on Jun 19, 2008
My number one complaint with Guild Wars (Prophesies) is that the outdoor areas have a really bad case of habitrail. You can sometimes see where you’re going, but you can’t get there without meandering all over the place like little Billy in a Family Circus comic. The map usually shows a green arrow to indicate your destination but knowing the direction you want to go is useless when you’re at the mercy of snaking, branching trails. I think they should replace that icon with a piece of cheese, because I usually felt like a lab rat running a maze by the time I reached it.
Sometimes you’ll see where you want to go, which is usually another path, just like the one you’re on, but down a tiny little dirt slope. But you can’t just jump down. No, you have to embark on some sort of Lewis & Clark expedition to find the route down there, walking over hills and through canyons and fighting waves of bloodthirsty foes before you reach that spot ten feet below you. Hills divide the landscape like walls, blocking your view of the gorgeous horizon so that you spend most of your time staring at brown and beige hillsides.
Below is the path you follow for one of the missions in the game. For the most part your mission is just to walk from A to B with a few stops along the way, but check out the route imposed on you by the terrain:
Keep in mind this is the optimal route, the one you will take if carefully following an online guide. If you just navigate around on your own then your path will be bristling with detours, dead-ends, and little cul-de-sacs as you try to feel around for the route that will take you to the rest of the damn mission. After a while I started to feel claustrophobic, which one should not feel when exploring supposedly open wilderness.
At first this was a mild annoyance, but as the game progressed the paths became more frustrating and convoluted. I must be the only person that minds though, because in my last three posts I don’t remember seeing anyone bring it up.
I actually found myself wanting to roll up a new character, just so I could go back to the early parts of the game where the areas allowed for more open exploration and where I could see the horizon once in a while. This seems backwards to me. Most games funnel everyone through a linear tutorial and then set them loose in the open gameworld once they know what they’re doing. Guild Wars seems to do the opposite.
The other thing interfering with my enjoyment of the game is something David V.S. pointed out in the comments, which is that you’re not supposed to do every sidequest in the dang game. They’re spread around and you can pick up the ones that sound fun or have rewards you’re interested in. If you go for them all, you end up grinding your way through worthless zero XP mobs, which was my other gripe about the game. The completionist in me wouldn’t let me pass on all those sidequests because I felt like I’d be missing something.
Even knowing this, it’s very hard for me to resist clicking on those NPCs with exclamation marks over their heads (the ones who have a quest for me) and it’s even harder to refuse the quest, even if I see it takes place in an area I’ve been to and the loot is rubbish. I wont call this a flaw – I’ve seen many other players who like the ability to move forward without signing up for every crap delivery mission and item fetch in a game. But for someone like me, it feels like watching a movie while skipping every third scene. No matter how great the movie is, and no matter how irrelevant those scenes are, I’ll always wonder what I missed.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.