe today, but I want to begin with some general suggestions that apply to all elite areas. While each elite area has its own little quirks, tips, and pitfalls, there are some guidelines that apply to all of them, so let's start there. First, set aside a few hours. Whether you're going in with a full hero party (where possible) or playing with a group, you're going to need two to three hours minimum for each area. Plan your run for a time when you're able to really indulge in a nice long gaming session -- nothing spoils the fun like having to afk every 15 minutes, or worse yet, cut the run short. These four instances are all-or-nothing. You can't pop in, do a few quests, then log out to finish the others another time. Once you leave the area, all of your progress is set back to square one. You've got to do it all at once, so be sure you plan for that.

Second, if you're going in for the first (or second, or third) time, don't be too hard on yourself. These instances are designed to be a big challenge to those unfamiliar with them, and you're going to mess it up. It's called learning, and you're allowed to do it without beating yourself up for not doing it perfectly right out of the gate.

Third, take it slow. Your number one strategy for every single one of these instances is to pay attention, take your time, pull carefully, and never, ever, ever rush in just because an area looks clear. (Helpful hint: It's not clear. Yes, I know you don't see anything on the radar. Trust me -- it's not clear.) Part of taking it slow means taking the time to read the quest text. I know that for a lot of people, quest text is just fluff, but in these cases it often contains crucial information. Pay attention to what these NPCs are telling you because ignoring it could cause your entire party to suddenly be kicked back to the outpost for no apparent reason.

Fourth, take some time to look around while you're in there. Don't just enter the instance and slap on the battle blinders. Beauty isn't all blue skies, puffy clouds, and red iris flowers, and these are some of the most beautiful areas in the game. The horizons look endless in every direction, and you'll find carvings and structures that clearly had a lot of time put into their creation as well as some surprisingly charming little nooks and crannies. (The Forest of the Wailing Lord is one of my favorite places in all of Guild Wars.)

Finally, keep the full guides handy. The subheader below is a link to the Fissure of Woe's Guild Wars Wiki entry. The entry is a comprehensive guide to each instance with an extremely detailed guide for each area and quest within. I don't expect you to sit there for hour reading before you ever launch the game, but you should definitely have the page open as a quick reference the first few times you go in.

For now, let's get you started with some of the basics and help you avoid the biggest pitfalls.

Fissure of Woe

How do I love thee, let me count the ways. Yep, Fissure of Woe is my favorite of all of these, but that's not why I'm starting with it. This is the one you want to start with because it's arguably the easiest. For starters, it's the only one that doesn't feature a giant end boss. You can pretty much do the thing from start to finish in any order you please once you get past the first quest. You enter in one of two ways. If the world currently has the favor of the gods -- which you can check by typing /favor in the chat box -- simply go to either Temple of the Ages in Prophecies, Zin Ku Corridor in Factions, or Chantry of Secrets in Nightfall. Kneel before the statue of Balthazar to summon the Champion of Balthazar. Give him 1,000 gold, and off you go.

If the world currently does not have favor, all the gods' representatives are in the bathtub. No matter how many times you kneel, they won't answer. No worries; simply visit a rare scroll trader and buy a Passage Scroll to the Fissure of Woe. Scrolls cost the same amount from the trader, 1,000 gold, and you just go to one of the above outposts with the scroll in your inventory, double-click it, and you're in. One scroll will take the entire group in, so if you're in a group with other people rather than heroes, it's very likely someone else will already have one and you can save your money.

One of the three biggest tips specifically for the Fissure of Woe comes at the very beginning. If you're going in with people and they know you're new (or even if they don't), it's almost a sure bet that someone will start yelling, "Don't talk to Rastigan!" at least once or twice. Rastigan the Eternal is a neutral NPC that is standing right at the spawn point. As with all neutral NPCs, if he dies, you're finished, so people really like to freak out about not taking his quest.

Don't let the drama rattle you; it's not that dire. Rastigan does like to run in yelling his head off and start aggroing, but he's going to do that at a certain point whether you take his quest or not because he's triggered no matter what as soon as you aggro the creatures around the Tower of Courage, the structure you see up ahead when you spawn. Not taking the quest will buy you a tiny amount of extra time, but if you forget and take his quest, it's not the end of the world.

Second -- and this stems directly from the thing I said above about reading the quest text -- don't kill the Wailing Lord. That's one of the most common mistakes people make, and it will finish you off because he's technically a neutral NPC. He's just a bit... misguided. The quest The Wailing Lord instructs you to kill the banshees only, so when you arrive, your best bet is to stay on your own side of the bridge and use your longbow (you did bring a longbow, right?) to pull enemies to you. Once you've worked your way through the horde of skeletons, start pulling the banshees and taking them out. Don't worry about the Wailing Lord aside from being careful not to hit him. He's marked as hostile, but he won't attack you just for being in range. After all the enemies are dead, you'll see the Wailing Lord switch from hostile to neutral. He's also got a quest for you, which leads me to the third tip.

Don't take the Wailing Lord's quest and go racing toward the new marker. Again, it's not the end of the world if you do, but it will make your life a lot easier if you hold off. You remember that path you cleared on the way to the Wailing Lord? You'll find that it's not clear any more. Your job with the Gift of Griffons quest is to gather up the three griffons and lead them back to the Tower of Courage, where you began. The path is now littered with new foes who would just love to kill the griffons before you get them to their destination, and of course the griffons are neutral NPCs. The death of any one of them will get you kicked out of FoW. Of course, they love to race in and join the fight, so if you bring them near an enemy, you're really tempting fate.

The most common strategy is to stay away from the griffons (they won't begin following you unless you go to them), clear the path back, then run back and fetch the griffons. One player will typically remain behind to keep an eye on them and warn the group if they start to move. They likely won't, but better safe than sorry. Once the path is completely clear, head back, pick up the griffons, and take them safely to their destination. It's a long trek and a bit tedious, but not as tedious as having to start all over.

There you have it -- your Fissure of Woe primer. There's much more to see, but this will get you started. Have fun, and congratulations in advance on your shiny new HoM points!

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.