Hey there! If you're like me, you often hesitate entering a game franchise on a sequel. Depending on the type of game, I usually want to start at the beginning and work my way through. I'm secretly playing Halo CE: Anniversary because I've never played a Halo game and I want to play Halo 4.
I've been a long time fan of Guild Wars, ever since the original game came out in spring 2005. Naturally, I've been playing and enjoying the recently released and long-awaited sequel, Guild Wars 2. With the free trial event that's taking place this week, it occurred me that there may be a subset of gamers who are fascinated by Guild Wars 2 but perhaps afraid to get into it purely because they never played the original, and might think they're missing out on something. I get that - I understand being put off by the "2" at the end. Or maybe you are playing GW2 without having ever played the first game and you find yourself wondering about the backstory or the races, that sort of thing.
This post is intended to briefly cover what I think are the key things to know about the original Guild Wars. None of this is required to enjoy GW2 in the slightest, but I suspect having context would really add that certain "something" for a lot of people. Also I haven't blogged in a while so this gives me a reason to.
Campaigns Guild Wars originally existed as a single game with a single storyline. Later on, a new, standalone campaign was released and it was called Factions. To better differentiate the two, the original game was given its own subtitle and it is now referred to as Prophecies. Finally, a third campaign was eventually released. This was Nightfall. I'll go into the differences between these, but first it's important to note that Factions and Nightfall are NOT considered "expansions". They are entirely independent games with completely new stories and they can be purchased and played without owning Prophecies.
Prophecies The original Guild Wars game takes place on the continent of Tyria. Humans are at war with the big feline race call the charr. At the beginning of the game, the charr call down this big storm of fireballs that destroys the human kingdom Ascalon (this event is called the Searing) and forces humans out of their homeland and across Tyria to another human nation, Kryta. Without going too deep into detail, the story takes you further all across Tyria through a jungle, a desert, snowy mountains, and finally a volcanic island. The gist of the story is that there's an evil Lich Lord who acquires a magic sceptor and gains control of an army of beings called the Titans. You defeat the Lich Lord and eventually cut off the source of the Titans and that's a wrap. Keep in mind I'm trying to be very brief. It's a lot better than I'm making it sound. :)
Tyria during Guild Wars
Factions Factions takes place on another continent, called Cantha. Cantha is inspired by ancient China or Feudal Japan, so the whole game has sort of an Asian theme to it. Factions added two new classes to the game, in addition to the core five. The big thing with this game is that the mainland of Cantha is divided into two warring factions - the Kurzicks and the Luxons. A long time ago, a big catastrophe happened that petrified a huge forest and turned the neighboring sea into jade. The Kurzicks live in the forest and are basically goths and the Luxons live on the jade sea and are hipsters who ride giant seige turtles. Your goal is to stop this ancient bad guy who came back to life and in order to do that, you have to pick a side (Kurzick or Luxon) and work to bring the two together to combine their forces against the bad guy.
Nightfall Nightfall takes place on the continent of Elona. Just like Cantha gives Factions a Japanese theme, Elona is very north African with some Arabian Nights vibes thrown in. Nightfall also brings its own two new classes. The story is that you have to stop a crazy lady with a scythe from resurrecting an evil outcast god named Abaddon and covering Elona in darkness and torment. The final battle is against Abaddon (as you might expect) and he reminds me of Bongo Bongo from Ocarina of Time.
For the sake of Guild Wars 2, all you really need to worry about is Prophecies for now.
Expansion: Eye of the North In 2007, when ArenaNet originally announced plans for Guild Wars 2, they simultaneously announced the first (and still the only) real expansion for Guild Wars, called Eye of the North - abbreviated EotN or GWEN. EotN requires any one of the three campaigns, but really just builds off of the story of Prophecies more than the other two. EotN serves one majorly important purpose: to set in motion the story of Guild Wars 2.
Eye of the North takes place 6 years after the end of Prophecies and it's all about stopping the rise of an army of firey hellish beasts called Destroyers, lead by the Great Destroyer. After you stop them, it's ultimately revealed that the Great Destroyer is a general to an ancient sleeping dragon named Primordus. DUN-DUN-DUN!
Races Human - the only playable race in Guild Wars, including all 3 campaigns and EotN. Home kingdom is Ascalon. Also found inhabiting Kryta and parts of the Meguuma Jungle. In Guild Wars, humans are arch-enemies of the charr. The two races haaaate each other.
Charr - big cat warriors. Their homelands are north of Ascalon. They hate humans because they see humans as invaders (Ascalon is on former charr territory). The charr have four legions: Iron, Blood, Ash, and Flame. The Flame Legion actually worshiped Titans as gods and were thus responsible for the rain of hellfire that crushed Ascalon.
Norn - Introduced in EotN. Norn look like humans, but they're massive - adults are like 12 ft tall. They're like vikings or barbarians. They live way up north in the snowy mountains, dig hunting, fighting, and drinking, and they can transform into fucking bears.
Asura - Introduced in EotN. Tiny, diminutive, brianiacs, egotistical, sarcastic. They're geniuses with big eyes and big ears. They used to live underground until the Destroyers forced them out.
A sketch of Tyria as of Guild Wars 2
Dragons, etc Guild Wars 2 takes place 250 years after the events of Eye of the North. During that time, a few important things happened:
The Foefire - The King of Ascalon actually stayed in Ascalon during Prophecies, choosing to continue fighting the charr instead of following the player. During a final battle, the king cast a spell of some sort as a last ditch effort - it wiped out the advancing charr army but also raised the ghosts of humans all across Ascalon. Ever since, the ruins of Ascalon have been inhabited by these ghosts. A real pain in the ass for the charr.
Dragons - A handful of enormous, ancient, evil, sleeping dragons suddenly wake up and emerge from the earth. Their arrival alone causes a lot of devastation, but maybe the most notable physical changes to Tyria are the rising of Orr and the sinking of Lion's Arch. Orr was a big city in Tyria on a penninsula that had long-ago sunk to the depths of the ocean before the story of Prophecies began. When one of the dragons woke up and crawled out from hiding, Orr came back up with him (along with a bunch of undead). The rising of an entire city from the ocean caused massive tidal waves and completely flooded the coastal captial of Kryta, Lion's Arch - which is a major player hub in Prophecies. Humans establish a new captial in Divinity's Reach.
Divinity's Reach in Guild Wars 2
Sylvari - A new race has suddenly appeared in Tyria, just 25 years before the start of GW2. Sylvari are plantlike, born from a giant tree that was planted during the time of Prophecies in the jungle.
I think that should just about do it. Now you have some context, hopefully. The story of Prophecies isn't really all that relevant to Guild Wars 2 - the big thing you need to know is the relationship between humans and charr. Currently, neither Cantha nor Elona play any role in GW2 but it's definitely possible ArenaNet will have us explore them in the future.
Like I said, none of this is required to understand or enjoy Guild Wars 2. It just serves as backstory.
If you play Guild Wars 2, you'll quickly figure out the basic plot: the five main races gotta come together to defeat the dragons.
If you've got questions about Guild Wars, feel free to ask! I've also read one of the novels that takes place a few years before GW2 (and I've started the other novel). If you're really interested, I might suggest you check out the Guild Wars wikis to do some more detailed reading of the campaigns stories.