Guild Wars Frustration

The latest attempt at Guild Wars came perilously close to another frustrating ending. Here is the recurrent problem: Guild Wars quest structure arranges things around Missions that are the main building blocks of the central storyline. There are also Primary Quests that are interlaced with the Missions and lead you from one Mission to another. Then there are Secondary Quests that are side quests.

Guild Wars progression play is strictly quest-oriented. There is very little room to advance outside of the linear path, and conventional grinding, while possible, is extremely inefficient. There is also no real way to find out what level you should be for any particular quest short of going to the Wiki, and that’s not always illuminating. The only way to know how tough a particular mission or quest will be is to run it, and some of the missions take quite a while to run. When you get to the end after 45 minutes of slog and choke on the final boss, the motivation to do it again, maybe with a different build, decreases with each successive failure.

The mission in this case was Jokanur Diggings, which is the second Mission proper in the Nightfall storyline. To get that far I had to have either reached the Sunspear rank of First Spear, which you can in principle do at a low level, or have attained level 12. Does that mean you should be shooting to be level 12 when you run the mission? Or is it doable at level 9, which is where I was?

It took so long because of a quirk, maybe even a bug, in the way you have to place stone tablets on pedestals during the Mission. At one point you need to have two tablets placed, but after placing one and running to get the other one (and fighting the mobs guarding it,) the first tablet resets by the time you get back. I tried it in a number of different combinations before hitting on the trick — obtain the first tablet, then drop it in front of the pedestal instead of activating it. Go get the second one, and place them one after the other. The mobs in the place all respawn, so you have to fight your way through the same packs multiple times to get the whole thing done.

After all that rigamarole, I couldn’t defeat the final boss with what was by then an all-Hero party. It was one of those weird stalemate things that happens in Guild Wars with some regularity; each side was out-healing the other’s damage output. Because the process of running the mission is not itself rewarding in terms of either loot or XP, and you only get paid out at the end, failing a mission repeatedly feels a lot like hitting a wall.

This is frustrating because Guild Wars is such a linear game. It’s not that it’s difficult or challenging, it’s that there is no alternative route through the game — if you get stuck on a storyline mission and there aren’t enough side quests available to go get another level or two before trying it again, you have hit a virtual roadblock. What’s happened in the past — and my Prophecies and Factions characters are stuck in exactly the same type of situation — is that I’ve lost interest and moved on to something less frustratingly rigid.

In this case, on the second pass, after a mild gear upgrade and a build tweaked to lay more debilitating conditions down on that boss, I took him down with relative ease. It’s possible that I’m starting to get the hand of character builds, an area where GW is vastly different from other MMOs, and if so, it’s about freaking time — I’ve owned the fucking thing since 2007. For now, at least, the Guild Wars run continues.

5 responses to “Guild Wars Frustration

  1. I really didn’t take to Nightfall. Mrs Bhagpuss and I both played Guild Wars at launch and finished the original Prophecies campaign in about a month or so. A couple of weeks later we’d had enough and went back to EQ. We didn’t think of Guild Wars again for five or six years.

    Then about a year ago, with GW2 interest building up, we thought we’d take another look. We bought the Complete Collection and started in Nightfall. Neither of us liked it at all . Mrs Bhagpuss stopped playing at level 4. I swapped to Prophecies and had fun retracing my steps as far as Lion’s Arch. Apart from the odd visit here and there i also stopped playing until the HOM calculator rekindled my interest.

    This time I started on the Eye of the North Campaign and it gelled. I really enjoyed it and I’ve almost finished it. I’m stuck on the giant worm in the penultimate mission. Mrs Bhagpuss came back and we ran through Prophecies again to get her to Lion’s Arch (making about my 6th run through it to Lion’s Arch – maybe more).

    I very much recommend Prophecies and Eye of the North. I’d go through Prophecies to Lion’s Arch and then over to EotN, where you get boosted to 20th. I still died all the time but at least it was fun!

  2. It’s so interesting seeing what does and doesn’t appeal to and what does and doesn’t present a stopping-point challenge in folks who are getting started in the game. For me I nearly quit after the Searing in Prophecies (in fact, I stopped playing for around 6 months) before being persuaded to soldier on by my then-significant other, on to Lion’s Arch. I found Nightfall refreshingly comfortable after that.

    I think it also depends on what you’re playing, and with whom, profession-wise. I’m playing through Nightfall with my husband with brand-new characters and although Jokanur Diggings didn’t thwart us, we have reached challenges that required whole re-jiggering of our builds and hero setups later on in the game.

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  4. I think everyone reaches this point in Guild Wars before the whole ‘builds’ thing (and certain other mechanics) really starts to click and make sense.

    A long time ago, my personal failure point was Thunderhead Keep in Prophecies. Oh, how I loathed that mission. I repeated it easily 10+ times with abject failure, solo and with a friend, neither of us were that experienced at the time and henchmen only, the other chapters weren’t out yet for any lateral movement of challenge and I wasn’t comfortable PUGing in GW since I knew I would be unabashedly perceived a noob.

    Not being able to progress, I dropped the game and left it untouched for a good six months or more, played City of Heroes in the meantime and refined my understanding of tank/damage/cc/support and aggro radius, got bored, brushed the dust off GW, read some wiki articles, made a new build for my ranger main and wincing, gave Thunderhead Keep one more shot.

    Waltzed through, bonus and all, without a hitch. I had to stop and blink in disbelief before I came to the conclusion that it was both the refined build and generally better play from myself – better situational awareness, reading the map radar and understanding the aggro circle and movement had become a subconsciously learned skill, no more unintended two groups aggro leading to mass carnage, and better timed skill firings, etc.

    It is nice to go back to old stuff now and then and marvel at how things have changed. I had other horrible stopping points, the Shiro fight in Factions, the worm boss in Eye of the North, but I’ve gone back since with different builds built to counter them and been amazed at the difference in result.

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