13 May, 2017

Returning to Guild Wars

I'd say it's been about a year now - but the time all runs together; I'd swear it's felt longer than that - since I started playing Guild Wars again in earnest. I actually stopped way back when, right in the middle of my first run through the Nightfall campaign, and shortly after I'd finally gotten around to purchasing the Eye of the North expansion, in order to switch all of my time over to working on my RPG. When I first got RPG Maker, I was so absorbed in it, I couldn't even stand to step away from my computer long enough to get a good night's rest. Would that I were still that absorbed. Do not despair, though - I am still working on my RPG, albeit at a slower pace. I actually recently purchased Minecraft for the sole purpose of using it as a 3D modeling software to help me visualize the ledges in a hill-based town I'm working on. Mapping that town has been a nightmare, but I'm really excited about how it's shaping up; I think it's going to be really fun to explore once it's all done.

But this post isn't about my RPG (I have a different blog for that), it's about Guild Wars. About a year ago, I was feeling kind of downtrodden, after having lost a little bit of my freedom and independence when I wrecked my car, and in response to a growing atmosphere of intolerance regarding my sense of radical individuality. My roommate and life partner was beginning to have some medical problems that ultimately resulted in surgery (pretty routine, thankfully - she's fine now), and a pretty dull summer, as far as vacation plans go. But we made up for that the following October with an exciting trip to Niagara Falls (my third - including the memory that perfectly epitomizes my anxiety - her first), and even before that, I scored an exciting win in a large nude volleyball tournament. So things are a little bit better now, and we're even on the verge of moving from our apartment into a house - although, as always seems to be the case, that's taking longer than originally planned. (I'm getting pretty desperate for a change of scenery).

But last year, I fired Guild Wars back up again, and dug my nose into it. It helps that it's such a fun and easy time sink. I can absorb myself into it and tune out all the stressful distractions going on around me. And I swear, it's as if I can never get bored of it. When Guild Wars 2 came out a few years back, somebody asked me if I was looking forward to playing it, and I honestly and matter-of-factly said, "I haven't finished the first one yet". Which was true. And still is. (For what it's worth, I see a lot of people returning to Guild Wars these days after playing Guild Wars 2 for a while, getting bored, and wanting to go back to the original). I haven't gotten as much play out of a game over an extended period of time since Doom! (And Guild Wars doesn't have customizable fanmade content)! Anyway, I still had the Nightfall campaign to finish, and six characters to run through Eye of the North. Plus two empty character slots yet unfilled - each one promising hours of content to defeat and unlock.

I used one of those slots to make a Ritualist, after hearing about how OP Spirit Spammers are. First time I played Factions, I opted for an Assassin, because I thought it sounded more interesting than the Ritualist; and, frankly, Assassins have the better armor in my opinion (I've always chosen my characters primarily for superficial reasons :p). But making this Ritualist character was one of the best decisions I've ever made in Guild Wars. I've always felt discriminated against in the game due to the fact that I am a solo player. I never could compete in any of the endgame material because the AI-controlled henchmen are crap. That content was ostensibly created for teams of players to work together, like in other MMORPGs. So I've always been willing to use any unfair advantages - exploiting bugs and the like - to expand the percentage of content available to me.

Lucky for me, henchmen have been more or less replaced with heroes these days, which are similar, but allow for far better user customization - they can level up, so you don't have to rely on whatever level the henchies are in any given outpost, and (better yet) you can customize their skill builds to make them pretty damn badass. Originally (I hear), you could only have up to three heroes in a team, but (perhaps in a bid to increase interest in a dying game, or at least give players a fighting chance in the absence of the kind of player base required to form teams of real players) now you can make full teams with up to seven heroes. As a result, endgame content - including elite dungeons, and pretty much everything in hard mode - is finally within my grasp (if still not exactly easy). Hell, I've even joined a guild - although that doesn't mean I'm social. I was invited by a recruiter, and I figured I'd give it a try. If nothing else, it's nice to monitor the background chatter (even if I don't usually join in) - makes the experience feel slightly less lonely, hearing other people talking about the game.

So it's been a year now, and I'm still playing (in between other things, like working on my RPG) pretty much daily. How is that possible? Well, I discovered Zaishen Missions. Every day, one of the missions in one of the campaigns (Prophecies, Factions, Nightfall, or Eye of the North) is selected (on a rotating and predictable cycle) to be the daily Zaishen Mission. And all that means is that you get bonus rewards for doing that mission on that day. But one of those rewards is Zaishen coins, and Zaishen coins can be traded for special items. The only one that really matters to me right at this moment, though, is the Heavy Equipment Pack. If you know anything about me, you'll know that I'm a packrat, so I'm always in need of more storage space. You can buy extra storage panes with rl cash, but I'm also a firm believer in games that don't require micro-transactions (the only reason I'm still playing Guild Wars is that I've only had to pay for it once - when I bought it - with no monthly subscription fees).

So one of each character's personal storage panes (separate from the panes that are shared by characters across an account) holds 5 slots, and can be upgraded (up to 20 slots) only by buying storage packs with Zaishen coins. Needless to say, I embarked on the grueling journey of taking each of my now seven characters completely through each campaign (previously, I had only taken each one through their starting campaign), including the new (to me) Eye of the North, collecting Zaishen coins as I went (the missions come up in scattered order, so it requires a good bit of juggling). Did I mention that Heavy Equipment Packs are exorbitantly expensive? Most Zaishen missions reward something in the vicinity of 50 to 150 copper coins per mission (double if you collect during double rewards week, which comes up once every nine weeks). Every 50 copper coins can be traded for a silver coin, and every ten silver coins can be traded for a gold coin. Do you know how many gold coins each HEP costs? Fifteen. Which is equivalent to 7500 coppers. Across seven characters. But hey, the game is fun!

But that's not all. Last summer, I made my latest character - finally filling up that final character slot. I decided on a Monk. I'd never played a Monk before, because the idea of healing just doesn't seem that fun to me. But I've been playing her as a Smiter, which is lots of fun. Anyway, I wanted to finally try the 55 Monk solo farming strategy. (Although now I'm hearing that the 55 has been nerfed, and nowadays you're better off with a Dervish; another popular profession these days being the Mesmer, which is the only other one I don't have... orz). I started her off in Prophecies, and decided that I would finally try to get the title Legendary Defender of Ascalon, which you can only get by growing your character to max level 20 in Pre-Searing Ascalon. Once you leave Pre-Searing, which is the beginner's area in Prophecies, you can never return. It's not made for high level characters, so earning the experience to hit level 20 is grueling work. But it's the only way to get that title.

Level 20 Pre-Searing

So I worked at it for a while, and it was fun to be back in Pre-Searing after all these years. And I finally got the title! (I screwed up getting Survivor, too - but I'm gonna get that a different way). I also decided that I was going to consolidate all the alcohol, party, and sweets points I had been gathering up, and use this character to finally go for the coveted God Walking Amongst Mere Mortals title, which you can only get by maxing a bunch of other titles. Titles you can max are things like reputation points (by doing quests and stuff in different regions), completing all the missions on all the campaigns in normal and hard mode, capping elite skills, and vanquishing areas (defeating all the enemies in an area on hard mode). Suffice to say, I've got my work cut out for me. I think sometimes that I spend way too much time playing Guild Wars - each time I work out an exit strategy, I find some other goal I want to reach. But I enjoy it. And it can't go on indefinitely. I've got other things in my life I need to get back to, like putting more time into that RPG...

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