Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Guild Wars 2 - A Primer, Part 1

Guild Wars 2 is on the horizon -- not next month, and maybe not the one after that either, but soon.  Many people are interested in the game who have no experience with Guild Wars and the rich lore that Arenanet has built up over the past seven years.  That's a real shame, as the lore plays a big part in understanding and enjoying Guild Wars 2, and seeing all the ways in which the new game is connected to the old one helps make it feel more like a world and less like "just a game".

So in this first post I'm going to try (emphasis on try) to give a brief overview of Guild Wars lore from the perspective of the three campaigns plus the expansion, the coming of the Elder Dragons, and where Guild Wars 2 sits in relation to all of this.  Note that my knowledge is not encyclopedic, and there are bound to be omissions, errors, and inconsistencies, but it should serve as a reasonable overview for someone new to the game.

Guild Wars Prophecies

Guild Wars Prophecies represents the original release version of Guild Wars.  The kingdom of Ascalon, on the continent of Tyria, populated by humans, comes under attack by the savage Charr, large feline humanoids with a real hatred for Ascalonians.  When humans arrived in Ascalon centuries earlier, they drove the Charr into the mountains.  The Charr tribes are broken into four legions - Ash, Blood, Flame, and Iron.  Led by the shamans of the Flame Legion, the Charr adopted new gods (the Titans) and were taught powerful fire magic that they used to raze Ascalon.  Fiery meteors rained from the heavens and turned Ascalon into a wasteland almost overnight. This became known as The Searing.  Although Ascalon lay in ruins, King Adelbern, Prince Rurik, and many citizens were still alive, and the strongest of buildings still stood.  The Charr legions were coming, however, and it seemed unlikely Ascalon would survive.

Prince Rurik advocated retreat to the kingdom of Kryta to let the people of Ascalon survive and recover, and hopefully someday come back to retake their homeland.  King Adelbern refused to leave however, or seek succor from his hated rivals in Kryta.  Rurik and Adelbern split, with many citizens following Rurik into Kryta (along with the player characters) while the King, most of the army, and many of the remaining citizens stayed to fight for their homes.

Prince Rurik died crossing the mountains to Kryta, but most of the fleeing Ascalonians survived and were given sanctuary in Kryta in villages between Lion's Arch and Divinity's Reach.  The sorceror-king of Orr cast a spell that halted the advance of the Charr towards Orr and Kryta, but the aftershocks of doing so caused the kingdom of Orr to sink into the sea.  This event became known as The Cataclysm. The players were then drawn into a battle against the mysterious Mursaat and their human White Mantle pawns, a long series of battles that don't have too much to do with the Guild Wars 2 setting (as far as I know).

Meanwhile, back in Ascalon, King Adelbern and his forces are losing.  The Charr surround Ascalon City and lead a massive assault to end the human occupation forever.  Driven mad by desperation and the death of his son, King Adelbern unleashes a terrible curse that kills every Charr for miles around the city . . . and rips the souls from every human in the country, binding them to guard Ascalon from the Charr for eternity.  This became known as the Foefire.  These Ascalonian ghosts still occupy Ascalon centuries later in Guild Wars 2, and see all living beings who enter Ascalon as invaders to be killed, whether they be Charr, Human, Sylvari, Norn, or Asura.

Guild Wars Nightfall

Guild Wars Nightfall is the third campaign in the original Guild Wars, and starts on the continent of Elona, far from the conflicts in Ascalon and Kryta.  Most of what happens in Nightfall has little effect on Guild Wars 2 except for it's conclusion -- Spearmarshal Kormir, Commander of the Sunspears, absorbs the remnants of the fallen God of Secrets, Abaddon, and ascends to godhood, becoming Kormir Goddess of Truth.

Whether in response to this event or something else (I'm not sure), the six human gods retreat from day-to-day interference on Tyria and leave humanity to fend for itself.

Guild Wars Factions

Guild Wars Factions is the second campaign in the original Guild Wars, and I'm currently playing through it now so don't have full knowledge of it yet.  I'll expand this section after I'm done.

Guild Wars: Eye of the North

Eye of the North was the first (and only) "expansion" for Guild Wars, adding a new story and explorable areas onto the Prophecies campaign.  Eye of the North does a lot of set up for Guild Wars 2, introducing the Asura and Norn races, as well as spending a lot more time with the Charr and their society.  In pre-searing Ascalon, players met a young girl named Gwen.  Eye of the North takes place a decade or so later and Gwen has grown into a bitter young woman who hates the Charr for killing her family and destroying her home.  She becomes leader of the Ebon Vanguard, a non-aligned military organization dedicated to resisting the Charr.  Human history looks on Gwen as one of its great heroes, while the Charr see her as something of a villain. (She was a hero, suck it you furry bastards).

The expansion campaign involves the emergence of the Destroyers from deep beneath the earth, powerful beings that are driving the Dwarves and the previously unknown Asura from their homes. The players travel all throughout Tyria attempting to enlist the aid of the various races in the battle against the Destroyers, even the Charr.

As part of this battle the Dwarven race essentially destroys itself, all Dwarves transforming into beings of living stone to be a bulwark against the Destroyers for the rest of Tyria.  The Dwarves still live, in a sense, but ceased to be a race as we know it (and is why Dwarves are not a playable race in Guild Wars 2).

The adventure culminates in a battle with the Great Destroyer, and while the players and transformed dwarves are victorious, it is later revealed that the Great Destroyer was simply a champion of the Elder Dragon Primordus, and a herald of his imminent awakening.  The destruction of the Great Destroyer delayed Primordus' awakening for decades, but it was only a temporary victory.

The Elder Dragons

In the years between Eye of the North and Guild Wars 2, the Elder Dragons awakened from their slumber and went forth to terrorize the people of the world.

The first dragon to awaken was Primordus, who claims mastery over fire and stone and drove the Asura from their homes.  He still dwells in the depths of Tyria and sends his minions out to conquer all that he can.

Forty-five years later Jormag woke up, lay claim to the icy north, and drove the Norn from their homes.  Many Norn were corrupted by his coming and chose to serve him instead of fight him.

Fifty-three years after Jormag, Zhaitan rose from the depths of the ocean and brought the lost city of Orr with him along with countless undead minions.  Zhaitan's territory has cut Tyria off from Cantha (the setting of Guild Wars Factions).

Finally, over a century later Kralkatorrik awakened north of the Charr homelands and flew south the to Crystal desert.  His passage corrupted everything he passed over, turning it into crystal, even living beings.  Those afflicted by his corruption sloughed off their flesh and became living crystal, homicidal minions of Kralkatorrik.  Kralkatorrik's territory has cut Tyria off from Elona (the setting of Guild Wars Nightfall).

Guild Wars 2 starts a couple of decades after the emergence of Kralkatorrik.  No mortal army has ever successfully attacked an Elder Dragon.  All those that have tried have been slaughtered without mercy.  Barring a return of the human gods it's unclear how the dragons could ever be defeated, but this will presumably be the ultimate task of players.

Good luck . . . I think we'll need it.

Preparing for Guild Wars 2

If you're thinking of playing Guild Wars before the release of Guild Wars 2 to learn the lore, the best thing to do would be to play the Prophecies campaign followed by the Eye of the North expansion.  If you have time after that, play Nightfall and then Factions.  Prophecies and Eye of the North are the key campaigns though, as Guild Wars 2 takes place on Tyria and many of the characters players will encounter are descendents of the NPCs in Guild Wars.


  1. Wow! Arenanet should publish that synopsis on their website! I was looking for something exactly like this to get a general feel for the world.

    Not seeing the plot unfold in real-time really makes jumping into a game way after the release feel disjointed.

    At least now I'll know the overarching plot, thanks!

  2. What a nice summary! I have been linking this to my friends who are going to try Guild Wars 2 for the first time during the BWEs. :)

    Doesn't Guild Wars 2 story start five years after Kralkatorrik's emergence and Destiny's Edge split-up? I wouldn't call DE an army but they did try to kill Kralkatorrik, an Elder Dragon, and did not get slaughtered in return. Hope for us players!

    I agree that players interested in the lore behind Guild Wars 2 should play Prophecies + Eye of the North.

  3. Very nice summary, learnt alot actully! thanks! now time for some more spvp in gw2 ;)