Flameseeker Chronicles: Touring the Snowden Drifts

Guild Wars 2
I pretty much went all Norn for the stress test last week. Alone (like a true Norn), I ventured to the highest, loneliest peaks of Snowden Drifts, swam in the darkest ice caves, and faced the largest metric crap-ton of Sons of Svanir imaginable.

As my Necromancer slid what felt like the nine hundredth Son off of her dagger blades, I took the time to look around soak up the view; there's nothing quite like rallying three times in a fight against a whole passel of renegade Norn to make a girl really appreciate the scenery.

Say what you will (and this being the Internet, many folks do) about whether or not having to zone between maps is, like, the ultimate sign that the game isn't truly "massively multiplayer," but each and every map we've seen so far in Guild Wars 2 is packed to the brim with excitement.

ImageIt's hard to pinpoint a single theme for any given map in Guild Wars 2. Snowden Drifts is, as I've previously mentioned, sunk hip-deep in Sons of Svanir, but they're far from the only force in the area. Within eyesight of a few of the Sons' dens are some centaur camps, as the map is also home to the northern cousins of the centaurs I'm so fond of roughing-up in the human areas. The Dredge have something of a presence, as do other, less-well-marshalled foes. There are also some more or less friendly parties in the map, with the Kodan and the Quaggan chillin' in and around the Song of Final Exile and Vaslake respectively. Happily, meta events have been implemented to keep the unsuspecting tourist up-to-date with the grand scheme of things in any given part of the map. For example, The Kodan Claw is a meta event that keeps track of the general state of affairs in the Vaslake area: When things aren't going quite so smoothly, these UI tips will give you an idea of where to head if you're looking for some trouble. For the record, I'd have really liked to meet some more talkative Kodan, but maybe I just caught them at a collectively pensive moment.

Did I mention Sons of Svanir? There are a lot of them, which makes sense given that the farther North you go, the deeper you're moving into the domain of their beloved Jormag. ArenaNet has done a nice thing with the Sons, at least in the personal storyline: The Sons are regarded by most Norn as a tremendously misguided cult but aren't typically KOS. That isn't borne out quite as much in the open PvE world, from what I can see. Generally, if I was away from big civilization centers, Sons of Svanir were marked for battle, even if I was the one breaking into their home (although quite technically, they could just be very hostile people such that when I walk into their personal space bubble, they decide to attack me, which then means that I... you know what? Trying to reconcile game mechanics and lore makes my head hurt). There might be a peaceable haven of them somewhere out in the world, but so far I can only really think of one whom I was able to at least have an attempted civil conversation with, and he was in a cinematic.

In support of that, though, there is the fact that the Sons of Svanir seem much less active than the human-area centaurs do. You can hardly turn your back on the centaurs before they start trying to have an uprising here and a hostile takeover there. Except for a couple of roadblocks and outposts, though, the Sons seem pretty content to keep to themselves (in the Snowden Drifts more than in the Wayfarer Foothills). Maybe that's part of the more laissez-faire relationship that exists between them and mainstream Norn culture. What were your experiences with the Sons of Svanir?

One nice thing is that with maps as big as they are, the designers didn't feel the need to cram trash mobs into every nook and cranny. I went for a delightful swim in some ice caves near the lake and was totally undisturbed, just me and some glacial remnants. It only makes sense, really. I don't care how cold-tolerant you are; this is not a welcoming vista:

So I'm pleased that the excitement in maps isn't solely dependent on being sunk to my armpits in mobs and constant fighting. I didn't stumble across a jumping puzzle, but to be honest I wasn't looking for one. For one thing, I'm still trying (vainly, if we have too much longer in the BWEs without new content) to make it to release with some unexplored delights in the lower levels. For another, I was too busy gaping at the Kodan, trying to find out just how far up the side of a mountain I could possibly get, and contemplating why the quaggan apparently have no furniture.

I wouldn't be a good tourist if I hadn't taken some pictures along the way. You can find some of my favorites below (note that daylight screencaps of the Sons of Svanir camps were actually taken in the northernmost reaches of the Wayfarer Foothills).
And other stuff

If you're a Guild Wars player, be sure to read up on how to reserve your character name for Guild Wars 2.

It's really exciting to see the community growing and shaping up as we get inevitably closer to launch. Several sites have gone through a recent growth spurt. I know that Guild Wars Insider recently had a population boom, as did Talk Tyria and GuildMag (GuildMag also just re-launched its podcast). If you're looking to get involved, there are tons of opportunities. Chronicles of Tyria and Boons & Conditions are looking for fresh meat (the latter for all matter of things beyond writing). It's been neat to see communities start being able to pump out more content after the NDA-less beta weekend; it's even neater to think that this can only happen more as time goes on. Also, who says you need to join a team to be active? Shame on me for not mentioning it sooner, but during May something called the Newbie Blogger Initiative has been running. There's never been a better time to start writing about this or any game, so if you've been itching for a good way to fly your geek flag, maybe give it some thought.

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.