[GW2] Order Up, Trahearne

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.


28 thoughts on “[GW2] Order Up, Trahearne”

  1. My sylvari got demoted from “my child” to “my friend” :( Mother Tree likes Traherne better. I’m gonna go dye my leaves black, listen to some angry bards and sulk.

    1. Also, I would classify Traherne as a Transparent Plot Device rather than Mary Sue. There is nothing that suggests we are meant to like him, not everything in the world bears a direct relation to him, and he could easily be swapped out for an Ancient Tablet Of Prophecies Describing Exactly How Zaithan Will Be Defeated that our characters follow step-by-step.

  2. Interesting. Folks talk about how established-IP settings handcuff the MMOs based on them, but really it’s the other way around. The fact that the game is an MMO handcuffs what kind of stories can be told- or more specifically what kinds of characters and plots can be used.

    Even just the fact that it’s a game, not even MMO aspects, can constrain the story. The PC can’t die, can’t do a face-heel turn, can’t go missing, can’t have questionable motives. They can fail, they can be imprisoned, but both must be certainly reversible and damn quick at that.

    1. You can do a face-heel turn and backstab your allies in MMO stories (ie. Agent in SWTOR), just they have to want to give you those options.

      1. Face-heel turn requires you start as a face (i.e. good guy). AFAIK mmos that let you play evil generally keep you one way or the other. (except EQ2, of course, which no one cares about). ;p

        Is it otherwise in SWTOR?

        1. Well, it’s debatable what counts as a good guy if you are working for the empire. But the Agent story gives options to actually defect, to pretend to ally with the republic and then betray them, etc. And the DS/LS choices mean you could start out fairly light side and then switch.

          I just mean that the constraints of MMO storytelling can be explored.

  3. “I would say that it is solidly on par with the original Guild Wars series with the bit extra regarding branching decisions.”

    Hell, no! The Guild Wars campaigns (Primary Quests & Missions) were novels. The Personal Stories are a pair of short stories which have nothing at all to do with each other or with the novella that you get afterwards. The GW1 stories were definitely better-written and more interesting, if levels 1-30 of GW2 are any example.

    1. Which level 1-30 stories? There’s a bunch. Of the ones I’ve experienced, some are duds. Some are gems.

      I’d say the writing in GW2 is definitely on par if not superior with the original. Ihe dialogue also skewed more toward functional dialogue. Character-building was a distance second, at least until EoTN. I also never found myself quoting anything out of the original Guild Wars 1, though there were a handful of memorable moments.

  4. Never like to play an MMO where my character is the saviour of the world, it is just plain stupid with all the other saviours running about the game world. Didn’t feel miffed when Kormir became a god, she set the events in motion and then took up the mantle that she felt was her duty and responsibility, which is what the god Kormir seems to be about. The tone of the story can be important, whether the player ends up feeling like a dogsbody, or a soldier or adventurer taking one small part in momentous events. If in Lotro the player ends up helping Frodo up Mt Doom, I’ll uninstall the game in disgust and never play it again.

  5. Like Darkeye, I have no truck with my characters being “saviours” or “mighty heroes”. I tune all that nonsense out.

    My ranger has been 80 for a while now but his Personal Story is stuck at 40 and likely to stay there. I did Claw Island and whatever the one at level 60 is (in Timberline) with Mrs Bhagpuss and from what I saw I don’t ever want to do those again, or anything like them.

    I was very negative about the Personal Story even existing back in beta but I was beginning to come round to it in the earlier stages, when it seemed quite low-key and quirky. Still not *my* story but at least it was amusing. Learning about the “Lesser Races” I particularly liked and would like to do more of.

    Once it begins to turn into portentous world-saving tosh and a lot of long fights, I’m out.

    Also, both the writing and voice acting are very bland indeed, particularly after The Secret World raised the bar. In TSW I was more than prepared to slog through difficult fights just because I knew I’d be rewarded with some independent-cinema quality cut scenes. In GW2 the cut scenes offer no incentive whatsoever.

    1. Interesting, I only saw videos of TSW and found the cutscenes to be absolutely unbareable. Not due to quality of the voice acting (which was ok) or the graphics, but because I felt I could have improvised a better dialogue on the spot. The writting in the templar story’s dialogue just seemed like someone totally out of touch with reality tried to imitate a youth slang that is already frustrating enough when it is authentic.

      I never expected to much from guild wars voice acting and the cutscenes after having played SWTOR, but I also didn’t want arenanet to waste their entire money on voice acting. Personally, I feel the sylvari and male asura voice acting is pretty well done (asura male pc is absolutely great). Humans do get on my nerves more times than not, especially Logan!

  6. You know what annoys me about Trahearne? The fact that after the Claw island attack, during which he was completely useless and made no improtant decisions whatsoever, my character (in a cutscene) gives him credit for all the effort.

    I don’t mind being second fiddle – its actually kinda refreshing to not be the one true chosen one hero of the story. I just wish the storylines would be consistent. Either I’m the assistant or I’m the boss.

    Claw Island stands out on this point also. I’m there with Tybalt (order of whispers) and he’s supposed to be *my* mentor, ie he’s the one in charge. So why do I end up making all the decisions on how to proceed?

  7. As I asked on someone else’s blog “Who fantasizes about being Robin instead of Batman?”

    Mind you, I don’t need or even want to be the boss but I’d still like to be the lead of my own story, and I think that’s the problem with chunks of the second half. I was even further down the totem poll in the beginning, but I still felt like the lead. That wasn’t the case once Trahearne took over.

    1. Also, it doesn’t help that he’s dry and humorless, not to mention a creepy looking plant with freaky yellow eyes. Not that I was expecting comedic relief, but he’s not even remotely appealing.

  8. Congrats, ArenaNet, for figuring out the magic that made Oblivion’s main plot so meh!

  9. I’ll look forward to seeing what I think of all this when I get to the end (my characters are all being held back waiting for friends, giving me an excuse to play alts!), but I’ve heard the complaints bandied around pretty consistently. Looking back on it, Guild Wars in general has tended to make our characters not the main heroes – something which I generally appreciate. It doesn’t make much sense if we’re all THE hero who saved the world, and it limits how you can grow your canon.

    Nonetheless it sounds like they dropped the ball when it came to pulling it off this time. I am reminded of Mass Effect 3. Players are pretty invested in this stuff; go the wrong direction, and face our wrath. I too would love to hear the writers’ reasons for their choices.

  10. No mention of the final epic story-mode dungeon? Sword and Board and MEGA LAZORZ!

    2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2…. 10min later, 2, 2, 2, YOU WIN! Have a hat (that looks like the lvl 30 hat!)

    (I agree overall, the early story was great (noble human elem, Priory), but once the Orr stuff kicks in it falls off fast)

    1. 1) I haven’t got there yet, but really

      2) quite a few people say it really seems like a bug. I am pretty disappointed that ArenaNet has not made mention of the final battle (as far as I’ve seen)… and they’ve only just said “yeah it appears the final bags of loot are bugged”. So it is possible that it could be fixed. Trahearne can’t really be fixed.

    2. I liked the noble human story too, your mate is such a loveable jerk. Also liked the Vigil storyline and helping quaggan babies (dawwww), but that’s as far as I’ve got.

      1. The more small-scale and personal the ‘Personal Story’ is, the better. I really want them to add some ‘sidequests’ that involve adventures with our various sidekicks/warband, for that reason.

  11. I thought most of us by now would have played several years of LOTRO and should be used to being second fiddle to everything.

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