Fractured! ArenaNet reveal their latest Living Story update

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Originally published on The Game Jar November 22nd 2013

Whilst Guild Wars 2 players are currently dealing with the threat of the Toxic Alliance, ArenaNet has revealed the latest instalment of the Living Story. Following up on the Cutthroat Politics update from July, captain’s council election winner Ellen Kiel is returning to make good on her election promises. Her seat on the council has allowed her to sponsor new research into the Fractals of the Mists dungeon, and from November 26th, players will get to experience the fruits of that labour.

The product of those shady characters The Consortium, Fractal of the Mists is a dungeon made up of three, randomly selected mini-dungeons from a pool of nine. Introduced to the game just over a year ago, it’s the only dungeon in the game that has an increasing difficulty scale, and players have been fighting their way up through the levels ever since. Due to its modular nature, players have long since speculated that the Fractals could be used to replay past temporary content, and with the Fractured update, it looks like becoming a reality.

The first mini-dungeon added is the one promised by Kiel during her campaign. Currently, in-game, the Thaumanova Reactor is a bit of a disaster area. A past explosion within the facility has caused a significant amount of disruption to the magical processes within, and players have been dealing the aftermath since the game’s launch. Whilst we knew the explosion was due to an Inquest experiment gone awry, we’ve never really known much more. The new fractal remedies that, as it takes us back to the moment of the explosion, and promises to reveal the mysteries surrounding it.

As far as I’m aware, the other two new fractals being introduced are a complete, but welcome surprise to the player base. The Molten Furnace fractal, and the Aetherblade fractal will both take players back to those temporary dungeons introduced during their relevant stages of the Living Story. Players lamented the loss of these enjoyable bits of content when they went away, and now, with the Fractals dungeon, ArenaNet has found a way to bring them back permanently. Almost as exciting as these additions is the precedent set by this move, as it looks like ArenaNet are moving towards using the Fractals dungeon to revisit iconic moments from games past – something that would be much welcomed buy the players.

If that wasn’t enough, ArenaNet have even more new shinys to shoehorn in to the dungeon. Two new Boss fractals are being added, bringing the total to three. Even-numbered difficulties have always had a fourth Boss or ‘Bonus’ fractal, but in the past it’s always been the same one – The Jade Maw. After a year’s worth of play, players are now well familiar with how to beat The Maw, so a fresh challenge is much-needed. Aetherblade captain Mai Trin and the two Molten Alliance champions from the Molten Facility join the Jade Maw as bosses, and if our previous encounters with them are anything to go by, they’ll be a firm test.

Also added to the game with this update are various Fractals-related tweaks. Agony Resist is getting reworked, and Agony Infusions drops are being added. Players will be able to collect these drops and combine them to further increase their Agony Resistance – essential for anyone venturing into the higher difficulties. Fractals leaderboards are also being added, and the overall difficulty curve is being adjusted with difficulty levels above 30 gaining special challenges. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ArenaNet is updating and improving the rewards!

The Fractals of the Mists was a great addition to the game, so I’m really pleased to see it get some love in this update. An already interesting dungeon is getting some nice new content, and the rewards are being improved! A win-win as far as I’m concerned. Some of the adjustments have got the a few of the more ardent forumites hot under the collar, but they, as always, are in the minority, and it’s my opinion that most players will be eagerly looking forward to this update. In the main, ArenaNet have done well with the Living Story, and the Fractured update looks like continuing that trend.

The Game Jar Files: Guild Wars 2 The Edge of Destiny

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Originally published on The Game Jar November 9th 2013

Guild Wars: The Edge of Destiny is the second book released within the Guild Wars universe, and like the first one, it fills in some of the blanks between the first game and the second. Set just before the beginning of Guild Wars 2, Edge of Destiny tells the tale of five heroes, and the beginning of their fight against the awakening Elder Dragons. Unlike the first book, Edge of Destiny ties in to major characters and plot points of the game it leads up to, so players of the game will be intimately familiar with the lore. Can the book satisfy those most demanding of fans? There’s only one way to find out.

The book begins by introducing us to each of the heroes who would eventually come together to form the fabled Destinys Edge; Caithe – a firstborn of the Silvari, Eir Stegalkin – a Norn ranger, the Human guardian Logan Thackery, the Charr warrior Rytlock Brimstone, and finally Snaff and Zojja – two geniuses from the race of Asura. Through chance and circumstance, our heroes come together to form an uneasy alliance of races, and set out to strike back at the Elder Dragons by destroying their champions. Their journey takes them right across Tyria, and as each dragon champion falls, their legend grows, and it’s not long before pleas for help become constant. Over the course of the book, their friendship, and their determination is severely tested. Can they finish the task, and finally take the fight to the Elder Dragons?

The story moves along at a fair pace without ever feeling too rushed, although I do think the author has tried to pack too much in, and could have done with trimming down some parts and expanding others. The combat is nicely descriptive without being overly graphic. There’s plenty of sword swipes here, and hammer bashes there, and it all evokes the feeling of combat in the actual game. The characters combat prowess does feel slightly god-like at times, but then again, they are each heroes in their own right, so I guess heroic deeds are to be expected. Thankfully, the author has done a great job of bringing of bringing these much-lived characters to life. The book does a great job of expanding both their personalities, and the context that’s shaped them, and you really do get a much better insight into why they are where they are in the game.

The Edge of Destiny is not a perfect book, but to give the author credit, when it does fall down, it feels like it’s due to the restraints inherent to the process of writing a game-based story, rather than any lack of skill on behalf of the writer. Video game books have a very definite set of parameters, and the author has to write within that, they don’t get time to craft an epic adventure, or complete creative freedom to take the story wherever they want, and it’s these restraints that hold Edge of Destiny back in my opinion. In an effort to introduce us to all the major races in Tyria, the book has too much ground to cover. You never really get a deep enough look in to the non-human races culture or traditions, or spend too much time exploring their homelands.

The compact nature also means the book is a little too contrived at times. Logan and Rytlock’s bromance for example. Their races have been warring with each other for hundreds of years, and yet by half way, they’re exchanging gifts and calling each other brother. This contrivance appears in other places too. During passages of dialogue or during combat, no one hero is allowed to shine brighter than the others; if one hero has a line of dialogue, every hero has a line of dialogue. If one hero kills an enemy dramatically, every hero kills an enemy dramatically. This careful handling of all these big egos might mean they all get their time in the sun, but it does feel forced at times.

The final problem the book has is one it cannot do anything about – the passage of time. In Guild Wars 2, the members of Destinys Edge play a very prominent part in the game’s personal story, so much so in fact, that it’s very difficult to avoid spoiling the end the book without avoiding major plot points of the game. I was one of those that played the game before reading the book. It didn’t harm my enjoyment too greatly, but it did affect the way I viewed certain characters, because I knew how the book concluded for each of them.

I never really know what to expect from video game based books, as the quality can be a bit hit-and-miss at times, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The book is well written and an enjoyable read, especially so for fans of the game. It doesn’t have the descriptive colour of more familiar and mainstream fantasy books, but it’s target audience will more than likely already be familiar with the world to begin with. Edge of Destiny is a great read for fans of the franchise, and I don’t think non-fans will be too disappointed either.

 

Presentation – Clean, crisp transfer to Kindle with no obvious typos. The map of Tyria is practically unreadable though. Four Stars

Relevance to Franchise – Ties directly in to Guild Wars 2, and features well-known characters and locations. Five Stars

Individual Quality – Lacks the descriptive narrative depth of “proper” fantasy books, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. Four Stars.

Verdict – Better written that the first Guild Wars book, Edge of Destiny is a very enjoyable journey through the events that lead up to the game. Four Stars

Guild wars 2 – The Launch: Smooth sailing or choppy seas?

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Originally published on TheGameJar.com Aug. 31st 2012

Launching a brand new Massively Multi-player Online game is a notoriously tricky thing to do. Many games have had rough launches in the past, regardless of how well-regarded the developer is. The sheer brute force of hundreds of thousands of players all hammering on game servers, all at the same time will often make a mockery of the best laid plans. Nobody really expected then that the Guild Wars 2 launch would be flawless, but after three relatively smooth running beta tests, would some logging in congestion be the only issue?

Even though the official launch date was the 28th, all pre-purchasers had the option to begin questing three days early from the 25th, thanks to ArenaNet’s head start event. Judging by the numbers they released recently, a lot of people chose to start early. Not only did they reveal that they’d sold over one million copies by launch, but that the tally of concurrent users (the number of players on-line at the same time) had already hit a peak of four hundred thousand! I’ll just say that again to put the rest of this article into some kind of context. Four hundred thousand players. All trying to log in to the game, create characters, fight monsters, all at the same time. No small wonder then that things that appeared to be working fine in the beta no longer worked come launch. The Guild Wars 2 twitter feed soon lit up with tweets say roughly the same thing every time; “We’re aware of the issue and we’re working on it right now. Please bear with us.” I really do feel sorry for the community reps at times like this, because as a general rule us gamers aren’t a patient bunch, we want things fixed straight away and we don’t mind telling you so! Thankfully, despite having to reply to the odd angry tweet, they kept us updated via social media sites, and the bugs started to slowly get squashed.

Not everything is fixed though, and there are a few things still blotting the game’s copybook. Concern No.1 is that there’s some account hacking going on. I can’t work out the exact cause of this one, mainly it seems to be gamers falling for phishing emails, but Guild Wars 2 has launched with… let’s be generous and say “less stringent” security checks in place. Other games have authenticator key fobs to combat hacking, and Guild wars 1 required you to enter a character name to beef up security. GW2 has neither of these things. I want to stress, this appears to be a tiny number of players falling foul of phishing attempts, but the lack of authenticators has been noted before now. Concern No.2 is less worrying from a security point of view, but in a way has a bigger impact on the game; the Trading Post isn’t working. So I can’t sell my loot? Not a big deal surely, until you realise that no one can sell anything to any other player. This has had a huge impact on crafters wishing to sell their excess materials, and buy somebody else’s. When the Trading Post does make a brief appearance, prices are through the roof. Crafting is supposed to be a viable profession, right now a major part of it is missing. Concern No.3 is the general buggy state of Guilds. I haven’t experienced this first hand, but my guild leader has told me of at least two problems preventing reliable recruiting and building of upgrades. Personally it hasn’t impacted my game-play at all really, but I can’t help thinking that a game called Guild Wars probably should have a fully working guild system.

What isn’t in doubt however is the games overall quality. Having played all three beta weekend events, I had a fair idea of how the game worked, but come launch a few things have really sunk in. The first thing that hit me is the sheer beauty of the world. Exploring the environment is an absolute joy, around almost every corner is a stunning vista. Castles loom on the horizon, tempting you to come closer. Caves dare you to explore them, pools of water hint at hidden tunnels beneath the surface. I spent almost two whole days just wondering around and not once did I worry about doing quests or leveling up. Exploring the world leads me on to my second realisation; the whole world really is a viable place to quest. Thanks to the level scaling system guild wars 2 has, going to a much lower level area is still a rewarding experience, the game drops your effective level to one more appropriate for zone, and as a result you still gain XP and the monsters are still challenging. The last thing to sneak up on me was the achievements. Somehow, in my mind at least, achievements are something Xbox games do, never in a million years did I think I’d be utterly hooked by a little progress bar in an MMO.

Despite all the teething troubles, Guild Wars 2 is still worth the price of purchase. ArenaNet have been very active in communicating with the fans regarding technical issues, and as frustrating as it is to have trouble logging on, or having no trading market, we players do at least know they are working round the clock to fix things. As I said at the start, launching a brand new MMO is a tricky thing. The game isn’t running perfectly right now, but that doesn’t change how good it is. Suffering a few snags early on is worth it to play the game in my opinion, so do yourself a favour and go buy it!

The Game Jar Files: Guild Wars 2 – A Year in Review.

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 26/08/2013

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Roughly one year ago, I was bouncing around the house like a kid waiting to open his birthday presents. The weekend beta tests were DONE. The stress tests were DONE. Nothing now prevented Guild Wars 2 from releasing. During launch week I had a hard time containing my excitement. Years of waiting was finally over, and the next time I logged in, I would be creating a permanent character. August 25th 2012 couldn’t come soon enough. Thankfully, launch day arrived, and it saw me embark upon a journey across Tyria that I’m still enjoying today. So as Guild Wars 2 first birthday approaches, and while the players speculate as to what ArenaNet might give us by way of celebration, I take a look at my personal highs and lows from the games first year.

The Highs…

The Living Story. Recognising that their game world didn’t quite feel as alive or dynamic as it could do, ArenaNet introduced the idea of a Living Story to Guild Wars 2. Each update brought its own particular story, and by its close, the world would have changed in some way. After a slow start with the Flame and Frost update, ArenaNet have now hit their stride, and have even confirmed that the two-week release schedule they’ve been on recently is now official policy. Concerns about temporary content aside, the Living Story updates have been of a high standard. The story has progressed across the various updates in an interesting and fun direction, and they’ve given us some truly beautiful new environments to play in. With a healthy looking portfolio of seasonal events now built, players are looking forward to where the Living Story goes next.

Super Adventure Box On April 1st, ArenaNet hit us with a complete and utter curve ball. Taking advantage of gamers natural suspicion of announcing updates on April fools day, they released a comedy commercial that, upon first glance, seemed to be a joke. It wasn’t until people started logging in that they realised that the update wasn’t a prank. An Asura named Moto had built something he liked to call the Super Adventure Box, and was rather keen for us to try it out. What ArenaNet had added to the game, albeit only for the month, was a brilliant Guild wars 2-flavoured take on the 16 bit platformers of yesteryear. Players loved the SAB. They loved the retro difficulty of it, they loved the 16bit weapon skins and mini pets, and they loved the fact that when it comes to mixing things up gameplay-wise, ArenaNet weren’t afraid to think outside of the box (sorry!). The only thing players didn’t love, was the fact it was going away again. Right now, speculation is rife that Super Adventure box is due to return imminently, I for one hope that its true.

The Account Achievement Reward System Bundled in with the Bazaar of the Four Winds update, no other quality of life addition has rocked my world like this one. Guild Wars 2 has always had achievements. Previously, the system was little more than a running score total, a number that gave some indication to how much you’d done in the world. After the update however, it became a source of competition, and a fountain of sweet, sweet loot. ArenaNet have introduced a series of achievement milestones, from 500 points, right up to 10,000 points, and each one offers some sort of cool reward. Some give you gold and a chest full of boosters etc, some give exclusive weapon skins and permanent account boosts to XP gain and the like. And as the game’s achievements cover almost every aspect of the game, there’s no shortage of ways to earn the rewards. This change is, in my opinion, the best quality of life change ArenaNet have made to the game since launch.

The Lows…

The Lost Shore event. Back in November, before ArenaNet had settled on their regular two-week release schedule, they were trying out the one time event model with the Karka Invasion on Lions Arch. The event would have a series of stages that happened only once, at a specific time and date. Players who couldn’t make the events were understandably unimpressed, and those that could make it had to contend with the server meltdown that occurred when everybody tried to pile into the same area. I, like many players, was plagued with all sorts of connection and lag issues throughout the event, and was more than happy when the event was over. Afterwards, multiple forum threads would reveal how lucky I was to have seen out the Ancient Karka boss battle on my own server, without a disconnection and then reconnection to an overflow server where the battle was over. ArenaNet have never repeated the format of the Lost Shores event, much to the pleasure of the playerbase.

Living Story Temporary Content. By and large, the Living Story content updates have been pretty darn good. Often there’s a new area of the world map to play in, or new mini-games to play, and always there’s an exclusive reward of some kind. There has always been one sticking point however, and that’s the fact that it’s temporary. Players who’ve been playing the game since launch are crying out for new, permanent content, and they’re not really getting it right now, and as if to rub salt into the wounds, ArenaNet are only making it worse. Every time they add an awesome, but temporary, location like the Zephyr of the Four Winds to the game, they re-ignight the question “what could they produce if they had more time, and weren’t taking it away after a few weeks?” For those players longing for permanent additions to the game, the Living Story has been like the slow agony of  water torture.

Black Lion Chests. To begin with a short explanation, Black Lion Chests are locked boxes that drop from dead enemies randomly, and offer a very rare chance of containing weapon skins in amongst the usual XP boosters and the like. Opening them requires the use of Black Lion Keys, which can be bought for real money on the in-game cash shop, and what you find in them is completely random. Most players recognise these lockboxes for what they are – gambling, and avoid them accordingly, but that doesn’t stop them from being contentious. Every time there’s a new promotion involving Black Lion Chests and new weapon skins, at least one thread pops up on the forum describing how they were ripped off by the developer when they chose to gamble on buying one hundred keys. Despite ArenaNet’s attempts to adjust drop rates, and find a happy medium, Black Lion Chests remain controversial.

So it has been an up and down year for Guild Wars 2, but in my humble opinion, the number of highs has more than exceeded the lows. I’ve often thought that new MMO’s need a while to settle down and find their groove, and Guild Wars 2 has been no different. Sure, the game has its detractors, but I’ve never been able recognise they game they often describe. At it’s core, Guild Wars 2 is still a fantastically fun game, that has as much charm now as it did when it first launched. So happy birthday Guild Wars 2, I can’t wait to see what your second year holds.

The Game Jar Files: Guild wars 2 celebrates the Queens Jubilee (No, not that one)

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 05/08/2013

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As Guild wars 2 first anniversary gets ever closer, ArenaNet continues to avoid the subject of a full-blown expansion by marching on with their Living Story updates. The latest content addition, dubbed Queens Jubilee, centres around the celebration of ten years of Queen Jennah’s rule. Arriving August 6th, the celebrations will focus around the Human capital city of Divinitys Reach, and will see players taking part in the various activities to honour the Queen.

Every Living Story update has brought along a selection of temporary activities and mini-games, and this one is no different. Highlights include players being able to find hot air balloons out in the game world, and then take a ride directly to the party, a race around Divinitys Reach lighting the Beacons of Kryta, and an arena-style challenge, where players take on increasingly difficult bosses in single combat. If the current Candidate Trials difficulty level is anything to go by, the arena challenge will be tough to finish, so I expect much gnashing of teeth on the official forums.

A whole slew of new time-limited achievements, related to the festival will be added, and completing them will unlock a new Watchknight minipet, which as far as I can work out is some sort of sort of mechanical robot guard, in miniature form. Also being added as a reward are the new Watchwork recipes and parts. Players will be able to trade parts for new rune or sigil recipes, or for the new Sovereign Weapons. No doubt my rifle-wielding engineer will get the shitty end of the stick with these new weapons, as ArenaNet has yet to add a new, cool looking rifle to the game.

Permanent updates to the game include loot upgrades to champion NPC’s, the addition of a PvP solo queue for those who don’t have an organised group, and the previously promised introduction of the mini-game rotation system. My favourite addition is the new account wide wallet, which will gather up all the various forms of currency in the game, into one central place. Finally I’ll be able to clear out all those dungeon reward tokens from my bank.

Once again, the question of temporary content versus permanent is being discussed by the community, but I don’t think we can really complain. ArenaNet are spoiling us with constant content updates, and if there is a criticism to be made, it’s that there’s maybe too much new stuff coming. The two-week update cadence takes some getting used to, but once you do, there’s no lack of things to do. My main character, a Charr, doesn’t really venture into human lands too often, so I’m not sure how much I’ll play of Queens Jubilee, but I’m sure it’ll be great all the same. Long live the Queen!

The Game Jar Files: ArenaNet introduces politics to the world of Guild Wars 2

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 19/07/2013

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In an effort to make their game world feel more alive, ArenaNet introduced a series of temporary content updates a few months ago, designed to permanently alter the world in some way. Dubbed the Living Story, these episodes have seen players fend off various attacks, and foil multiple nefarious schemes. Now, the latest instalment brings politics to the world of Tyria. Appropriately entitled Cutthroat Politics, the latest update, arriving on July 23rd, will centre around filling a council seat in Lions Arch made vacant by assassination during the previous Dragon Bash festival. Two well-known, in-game, non-player characters will compete for player votes in the upcoming election, and players will take part in a variety of activities designed to increase support for one candidate or the other.

The first candidate is Evon Gnashblade. Players haven’t had too much interaction with this ruthless Char, beyond buying things from the in-game cash shop. Gnashblade is the head honcho of the Black Lion Trading Company, and he obviously sees the vacant council seat as a business opportunity. Our second candidate is Ellen Kiel, a human war hero players have spent many hours helping already during the Living Story. Kiel has spent most of her life defending Lions Arch, and would like the council seat for far more benevolent reasons. Both candidates are vying to seal a trade agreement between Lions Arch and the Zephyrites – a new faction introduced during the Bazaar of the Four Winds update.

Both candidates are promising actual in-game benefits for players should they be elected. Gnashblade is offering a four-week discount on Black Lion Keys (a cash shop item used to unlock special boxes), “research” into adding a new fractal to the Fractals of the Mists dungeon, and the return of a selection of much-loved, seasonal mini-games. Kiel is also offering the mini-games and the research into adding another fractal, along with a four-week discount on fast travel around the game world. Players will also be able to take part in three new activities – two of them PvP based, to earn support tokens. These tokens will be used help your favourite candidate, and thus turn the tide of the election. Both NPC’s are offering interesting rewards for players support, so the battle for office should be fiercely contested, and fun to watch.

Concerns about whether temporary content in general is good for the game in the long-term aside, I have to admit that the Living Story arc has been getting better and better. The bumpy start of Secret of Southsun has been forgotten, and the current stage – Bazaar of the Four Winds has shown ArenaNet have really hit their stride now. All the content updates have been free too, which to my mind makes Guild Wars 2’s buy-to-play payment model look ridiculously good value for money. I might wish that these content updates were a little less temporary, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying them. Roll on the 23rd!

The Game Jar Files: Weekend Entertainment: Guild Wars – Ghosts of Ascalon

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 27/04/13

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With Guild Wars 2 set some 250 years after the first game, there’s obviously a fairly large gap in the lore to fill. Once upon a time, that gap would have been filled by in-game means; finding readable books or speaking to non-player characters for example, but over the last few years, developers have found another way to expand their worlds. The Ghosts of Ascalon is the first of three books aimed at fleshing out the world of Tyria, but is it worth your time? I dived in to find out.

On the face of it, diving into a book that’s set in-between two lore-heavy games could be a fairly daunting thing to do, but thankfully, the two authors appear to be aware of that fact. The book details the pertinent bits of Tyrian history and the Charr/Human conflict, but doesn’t weigh you down with anything more. As the story goes, King Adlebern, who we last saw in the first Guild Wars game, is faced with losing Ascalon City to the Charr once and for all. Finding death before defeat preferable, the king unleashes the Foefire with his magical sword, Magdaer, killing everyone in the process. Ascalon City became a home to the undead, and for hundreds of years vengeful ghosts have roamed its battlements, forever trapped in the past, and still believing that Charr invaders remain at their walls. Dougal Keane is the only person alive known to have ventured in to the city, and lived to tell the tale, and now some needs him to go there again. Needless to say, he needs some convincing.

And so the Ghosts of Ascalon tells the story of Dougal Keane and his fellow adventurers, all of them on a quest to bring peace to the Charr and Humans by recovering a sacred artefact from Ascalon City. Somewhat predictably, our hero collects his companions from every one of the main Tyrian races; Human, Charr, Sylvari and Asura. The Human and Charr characters take centre stage in the story, and as a result, they’re better realised than the others. The story is fairly straightforward, the heroes gather together, journey to their destination, and overcome various trials along the way. The action is well written, perhaps a little unimaginative, but interesting enough to keep me turning the pages. Where the book excels though, is the portrayal of Ascalon itself. The book really brings to life a land divided by conflict, and heavy with the scars of war.

Another enjoyable aspect of the book is the tie-in to in-game locations. You can visit Divintys Reach and Ebonhawke. You can cross the Dragonbrand and stand on the viewing  hill. You can even find some of the characters in-game, and talk to them about their adventures. It’s these kind of connections between game and book that sells these novels, and the Ghosts of Ascalon has plenty to go around. My favourite aspect of the book though, is the fantastic job it does of conveying the deep underlying enmity between the Charr and the Humans. If your familiar with the events of the first Guild Wars, you’ll know  that by the time of the book, the war between these two races stretches back hundreds of years. In the future, when we reach Guild wars 2, there’s an uneasy peace between the two, and the book does a great job of bringing to life the difficulties of bringing two mortal enemies together.

The book isn’t perfect though. The biggest issue I have with the book is the portrayal of the Norn characters. Here, they’re almost reduced to the role of unthinking barbarians, completely out of step with the characters found in the actual game. Yes, the Norn are similar to the archetypal image of Vikings, hard-drinking and hard fighting, but they also have their sophistication. Anyone who’s spent any in-game time with the Norn might find the two Norn characters within the book unrecognisable. Also, with the book being published before the game was released  there are some things that don’t quite match the in-game reality. The Asura gates for instance, are described as being a different colour to that in the game. I know that’s being ultra picky, but this book is aimed at fans intimately familiar with the game world the book is set in, and we’re notoriously picky people.

Overall though, the book is an enjoyable read that provides some useful back story to anyone who plays the game. As with a lot of these game-based books, I think the Ghosts of Ascalon is unlikely to convince non-Guild Wars 2 players to try the game, but perhaps that’s not the aim. So long as the reader isn’t expecting a modern classic, they’ll find the book is good, knock about fun. Guild Wars fans, on the other hand, will love it.

Summary: Not an epic piece of fantasy literature, but fans of the game will enjoy it. Recommended for and Guild Wars player wanting to delve deeper into the game’s lore.

Good points: Visits many in-game locations, fills in some of the gap between Guild Wars and Guild wars 2, gives a great sense of the uneasy peace between two of the game’s main races.

Bad points: Not a classic piece of fantasy literature, the Norn characters seem at odds with those found in the game.

Why a seven? It’s a great read for Guild Wars fans, but for anyone else? I’m not so sure. There’s plenty of more sophisticated fantasy books out there, and by comparison, Ghosts of Ascalon feels a little simplistic.

The Game Jar Files: Bye-bye 2012! Don’t forget to write!

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 08/01/2013

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I have mixed feelings about 2012, half of me feels glad to see the back of it, half of me remembers it fondly. So before I get too settled into the shiny new year, I felt it only right to turn around and bid 2012 a bon voyage as it heads off in to the distance by recalling some of the good and bad of the year gone by.

E3 2012, I am dissapoint. At their respective press events, both Sony and Microsoft looked like they’d ran out of ideas. There were no new motion devices to reveal, no new hardware redesigns, no new blockbuster franchises from trusted studios. E3 2012 was almost a carbon copy of the year before – “look at all these wonderful Move/Kinect games that you’re not interested in. And look at all these sequels to games you’ve already played…” After watching the livestreams I looked down at my Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and for the first time in their lives I thought they looked old and tired. I was in fact, reminded of that oft-repeated Arnold J Rimmer quote from the Red Dwarf episode Queeg; “Look, Lister, no point feeling sorry about Holly. It’s a kindness. Like a blind old incontinent sheepdog, he’s had his day. Take him out to the barn with a double-barreled shot-gun and blow the mother away. And I’m only saying that because I’m so fond of him.” In my opinion it’s well and truly time that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were taken out to the proverbial barn, purely to make way for the next generation of younger, fitter, cooler machines. Nobody wants the space under their telly smelling of old, incontinent console, so hopefully 2013 will be the year that Sony and Microsoft load up the old shotgun, and do the decent thing.

Talking of disappointing E3’s…

Despite some promising signs later on in the year at Gamescom, 2012 wasn’t very kind to us PS Vita owners. My overriding memory from last year will be the confirmation (were it needed) that Sony doesn’t know how to support a handheld gaming device. For those hoping for more than one “must play” game that year, E3 2012 offered no crumbs of comfort. Just five months after launch, the Vita was already in a gaming wasteland. Sony’s press event later in the year at Gamescom did go some way to lifting the gloom, right up until one of their big three holiday titles – Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified, turned out to be an absolute dog that is. As 2012 ended, I held out little hope for Sony’s brilliant machine in the forthcoming year. Media Molecule’s Tearaway was a most welcome surprise, but since it’s initial reveal at the German gaming convention, nothing really substantial has been forthcoming. Now I’m not saying that work has ground to a halt or anything, but the Vita needs some positive spin, and talking about Tearaway more often could have been it. Guerilla’s Killzone: Mercenary is unlikely to get non-Killzone fans interested in the flagging system, and as much I love the series, the game is unlikely to be a major hit for the Vita. Technically polished? Yes. Hardware seller? No. As 2012 came to an end, weekly sales figures revealed that the Vita was outsold in Japan by its predecessor the PSP in November, and at this point I really don’t think Sony have the first clue about how to turn the flagging console’s fortunes around. Will 2013 be the year that we all say goodbye to Sony’s excellent machine? I don’t know, but it does make me sad that I’m asking the question.

But 2012 wasn’t all doom and gloom, last year was also when I really fell in love with a PC game. Announced way back in 2007, Guild Wars 2 finally arrived at the end of August 2012, and when it did, it crushed every single other game I own beneath its MMO feet. Not even the years of game time I’d invested into other MMOs like Eve Online or Lord of the Rings: Online could stop it, all I wanted to play for the rest of the year was Guild Wars 2. Just over four months later and the initial shinyness is gone. I’m familiar enough with it now to know that it isn’t quite the genre game-changer ArenaNet were touting it to be pre-launch. I recognise its problems. I note the features still missing (Server guesting, ArenaNet, I can haz nao?). I understand all the criticisms the game gets from those that don’t like it, and I don’t care. I love this game still, and even though I might not play it every single day like I used too, it’s still the game I play most. Even now, whilst writing this, I’m thinking that I’m cutting into my Guild wars 2 time. I have this feeling, that ArenaNet have laid the foundations for one of the best games ever made, and that by the time its first anniversary comes around I’ll be playing that game. And to know that I’ve been on board since day one? Well, that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside, and puts a massive smile on my face. Thank you 2012, for giving me Guild Wars 2.

And finally, this year I’ve learned that writing about games isn’t quite the utopia of free stuff I imagined it to be. Well OK, I never really thought it was utopia, but the free games bit did sound pretty sweet, so it must be all good. Right? It wasn’t until I’d written my first review that I realised how hard being objective about video games really is. Simply stating “this game is shit, don’t buy it” isn’t good enough, you have to be precise with your criticism, and your praise come to think of it. I’m sure absolutely nobody based their purchasing decision on my Hitman: Absolution review, but it doesn’t make the whole process any easier, people were going to read my words! Oh and for the love of God don’t get anything factually wrong either, because the internet is an unforgiving place. I don’t want you to think I’m moaning though, because I’m not. Writing for the Game Jar this year has been an awesome experience, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I do have a new-found respect for those writers on here that can regularly turn out interesting articles on a regular basis, I simply don’t know how they do it.

Guild wars 2 – Super Adventure Box!

If you want to know why I play Guild Wars 2, this video just about sums it up. Added to the game for the month of April only, the Super Adventure Box is a prime example of the kind of free content ArenaNet has been adding to the game since launch.

No, it’s not an April Fools, it’s really in the game, and it’s awesome.

Guild Wars 2 Video: Wintersday Trailer

Guild wars next seasonal event is almost upon us, and Arenanet have released a trailer to go with it. Personally, after the troubles I experienced with the Lost Shores event, I’ll wait and see before I get too excited.

The video is good though.

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