Guild Wars 2
This Guild Wars 2 beta was possibly more exciting for me than any of the previous ones. It was bigger in pretty much every sense -- more areas, more races, more PvP, more people. It was still rife with its fair share of technical issues, but those issues did not seem to really define the norm. And most importantly, it was the last one, which left each experience flavored with the subtle taste of anticipation.

What did you get up to? I'd hope some of you who aren't quite as comfortable with structured PvP took this last opportunity to get in and give it a go while the scene is (theoretically) as open and easy to join as possible. If you did, you probably ran into the Legacy of the Foefire map. If you didn't, here's a bit about what you missed.

Stepping into Legacy of the Foefire feels quite like stepping back into the original Guild Wars, and when I first loaded, I felt as if I should be listening to Pre-Searing music and finding Gwen her flute. Given the name of the map, I noticed the layout tells something of a story on its own. The Foefire is one of the huge events separating the worlds of Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. Set about 11 years after the events of War in Kryta (some of the latest-day content in Guild Wars), the Foefire was the culmination of Charr and human fighting over Ascalon City. The human king Adelbern unleashed a spell that turned all humans in the city into vengeful ghosts, bent on protecting Ascalon even in death. If you've been in the Charr starting area at all, you've seen that those ghosts persist to the present day. While players on either side might not be turned into ghosts at the end of Legacy of the Foefire battles, the visuals associated with the starting location of one team and the southern-most capture point are definitely indicative of the Charr, so we as players are symbolically going through that old conflict. Or it was just a pretty map and I read way, way too much into things.

This is the map that Eric Flannum said was "actually going to be pretty nostalgic for Guild Wars players," and that's because of more than just the landscaping. Guild vs. Guild is one of the more beloved types of PvP in the original Guild Wars (although it's worth noting that neither the guild system nor this match type is why the game got its name).

Flameseeker Chronicles The Foefire and the ViewControl-point conquest is still the primary objective of the map: There is a waterfall, a sanctum, and a quarry that are all capturable and reward points while controlled. Player kills still grant five points, and the first team to 500 or the team with the most points at the end of 15 minutes is declared the winner.

While this new map and its mechanics are certainly not a direct copy of the original GvG, there's enough there for a clear legacy. The secondary mechanic of the Legacy map revolves around powerful NPCs called guild lords. If you've been keeping an eye on sPvP, a big powerful being as the secondary map objective might not sound all that new. The guild lords are unlike the forest-dwellers of the Forest of Niflhel map in a few key ways. To begin with, each guild lord (indicated as the red and blue helms in the far opposing corners of the map to the left) is dedicated to one team, rather than being a free-for-all. Additionally, the guild lords stay dead once killed and reward 100 points rather than 50. Unlike killing a guild lord in the original GvG, killing a guild lord here doesn't grant instant victory, but 100 points all at once can make for a pretty big advantage or point swing.

Killing guild lords is a little more tricky than just running up to Chief Utahein or Svanir, too. For one thing, each lord starts off safely behind the walls of a team's base. These walls can be taken down only by direct damage and are the only way to get at the guild lords. Attacking the walls alerts your enemy to your intentions, so clandestine operations are a bit delicate.

After you get through the walls of the enemy's base, there are guard NPCs to deal with, even if not a single enemy player comes to defy you. Each lord is guarded by NPCs. And because ArenaNet wants to remind you that Ascalon as you knew it is dead and Guild Wars is the past, all these NPCs are quite naturally ghosts.

This map has the most moving pieces, as it were, of any sPvP map we've seen so far. Not only are you keeping an eye on the opposing team, but you're also duking it out for three control points, trying to be all menacing and aggressive regarding enemy walls and menacing and defensive regarding your own while beating the ever-loving ectoplasm out of the hostile NPCs. That doesn't sound like so much for the hotjoinable matches, which can (and did, at pretty much any time the sPvP servers were stable over the course of the weekend) hold more than five players to a side (which is the restriction on tournament sPvP), but it's certainly enough to make sure that smaller teams are on their toes and quick on their feet.

Flameseeker Chronicles The Legacy of the Foefire
And other stuff

Man, this map (in which I had a great deal of fun) was accompanied by so much other great stuff this weekend. I tried to keep my paws off the Sylvari starting area (despite rolling two Sylvari because my gosh they're so cool) and instead spent most of my time exploring the Asura territory very thoroughly (here's looking at you, flame elemental of utter torment), dallying with city exploration, and (in the very last hours of the weekend) running the Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon once again.

This dungeon run was interesting. I was asked very specifically to spec for DPS -- in fact, everyone in the party was asked very specifically to spec for DPS. This was, apparently, to prove that a party can make it through without a dedicated tank or healer. While an ostensiblly interesting venture, it felt a little moot to me. I've never been into that dungeon with a dedicated tank or healer, and I've been in there a fair few times now. Saying "we're doing this all DPS" sounds about as archaic, in this system, as "we're doing this with a tank and healer." The whole point is flexibility. Still, it was an enormously successful run, super fun, and hopefully puts yet another nail into the coffin of the illusion that there's a holy trinity in Guild Wars 2. Also, I learned that while guesting may not have been in this beta in its true form, players were (and, unless it was a bug, presumably will be) able to join instances like the dungeon from separate servers while joined in a party. That was the one time I ran into bothersome lag (otherwise, my BWE was a preeminently smooth experience), but I considered the lag to be well worth the benefit of playing with cool people.

I think the most fun I had this weekend was in the Metrica Province jumping puzzle, Goemm's Lab. Except for running parallel to Ravious a few times quite by accident, I was more or less alone, but it was still tremendously fun. Despite wanting, several times, to put my fist through my monitor (I am not good at these things), it was quite possibly the most rewarding experience of the weekend.

Excelsior!

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.