Unlike the excellent article by Elisabeth over at Massively detailing the first personal story arc for charr characters in Guild Wars 2, my thoughts are going to have heavy spoilers. Be Warned: Hitherby Spoilers!
I rolled a human thief, and the first story arc is based on the socio-economic origins of the character. I played a street rat last beta, and a commoner was going to be the flavor of the weekend. It seemed people were getting sick of the nobles. The first story arc runs through half of Queensdale and a bit of Divinity’s Reach, especially the home instance, and the first arc follows the first ten levels.
The first post-tutorial moment will be based on the character’s origins. A visitor comes to an inn where I was laid out for awhile after a mega-element explosion. In this case it was my old friend Petra. My character during the cut scene is very aggressive in controlling the story. It is not just an old friend, it is my old friend. This active voice is found throughout the character cut scenes, and it really ties in well with giving the player story ownership.
The first bit I have to do, though, is help a local to start building my renown. The first instanced chapter is going to be level 3, and at a green level 2 players will have trouble going straight in to the chapter. Filling a renown heart to move on as fast as possible put me squarely in mid-level 2. I was fine with that, but I think the goal is to get players exploring just a touch more instead of following the personal story right away. Once I filled a heart I received a letter from Petra, which advances the chapter.
I get there just as a roughian, Big Nose Ted, and his gang are talking up with Petra and her father. They start demanding respect and free drinks, and I make sure to let them know that this inn is under my protection. I get laughed off, the gang starts running amok in the inn, and I start fighting. The fights were difficult as I made my way up the gang’s corporate ladder and the inn’s stairs. There are roughly three “boss” fights each with their own style. Big Nose Ted, for example, is a hammer-welding bruiser.
The Ministry Guard comes to the inn just in time, when I had laid out the gang on the ground, but the iconic Logan Thackeray also comes in to play the jurisdiction card to stop the Ministry Guard’s leader Serentine from arresting me too. She calls me a commoner to make sure I know my place. Logan makes sure she also knows that I am the untouchable hero of Shaemoor [tutorial]. All this time Petra’s father is grievously wounded, and Logan and I concur that expensive medicine is required if Petra’s dad wants to live. I call in my favor (being a Shaemoorish hero and all) on Logan, who tells me to go talk to a lieutenant in Queensdale for the medicine I need.
I don’t head there directly since I feel helping Foreman’s dam and a spider-rich orchard are also necessary hero work. Petra can probably keep her father alive with cool rags pressed to the forehead. Eventually with four renown hearts filled I head to Lt. Derek Francis for the medicine. He stands near the first heart in Queensdale. But, since I dallied the bandits have now stolen all the medicine! Francis doesn’t even have any for his soldiers. He promises me first pick though if I go to the bandit cave alone to get it back. His soldiers are likely busy doing other soldierly things.
Since I was level 4 with a level 4 personal story chapter, I headed to the glowy dot right away. This leads characters right up to the entrance of the Bandithaunt caves, which are mostly level 5 content for a level 5 heart. This helpful guidance happens quite a bit in the personal story as players are shown areas of content they might have otherwise missed. The Bandithaunt Caverns I probably would have found on my own a level or so later since a renown heart is tied directly to it. Later, the Beggar’s Haunt caves on the other hand I might have never found. It’s a light touch on the tiller for guidance, and most players won’t even notice where they are being led. Well done, ArenaNet.
Anyway, Petra joins me for the “Desperate Medicine” chapter. Why is she there, I ask? Because, gosh darnit, it’s her father too. Clearly Logan cannot spare soldiers… clearly someone needs to go with me. I definitely liked that my character asked the obvious player question for me, but these are caves of killers, Miss. You sure you and your rolling pin want to be here? It’s a rather quick combat chapter, and she helps make sure I notice that we can create a moa stampede so we don’t have to fight all the bandits. Simple commoner logic, that. We beat the boss, take his stuff, and then beat him again since he gets up and says things.
But wait, it was Twitchy Jake we are re-beating in to a pulp, and he was one of the thugs arrested at the incident at the inn earlier. Why is he already back in the Caverns when he should be in jail? Questions, but who has the time. I keep the necessary medicine, or something, while Petra runs ahead to rejoin her father. Eventually I head back to the inn, just in time, to give the medicine to Petra’s father. Logan and Countess Anise of the Shining Blade appear downstairs as Logan has been looking for me. I tell Logan about Twitchy Jake, and Logan reverberates my thoughts about the ultra-short prison sentence considering there was no trial.
Countess Anise being all mesmer-y helps me figure out a bandit disguise so I can infiltrate Big Nose’s gang to figure out what is going on. Infiltration becomes a more relaxed role-playing chapter in the Beggar’s Haunt to become part of the gang. Turns out I happen upon a big operation to burn down an orphanage and a hospital in Divinity’s Reach, if that sounds familiar to fans. I learn this by beating thugs, getting lizard-guarded fuses back to the scarred bomber, and even tricking some guards into letting me have the keys to the cages where a Seraph is locked up. There is much less direction this chapter, and I was free to role-play at my own pace. Eventually I get the whole plan and head back to tell Logan.
Logan, back at the Seraph HQ, gives me the choice of covering the orphanage or the hospital. The “choice” moment in the personal story arc is brutally obvious. A few times in other arcs, the player can actually get advice from the nearby NPC. I was kind of surprised that neither Logan nor Countess Anise seemed to have any advice on the worth of orphans. I quite enjoyed the extended “choice” moment in the other arcs, and I was a bit sad that this was all up to me. But then, there seemed to be no hint of we can only save one. Perhaps Logan felt that both were going to be saved either way. I chose to help the orphanage since I am not a monster.
And would you know it, as we rushed to my home instance, the Big Nose Gang is all there burninating the orphanage. Arson at the Orphanage was a really tough instance. I died once or twice, and I shamelessly killed bandits around a corner with a poison AoE. It didn’t seem to be aggro’ing them, so all the better. Like I said, it was a tough instance, and I was going to cheat where I could. This time Logan and I fight as brothers to take the gang out, permanently. I save the orphans, yay! The hospital collapses, boo. The guard trying to help the hospital makes sure to let me know that not everybody made it out of the charred, smoking ruins in front of me.
Back at Seraph HQ, I come up with the plan to disguise ourselves as the now dead bandits and place ourselves in prison. Serentine and the Ministry Guard (our suspect) won’t have known that the dead bandits are dead, and Logan and Anise think it’s a brilliant idea. Anise uses her mesmer magic to make us all in to the named bandit goons. We head to the dungeon trying not to giggle at our brilliance.
Down in the dungeon, Serentine pops up through the floor to let us out. Logan-Bandit talks in a Logan voice to make sure Serentine knows she’s been duped. She and her dozen or so guards say otherwise. It was a fun fight dealing with a shield wall of guards (who still need to breath poison) and having Logan (a guardian) and Anise (a mesmer) fight with me. Lots of guardian walls and mesmer tricks all around. I am pretty sure we kill Serentine in the process, though I wasn’t 100% sure. The bandit catch and release program is finished anyway, says Logan.
I headed back to my home district at the end to find a pristine orphanage and a pile of rubble hospital. I was a little dismayed to find the orphanage completely empty, but I figure that by Guild Wars 2 launch it will be filled with knee-hugging orphans praising my name and likeness. Lepers will hang out at the hospital ruins.
Overall the story was good. It had a decent twist, and it had repercussions, more than simply choosing one building over another. Serentine, a character, was dead or gone. Petra and her father were now going to be part of things. I feel that if ArenaNet had implemented the missing children at the end, the feeling of choice would have been much greater. What I am really interested in is to see how ArenaNet ties in any of this further down the road. Referencing something I did at level 10 when I am level 40 would be great. I hope there are hooks like that throughout the game.
In the next story arc, based on my biggest regret (not joining the circus), Petra and her father meet up with me to enjoy part of the circus at Divinity’s Reach. I also saw Riot Alice (street rat) and Lord Faren (noble) there who would likely have been the ones to speak with me if I had heralded from another origin. I’ll leave the story of the Floating Grizwhirl and the missing red shirt for another day. I can’t spoil too much at once.
The best part about the personal story was how well it intertwined with the other PvE content. I just played and was eventually led to a new instance on my own. For a guide to the land, the personal story was quite an excellent map. It was also really challenging. I highly suggest bringing a friend along because there is no invulnerable swarm mode here.
I wish I could say that all personal stories were equal, but they aren’t. Some are going to be better, storywise, than others. I really did not get a feel for anything “commoner” in this story except for perhaps me and Petra sticking together, and stretching it a bit, I could say we were pawns in a game only to suffer. Compared to “street rat” or “Blood Legion” which is just oozing with their respective themes, “commoner” felt a bit weak. I felt that overall it was quite fun. I don’t feel bad for not taking a different story arc. I will likely be one of the crazies trying to experience as many story arcs as I can anyway (how many character slots do you have?!?!), and I am guessing the average player will have a lot of fun regardless of the story arc.