Guild Wars 2 makes me tick because the creatives at ArenaNet have laid such a unique and amazingly vast world at my character’s feet, filled with a plethora of different colours, sights, sounds, and peoples. As a ravenous explorer, I adore how diverse the scenery is in Tyria: My wanders can take me to such diverse environments, from the snowy tundra of the Shiverpeaks, indelibly marked by the ravages of the mountain’s inhabiting Elder Ice Dragon Jormag, to the seared planes of war-torn Ascalon, huge expanses of barren wasteland sporadically dotted with the last remnants of the lush environs that once comprised the area. Sometimes beautifully picturesque, other times realistically gritty, and even sometimes truly touching, every little crevice of Tyria holds something interesting to see.
Devotees of the scenic route are rewarded for their exploits with vistas, strategically positioned interactive spots that provide the MMO rambler a visual treat in the form of sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding region. Players usually enjoy the challenge of reaching some of the more out-of-the-way locations, even if I always curse profusely at my not-so-dexterous fingers when solving some jump puzzles. For this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’d like to round up a list of my personal favourite vistas in no particular order. Ranking them seems quite impossible and subjective, but this is a rundown of those that I’ve oohed and aahed at most. I’d love to hear your list of top vistas. Whether it’s the challenge of reaching them, the view you find when you get there, or the lore of the zone, let me know in the comments which vistas are your favourite and why.
Rata Sum’s big-drop vine vista
This vista makes my list because it simultaneously juxtaposes the Asuran capital with the environment it shot up from and also presents me with quite a bit of silly fun as I take a dive off the edge of the vista area. Plenty of vistas require a bit of manual dexterity to reach, so the vine climbing required to reach this one isn’t so surprising and doesn’t entitle this vista to make my list in itself. What is pretty damned fun, though, is falling from this vista point, casually opening up the map, and clicking on a random waypoint all before you hit the ground. Yep, this one’s so high up that you have time for mapping out while your digital carcass careens towards the depths below Rata Sum. I’m the kind of girl who Ice Blocks her way out of epic tumbles on her World of Warcraft Mage, so I love this no-revive dive and the thrill of catching my character before she plummets to her death. How gruesome, eh? Maybe I shouldn’t publicly admit to such fascinations!
Asuran ingenuity and the race’s enterprising history are magnificently highlighted by the construction of Rata Sum. The ancient ruins-turned-geometric-masterpiece literally sprouts out of the surrounding land, just as the Asura were pushed up from the Depths of Tyria by The Great Destroyer. This vista beautifully depicts this, panning around the stone and the flora that entangles the cube. I love how the modern construction meets the ruins and wilderness beyond, setting the Asura apart for their impressive manipulation of the unfamiliar environment using nothing but their superior technological know-how. Like real-life ants, the Asura come up with amazingly complex systems for adapting to their surroundings and dealing with threats to their existence, working together to create results that far surpass what should be possible by such diminutive creatures.
Queensdale’s Godslost Swamp Gets Scary
I adore swamps, marshes and wetlands; I grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, right next to an absolutely stunning place of natural beauty called the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve, and water love is just in my genes after growing up on my wee green rock. It’s not much of a surprise then to see a tree-lined swamp make my list of vistas to visit. Just look at how the trees sigh under the weight of the generally damp and close air, notice how that sky would sit so well in a landscape drawing of any place in rural Ireland, and tell me you couldn’t sit there forever.
This vista is even more amazing than you’d think, though: It entirely transforms from a sleepy swampland into a terrifying reflection of the Underworld, and I was lucky enough to capture this during a recent visit to its vista. The Shadow Behemoth world boss springs up from the swampland once every two hours, a fearsomely goliath apparition that changes the vista entirely. You can see in my screenshot how many people turn out for this low-level boss, particularly if it’s the daily world event. I also love that such a frightening creature isn’t locked away for only level-capped characters to vanquish; this is no “kill ten rats” quest!
Gladefall Run’s beautiful glades and falls
OK, so this vista is the thing fairytales are made of: It blends beautifully idyllic flora and fauna with incredible waterfalls that would force even the grumpiest Charr to sigh a peaceful sigh while smiling a happy smile. I get so immersed in the beauty around me while I hopscotch my characters up to the tippedy-top of the gorge to check out the Fellmyst Falls in panorama. The raising, stepping-stone style access and babbling sounds of the vista really lends itself to the whimsical, fairytale feel that pairs with the flowing, loose-handed art style the game is known for to create one of those in-game moments that really showcases what fantasy MMOs should be all about.
The rest of the Iron Marches has quite a militaristic feel, with a heavy Flame Legion presence in the land and plenty of ruins to uncover on your travels. That makes the Fellmyst Falls a welcome break from the continual topographic reminders of how wartorn Tyria can be; if I were a brave adventurer, I’d totally seek some escapism in a beautiful waterfall-filled glade when I could find it.
Fireheart Rise and Pig Iron Mine
I really appreciate the iconicly Charr industrial overtones of the Pig Iron Mine vista. Fantasy settings such as that of GW2 can often omit the considerable amount of industrial infrastructure required to maintain the extensive populations those setting are meant to support. Sure, we see the pretty side of providing for the needs of the populace in virtually every fantasy MMO: Quaint farms with sleepy inhabitants who can’t deal with basic vermin infestations without a hero’s help are abundant, as are whimsical mills to process the fruits of those farms’ labour. Much more rare are smoke-belching ore refineries and other hard labour camps that aren’t slave operations or rescue missions. The dirty side of industrialisation, soot stains and all, are presented beautifully at Pig Iron Mine.
The smoke-filled indigo sky offsets this imposing industrial vista beautifully, showcasing a rough-and-ready complex clearly built on the steep island peaks for the additional security the geographical features provide from the treacherous Flame Legion’s constant raids. The view of the supply chain is fantastic and every feature of the Pig Iron Mine smacks of necessity and function over aesthetics, just as it should be. The Charr have ruined this area with their dirty machinery, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
I’ve shared with you some of my favourite vistas from the many fragmented states that make up Tyria, and I’m very excited to explore more dynamic vistas in the upcoming expansion. Like any other artistic topic, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and which vistas appeal best to each player is subjective and personal. With 266 vistas to enjoy across the expansive world map, I’m sure you’ll be yelling at your monitors at this point, screaming, “Tina, how could you not include…?!” as if I’m actually in the room with you. With that fact in mind, I’d love to see your vista snapshots and top vista lists in the comments, whether you have one strong favourite or a list as I do. Who knows, you might even encourage me to start frequenting a new picturesque thinking spot or two when I fancy some in-game downtime!