Choose My Adventure: Guild Wars delivers a shock to the system after months in the sequel

    
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We’re starting the new year of Choose My Adventure by hopping in to an older game, the original Guild Wars. I’m honestly not too surprised by the results here, especially since last month was all about the sequel.

It has been literal years since I’ve even hopped into this game; the first time I fired this one up was when I saw a CD jewel case with all three versions bundled together. I hopped right into Prophecies for a few moments and then moved to Nightfall. I was a Dervish. It was pretty neat, but I also recall it not grabbing my interest.

I was pretty much expecting that GW1 would be distinctly different. I recalled a few things about the game of course, like its more open dual class system, but I still expected that things would be vastly different after spending hours and hours in GW2. I just wasn’t prepared for how different things were.

I started off by hopping into Prophecies and building a monk class to start. It was one of the classes that I never remember playing, and I wanted something different, plus I was expecting the GW1 monk to fall into the archetype of a melee-minded fist fighter.┬áTurns out, it’s a spellcaster, mostly.

This expectation subversion was one of the first surprises that GW1 smacked me with. My character was less like a kung fu master and more like a divine priest, with holy damage spells and lots of healing spells to match. It was an unexpected reveal, but one I slowly started to grow comfortable in as I roamed the world of Ascalon pre-Searing.

It was here that I started to slowly come to grips with GW1’s frankly wooden and weird combat model. The jump button was gone, replacing the spacebar with a “go kill” button instead. A lot of the combat mechanics brought to mind less its sequel and more like ArcheAge, with its weird-feeling autopathing into range and automatic dice roll combat, interspersed with a couple of my active skills in between. That mindset actually helped me to slowly get acclimated to how fighting in this game worked out, and ultimately I started to get into a rhythm.

Much of that rhythm seemed to be less about killing monsters and more about managing health and mana pools, which had the side effect of my winning fights. As a Monk, I knew my primary goals when solo were about unleashing a big healthy holy damage strike while keeping my health up through HoTs or a single target heal as things got hairy. I also started to appreciate what toggles were in the game as well and how they affected my maximum mana pool.

Ultimately, though, it felt a lot like I was being pushed into the healer role, which appeared to be reinforced when I did a class quest that involved keeping myself and an NPC alive as we walked through pools of poison.

Considering that I was a caster class, I elected to take up Elementalist as my second class. My rationale here was that I should augment some of my DPS output with some basic survivability through the healing spells. For the most part, this idea seemed to have merit, particularly as I went around solo in Ascalon, with fights very readily going my way. This pair of classes combined with a longbow as a first weapon set and an axe and shield as a second weapon set for when enemies wandered into melee range made me think I had a build going.

To that point, the build system in GW1 does feel quite a bit nicer than it does in GW2. Granted, the sequel does a great job of mixing things up and provides some creativity in terms of trees, elite specs, and weapon combos that can often make otherwise routine classes feel unique, but the fact that I was able to make a bow-wielding holy priest that can also cast fire spells and whip out a sword and board at need felt significantly more personalized. I had crafted my own class instead of forced down the path of the sequel, even if that path has a lot of lanes.

Then I got to a point where I had followers, and my creativity felt a little bit stymied.

On the face of it, followers make sense, especially in a game where grouping with others works a lot differently than in the sequel. Also, this game is still very old, and while I had seen a few other human players running around the main hubs a couple of times, the Prophecies hubs were still mostly empty, and so taking followers along to actually handle content made sense.

What I kind of started to despise, though, is how necessary followers felt. After going out into post-Searing Ascalon with a ready-made party at my beck and call, fighting became damned near trivial to the point that I didn’t really need to think too much. I also felt like I was being forced into the pure healer role once more as I kept up a slow HoT on the melee fighter, applied bigger heals when party members got in trouble, and otherwise was dealing with some AI boneheadedness, mostly caused by the mage follower; his fire rain ability would cause foes to scatter out of the way, leading everyone into a sort of Benny Hill-style chase sequence as foes fled the scene and friends as well as myself scrambled to keep optimal attack distance.

In short, I was now a pet class with stupid pets because AI pathing in games of this age just hadn’t really been figured out yet. And if you’re not familiar, I hate pet classes.

I soldiered on, however, pushing past the AI stupidity, working around the mechanics, and stubbornly pushing against the yoke of being a babysitter as I tried to focus on DPS first. It was slightly frustrating but somewhat successful, with the only big snag being a point when we were fighting some charr boss character that had a healing signet. Essentially this fight went to a stalemate, as my party members slowly got picked off, my DPS output wasn’t enough to counteract the fact that the healing signet spell my foe had healed up half of his health, and I just healed my way up to near full when he attacked me. On the one hand it was kind of dumb, but on the other hand I felt like it proved my build idea.

After a certain point, the breadcrumb trail I had assumed was going to carry me forth seemed to have disappeared. I figured this might have been a nod to the way roaming the map in GW2 worked, which led me to another area that I thought would have more quests waiting but ended up drying out as well. I did find an NPC in Ascalon City that fast-traveled me to other areas, but those regions were beyond my meager level range.

Overall, these multiple surprises kind of stopped me a bit cold. On the one hand, I was acclimating to some mechanics, but on the other hand I kind of felt like I was left twisting in the wind. I also appreciate in hindsight that telling my followers what to do is probably something I should have done more but I was being too bull-headed to do it and forging my own path. Blame the sequel for this sense of self-reliance.

I’m also sure there are other tools and mechanics I’m obviously missing, but please try not to get too upset with my ignorance here. I’m not trying to piss fans off, I promise, it’s just been literal years since I played this game, and even then I was not that deep in it.

To continue pointing out the obvious, I’m not expecting GW1 to be “GW2 just old,” but I also have to concede that I need to reassess my approach here. And that starts with where to continue on from this point forward. I do have the base game and its two following expansions, so there are choices here, but what that choice ends up being I leave to you all.

What portion of Guild Wars should I continue with?

  • Prophecies. Work it out, find guides, and come at it with a new approach. (43%, 150 Votes)
  • Factions. Try a fresh start in old Cantha. (31%, 110 Votes)
  • Nightfall. Reset yourself in the desert and maybe be a Dervish again. (26%, 92 Votes)

Total Voters: 352

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Polling closes at the usual time of 1:00 p.m. EST this Friday, January 6th. Stick with me here, friends; I was stubborn enough to push my way through the GW2 Elementalist trying to tell me no, and you all can probably appreciate that this sort of thing just makes me more determined to run through the wall. I’m damned sure not going to let this one beat me.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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