If I could pick one thing from Prophecies that I felt was the epitome of what made that first campaign so memorable for me, it was the openness of it all. Even for a game that had no persistence, there’s always been -so much- to explore and discover. In fact, as recently as earlier this year, as I began to make more headway into getting my Hall of Monuments filled, I was discovering outposts and missions in Tyria I had no idea even existed.
This was both problematic and awesome; you could easily skip much of the content right to the end, either accidentally like in my case, or on purpose in… well, many cases. But for those with explorer’s hearts, this was a dream come true. Vast, beautiful landscapes and hidden treasures abound at every turn and every region. The lovely Dorothy at A Tyrian Odyssey has a blog which she’s been running for years dedicated to just that.
Being run through Prophecies, however, for those who’d rather get to the point, was a serious problem that ArenaNet decided to alleviate by forcing progression. In Factions, for instance, you cannot move on to many areas until you have completed the appropriate missions first. They’re literally gated off, and you’re stuck on a small island until you get through them. This was expanded in Nightfall where you required certain title ranks to move on.
This provided a lot of frustration for many who felt that the open world of the original campaign was more than just a great feature; it was definitive of what Guild Wars was about.
Luckily for us, the changing game in Guild Wars 2 has brought back that openness. While we’re sure to be somewhat restricted by level, I was told that in most cases roads between cities, towns, and other major hubs are clear of mobs, and if you’ve got the heart to do it, you can set off on exploring right away. Where you’ll fall short, however, is treading off the path, which is where you’re obviously likely to find the best stuff.
After our preview of Winds of Change during the Community Open House, the rest of the day was pretty much dedicated to freely play and explore Guild Wars 2 as we pleased. The immediate desire to report skills, numbers, and the like had to be quelled, but once it did, myself and NeoNugget let the curiosity take over. We stopped questing and started exploring.
Admittedly, I was determined to get to Lion’s Arch, although we were told it was cut off. I’m a pretty proud wall-jumper, though, and I was pretty confident I’d get there.
Alas, to no avail. From invisible walls to, literally, a giant circle-slash upon instance portals, it was obvious they were serious about keeping us out.
BUT, what we did find were some other pretty lovely spots out and about the area. It was hard not getting distracted by dynamic events quite literally in your face (if you’re a do-gooder by nature, you’re gonna run into this problem a lot!). But when I managed to pull myself away from NPCs begging for my charity, I was able to stop and enjoy the absolutely stunning landscapes.
I risk sounding cliché but I have to say it; the world just looks so damn Guild Wars. Everything about its artistry seems a nod to its predecessor; from the soft glow, the rich textures, and distinctive palettes of colors, you know where you are. This is Tyria, there is no mistaking it.
The noteworthy location was found by none other than Neo himself. Hidden behind that cave of spiders and sorrow was a beautifully placed series of waterfalls and trees, a striking contrast to the path that leads you there.
What this means for people like Dorothy, myself, Neo, and all the explorers out there is that the freedom of the wild is back. The world is our playground and there no shortage of secrets to uncover, relics of times past to discover, and fascinating scenes to set our sights upon.
As originally appeared on GuildMag.com.
About the author: Izari’s one of those obsessive fan types who’s been playing Guild Wars since the first beta weekend in 2004. She’s been blogging about video games for almost six years and is thrilled to have fellow fans to write for and with about the game. She can be found on twitter and really likes coconuts.