Guild Wars turned 10 years old this week. The original Guild Wars, of course, not Guild Wars 2 (which will be 3 years old this August, by the way). Back then I had just started to get into PC gaming and most of all, into MMOs. World of Warcraft had been my first MMO which I started playing December 2005 (it wasn’t released in Europe until February 2005, by the way).
In 2006, Guild Wars got its first additional campaign, Factions. In March 2006, they had their Factions preview weekend event where, when you had gotten a key for it, you could play part of the campaign for free. I got two invitation keys for myself and bookahnerk for that preview weekend from a friend who is a huge fan of console games and does not like PC games at all with the sole exception of Guild Wars. She was very excited and I had heard a few things about Guild Wars from her, so I figured I may actually like it.
In hindsight, a lot of things were not ideal for me as a newcomer to Guild Wars as well as MMOs in general. You got thrown into the endgame – well, high level region – of Factions. Your character was max level and if I remember correctly, she had a premade build. Either way, there was no tutorial and it was simply overwhelming. At the same time, having only 8 skills equipped when I knew that in theory, my character had so many more skills unlocked, seemed outrageous. For me back then, skill came from knowing your repertoire and being able choose which ability would be useful in any given moment. It took a while until I saw and appreciated the resemblance with card games like Magic the Gathering, where you essentially pick certain cards to make a good build.
But while that part was already overwhelming, it wasn’t the only thing I disliked. The game is heavily instanced. As soon as you leave a town or an outpost, you are alone with only those players or NPCs that were in your party when you entered the map. That was certainly not an MMO like I had gotten to know them! And it did not help with my first impression of the game. So there I was, completely overwhelmed with the builds and skills in a world that felt very narrow and small with character movement that seemed to be very clunky. Your character cannot even jump! And it seemed to be “lagging” behind my mouse movement. It certainly is not as direct as in WoW, for example. The characters’ animations when standing still were weird: Everybody looked the same, caught in an unnaturally stiff posture somehow.
So, I left and did not look back… well, almost. Not everything had been bad about the game. I sensed that while I had not liked it and had decided against buying it, I knew that part of me had just not really “gotten” it. The 8 skills, for example. This had to be good for something, right?
At some point, I had grown tired of the sometimes toxic environment in WoW and I had wanted to play some other game. But I did not want to play offline games instead. Even when you don’t want to deal with people, it’s still nice to see them around your character. Offline games sometimes seem to miss life. So, I looked around and I remembered Guild Wars: I remembered the music, I remembered the world, the Jade Sea. The colours! Oh, how I had loved the look of the world.
And while it was “buy to play”, there were no subscription fees. One game with a monthly fee was enough, I did not want another one. I finally got into Guild Wars in December 2006, two months after Nightfall was released. This, of course, means that my own 10 year anniversary with Guild Wars will not happen until either March or December 2006, depending on what you count as “started to play”. :p
Thanks to not throwing away emails, I could read up on my first steps in Guild Wars when I’d talked about it with my GW-playing friend. I had actually wanted to get Prophecies at first, but Nightfall which had just been released two months earlier was just as expensive. I figured that getting the newer one was a better deal somehow. :p I also really liked the dervish and she was the first character I created. Guess which profession I still don’t have at level 20? ;) In fact, this very character doesn’t even exist anymore. I deleted her and created another dervish later on that looks just like her except for the hair colour.
I also remember how I had then created a necromancer and had chosen ranger as second profession for the pet (I assumed having a pet to “tank” for me would be a good choice…) and how long it took me to figure out and get to the point where I could switch my second profession.
And then I remember how with every campaign I bought, I sat here swearing trying to figure out how to switch to the other campaigns with my new characters. A character from the Nightfall campaign could not just switch over to the Factions one. You had to play through your own campaign until a specific step first. If you wanted to play together with a friend with new characters, you had to start in the same campaign. Makes sense story-wise, of course, but gaming-wise, it was a hinderance.
Still, I have spent many hours in Guild Wars and looking back, I mostly have fond memories! Yes, I did have trouble at times with certain aspects, but at the same time, I loved the lack of the gear treadmill, I really enjoyed picking outfits only because of their look and putting builds together was a lot of fun, too.
Up until this day, the Jade Sea (well, actually that one outpost I had been at most of the time during the preview weekend) and Nightfall feel like “home” when I think of Guild Wars. I am one of the very few who would not mind seeing Cantha in Guild Wars 2, but given the choice I would choose Elona without thinking twice. Back home, you know?