Struggling with Guild Wars 1

Last weekend I picked up Guild Wars again. I had this vague idea that maybe I could accumulate some Hall of Monuments points for Guild Wars 2 (which, like so many others, I dutifully pre-ordered as soon as I could). It’s probably not a fair way to approach a game: I’m playing it to squeeze something other than fun out of it, after all.

So my first goal, according to some guides I read, is to complete all the campaigns, starting with Eye of the North. I log in, head to Lion’s Arch and jump into the crevasse. Off I go!

Now I am admittedly playing Guild Wars as a solo game, with a full team of heroes backing me up. I’m playing a Ranger currently, so mostly I stand back and pew pew arrows into the fray. Except I go through energy like a redneck goes through Old Milwaukee on a hot Saturday night. So I do a lot of waiting for energy to accumulate. Still, with this swarm of characters the difficulty isn’t too bad, unless we get adds.

But here’s the thing. One of the strengths of Guild Wars is there’s almost no leveling curve. Experienced players, I’m told, hit level 20 in 7.8 seconds or so. It took me much, much longer than that, but I’m at level 20 even though I’ve yet to complete any of the campaigns.

Today’s MMO players, I’m told by some, don’t like leveling…they like the end game, and Guild Wars is all about the end game.

But for me, leveling is damned fun! I love progression. It needn’t be levels. It could be skill points or something. But I like pushing some indicator forward. I know that’s shallow, but it’s what I like to do. Hey, I know people that squee with delight when you give them a sheet of bubble wrap and tell them they can pop all the bubbles. People are funny animals.

So I’m working on helping out the Asura in Eye of the North. Mostly I’m traveling. I don’t have any of the map explored so I gotta walk. And of course fight.

And here’s where Guild Wars grinds me down. I fight through a couple zones and then I do wipe. Actually things go totally to shite and I die and res and die and res a few times in a single fight before we wipe, so now everyone has a big fat death debuff. I look at the clock and it’s getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow. I have no idea if I just need to get to the next zone line or if I have several to cross yet.

And so reluctantly I fast-travel back to the Outpost I’d most recently vacated and shut down for the night.

And I feel kind of like I wasted my evening. The combat wasn’t very interesting, I didn’t get any levels, the loot that I found was mostly odds and ends to give to Collectors, or cheap weapons that I’m not sure what to do with. I just feel like I made no progress. Next time I play all those mobs will be back and I won’t be any stronger, or any better equipped, or any richer.

Now I get it. That’s what a lot of people LOVE about Guild Wars. For them, this is when it’s time to tweak out character builds so those fights are easier this time around. This is the SKILL involved in Guild Wars and is what makes the game so unique.

My problem is I dunno how to do that. I feel like, for my main character, I’m using all the skills that I have and that are worth using. And for my 6 heroes I’m frankly kind of overwhelmed. Mostly I dump most of their points into 1 specific attribute and 1 generic attribute (Expertise or the Energy one for mages that gives more mana) and then load up the skills associated with those attributes.

Studying the Wiki, trying new ways to arrange my skills and charging back into the fray to see how it turns out this time well.. it kind of feels like work to me. I just want to go out, kill stuff and get experience points and cool loot and get more powerful that way. I’m a simple guy. I play games for fun, not for challenge. My job is challenging…when I get home I kind of enjoy turning off the thinking cap and relaxing.

Lucky for me there’re 8,023 MMOs that let me go out and get experience points and cool loot and not think too much about it. I’m not faulting Guild Wars and for the people who love developing the perfect build, I’m really happy Guild Wars exists; those people don’t have many options.

But me, I’m just struggling. I need better gear and I’m not sure how to get it. I think my Ranger needs skills I haven’t found. He’s so dead dull to play at the moment. I want to get more powerful so I can slice through these mobs like a hot knife through butter so I can finish the endless quests these Asura want me to do, not replay the same zone over and over, coming away from it empty handed every time.

I just want my HOM points, darn it! And like I said at the start, that’s probably the single most unfair aspect of my relationship with Guild Wars. I’m not approaching it like a game now. I’m approaching it like a chore I have to get done before Guild Wars 2 comes out.

Is Guild Wars a CCG?

So with Alan Wake winging his way back to Gamefly, last night I hopped back into Guild Wars.

Now, I have to beg your patience, all you Guild War veterans… I’m probably about to cause you a great deal of eye-rolling.

I’ve added a few more heroes to my roster and each one brings some skills with them, and I’ve picked up the odd skill here and there. I could buy skills, but haven’t yet, since I read I can earn a bunch of them for free in one of the other campaigns, and so far I’m getting by with my limited selection.

But staring at those skill bars, and prompted by someone (my mind is like a sieve) mentioning how skills interact with each other and the best way to build a set for your skill bar, my brain suddenly switched into collectible card game mode. So all my skills…those are like my deck of cards, and part of the fun of the game is collecting more. The skillbar is like a hand of cards that I can put together and will eventually tweak depending on circumstances and companions.

Right? Am I right, Guild War vets? I mean, obviously there’s a ton more to it than just this skill collecting/arranging sub-system…

Anyway, another new thing I learned was that you can have more than one hero with you. I have no idea how I got it into my head that you could only have one. Last night I did a Mission with a party of 6, even though I was playing alone. I had my character +3 heroes +1 NPC who was part of the mission +1 Fire Imp ally. Crazy fun!!

Though, *gasp* at one point I thought “This would be better with friends.”

I unlocked the mission that in turns unlocks Eye of the North, but I’m sort of engaged with the Nightfall story now so I’m not sure I want to divert. And the mission I did had a bonus objective that I screwed up, so I’ll want to go re-do that.

Still having a lot of fun…still kind of bemused at how I wound up here after all these years.

My next goal is getting better about giving Heroes orders. Right now I let them run around in default behavior, which means swarming whatever I’m attacking. I was reading the Wiki and apparently you can ‘lock’ them onto a target, which, combined with calling targets, could be pretty handy if I’m a fast enough mouse clicker!

Revisiting Guild Wars

I’m tired today. It’s my own fault, really. I was up too late playing video games (again). Will I never learn?

The only reason this is remotely interesting is because I was playing Guild Wars, a game that came out in 2005. A game that I’ve dutifully purchased every expansion for, yet never really played. I’ve tried to get into Guild Wars over and over again since it launched but it’s never ‘stuck’ with me.

Then this weekend I saw Scopique was playing it and that just sort of put it in my head again. I got to thinking about Guild Wars 2 and that mechanic where accomplishments you achieve in Guild Wars 1 will unlock stuff in Guild Wars 2. So I decided to give it another go.

Before I dove back in, I re-read Rubi Bayer’s excellent piece, Stop telling me how to get to 50 points when I only have 3 over at Massively. I also spent a lot of time using the Wiki to answer questions that came up, and browsed a bunch of Rubi’s other “Flameseeker Chronicles” to stuff my brain full of GW info.

I think every game that’s been on the market for a while needs a Rubi Bayer.

One of the things I learned was that I had a Fire Imp ready to be claimed, thanks to my purchase of one of the expansions. That little dude, while kind of a pain in the arse at times (he attacks any and everything he sees) really made my “party” of me and Koss (the first Hero you get in the Factions Nightfall [thanks for the correction, folks!] campaign) a lot more viable. And a lot more fun. That last time I tried Guild Wars my level 6 ass was being handed to me over and over. The Imp made it better.

Pretty soon I added a Monk henchman to keep me healed up, and I started to read quest texts more carefully, taking note of where they started and mentally assigning them a ‘level’ that way. I started doing a lot better, though I’m still probably spending skill points in dumb ways. But I feel like I’m getting a feel for the game. I got my dude from level 6 to level 10 which (get ready to laugh) is the highest level I’ve reading in Guild Wars.

Everyone has already at least tried Guild Wars, so I won’t go on about it much. But I just found it interesting that, 6 years after my initial purchase, and probably after a dozen false starts over those years, I’m finally enjoying the game.

PS Oh, one question for people who enjoy the game. Is the $10 (iirc) “Optional Missions” pack worth buying? And do I need it now or should I wait until I hit 20?