Today is Guild Wars' eighth anniversary. Depending on which tradition you follow, I should be getting the game either bronze, salt, linens, or lace as a gift. Since I don't happen to have any of those handy, I'd like to reflect upon the rich life that Guild Wars has led so far. The game didn't start out with all of the neato features that it has now, so I'd like to look a bit at its evolution over time. I can't hit every update ever, but I thought we'd take a stroll down memory lane and look at some of the key moments in the game's life.
Guild Wars got its start with what would later be known as Prophecies (not having that name worked just fine worked before there were other installments in the story). It's hard to say that Prophecies "brought" anything to Guild Wars, as it instead laid the foundation for everything that was to come. On its own and at release, Prophecies didn't have quite a few of the key features that we typically associate with the original Guild Wars, which I think some of us who fret about features that are missing from Guild Wars 2 could stand to remember. When I do things like talk about which Guild Wars features I wish had crossed the gap to Guild Wars 2, a lot of folks like to remind me that some of Guild Wars' best features weren't in it at launch but came months or years later. It's a fair thing to bring up. The game wasn't perfect and whole at launch, but that's OK.
While there were obviously patches in the first weeks and days of the game's life, one of the first substantial updates to Guild Wars came in the form of the Sorrow's Furnace update in September of the year it launched. Sorrow's Furnace brought in one of the first elite-type areas, which was (and continues to be, depending on whom you ask) the closest thing to a raid in Guild Wars. Sorrow's Furnace has a series of quests which must be completed before one can face off against the area's big bad end boss. Among other things, the update also introduced unique items, a new tier on the rarity scale that's made up mostly of items that are dropped from named bosses. Since prestige skins and farming are somewhat near the heart of Guild Wars endgame-type content (again, that might differ by conversation partner), that was a fairly significant addition.
Factions, the first campaign to be added to the Guild Wars universe, brought big changes. True to its name, it introduced two factions, Kurzick and Luxon. Tangentially, alliance battles were introduced. Alliance battles are 12-person team competitions that pit Kurzick players against Luxon players to determine the Kurzick-Luxon border on the world map. Another big feature that the campaign brought in was alliances, a way of organizing up to 10 guilds together for communicative and strategic purposes.
Factions also brought what yours truly considers to be the single greatest contribution to the game, which is the profession of Ritualist. There were Assassins, too, and while they may have changed the future of running and farming forever, I think we can all agree that Ritualists are kind of the raison d'être for Guild Wars.
For those of you unfamiliar with Guild Wars' campaign style, each of the three campaigns (Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall) are considered to be standalone -- you can buy any one of them and reap its full benefit. If you have more than one linked to the same account, though, your characters can travel between them and it's pretty cool.
The third and final campaign for the original Guild Wars was Nightfall. Like Factions, it brought in two new player professions: the Dervish and the Paragon. Perhaps most significantly, Nightfall introduced heroes. Heroes are player-configured NPCs who can be taken into explorable zones to help fill out a player's party. Unlocked through the storyline of Nightfall (and later Eye of the North), heroes had a customizable second profession, skill bar, and armor set. Where players had previously needed to rely on henchmen (NPCs without any option for player control or customization) or, y'know, other players, the introduction of heroes radically freed up folks' ability to play on their own and with special builds. Nightfall also introduced inscriptions as a means of statistic customization on weapons, which was a significant step away from the previously inherent stats.
An update two years after the game came out introduced Hard Mode, which has since become a staple of Guild Wars life. Once a character on an account has beat a campaign, any max-level character on that account has access to Hard Mode, which fills explorable zones with higher-level, tougher foes. With that came a variety of trappings like new titles that were centered around Hard Mode and lockpicks to open the chests found in Hard Mode areas. After the introduction of Ritualists and heroes, I think this may be one of the bigger improvements that came into the game.
The only true expansion for Guild Wars, Eye of the North was important for a few reasons. To begin with, it did a lot of stage-setting for Guild Wars 2. It also brought in "proper" dungeons for the first time, has faction-courting on a more meaningful scale than we saw in Factions, and was all around pretty groovy. Eye of the North also introduced the Hall of Monuments, which has been the way that Guild Wars players have transferred their legacy on to Guild Wars 2.
The fourth anniversary update introduced new quest types. The Zaishen mission, bounty, and combat quests rotate daily and gave players an ongoing and short-term focus. Nicholas the Traveler, a gift-giving NPC, was another part of this update, as was the introduction of the Zaishen Menagerie.
Guild Wars Beyond began in 2010. As with Eye of the North, much of its significance comes from the way it helped us transition between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. While it brought in some nice things like new rewards, a couple of new heroes, and a not-insignificant amount of quests and play experience, I think its substantive contribution has a lot more to do with lore and story than game mechanics.
The Embark Beach update was a little bittersweet for yours truly. It brought in some necessary things, but it also kind of heralded the game's transition into maintenance mode. While Guild Wars is still being supported in a lot of ways and is still very much alive and well, some people took the inclusion of features like the ability to have seven heroes in a party (which, with a max party size of eight, mean that players could choose to play alone without gimping themselves with henchmen) as a sort of sign of the end of an age. The outpost of Embark Beach, itself, is actually super useful. It allows for cross-campaign travel that doesn't require traveling through ports that have a low party cap. This update also put in daily pre-Searing quests and introduced the new Zaishen Vanquish missions.
Guild Wars has an ever-growing history, and it's had a lot of changes and updates. I can't have included all of them (for example, the Bonus Mission Pack) -- what were some of your favorite changes or additions to the game?
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