Continuing on our Wayfarer’s Reverie tour of Tyria, we have a representative image that never fails to send a little thrill of memory through me:
What? A swamp? Yep, along with the shrill neighs of Necrid Horsemen, and the ominous robed skeletal silhouettes of Zombie Warlocks and Damned Clerics.
You see, I’ve always thought of Villainy of Galrath as one of those oldschool fiendishly epic marathon quests. The problem stemmed from its introduction. You can get the quest in Lion’s Arch, the moment you arrive in town somewhere near the first third of the Prophecies chapter. You’re probably not even level 20 yet. Certainly not Ascended nor done with the main story yet.
And if you were as ignorant as I was, you’d never even heard of the Temple of the Ages – which is the best outpost to hit the Wizard’s Tower with.
No elaborate Guild Wars wiki to explain everything in those newbie days either.
And like a trusting fool, you assume that if you can get the quest, that means the game and MMO think you’re ready for the attempt. And so you collect your henchmen (heroes? what are those?) and follow the green arrow directly out of Lion’s Arch. (It’s where you got the quest from, after all.)
And it turns out that if you do it that way, you have to cross North Kryta Province, Nebo Terrace, Cursed Lands and the Black Curtain, before even hitting Kessex Peak where Galrath is.
With only five level 10 henchmen to assist you.
And in those days, your skill bar only had Core/Prophecies skills available to you, and probably only half of those since you hadn’t even gotten through the entire chapter or skill captured much yet. (There was the old way of skill capture too, where you had to wait for the mob to begin casting the spell you wanted, and then and only then hit the signet of capture.)
In other words, it was a grand adventure of epic proportions and much death penalty.
The pastoral countryside was never really much of a problem. Yeah, there were many accidental aggros of Tengu hordes since one never had the patience or the knowledge to wait for patrols to separate. There was the occasional whupping by fire imps (damn elementalist dps.) But one got through it.
It was in the swamps of Cursed Lands that things started getting hard. Crossing two zones was already quite marathon-y, and now one plunged into the slough of grim plague green despair. Trying to fight undead with levels all in the mid-teens with level 10 henchmen is not the easiest thing in the world. No such thing as flagging the party either, so one ran ahead and hoped for the best.
Many a time the attempt to reach Galrath died stillborn in those black marshes.
Gritting one’s teeth and steeling oneself, one would force oneself to run through the two precursor zones again, wondering when it would ever be possible to push through the fog of this swamp, and how many more zones it could be before reaching the tower?
I honestly don’t remember if I ever reached it that way.
I do remember once teaming up with another player or two and we got much much further into the Cursed Lands than I had ever gone by myself. At the time, it was an absolute thrill to be exploring virgin territory, so to speak. We may even have made it into the Black Curtain. Where I think we subsequently got lost, turned around and wiped. The group broke up shortly after, and I was back to hitting my head against the mud with too low level henchmen.
Several years down the road, after conquering Thunderhead Keep which I had stalled at, running through various chapters, I must have taken on Villainy of Galrath and succeeded. With heroes, better skill builds and knowledge, it was a non-event, I don’t even recall any specifics, just getting it done and marveling at the difference between then and the old beta days.
And then there is now.
Map to Temple of the Ages, load up on 7 heroes, tapdance through Black Curtain and jog through Kessex Peak, fondly remembering trying to pop Shadowy Essences off Fog Nightmares for Nicholas the Traveler.
See the horde of red dots on the radar.
Shrug and charge like a madman into the whole morass shouting “There’s Nothing to Fear!” and “Save Yourselves!” while flinging Pain Inverter left and right and let the heroes do their thing. Normal mode, after all.
Their reaction? “!!!” (Thanks, Gwen.)
Then proceed to happily rotate 360 degrees on the hilltop like a National Geographic cameraman, wondering what the best angle would be and whether a panorama shot was possible. (Alas, it wasn’t. GW imposes some kind of perspective angle when looking up or down, making it impossible to overlap screenshots in its entirety. This and the featured image above will have to do.)