Flameseeker Chronicles: Bigger on the inside

Guild Wars 2 concept art
I think that storytelling is where we see one of the most significant changes between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. It isn't that the original story sucked, necessarily; it's just that it was woefully single-dimensional and unchanging. Each Guild Wars campaign has slightly different starting quests for each profession, but you're eventually caught up by the current, and everyone goes whooshing along to the culmination. Factions spiced things up a little by allowing you to choose whether you wanted to befriend the Kurzicks or Luxons first (although there wasn't really any permanence to that choice, as you could still effectively follow both routes -- and had to, eventually, if you wanted to unlock the associated Protector and Guardian titles). Nightfall got a little more daring by making you choose between companions and ultimately story paths. Even better, you had to finish the campaign before you could undo the illusion of permanence.

Guild Wars 2 is way beyond that.

Guild Wars 2's story choices in character creation are a big step up from the original Guild Wars, mostly because they exist. Those choices have a demonstrable effect on each player's storyline, as we've examined previously. Heck, even just giving different story beginnings to different races is leaps and bounds better than the original. According to the ArenaNet blog post on personal story:
Each of our five playable races begins with its own starting area; this is where your story commences. You likely know about the biography in character creation, where choosing one of several options translates into a different story for your character. This three-way split exists for all five races. Furthermore, each of those three stories contains decisions you must make that further affect how the story plays out... We have 80 levels of progression for your character, and every ten levels or so, you'll begin a new chapter in your story.
The cool thing about this, to me, is the way that storylines can weave together. Maybe you and your buddy are playing together and you've both chosen that a dead sister (no that is not a spoiler; it's in character creation) is one of your big regrets, but you're playing a noble and your buddy is playing a street rat. Your stories are going to start out differently, but at some point they're going to converge before splitting off again (unless you made and make entirely identical choices except for birth).

More stories come into play as you progress. Dungeons, for example, aren't directly a part of the personal storyline (which means, incidentally, that you don't ever have to play them, as is fitting with their purpose as a place for the challenge-oriented). They trace their own development. Very early on in the unveiling of Guild Wars 2 information, Lore & Continuity Designer Ree Soesbee stated that the game has "different stories for each of the Iconics, with which you can interact, and the story of the Elder Dragon of Orr itself."

Story elements that we haven't seen a lot of yet but that interest me are the three multi-racial orders that players will interact with as they get to the proper level. If you've spent any time in the major cities, you've probably seen the orders' representatives hanging about and hollering at unwary passers-by. If you've been frequenting the Charr areas, you may have even helped members out for a renown heart. The orders are the Vigil, the Order of Whispers, and the Durmand Priory.

Even though the three orders have the same general goal (for those who haven't been reading between the lines, that goal is to get rid of the evil freaking dragons that are threatening to destroy all life as we know it). I'm really hoping that this will be one of the biggest influences on mid- to high-level story progression because it seems like it should hugely impact how you go about, y'know, getting rid of the evil freaking dragon Zhaitan.
In the game, a character can join one of these three orders. Depending on that choice, the character will see events unfold from the perspective of that order and can become involved in the Guild Wars 2 story from a different point of view.
GuildWars 2 concept art
We know the Order of Whispers from Guild Wars: Nightfall, where the organization was something of a mover-and-shaker in Elona. As the name suggests, the Order is something of a shadowy group: Its Lion's Arch HQ is in the bilges, for goodness' sake. The Order doesn't believe that dragons can be destroyed, so its members are focused instead on finding a way to delay the awakening of the Elder Dragons, return them to sleep, and so save the world.
According to the Vigil, hoping the dragons go back to sleep is for total wusses (not an exact quote). Wherever a dragon minion crawls, creeps, or oozes, the Vigil is there. The Vigil believes that the Elder Dragons need to be faced down and that victory can only be achieved through force of arms.

The Durmand Priory, which is largely responsible for the general literacy of Tyrians (yay for the Enlightenment!), was founded before the Rise of Orr and all the bother with the Elder Dragons. The Priory is dedicated to the protection of knowledge and hopes that all the protected knowledge might now be of some use in fighting off Zhaitan and his buddies.

ArenaNet has talked a lot about wanting choices to matter, on a whole lot of levels from profession to trait point allocation to story progression. I'm really keen to see how that holds up over the entire 80-level story progression arc. Which of these orders interests you folks most?

And other stuff

If we were taking bets on what races will be playable in the final beta weekend event, someone owes me some money. With the Asura and Sylvari and their attendant zones and cities in the next beta, there should be oodles of new content. Can I say that I'm probably more excited to see the zones and cities than the races themselves? Is that OK? I'm expecting a lot of shiny, glowy things. And that's awesome.

Gosh. It's like they're ramping up for a release or something.

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.