You are looking at my Guild Wars 2 character, a necromancer from a bloodline of great Defenders of Ascalon, lying dead under a bridge. A descendant of great heroes, lying forgotten and hopeless in the dirt like a sack of cats.
It was the first night of my World vs World experience, and I had gone in on my own. We were just about to arrange a night for our whole guild to go in together for the first time, and as leader I felt it was my responsibility to check the place out. I was going to case the joint, find out how it all works, and report back. I had visualised myself returning with lots of info, and some spectacular stories.
“Well, my friends, I feel that the key capture points must be those supply camps. And let me tell you a daring tale of how I took and held one!”
But no. No. I spent my first night being chased, hunted, killed and killed again. I died in many places. Under a bridge. In some long grass. In the snow. Inside a tower. My armour was being damaged over and over again, and the repair costs were whittling away at my silver. “Fix me up!” I’d say, and then dash off down a hill to get seriously unfixed.
When I smartened up a little bit, I looked out for other friendly players. I would then tag along with them so that we both had some company when we died together in a stream, lying face down in the water like extras from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. I followed a massive rush of friendlies in an assault on a keep, laid down some marks nowhere near any bad guys, and then was turned into a mark on the floor by a missile from an enemy catapult.
In case you’re not aware, the World vs World PvP side of Guild Wars 2 has players from different servers battling for control of an enormous map. You can seize and hold supply camps, watchtowers and giant castle keeps. There are sieges and enormous mass battles. It’s an incredible, awesome thing. But for a wandering, confused player it’s a giant ditch that others will find your body rotting in. You can’t just take a stroll through a battlefield. You crazy?
With that in mind, I started to play more stealthily. I was just wanting to get a feel for the place, so I didn’t really have to engage in all the action. I hid in some trees to watch things unfold, to try and understand the ebb and flow of it all, and then was discovered and dumped dead in a bush. I went to a mountain peak to watch the battle below, to study its form and its flavour, and fell to my death in a panic when some wolves overwhelmed me.
It wasn’t just enemy players I had to worry about. The world was hostile too.
On its PvE side, Guild Wars 2 is a game that relaxes me. It pushes the same buttons in me that Bushido Blade pushed back in the day. It is stressful at times, sure, but always a little bit Zen. There is something about slipping into a combat style you are comfortable with, in a world you understand, that is soothing to the soul. And when you’re not in combat, it’s just a beautiful place to hang out. Remember those lovely, quiet cherry blossom groves in Bushido Blade? Guild Wars 2 is a Cherry Blossom World. Here is a screenshot that sums up the kind of things I do in PvE.
That’s me chillin’ in a boat with one of my buddies. He doesn’t talk much, but that suits me fine. I’m the type of PvE player who will sit on a mountain and watch the world go by. I like to see the sights, and I like to stop to smell the flowers.
If there are any flowers in World vs World, I haven’t noticed them yet.
These pieces I’ll be writing about Guild Wars 2 will be documenting the wartime experiences of a guild of players who are like-minded, gentle souls. Whenever I’ve played MMO games in the past, I’ve never really gone heavily into the PvP stuff. I’m just not that kind of guy. And the rest of my guild are pretty much the same. But, you know… we love this game, and we want to make our guild great. The thought of our guild flag flying over one of those giant keeps in World vs World is a dream we want to make a reality. And I think a true marker of the success of any modern MMORPG is its accessibility. In the long build-up to GW2’s release, ArenaNet has talked a lot about inclusiveness. So that should mean that this war will have a place for players like the lovely people in my guild, right?
But some of these other people in World vs World look really organised. I mean, I can’t possibly know how organised they actually are, but they look it. Big packs of people from the same guild, all doing their thing. All doing well. And all doing well for hours. It’s an intimidating sight, and you wonder if a casual guild full of lovely people can even hope to make any kind of impact, or if we’ll just be going over the top into the enemy guns again and again until our money runs out.
We’ll certainly find out, and next time I’ll tell you all about it. We’re on the Aurora Glade server should you wish to join us. Feel free to leave your character name in the comments below. But if you’re a hard-bitten veteran, or someone who fears failure, you’d be better finding another guild.
If you see us on there, we’ll be the ones trying to enjoy the spectacle while we’re fighting. We’ll be the ones looking for the flowers.
We’ll be the ones lying dead under a bridge, or in the grass, or in the snow.
And that’s fine. A war needs its dead.