The end of the year seems to be a good time for awards -- all the cool kids are doing it, and Massively is nothing if not cool. Guild Wars 2 has been around long enough for me to have made some favorites. I've talked about features and things I loathe and love before, but now it's time to call out specific NPCs and instances, rather than general features. Before we get any further with this: These awards are purely my own opinion. Disagree with me? Great; write your own end-of-the-year awards. The more, the merrier.
Best personal story NPC: Tybalt Leftpaw
When your character joins one of the three cross-racial orders, you're assigned a mentor who goes on your first few missions with you and shows you the ropes. All of them are pretty great in their own way. Since I joined the Durmand Priory on my first character, Magister Sieran was my first order mentor, and I thought she couldn't be topped. Warmaster Forgal, the Vigil's mentor, is a pretty charming dude, but he's no Sieran. And Sieran? Well, she's no Tybalt Leftpaw. The Order of Whispers mentor, an eager and cheeky Charr, is just the most loveable thing in this game. (All right, he might be tied with the baby Quaggan for loveability.)
Tybalt's helped out by the fact that the Order has some incredibly fun quests, like one that involves out-drinking three different pirates to provide a distraction while Tybalt searches for information.
Runner-up: Every Charr sparring partner
It might be a Charr thing, but I really love Maverick, Dinky, and the other warband partners that players can choose from. Only the Asura really have such constant companions, and those just really don't stand up to how delightful the Charr sparring partners are. As Dinky put it, "the friend of my enemy is my enemy's friend. And the friend of my enemy's friend is my enemy's friend's friend."
Best personal story instance: On Red Alert
I know I've already mentioned an Order quest where there's the drinking and the hiccuping and the searching for information, but it's pretty much beat out by On Red Alert, solely because On Red Alert features bullet time, by way of a dimensional anchor or something. All I know is it is super fun and one of a very small number of personal story instances that I can name from memory.
I'm as indecisive as a squirrel in a nut factory (not that those exist or that squirrels would be allowed in them if they did), so we're going to have to break this one down!
Overall: Fireheart Rise
Fireheart Rise, the level 60-70 Ascalonian zone, wins the general prize. It's got some fantastic, if fiery, scenery, and there's a very evident and unifying theme. I went from never having set foot in the zone to having it 100% explored in a single sitting, and the whole circuit was tremendously engaging. It helps that the burny bits feels a lot like the burning forest in Eye of the North, although they're significantly less lethal this time around.
Art: Frostgorge Sound
Frostgorge Sound is just mindblowingly gorgeous. Thematically, the whole thing feels like a bit of a mess, but my goodness is it ever lovely. From the dark and tremendously deep waters under the Kodan sanctuary in the North to the stunning high-mountain vistas to the oddly beautiful Dredge structures deep in the earth, the whole zone is just a visual treat.
Theme: Harathi Hinterlands
The Harathi Hinterlands really comes with just one theme, and that theme is killing centaurs. The entirety of your existence, soldier, should be focused on the war against the centaurs. On killing them and making their lives miserable. Or you could make their lives miserable and then kill them. You could kill some and make others miserable. There are options, you know? It's just that you really wouldn't want to get caught sitting in a pasture with them making daisy chains or churning butter. (For those of you who maybe aren't super familiar with that reference, "churning butter" is in no way a euphemism. Guild Wars 2 centaurs never leave home without a pat or two of butter.) The Harathi Hinterlands is actually the home of our next award winner...
Best event chain: Help Shining Blade Kimber
We've mentioned that the Harathi Hinterlands is all about one thing: killing centaurs. There's a whole stronghold of Centaurs in the Northwestish, but one of the several events in the area caught my eye. It begins with the group event to defeat Kol Skullsmasher, an Ogre chieftain in the Hidden Ourobon. Once he's defeated (since you already have this lovely group together), you're supposed to help Kimber find her husband, leading you farther into the Ourobon. Once he's successfully found, he'll point you to a crumbling wall, through which you can attack the centaur's stronghold without fighting your way in from the front. This event chain stood out to me because it's in a lovely location, the fight against Kol tends to rally a lot of folks together, and breaking through the wall to attack the centaurs is just a really cool feeling. When you follow it up by continuing to rampage through the camps until you come to Ulgoth himself, it's just that much better.
Best music that isn't Fear Not This Night:
This one's tricky because there's a lot of really excellent music in the game. From the first time I set foot in Tyria at PAX a few years ago, though, this song has been pretty iconic. (Fear Not This Night, obviously, would win hands down in a fight.)
We've really only had three real updates so far, including the current Wintersday event. While I really enjoyed the Lost Shores, its technical problems pretty much put it out of the running for this award. I'm having a hard time picking between Halloween and Wintersday for best holiday. On the one hand, I like the Bell Choir and Snowball Mayhem better than I liked Reaper's Rumble and Lunatic Inquisition (though I enjoyed that, too). On the other, the Mad King Thorne is so beloved to me. Good thing these aren't actual awards, though -- I can hand out as many as I like, so both Wintersday and Halloween get one!