GW2: A Light in the Darkness

Fear Not This Night, indeed.. Hope is just a sunrise away...

Wow. Just… wow.

I did the level 55 Personal Story quest: A Light in the Darkness a day ago or so, and it is one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had so far in not just this game, but my MMO history. Crazy good level design. Huge kudos to all the folks involved in creating this.

If I weren’t already a die-hard alt-holic, this would make me take quite a few characters up high enough just so that they could go through it too. I’d classify it along the lines of the sort of rousing heroic storytelling sort of on-par with the Nightfall ending and the Eye of the North finale, so you can have an idea of whether you’d like it or not, if you’ve played the original.

It’s the sort of thing that makes me feel “oh no, I’m getting near the end of this great story, and I really hope GW2 comes out with another chapter, another sequel, another expansion soon, cos I want MORE, dammit.” (Yeah, barely one week into the game’s launch, realistic, much?)

Some spoilers follow, so be duly warned:

When you see such a grand painting on the loadscreen for the mission, you know you’re in for something really special.

Essentially, A Light in the Darkness sets up foreshadowing for (I presume) the eventual moment that you hit level 80 and get to go to Orr and Arah and (maybe) confront Zhaitan.

Just as the Ringbearer seeks out Galadriel for a vision of the future, you seek out the Pale Tree for a vision of the future by entering the Dream (which is ever so slightly more hazardous than looking into a bowl of sacred water.)

There’s some wonderful storytelling and voice work. The NPC companion whom you would have met in an earlier part of the story narrates the history of Orr as you progress through the map, mentioning key characters like Vizier Khilbron’s reading of the Lost Scrolls to stop the Charr invasion (which caused a Cataclysm that sunk Orr) and it immediately made me want to run back to Guild Wars 1 to see the Vizier again in the missions where we meet him, and check out all the references in the first game.

God, I love GW lore. Those of you coming into GW2 completely new to the world don’t know what you’re missing. (Take some time to work through GW1 later, if you can.) The lore bible is thick and goes back way more than 250 years in history and there are all kinds of references all over the place, ArenaNet pays so so much attention to immersion.

Speaking of which, this was the first time my Charr, who has been primarily staying in human and Charr zones working to help the peace treaty to stay more or less RP background and lore-appropriate, got to the Sylvari areas. And got to see Ventari’s tablet. (Screenshotting it was not easy, the stupid camera still needs some work done on it.)

It looks like the real deal, all right, and if you bothered with a New Krytan translation, you’d see that someone took the trouble to inscribe the tenets onto it.

I only bothered to check the first two lines, “Live life well, and fully, and waste nothing” and “Do not fear difficulty. Hard ground makes strong roots” so the rest of it could be an ad for dish soap as far as I know, but I doubt it, GW loves their lore. (The rest of the tenets can be read by referring to the Ventari Tablet wiki page.)

When you’re in the Dream, Arah looks glorious. Golden foggy and far away, but glorious. I can’t wait until I can get there for real, and see what has happened in the wake of the Elder Dragon, which I guess, is the point of setting up the foreshadowing.

There are a couple more optional conversations with Dream reflections of Destiny’s Edge, which allude to the storyline in the book, and explains a little more on why they’re all so screwed up now.

In a way, it’s very clever. One needs signature characters in an MMO in order to have some lore, but the signature characters, if too heroic, are always in danger of overshadowing the player character, making the player feel like Gandalf’s errand boy or playing a second-string story alongside the real protagonists’ stories.

GW1 lucked into avoiding this when players developed a fondness for Gwen, a happy child who hero-worshipped the PC in the tutorial (so we still feel important) and a general tragedy befell everyone, making folks wonder about her fate. Then the clever writers decided to revisit her and screw her up a little by the time we meet her again all grown up. A good story is all about characters who change, in significant ways.

In GW2, we have a merry band of adventurers, who, opposite from stereotype, are no longer all together and one big happy family. Quite the opposite, they’re all at each other’s throats, and while it would be a pretty grand culmination to see them working together to defeat the dragon -based on you, the exceptional hero actually managing to resolve their differences – some days, it feels like you’re never really going to get to that point. We’ll see. (I attempted Twilight Arbor storymode a while ago and -somebody- ran away again. My Charr bias is showing.)

There’s a rousing general’s speech and a grand melee involving the three combined Orders of the land and a couple of undead giants (remember giant of Nageling? Corrupt it, then x2, but scale it down somewhat for being on your lonesome.)

This is not the whole vista of what happens, just a small portion I cropped, so as not to completely spoil the effect. Just x2 to get a little closer to what happens.

I never fail to be awed by the number of NPCs, friendlies and enemies, this game can put out at any one time. And really, why not? I’ve always thought more MMOs should give a player more NPC allies. If you’ve a support or healing focused build, this may give you more a fighting chance, and the downed/defeated/revival mechanic means that even if smashed into the dirt, you can still get the NPC up again and it’s not the end of the world, game over, repeat escort mission and curse the NPC AI.

Some of the Orrian mobs also reminded me of Enchanted Weapons of GW1 fame. That’s all you see of them, their weapons. Egads, so you sort of end up guessing their class/skills, moving out of their attacks and prioritizing through guesswork based only on that. On the bright side, they drop heavy bones. I haven’t seen much of bone chips and bone shards and their ilk, it’s probably the zones I’ve been staying in, but I really want them to craft armor with stats I want.

And at the very end of the entire vision, you see this,

as the most spectacular Jeremy Soule music begins a triumphant heralding as you finish one last conversation with the Pale Tree’s Avatar, who tells you, it is time to face The Gate Guardian.

Ascending more steps into the golden glow, and it really is like Ascension in a sense, where you’re symbolically confronting some manner of guardian being (though not a doppelganger in this case,) you see It as a silhouette in the distance as the music swells to a crescendo, leaving you charged with maximum awesome.

It was one of the most spectacular fights ever, thanks to all the buildup. Also, thankfully, not too difficult, as it would really have ruined the whole experience if I had to keep restarting from a checkpoint. Just watch for the queued up big attack, avoid it, and one should be fine.

And just when you think it cannot get any better than this and the Dream ends and you’re back to “reality” in the Pale Tree’s Grove, they give you the absolute kicker of a choice.

Big big spoiler warning in the following pic, watch out:

Oh god. Your metagaming self knows -exactly- what is going to happen. Your worst fear is the one that is going to come to pass. That’s what choice picking in this game does, after all, it sets up the branches of your storyline.

It’s beautiful storytelling. How can you be a hero, a proper changed hero with a character arc and all, if you do not confront your fears?

There is no best choice. They’re all bad, in a good way. Potentially devastating to the character, but awesome roleplay story potential and sets up crazy anticipation waiting for the shoe to drop.

Immediately I want to make more alts so that I can see all the branches of the storyline again, dammit. I hope their maximum number of character slots is a really high number.

For the record, I’m playing a paladin-like goodhearted compassionate Guardian on this playthrough (he even helped the Skritt cos they’re so cute, even though most Charr must think of them as little thieving pests), so I went with the first choice. It’s going to set me up for tragedy later, I’m sure.

I’m dreading the arrival of that fate already. (But in a really good way.)

GW: The Lonely Vigil

A surfeit of stuff starting with "s" - snake, statue, sand, sky, stones...

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818

All right, all right, so it’s really a female warrior statue known as The Lonely Vigil. Maybe Turai Ossa (aka the Ghostly Hero) can be Ozy.

And when you get up closer, it ostensibly falls and collapses to form a bridge, though the wiki says one never sees it actually happen.

With that, the Wayfarer’s Reverie of Tyria ends. Being an opportunist, I poked my head into the Crystal Overlook to pick up the teleporter waypoint for the Elona quest too, getting fantastic screenshots along the way.

I love the Crystal Desert and the Arid Sea. Besides it being the place of Ascension, which makes it feel especially memorable, it is wide and flat and open, making loop backs and cursing and swearing less likely. And despite it being desert, there’s so much to see.

The gorgeous sky, the bones, the ancient ruins that keep calling to mind Ozymandias and wonder about this specific set of fantastical ancient peoples whose civilization has been lost to the sands, not to mention, Forgotten (pun intended.)

Oh, and hydras. (Ancient farming memories, anyone?)

GW: And Other Tyrian Tales…

I remember how much I hate the Maguuma Jungle now, a maze of twisting branches and carnivorous plants...

Here’s a whirlwind screenshot tour of the rest of the Wayfarer’s Reverie: Tyria.

Base of Anvil Rock

Picturesque minotaur corpse contributed by a friendly volunteer who jumped me with heroes flagged away, while I was in the midst of waiting for snow wolves to wander into the frame. None of the wolf shots were too great, but he was perfect.

The view from Anvil Rock

Makes me want to scream “Dovahkiin!” at the top of my lungs. Yes, it does. It’s no Throat of the World, but comes pretty close.

Can you spot it?

Again, the tiniest of immersive details struck me while in the snowy landscape. Your breath mists.

There’s no real game reason why one would need to establish that this map is cold, snowy and that you’re at high altitude. Who the hell turns to look at their mouth while coming across and fighting a swarm of red dots  every minute? But the detail is there anyway.

If you are still, as I was, with the interface hidden away and waiting to take a screenshot, you may also notice, as I did, that the trees in this area move. They sway ever so subtly in the wind.

I truly wonder how much subconsciously this creates an impact in our minds, that leaves us with the impression that this landscape is… hyper-real, almost, with that beautiful fantasy acrylic painting look.

On the way to the Falls, we said hi to Ventari in his Refuge.

I wonder how much of the overarcing story was known then during Prophecies. Whether he was just a random NPC in a teeny outpost that someone later decided to give extra meaning to, or if he already had some manner of grand destiny from the get go.

I managed to stitch two screenshots together (somewhat) to show The Falls from top to base. It’s nice, but honestly, imo, not worth the trouble to get here. The jungle sucks, with all that necessity to double back and climb on non-obvious tree trunks to get from place to place. There’s a better waterfall in Pre-Searing, if I recall. Perhaps we’ll go there one of these days.

Cool immersion detail: check the featured image of The Falls at the top of this post to see the little carnivorous plant in the lower right corner. Jungle. So yep, carnivorous plant. Flytrap of some sort, no doubt.

I wonder what these are for…

If you ask me, these are much nicer to look at in the jungle areas. I keep wondering what they are. Are they the alien dwellings of some strange race in the jungle? But you don’t see much of anything besides lots and lots of spiders, scarabs and oakhearts.

On the other hand, they are distinctly plant-like, they look like they’re growing from that gigantic root/stem/branch thing, and have sundew like structures on the “roof.”

Could it be?

In this jungle of carnivorous plants, have these things adapted their traps to capture -humans- that wander in, attracted like moths by the light, seeking shelter?

Off to the Ice Cave to find the Temple of Lyssa.

Interior of the Ice Cave. What a stark contrast to the outside.

ArenaNet is in love with god rays, but you gotta admit, they use them to such stunning effect.

The other twin. Perspective from the back of the temple.

I couldn’t resist jumping the Ice Beast at the back of the cave, and it took some wiki’ing to remember what the Spectral Essence it dropped was for. Oh, armor infusion! How long ago it was since I needed to worry about that. I normally infuse with the story mission, but it was good to see there was an alternative.

Cool detail moment. Besides an awesome story on the altar:

And it was, that a stranger came to the village of Wren seeking shelter and employment. Though young in years, her body was stooped and twisted, her flesh eaten by disease. “Ye have the mark of plague upon ye,” said the citizen named Gallrick. “Leave this place lest you sicken our people.”

“I’ve lost my family and my home,” cried the desperate woman. “Have you no heart?”

Yet each person, in turn, did look away.

Then from the crowd came a young woman, Sara. She looked upon the woman with pity. “If you need help,” said Sara, “I will give it.” And Sara did approach the gnarled, bent woman and did offer her a helping hand.

Then the sickened woman pulled from her body the robes of plague, revealing Herself to be the goddess Lyssa.

The people of Wren fell to their knees, begging Lyssa’s mercy. But lifting Sara gently, saith She, “True beauty is measured not by appearance but by actions and deeds. Many have eyes, but few have seen. Of all here, you saw the beauty behind the illusion. And you alone shall be blessed with My gifts.”

Scriptures of Lyssa: 45 BE

I knelt to invoke the avatar of Lyssa, since I couldn’t remember what it looked like any longer.

The beauty behind the illusion

Well, it morphs. From something feline-like, to that of a woman’s face. And suddenly, I realized that the face on the pillars that I wondered about two or three posts earlier, well, it’s probably Lyssa. Perhaps this was a ruined temple of Lyssa’s once upon a time.

Coming up, one of my favorite places in Tyria, the Arid Sea and the Crystal Desert.