Flameseeker Chronicles: I hope you like PvE stuff

Guild Wars 2 folks: What a week it's been, am I right? After the flood of impressions and videos after the select press embargo lifted, ArenaNet decided to whip fans into a veritable frenzy by accepting beta signups from Wednesday to Friday. Fan response was insane -- over 1,000,000 signups in under 50 hours. While a few cool kids on the internet have tried to scoff at that number, I really can't -- it's just staggering to me.

If you were on vacation, sick, or hiding under your pet rock between Wednesday and Friday, I'm sorry -- there was a lot going on. You might consider checking out ArenaNet's blog post to catch up, as there's now a link roundup for your convenience. It's like the team wants you to be able to find out stuff about this game it eventually wants you to buy. Next the devs will be making themselves available for question-pelting on Reddit in an effort to promote clear and rapid comm-- oh wait.

A lot of love and attention has been given to WvW. Not enough love, to hear half the people tell it, which does serve to make me wonder whether there truly is enough love to give to that game style at all. "No," some would argue, "never enough," but I am not among them. I'd like to talk to you about competitive PvP, but my description of all games' competitive PvP sounds like the ravings of a terrified lunatic. There are demons and deadly portents and occasionally a gibbering reference to horrible spawn.

So instead I'll talk about PvE for a while. If you came here hoping for the crafting discussion I promised you last week, you're late: That's been waiting here to be discovered since it was posted as bonus content. Think of it as Day 1 DLC, only it actually came out on Day 2, and I'm not charging you for it, and also this column isn't a game. That is, I don't think it's a game. You might want to devise your own scoring system just in case.

Last week we took a look at some of the bigger changes that have come about in the successive versions of the game we've seen. Today I'm interested in looking not at progress over time but at little things that begged to be noticed as I went about my way.

Guild Wars 2
Maps

Guild Wars 2 almost can't help but do better than the original as far as explorability is concerned. With the inclusion of the jump function and the see-that-go-there mentality behind the map and event design, the world is (from what we've seen) much more accessible than it was 250 years ago. Jumping puzzles and other obstacles demonstrate players' relative freedom of movement. That said, and especially in light of the crazy steep mountainside I was able to hop up to find a jumping puzzle, I did encounter a few annoying insurmountable waist-height fences.

The most memorable of these was in the southern part of the human area, where the terrain got pretty hilly and allowed just a glimpse of some thoroughly impressive walls at a distance. I sized the hills up, thinking yeah, I can jump up those, but nope, insurmountable waist-height fence. The wall stretched off some way in either direction, but after only about five minutes of flinging myself at perfectly climbable-looking hills, I came to the decision that I'm not doing this now. So maybe you can find your way up there, or maybe another zone has an entrance. There's something to be said for having one's curiosity piqued but not satisfied, but wallowing in that pique was not what I wanted to do with my beta time.

Despite those few obstacles, I was pleased with the openness of the world in Guild Wars 2. I had been half-afraid that we'd still see a lot of narrow paths through steep hills funneling players onward, but that fear was laid quickly to rest -- and more! When gadding about as my Human Warrior, I happened to be standing atop a hill and surveying the lands when I noticed something way the heck off in the distance: a disturbance so far away that it didn't pop up as an event. Without checking my map, I tore off after the ominous flashing lights, and after only a bit of navigatorial effort, found myself approaching the Shadow Behemoth. It was a significant moment for me.

Personal story sharing

I was going through the early level Norn story with another player, which shouldn't be surprising given how much I've emphasized my appreciation for group play in this game, and we both just so happened to need to talk to Beigarth the Smith in Hoelbrak to kick off our personal stories. After a short but vicious fight about who got to advance the storyline first, my buddy queued up his instance. Imagine my surprise when, at the end of his conversation with Beigarth, I was given an option to either save this progress as my own or redo it. I chose to accept it, and just to see how far that went, we spent the next nine levels' worth of personal story accepting each other's progress.

This is nice because even though there are branches in the storyline along that way, you can still say, "Yeah, that's what I would have done." You always have the option of redoing it on your own just for giggles (or to make different decisions), but you're also given the option to not repeat needless content, and I'm grateful for that. For example, if we had been doing everything back-to-back, we'd have gone in for two consecutive encounters with this epic griffon dude, and even though I'm not the type to cry "immersion-breaking!" I would've felt a little jaded if we'd gone through the same sequence twice in a row. While I'm mostly excited about having enough diversity of personal story that this doesn't show up a ton, I'm also glad this system is in place to deal with it. I was pleasantly surprised.

Oh, THAT earth elemental boss hands-type-thing
The Hands of Ulgoth and other stories

I got really excited (because that's unusual) during the last episode of GuildCast when Gary Gannon brought up the earth elemental boss hands-type-thing that human characters get to fight at the end of their tutorial experience. I was mostly happy because his phrasing was about as precise as mine just was and because I actually knew what the elemental boss hands-type-thing was called: the Hands of Ulgoth. I learned that from one of the skill point tomes, which I picked up from the garrison when I revisited after successfully whoopin' on the earth elemental; there are similar tomes at the site of the other starting experiences' bossfights.

Skill point tomes are neat in that they seem to typically cover a certain foe creature and tell players about it with some cool visuals. They are distinct and separate from books, by which I mean that as you're walking through cities, there is an opportunity to peruse bookcarts. I did this only in Divinity's Reach, where I came across a book whose title I cannot recall precisely, though it was a reference to Kristin Perry and her wonderful work on the game's dye system. The book itself wasn't readable beyond the title, author, and a one-line description, but it was a lovely little detail.

Multiple personalities -- no, wait, I mean hybrid personality trees

This has evidently been around since Gamescom, but I'm very pleased with it. We've known for a long time that your character's personality can be based on three main traits: dignity, ferocity, and charm. Different interactions with NPCs will allow you to shift the balance of those three traits, developing and altering your personality as you play. What I didn't actually know until my time in the beta, and what seems like an awesome RP sort of thing to me (although I am admittedly pretty unfamiliar with what mechanics are and are not awesome for RP), is that there's also a set of secondary personality categories.

For example, if my character is equal parts dignified and ferocious, she'll be labeled as militant. I'm told that if I were to, instead, be equal parts ferocious and charming, my character would become a scoundrel. I'm sure there are others; in fact, I really hope there are more than even just secondary labels (although I'd be content with just those).

I guess what I may have been driving at over the last week is that there's a great deal to love about this game. Maybe you don't love the same things about it that I do; maybe cuddling baby snow leopards and jumping around in dark caves isn't really your idea of totally awesome. That's fair. But there's a lot going on; you'll probably find something cool. Unless you hate the underlying structure of both PvE and PvP, it's very unlikely that you'll find yourself having to put up with a ton of stuff that doesn't do it for you in order to enjoy the things that do.

Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at elisabeth@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.