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Flameseeker Chronicles: Back to basics

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

With all the talk of Guild Wars 2 these days, many players are beginning to pay attention to Guild Wars, something they've not done before.

And there's good reason to jump into Guild Wars right now. It serves as the backstory to Guild Wars 2; the entire Guild Wars trilogy plus the Eye of the North expansion can be had for a song these days; and there's no subscription fee. Players who are a little burned out on their previous games of choice are thinking that maybe there's something to this game after all, and I've been getting more than a few emails with general questions about starting this five-year-old game.

So while we've been focusing pretty heavily on Guild Wars 2 in Flameseeker Chronicles lately, I decided to take this week to discuss why it's never too late to start Guild Wars while you wait for GW2 to arrive.

Is it too late to start?

The beauty of Guild Wars is that it's never too late to start. Sure, the majority of players have reached "endgame," but endgame doesn't exactly mean the same thing here as it does in other games. There are so many features of the game that combine to make it much more friendly to brand-new players than other games.

Take Fallen Earth, for example. (I love Fallen Earth; I'm not knocking it, I promise.) If you're a new player in FE, you join up, find a guild, and ask if anyone can help you with a group quest in a starting area. You're very likely going to hear most of your guildmates say, "I'm sorry, I'm all the way in Sector 3. I can be there in about half an hour."

If you're a new player in Guild Wars, you join up, find a guild, and ask if anyone can help with Great Northern Wall. Three of your guildmates wrap up what they're doing, jump to your location, and you're on your way in five minutes -- all thanks to map travel. A player can hop instantly to any town that he or she has visited previously. Given the amount of alts most people have, you'll likely find that when you ask, several people will have a character somewhere that needs that mission and/or bonus anyway, making them more eager to help.

Even if you're unguilded, just switch to the American districts and try the party search option, or even add henchmen. One of the strengths of Guild Wars is that even five years after launch, it's still one of the most new-player-friendly games around.

Okay, I'm convinced. Where should I start?

That depends on how you want to play and why you are playing. The interesting thing is that each campaign has some very specific strengths that the others do not. Prophecies was the very first campaign created, and it's honestly the one I recommend for your very first character. If this game has caught your attention because of all the Guild Wars 2 hype, you're going to get more out of it than the other campaigns.

Think of it as a history lesson of sorts. You start in the country of Tyria, the land where Guild Wars 2 takes place. If you've followed the story and lore of GW2 at all, you'll begin encountering familiar names and places right away. King Adelbern, charr, a young and innocent Gwen, and Ascalon -- the place where it all began. When you start Prophecies, you're in Pre-Searing Ascalon, one of the most beautiful areas in the game. You'll experience the Searing, the event that turns Old Ascalon into the wasteland that it is in Guild Wars 2, and you'll have time to get comfortable with the feel and mechanics of Guild Wars. It's important to note that Pre-Searing is set a few years earlier than the main storyline of Prophecies, and while you're there you're in a separate part of the game from anyone in Post-Searing. Once you go post, you're in the main part and ready to start the overarching story.

Factions is the second campaign, set in the country of Cantha. You'll sometimes hear players say that this is their least favorite, and while I'll admit that the voice acting is... well, wretched, it's a pretty good campaign overall. Shing Jea Island, the starting area, is the home of super-fast leveling, and you can hit the level cap before you ever reach the mainland. If you just want to hit the level cap quickly and move on, this is your campaign.

Nightfall is the final campaign, and leveling there is relatively quick as well. The advantage of starting in Nightfall is that you'll gain some heroes pretty quickly. If you're planning to play alone for a bit or maybe with a friend, the addition of these fully customizable pals will be a great help to you.

No matter where you begin, your character will have access to every area of every campaign with the exception of Pre-Searing, so your starting campaign will really only make a difference in the way you begin. Long term, the only thing affected is your character's appearance, and even that can be changed through the NCsoft store.

How much am I going to have to grind for gear or levels?

I've been asked several times how dependent Guild Wars is on gear and leveling. The short answer is, it's not. The level cap is 20, and you can hit it pretty quickly. Even if you're not at level cap, you're not helpless. You get a bit more health, energy, and attribute points with each level, but if you're running around at 17 for a while, you're still going to be just fine.

As far as gear, the system is very simple with a lot of window-dressing, and we're going to set the window-dressing aside for a moment. All armor is purchased from an armor crafter or traded for with collectors, and that's it. There's no endlessly farming a boss for some super-special piece or stalking the WTS threads for the uber robes of leetness.

Basic armor stats are pretty simple. You'll find armor crafters in certain towns, and collectors out and about in various areas. All armor that you get is customized and can only be worn by you, so other players are not a source for cheaper armor. Any armor that drops from an enemy is unusable by you. As you move farther along in the game, the available armor rating gets better. The AR table can be a little confusing, but essentially there are four different available armor ratings, with a max somewhere between 60-80 depending on your class.

Weapons are a bit more complicated, but essentially the same. They've all got a max amount of base damage they do and certain inherent stats that make them more suited to one thing or another, but beyond that it's all about appearances. Weapons and armor come with upgrade slots as well, so there's a bit of customization available. Unlike armor, weapons that drop from enemies can be traded and used, but it's usually better to purchase your own, or have a crafter/trader NPC do it for you.

You mentioned guilds. How do I find one?

Guilds are always recruiting. You'll find recruitment forums on the main fansites; it's just a matter of taking your time and finding one that seems like a good fit for you. There are small guilds made up of a handful of friends, guilds with nearly full rosters, region-specific guilds, guilds that cater to different age groups or lifestyles -- the list goes on and on.

If you find one that seems likely, check it out. Chat with the guild leader, maybe run a mission or a few quests with some of the group, get a feel for the members. I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but don't guild-shop by hopping in and out of random guilds every few days. It's considered rude, and it's definitely a waste of money -- guild invitations in Guild Wars cost 100g each.

Massively Overpowered, Massively's Guild Wars guild, is still going strong, and we've always got room for more. Feel free to take a peek around our forums while you're browsing. We meet every Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. EDT (US Eastern time) for scheduled events, but you can find people playing in the guild -- as well as within our large alliance -- every day and time of the week.

So there you go! Those are the questions and concerns I've received most frequently lately, so hopefully it has proved helpful. I'll see you in game!

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