Beware! Hitherby Spoilers!
The personal story is a pretty fun chunk of Guild Wars 2. Every 10 levels there is a little self-contained story arc, and the rewards for completing the arcs are pretty good. Overall, I am pretty satisfied with the personal story, especially for the plenty of “hmmm” moments they give regarding the lore. I would say that it is solidly on par with the original Guild Wars series with the bit extra regarding branching decisions.
There is one NPC that requires some review because I’ve seen a lot of feedback regarding him.
Trahearne is a sylvari on a Wyld Hunt to heal the land of Orr. A Wyld Hunt is a sort of purpose imbued on sylvari as they awaken from the dream. For sylvari players their Wyld Hunt is to kill Zhaitan. Trahearne eventually becomes the central character in Guild Wars 2 story to the point where I’ve seen feedback calling him a Mary Sue. In other words, Trahearne steals the show.
In the first three arcs of the personal story the player has the central role. They are given names such as “Hero of Shaemoor” or “the Slayer of Issormir”, and the player’s rise to hero echoes throughout the arcs. As ArenaNet writer Ree Soesbee says ’the player should feel like a hero’, and here it shows. With the early arcs involving character history and character decisions, I feel this is the strongest point in the personal story. Even though players are adjoined with a Destiny’s Edge NPC, I never felt like the “iconic” overshadowed my character.
The fourth arc is interesting because it involves the initiation in to one of the three orders of Tyria. Here the iconic Destiny’s Edge accompaniment is replaced by a low-ranking order member as tagalong NPC. For example, in the Order of Whispers a desk jockey is given his first field assignment. I felt that it was still my story, but I had an equal part as a mentor along for the ride. The decision time felt a little fake, but I appreciated that “removing of training wheels”-moment the mentor seemed to impart. This follows in to the fifth arc, but I felt that ArenaNet did a good job of pushing the mentor back from the limelight again.
Then comes The Battle for Claw Island, and here enters Trehearne. Except, this is not the first time. Sylvari players in the third arc helped Trahearne in recovering the Pale Tree’s unforged sword, Caladbolg. I said at the beginning of The Battle ‘hey, Trahearne, remember me?’, and then my order mentor insolently introduces me to Trahearne. Trahearne is, of course, glad to meet me… for the first time. This was really disappointing because if ArenaNet wanted Trahearne in the third sylvari arc, they should have made extra effort to link back to that personal story. Trahearne never thanks me for helping him get his sword after our re-introduction. Nor does he appear to ever care about my Wyld Hunt as we attack Orr.
After this point in the personal story, Trahearne becomes the mover and shaker, and I become his assistant. He quite profusely heaps decisions, gratitude, and pillow talk with me, but he is the fulcrum upon which the three orders join and attack Orr. I am the notable lackey. The muscle.
I really racked my brains trying to figure out the motivation for including Trahearne. Why wasn’t I Trahearne? Why wasn’t Trahearne my lackey that took care of all that boring diplomatic stuff while I was the gorram mover and shaker? The answer I came up with was the orders and then the open world.
Trahearne is accepted by the three orders because he was not a member of any of the orders. I was. Ironically, as soon as this is mentioned, Trahearne bootstraps me to him thereby putting one order (mine) over the other two. It would be like having an independent President of the United States (yay) with the Vice President being in one of the two major parties (boo). Still, the orders seem assuaged by the fact that the general is not one of them.
I feel Trahearne is basically a symptom of the orders. I couldn’t have been Trahearne because then it might have been too much work to flavor those final arcs with “what would [that order] done”. Instead, I follow Trahearne and nudge his doings to my arbitrary whim, without caring what my order would have done. I would think that my superiors would be trying to puppet string me too.
From there on, Trahearne calls the shots. I just follow him around. Sometimes he throws momentous decisions on me, but he already put the decision making process to such a fine point that he might as well have made the decision for me. We finally complete his Wyld Hunt, and again he profusely claims that none of this would have been possible without me. And now, finally, he will help me on my quest… to, you know, kill Zhaitan.
Looking back, possibly at my hypothesis as to why I am not Trahearne, I cannot help but have negative feelings for the orders. I enjoyed becoming part of the order, but once the Pact was made, I felt it simply did not matter anymore. Becoming a member of an order gave me access to a different portal to Fort Trinity and order-based armor. It was this huge decision, marked every time I choose my character by the badge of honor (killing Zhaitan is not so marked), and it feels like its effect was not as momentous. Being part of one of the three orders gave me two nice arcs of initiation and then lesser race hijinks involving my order. After that it didn’t seem to matter much.
Kormir is thrown around a lot as a parallel ArenaNet story, but after a friend mentioned Togo as a better comparison, I tend to agree. Togo was the leader of the Guild Wars Factions story while the hero (you) did all the heroic stuff that needed to be done. Except that Togo got out of the way (by dying) at the critical story moment so that revenge and redemption were rolled in to one package giving the player full spotlighting at the end of the story. Players pick up Togo’s story at exactly the right moment so that the illusion of it being “their story” is fulfilled. Trahearne sticks around to thank players at the end and promises to help the player with their story next.
In the open world, I have not seen much of an impact either way. Perhaps ArenaNet felt that if I was the Pact general running around Orr the situation would create a flaw in another way. Can’t have every NPC in Orr saluting every player that runs by. If Trehearne stays separated from the open world the illusion of power being protected is maintained. I would guess though that most MMO players are used to being the balrog-killing, Northrend-avenging, gods walking amongst the ignorant mortals. I feel the distinction of being the truffle-picking General of Orr would be named an inside joke instead of a flaw.
Overall I enjoyed the story and lore that was presented. I don’t feel this is a “failure” like some of the feedback I’ve seen, but I did go from “this is my personal story!” to “what does Trahearne do next?” This was disappointing. I will be very interested to see how or if ArenaNet adds more arcs to Guild Wars 2 with lead Colin Johanson mentioning that they plan on adding tons of content along the way. It will also be interesting to see how much flavor the orders continue to impart on the personal story, if at all.