Guild Wars 2
Sequels are tricky business. The more fans swarm around a game or franchise, the thicker the air gets with opinions regarding what the heart and soul of that game is all about. With that in mind, I don't envy sequel game designers the task of figuring out the balance of enough of a nod to the original to maintain the emotional connection that longstanding fans have without making newcomers feel locked out of something.

One of the most frequent questions that pops up in the discussion of Guild Wars 2 anticipation is whether or not it's worth it for incoming players to take a spin through the original campaigns and expansion to pass the time. This is mostly tied in with discussion about the Hall of Monuments account rewards. In my opinion, the HoM rewards should be the least compelling reason to start a play-through, although it's still a good reason; even some members of our staff are haphazardly trying to find time to wade back through the stories before release. But considering everything in ArenaNet's design philosophy, we know the HoM rewards are unlikely to offer a statistical advantage, so they should be little more than a perk. Moreover, most of their value, it seems to me, should be from what they represent, which is both time spent in-game (forging that emotional connection) actually earning the reward points and the references some of them make to the original game. I still remember my first Stygian Reaver in GW, and that is why I'm looking forward to wielding one in Guild Wars 2.

My answer to the question of the worth of a play-through as preparation for Guild Wars 2 is that it isn't at all necessary (just ask Jef) but can still add to the experience.

The lore of the new game is, from what we've seen, pretty clearly set out. The Charr area has what is quite possibly the most reliance on an understanding of the plot and events in the original Guild Wars, but things are spelled out neatly enough that players shouldn't have to fall back on their own experiences in the old Ascalon area to have a good idea of what's going on. But again, having memories of certain areas and characters can only work to enrich the experience. Unlike Rubi, I had no qualms whatsoever about killing off the ghosts of certain NPCs from a happier time in the Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon, but the history that I had with those characters meant something to me.

Guild Wars 2: Kill your ancestors edition
Then we've got stuff like this. For the recent EU Fan Day, some of the ArenaNet team sat down for a long-distance conference call with fans in Brighton, and an interesting tease was aired after GuildMag asked about new PvP maps. Eric Flannum, lead game designer, also talked about an underwater, pirate-themed map, but I've edited this down to the relevant bits.
GuildMag: Can you tell us anything about the upcoming PvP maps...?

Eric Flannum: One of them... I don't want to totally give them away because I think we're planning on revealing them. One of them is actually going to be pretty nostalgic for GW1 players. So you can expect that to be something that has a lot of familiar elements for GW1 players and we'll be talking more about those, I think, pretty soon.
Shortly afterwards, in response to further prompting from Mondes Persistants, Flannum added:
We said that one of them would be very nostalgic and familiar for Guild Wars 1 players. I don't think I want to say more than that, it's still a capture point map, so it's not different, but the secondary mechanics will be very familiar to the people who played Guild Wars 1 PvP.
So that's cool.

Aside from lore and story, another aspect to balance the old and new for in our return to Tyria is in the mechanics of the game itself. Of course, in that respect there are pretty dramatic changes from from the original Guild Wars. Massive changes to the skill system, as well as the (wonderful and necessary, in case I hadn't made my opinion on this preeminently clear) lack of heavy instancing, and an all-around reexamination of game systems set the sequel far apart from its predecessor in many ways. That seems fair; after all, if it's the mechanics of the game that people love, Guild Wars is still around for them to enjoy.

Things like PvP map mechanics and skills, though, are an excellent way to establish the connection between two games while still allowing for a lot of updates and growth to take place. We don't know quite yet what mechanic is going to make the crossover into the unrevealed PvP map, but I hope it helps bring a little bit of home into the new structured PvP gameplay.

For me, it's the little visual cues. There's been quite a lot of change to the surface of Tyria over the last 250 years, so a lot of the maps are substantially different. The little pieces of landscape and architecture and such that recall the original have made for some of the most touching moments in my time with the game so far. The sunken Temple of Ages in what is now the Godslost Swamp. A niggling sense of familiarity while running through the Shiverpeaks. The first moment I saw the new Tengu. The game is great on its own, but those moments all felt a bit like getting together with old friends. It's a feeling I hope to see sustained throughout the game. What are you relying on to bridge the gap between games?

And other things

In other news, if you've somehow missed it: Today is the opening day of Guild Wars 2 pre-purchasing. If putting down all of the money being asked for a game without a set release date seems like something you want to do (and it is something that some folks want to do, but it is not the right route for everybody), you can either look up participating retailers on this handy-dandy list or head over to ArenaNet's page for ordering the digital standard and deluxe editions online. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the team has said that the CEs, at least, are in a limited edition, so if you're the sort who'll go crazy with self-flagellation over missing the CE for what might turn out to be a game you love, maybe don't wait so long. It's hard to advocate to people that they put all their money in up-front for this sort of thing. Sure, I'm doing it, but you may have noticed that my feelings about this game are pretty set. My skepticism has been more or less overcome, and I see the included perks as being worth a bit of a gamble.

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PAX East was this past weekend, which wasn't supposed to be big for ArenaNet since it didn't have a booth or a dedicated panel through which to strut the game's stuff. The devs came prepared, though, and brought quite a load of beta keys with which to delight some unsuspecting fans. If you're one of those people, congratulations. I think the cards with those keys were somehow released out of order. "These are dangerous times to be different... rise up!" one side tells me. What am I rising up against? Isn't ArenaNet's whole selling point about how different its game is? This feels like it belongs to the War in Kryta effort, but it can't, really. It's beautiful, though, and I'm guessing that those printed characters aren't the ones of most interest to folks who received cards.

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.
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