style="margin: 2px; width: 210px; float: right;">

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Battle Isles"

Competitive play has always been an integral part of the href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
experience, though much like the game’s PvE elements, there
have been a number of significant changes over the years. In some cases
this evolution has been much more gradual, such as the continuing
reevaluation of key skills in the PvP meta-game. Yet even some of these
seemingly minor adjustments of the key mechanics that have helped set
the Guild
franchise apart from the
fantasy crowd since the very beginning have had a rippling effect. The
end result is a shift from the series’ original integration
between PvE and PvP to a much more distinct separation between these
two primary aspects of gameplay.

Continuing the journeys of my Ritualist, I initially traveled north
through the Far Shiverpeaks and into the Verdant Cascades with the
intent of conquering one of the more difficult dungeons from the Eye of
the North expansion, Slavers’ Exile. Along the way I decided
to pay a visit to the Norn at Gunnar’s Hold, mainly to see if
any of the skills released with the expansion might be useful for me or
one of my heroes, but my attention was quickly diverted by the Norn
Fighting Tournament. During the preview event leading up to the
expansion’s release, the tournament struck me as the perfect
way to test out different builds for use in the Random Arenas, though I
never did get around to seeing if my theory had legs since I was more
focused on dungeon crawls at the time.

After besting everything that the tournament could throw at me I
decided it was finally time for me to get back to my competitive Guild
Wars roots, so with a simple click on the world map I found myself at
the beating heart of PvP, the Battle Isles.

and Evolution

When Guild
first launched in April
of 2005, PvP was a much different beast than it is today. The guild I
was in back then started out keenly focused on first obtaining a
Celestial Sigil to purchase a guild hall, and from there climbing up
the Guild vs. Guild (GvG) ladder. At the time, winning a battle in the
Hall of Heroes was the only means of obtaining the Sigils which sold
for astronomical amounts of platinum considering the age of the game.
It wasn’t long before Sigil Traders were added as a means of
keeping the economy in check, which was a significant, and somewhat
controversial first step in the ultimate separation between the
competitive and purely PvE aspects of gameplay.

For guilds to compete on that level, it was initially necessary to
ascend – which is fancy style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
terminology for completing the PvE mission arc up to a specific point.
Guilds that made it that far believed they’d earned the right
to charge whatever price they saw fit for the sigils, noting that guild
halls were only of use to those guilds able to hold their own on a
competitive level to begin with. In other words, if you
weren’t good enough to earn your guild hall, you
didn’t deserve to have the option to buy your way in cheaply.
On the flip side, many guilds simply wanted a central gathering place
for their guild and considered being forced to PvP to earn one a poor
design decision. Meanwhile, PvP-centric players countered with the fact
that if they had to play through PvE content to unlock core skills and
capture elite skills, then there had to be some give in the other
direction as well.

An interesting timeline can be drawn all the way back to those initial
outcries from different factions within the player base that ultimately
leads all the way up to the current state of separation. While some
ties still remain, even key elements such as earning the favor of the
gods (which unlocks travel to certain areas such as the Underworld and
Fissure of Woe that I spent time exploring as chronicled in my href="" target="_blank">first
‘rediscovering Tyria’ article)
have been altered so that it’s no longer necessary for a
given region to hold a winning streak in PvP for PvE players to have
additional zones to explore.

As things currently stand, each aspect of gameplay is wholly
self-contained which was ultimately a necessary step in the overall
progression of the franchise. A key link in that chain has been making
small tweaks to skills which has afforded the development team the
freedom to make balance decisions that can keep certain team builds
from becoming too dominant in the PvP meta-game while conversely
adjusting the way those same skills work in a PvE environment. This
keeps specific skills not only viable, but fun enough to justify one of
the 8 slots on your skill bar.

style="margin: 2px; width: 210px; float: right;">

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;"
alt="Rollerbeetle Racing Rocks" src="/image/view/67496">

of Entry

Diving back into PvP has certainly been an interesting experience so
far, and while the competition is as cutthroat as ever, there are also
many more points of entry than the original Prophecies campaign shipped
with. While I haven’t had the chance to explore each of their
current iterations in-depth as of yet, I did manage to spend a solid
chunk of time spamming spirits and dropping ashes across a few of the
various map types.

First up I travelled to the Team Arenas. In the first few months after
Guild Wars’ release, team arenas were an integral part of an
aspiring PvP guild’s journey to the top of the leaderboards
later on. Many of the key towns and outposts had a unique arena that
would pit two groups of 4 players against one another in a
gladiator-style competition and served as a nice reprieve from mission
running along the way. Some of my former guild mates would spend entire
days in these arenas seeing how far they could push their consecutive
victories. It wasn’t long before the infamous run between
Beacon’s Perch and Droknar’s Forge saw level 3
characters outfitted in level 20 armors however, effectively ruining
the team arena experience much to the dismay of many players (including
yours truly).

In their current form, the team arenas still see plenty of action now
that they’re one-step removed from low level PvE outposts,
though this tends to spike quite a bit depending on which Zaishen
Combat mission is offered on any given day. Finding groups can
otherwise be just as challenging as the matches themselves which
ultimately led me to the next stop on my island journeys, the Random

Random arenas are pretty similar to the team arenas in the sense that
both focus on 4v4 competition. The key difference is that with the
random arenas you don’t need to spend time finding a group
– as the name suggests you simply hit the ‘Enter
Battle’ button and you’ll be randomly placed into a
group with 3 other players. While you’ll still come across
some pretty hardcore players in the random arena matches, for the most
part these tend to be quick, fun events that I think really help you
learn quite a bit about how different build types function in
competitive play. Organized guilds will obviously spend more time
focused on overall team strategy, but for solo players this can be a
nice stepping stone into the more complex Hero Battles.

For the casual PvPer, the random arenas are definitely the way to go.
Jumping into matches is quick, painless and only beat in the fun
department by the awesomeness that is Rollerbeetle Racing. The
matchmaking system still has a few bumps that I’m not sure
can be ironed out without a fairly major overhaul which is currently
the only downside to hopping in for some instant PvP action, a fact
that I was reminded of with the very first match I played through with
my Ritualist.

Since the system attempts to pair at least one healer with each team,
any primary or secondary class with healing capabilities can be
selected to fulfill the role regardless of whether or not you currently
have a single healing skill on your bar. This tends to pigeonhole a
class like Ritualists that have a fairly diverse potential beyond the
Restoration attribute. A while back I made the same mistake by
forgetting to swap out my Ranger’s secondary Monk profession
before hopping into the random arenas. Even though the only Monk skill
on my bar was a rez skill, sure enough the system elected me to be the
team healer for 4 out of 5 matches. What’s worse is that by
being the only /Mo on the map it also made me the primary target of the
other team, which is the same situation I faced more recently with my

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Fireworks"


My final stop for this leg of my tour of the Battle Isles was at the
Hero Battles which have become a primary competitive focus for solo
players on par with the GvG ladder matches since the introduction of
heroes with the Nightfall campaign. These battles pit two teams
consisting of 1 player and 3 heroes each against one another on a
rotating set of maps, each designed with a slightly different objective
which adds a layer of complexity into selecting the overall build for
your team. So not only do you have to step into a leadership role in
these matches, but you also have to consider your heroes’
skill bars as an extension of your own, effectively increasing your
active skill options to 32 rather than the standard 8 on your own
primary bar. This is where your understanding of the game’s
core mechanics such as conditions, hexes, interrupts and energy
manipulation are truly put to the test, perhaps even more so than in
standard team matches.

While I’d never claim to be an expert on the hundreds of
available skill, spell and signet options that can comprise a given
team build, I can honestly say I wasn’t quite prepared for
how competitive these matches truly are regardless of my grasp on the
core mechanics. After purchasing a Tournament Token with some of your
available Balthazar faction points (which, by the way, can be gained
fairly quickly in the above mentioned Random Arenas) you can then
register to participate in any of the daily matches for the chance to
earn up to 8 qualifier points. The main goal here is to obtain a
minimum total of 20 points which then allows you to compete in the
Monthly Championship tournament. I did manage to snag a few qualifier
points, though suffice it to say I’ll likely need to spend a
bit more time tweaking my builds and getting the hang of commanding my
heroes in that setting before I’ll make it into the monthly
tournament series. But if you thrive on challenges and prefer to walk
the solo path rather than focus on competitive team play, the Hero
Battles are a shining beacon in the seas of tacked-on MMOG PvP.


It’s been stated time and again by developers of all stripes
that if you want your game to have PvP it has to be designed that way
from the ground up. If you could pin a tail on that particular design
dolyak, the style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
logo would surely accompany the definition as an
example of how to create meaningful PvP as an integral part of
gameplay. The team at ArenaNet has done an excellent job of building on
the core foundation of the Prophecies campaign in spite of any initial
bumps in the road caused by trying to tie PvP in too directly with PvE
gameplay. Since that main separation though, the Battle Isles offer
some of the best PvP action your MMOG money can buy.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.