So there’s no questing, right?
Following Monday’s quick stress test of Guild Wars 2, I have seen roughly the same question asked by various people. My first response to the question consists of wishing they could play the game and understand, and my second response is a vain attempt to accurately put into words what is better understood through playing the PVE content.
So here comes the vain attempt.
The way PVE in Guild Wars 2 is constructed changes the entire feel of the PVE experience even though certain tasks may feel familiar to MMO players and the Story Quests may feel familiar to single player RPG players. To better explain what to expect with PVE in GW2, I am first going to address what people expect from “questing” and then address the question of whether or not there is questing, then I will answer the common follow up question of “what do you do then?”
The Kill Ten Rats Legacy
The initial moments of your typical MMO experience consist of a short cinematic, then being dropped into a starter area and making a short walk towards the first person with a brightly lit punctuation mark above their heads. Talking to this NPC will grant you a welcoming greeting from the local populace and then some following instructions about some annoying nuisance in the area. When I made my first WoW character, I had to show my worth by killing some wolf pups and pigs. In the first Guild Wars, I had to talk to some important generals to hear about the status of the town, then the issue of the war with the Charr and then go out into the instanced quest zone. Rift spawned me from a machine, had me pick a soul tree, and then find my way out of the test chambers and into to the dire future of a dark, decimating war. The Old Republic had me meet my Jedi Master and help her recover some hologram disks.
Following that introduction to the game, quests normally flowed from there on out into a Go Here direction that lead to a group of NPCs that beg and plead you to do some menial tasks of collecting and killing that make you wonder just how lazy these poor helpless souls are. At the worst of times—waves at Tera—the game becomes a friendly bit of fruitless genocide. You decimate X amount of Y and collect trophies off their corpses, and don’t forget to steal their honey buns and treasures, so you can bring them back to your friendly NPC who is waiting for you and everyone else with a grateful reward of experience, gold and some low level goodies. You smile, watch your XP bump up a bunch and sigh. Then you look back behind you and see all those mongrels have respawned and nothing has truly changed.
This is the Kill Ten Rats Legacy that has become a norm for MMOs. Blizzard has tried to freshen it up a bit with each expansion and add some cuteness and story to break up the genocidal mania, but questing has remained a list of requests to collect trophies and kill the unfriendlies. Even the story-focused The Old Republic offers bonus rewards for these sort of kill ten rat quests, even though it feels very un-Jedi-y of me to keep killing the locals just to keep up in levels.
So when people ask if Guild Wars 2 has quests, I assume they mean something along the lines of what I’ve described above. To that type of questing, the answer would be no, there is no questing in Guild Wars 2. Yet, and this is what some will find, there are still the tasks present and there is still killing present. The way the system behind Guild Wars 2 works changes the feel of these tasks and the way the world acts.
The Guild Wars 2 PVE System
Guild Wars 2’s world revolves around the relationship between two major elements: the Renown Hearts and the Dynamic Events. Sometimes these two things are confused, because neither involve getting a quest from any NPC and both notify you of their presence by simply being near them. In fact, the game can refer to both of these things as “events”. Often, a Heart and a Dynamic Event will occupy the same area and doing the Dynamic Event will fulfill your Renown Heart.
To get deeper into these two systems, I’ll point out the major differences. First, Renown Hearts are marked by NPCs on the map with a golden heart above their head. When you first arrive to the area, these hearts will be empty. A progress bar will show on the side of your screen telling you what sort of tasks will help you fill this bar. The basic formula for a RH is help X with general problem Y. These are still the same lazy farmers looking for some help that you may be used to, but how you help them is a choice of which tasks you’d rather do. You can feed cows, water plants or stuff out worms. You can find hiding children and tell them to do their chores or you can find rats and kill them to make the town keep up a high-class appearance. Every time you do a task for a Renown Heart, the meter fills up a little. No other players can fill up your heart for you and once filled, you cannot repeat the Renown Heart for full credit. Filling the heart just allows you access to the NPC’s shop of goods, which are normally purchased via Karma. Renown Hearts are static and don’t move, always remaining for players who haven’t finished them yet.
Dynamic Events are events that are triggered by other events, players or via timers. How and when these events happen is not always easy to tell, but they often happen near Renown Hearts and their fail/succeed rules can fulfill Renown Heart tasks. If your Beetletun Farmer wants help protecting his farm and repairing broken things, a Dynamic Event of a Centaur attack that includes fighting off waves of Centaurs that are lighting his farm on fire will fill up that Renown Heart as you fight to succeed at the event. The difference is that everyone involved in the Dynamic Event gets credit and fills up the progress bar. Dynamic Events also chain into other events. If you don’t fight back the Centaurs, they’ll likely take over the farm and proceed to the next friendly outpost. If you defeat the Centaurs, then the local Seraphs (a sort of police) will mount a charge towards fighting the Centaurs back further and further.
Often, both in story and in tasks, the Dynamic Events and Renown Hearts are tied together. In this way, they tell a sort of atmospheric story of the area and give the game an organic feel. I’ll now go a bit deeper into how they change the scope of the land.
Baddies With Purpose
In a Kill Ten Rats world, mobs wander along very strict paths just waiting to be run into. While some NPC may tell you these bandits, gnolls or zombiess are terrorizing the locals and stealing their supplies, you never see the evidence of this. From what I can tell, the bandits of Elwynn Forest care more about staring at trees and sitting around the campfire than they do bugging the folks of Goldshire. I would argue that those poor bandits are deathly bored by their own existence, wandering aimlessly and heartlessly without the average newbie to come along and shove a fireball in their face. Thank goodness you’re there to give these horrible people something to be horrible to! Thank God this Paladin is here to kill us, they scream.
As is, the average MMO mob exists to be killed and has little purpose in life or programming beyond that.
In Guild Wars 2, there is a lack of the typical aimlessly wandering mobs that fart around, roaming to and fro, dreaming, sleeping, walking and again, roaming until killed for the purpose of a quest. There are no forest bandits hanging around looking for some action. I have run across some nasty Ettins and found some bandits practicing their skills at their own hideout, but the Moa Birds and fireflies of the world ignore me when I walk past them. I do admit the Skale that wander the rivers are rather ornery, but that’s because I’m snatching crabs from the traps they’ve been messing with.
Like the previously described Centaur attack, the enemy mobs in Guild Wars 2 often have a purpose to their arrival and their attacks. The key word here is arrival. Most of the mobs you will fight in Guild Wars 2 arrive to you. They don’t wait somewhere to be killed. They are soldiers with a purpose and you’re in their way. If they aren’t planning an attack on a Beetletun farm then they simply won’t be there. If they are trying to defend a camp of their own, they will be focused on defending or retaking that camp from you and the Seraphs. This makes mobs aggressive and purposeful, so that you aren’t killing a set amount of them, but are instead driving them back out of the area they occupy. After you’ve driven them out, they won’t reappear until they’ve been able to mount another attack. After I cleared the Centaurs from Beetletun farms, I never saw them on the farm again. I was able to drive them back and out of their camp. They fought back versus other players and got as far as a waypoint spot, but never made it back to the farm.
So you took over their camp?
Right, and they can take over your camps. When I proceeded past the Centaurs to help some Ettin Chieftan out, the Centaurs pushed forward, moving all the way to a small outpost spot on the map that had been a friendly Waypoint when I first came across it. When I died trying to attack a Centaur Chieftain near the Ettin Renown Heart, I had to resurrect way back at the town of Beetletun rather than the nearer waypoint by the other Centaur camp. At this time, the Centaurs had also retaken their camp after I had previously taken it over. Back when another player and I defeated the Centaurs at their camp, the Seraph forces took hold of the area and one of them turned into a weaponsmith merchant, offering me unique weapons taken from the centaurs for a monetary price. When the centaurs took the camp back, these NPCs were pushed back or killed, and no longer available to me.
Also, after helping out that farmer and clearing the Centaurs from the immediate area, a Winemaker became available to talk to. By talking to her, I started a new Dynamic Event involving her ruined vineyard. Not all Dynamic Events happen spontaneously. Some of them, like the Winemaker and the Giant Boar Hunt in Queensdale, are initiated by a player finding a NPC and making the right dialogue choice. These DEs are still open to whoever runs across them once active though and thus not secluded quests only relevant to the player who begins them.
Okay, so it’s just events? Does that get boring?
I never got bored of the combined events system of Renown Hearts and Dynamic Events, but I did run into spots in the first BWE where I felt I had done everything and were seeing some DEs recycle. Whenever you get to this point, I offer the opinion that you should explore. In fact, exploring is the way to level as it leads you to all things in the PVE game. Due to the previously mentioned differences, where you go on the map is not as heavily influenced by quests. In World of Warcraft, there are parts of Westfall that I haven’t spent an hour in despite playing many characters and alts, and running all of them through Westfall for the Deadmines quests. The reason I never went to these corners of the map is because I had no quests there. Killing mobs there was of no greater purpose than to grind and exploring brought me little in the way of experience. While you can explore in most MMOs, the lack of reward for doing so often keeps people from bothering with exploration. The typical system of MMOs pushes people towards optimizing their time used towards goal attainments.
In Guild Wars 2, there is experience provided for finding points of interest and there are Skill Point Challenges spotted around the map. As well, there are hidden jumping puzzles that normally lead to a boss or a treasure chest. You don’t really need a direction to go in Guild Wars 2. If you spot what looks like an island or a cave then going towards it will likely lead to an event, skill point challenge or point of interest. There is very little wasted space on the map. In the Godslost Swamp in Queensland, I was doing a Renown Heart and decided to swim down into the deeper parts of the swamp water. When I did this, I found the sunken ruins of the Temple of Ages. Meditating at the ruins provided me a skill point reward, along with experience.
The Standard Stuff
Beyond the exploration aspect, there are still the Story Quests and Dungeons beginning at level 30. These two elements are likely the most familiar to other players and easiest to understand. I have watched youtubes of some people playing the game and sort of randomly gunning around a Renown Heart and not noticing a difference between what they were doing and your standard MMO fare. I understand that the combined Heart/DE system is not as easily understood due to its subtleties. When you step into a Story Quest, the game becomes instanced and progress is linear with some splitting paths dependent on choices. For people struggling with the open world concept, these may be easier to get a feel for right away. The DE/Heart system requires paying more attention to fully understand.
I would comment more on the game’s dungeons, but I have not yet got to the point where I can do a dungeon. Hopefully a future beta allows the testers enough time to reach that point. Even with keeping my mesmer from the last BWE, I only made it to level 18 during the stress test.
Play the game for the glory of the Moletariat.
Or check out these informative youtubes:
CaraEmm does Dynamic Events subtleties
Hidden fun in WvWvW