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Guild Wars: Rediscovering Tyria – Battle Isles Edition

Posted Mon, Aug 24, 2009 by Sardu

Battle Isles

Competitive play has always been an integral part of the 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 Wars 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.

Origins and Evolution

When Guild Wars 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 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 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.

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