Guild Wars:
You Can’t get There from Here

 By Shamus Jun 19, 2008 50 comments

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:


guild_wars_path.jpg

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.


20201050 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Zukhramm says:

    I take allmost all quest, but usually do not do them, but I take them, and when I sometime later on feel bored, I might go out and finish them.

    Following annoyinh paths, I remember this bothering me in the beginning of Prophecies. I’m not really bothered by it anymore though, but I don’t know if that’s because I got used to it or if there’s less of them. (Kaineng City can be really hard to navigate sometimes, so there are some in the other campaigns aswell)

  2. khorboth says:

    The path issues are what I was trying to allude to with the “slightly-less-than-gentle hills” problem. This was the real deal-breaker for me.

    I think not doing all the quests is called “replayability” because you can then come back later and do the quests that suck to keep from getting bored with your alt (Alternate Character).

  3. Craig says:

    The sidequest thing is one of my problems with WoW. I really like the idea of being able to pick and chose the quests you do, and I even complained about not being able to before, but in practice I find myself getting lost as to where I should go, and wasting time on quests that have little benefit.

  4. Kevin says:

    That would make me crazy!

    Are there addons for Guild Wars? I use Questhelper in WoW that gives you cues on the map about where to go and in certain cases, how to get there. (Also having flying mounts REALLY takes the frustration out of circumnavigating mountains and cliffs and such.)

  5. JoCommando says:

    Shamus, your findings exactly match mine from my initial Guild Wars days. I remember being forced to fight trivial mobs and I certainly remember being forced to take long, horseshoe-shaped detours where hopping a minor terrain feature (a slightly too steep incline, small fence, etc.) would have saved my time and sanity. But what really sticks in my mind is the stark contrast between Pre- and Post-Searing.

    In a way, it is great storytelling. In Pre, the game is all beauty, bliss, vibrant colors, and few annoyances. In Post, the rusty monochrome (in the first few zones), despondent npcs, rampant monsters, and shattered landscape evoke the loss the writers/designers want to convey. But it seems like Terrible game design for all the reasons you’ve mentioned and more. A dark turn in the story shouldn’t make the game less enjoyable from the perspective of its mechanics. Yet, players have to decide if the game itself is worth playing in spite of those questionable design decisions. I’m looking forward to your Final Thoughts.

    /relurk

  6. Factoid says:

    See GTAIV for the best implementation of pathfinding in any videogame ever. It is designed to look and feel similar to car GPS technologies, but it’s better than any car GPS I’ve ever used.

    By the way, I’m noticing a problem with the way comments are displaying. The avatar icon holder is getting clipped a few pixels from the top so that it goes flush with the top of the comment box instead of sitting just a bit above it. This is in IE7.

  7. Zukhramm says:

    Perhaps you should have gone with another of the Guild Wars campaigns from the start, Shamus?

  8. Joshua says:

    I think that the fact you don’t need to do all the side-quests is strongly seen as a feature by the designers, who expect that you’ll play the game more than once with different characters. So unless you’re obsessive about completion (as you seem to be), you will have stuff you’ve never done before even if you’re starting over, keeping the game somewhat fresh.

  9. henebry says:

    Maybe the game designers should take a cue from real life hiking: allow your character to go cross-country, but at the risk of stumbling and taking damage, perhaps being attacked by creatures lurking in the broken earth.

  10. Ryan Speck says:

    I suffer the same IE7 problem that Factoid mentions above.

  11. Ron says:

    Arrgg!!!

    Reading these negative comments drive me crazy, because they fixed all these problems with Nightfall. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take Jeff up on his 14 day trial of Nightfall. It will be a totally different game.

  12. Eric the Baker says:

    The clipping problem is indeed an IE thing. Under Opera 9.5 it looks fine, in other words, the avatars rise above the comment box.

  13. JFargo says:

    I love the game, but have the same issues with Prophecies. Not having played Nightfall, where they supposedly fixed everything thus making the game into the most perfect game ever, I can’t comment on that except to say I hope it’s true.

    I’m also obsessive about completing every single quest. Right now I’m still in the early part of the game (I made an alt to enjoy the game from the beginning again since it’s been so long) and am trying to do every single quest I possibly can, including figuring out what the heck this tapestry quest item does…

  14. DocTwisted says:

    I believe I commented upon the nav system in my comment in your last GW post, but ah well. I get rather frustrated with the green arrow vs. the landscape at times as well. The friend that got me started playing told me “you just need to get used to reading the minimap” or somesuch, but I still get lost, especially in the “Mission” missions of the game.

    I always try to do every mission I can get, because, well, it’s there to be done.

  15. Vao Ki says:

    Nightfall is by no means “perfect” but it is far more playable than Prophecies imo.

    As for the side quest thing, I have a habit of picking up everything as well. I am a completionest as well, however, I complete them on my own terms. I finish quests that net me skills, good stuff (needed xp or items), or advance the story first, then as Zukhramm stated earlier I work on the rest when I’m bored or need a quick fix in between school and life.

    The limited movement thing always bugs me in games. If I can see a location just up/down a shallow hill I should be able to get there from here. That one is definitely a pet peeve for me.

  16. Gary says:

    I have to agree with the inability to jump in Guild Wars.
    That is my single biggest gripe about the game. I eventually got used to it though.

    Navigation gets easier as you become accostomed to the subtle terrain nuances. I constatly switch between the big map and the minimap as I am working a quest. You can’t always see the exact path you are supposed to follow but once you know the way it works you can generally get there with little dificulty.

  17. Kel'Thuzad says:

    I have that same “completionist” in me that you do, Shamus. I tried World of Warcraft… it never really was fun for me, and I cancelled it rather quickly. At first, I would do every little quest, and apparently you were supposed to. When I get to the next area, Sen’Jin village, I once again take all the quests. Then, once I get to the area after that, all the quests are green or gray, and offer little or no experience.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    I imagine the terrain “wall” issue is linked to the lack of Z-axis support in the engine. You can’t jump, swim, slide or really do anything other than walk/run.

    Lack of terrain walls and Z-axis are two of the additions ArenaNet plans to implement in GW2. Hopefully an auction house too (finally).

    And again, if you thought Ascalon in Prophecies was bad, Kaineng City in Factions is far, far worse.

  19. Fizban says:

    JFargo: The tapestry piece is just something you hold onto. Apparently in Eye of the North, Gwen has grown up and becomes a hero, and if you have the various items she gave you, you can get a sidequest and some extra comments.

  20. Paramnesia says:

    *laughs*

    Dead ends and the meandering paths do get frustrating; Kaineng City, as mentioned, can be a headache at times. Some times a point seems so close only to require some very convoluted path finding, but I’ve faced this in other games, mmo and singleplayer, so I don’t hold it entirely against GW. At least GW has map porting.

  21. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    First, I’ve never played GW. I have played WoW, but don’t any longer. Some of the elements of GW appeal to me: no monthly fee so no need to feel like I’m wasting my money, instanced so I can play single-player if I so desire, things like that. I’m a little confused by something, though:

    Quoted from Ron: “they fixed all these problems with Nightfall” – if I understand correctly Nightfall, Propecies, and Factions are different campaigns. In other words, they are set in the same world but they are different stories. I don’t know how anyone else feels, but if you change some of the gameplay elements AND the story you are effectively making a different game – at best, a sequel a la Diablo 2 vs. Diablo. Would anyone claim that changes made in Diablo 2 “fixed” those elements in Diablo? No, you were playing a different game. Same world, different story.

    If I am playing Factions, can I interact with people playing Nightfall? More importantly to this discussion: can I do quests from one story in another? My point is this: Shamus may play Nightfall and discover that the gameplay mechanics he doesn’t like in Prophecies are in fact “fixed”, but he may find at the same time that the story sucks. Or, he may find that the “Heroes” feature in Nightfall would be great to have in Prophecies, but its still not frigging available in Prophecies, so what difference does it make? If Shamus installs Nightfall, can he play the Prophecies story with the additional features of Nightfall available?

    Sorry for tossing this in there, especially if some of my facts are off base. Please feel free to set me straight. Preferably without impugning my family or honour. This would only make you look silly. :)

  22. Kristin says:

    Heh, I’d forgotten how badly that annoyed me at first. “Where’s Aidan? Oh, there he is! Wait, why can’t I get to him?”
    “Where’s the Barradin Estate? Why can’t I get there? Oh, forget this game.”

    Over a year later, I picked it back up, and made myself play it longer – and liked it so much better.

  23. Paramnesia says:

    @AndrewNZachsDad:

    Each campaign, Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall, are stand alone stories with common elements, thus you can play one without the other and you won’t be missing out. As far as Diablo 2 “fixing” elements in Diablo 1, one can look at it this way: Diablo 2 introduced new elements, things that players may have had issues with in Diablo 1. Nightfall is kinda like that to me.

    Each campaign can interact with the other ones you have. If I have Prophecies and Nightfall, for example, I can travel between the two worlds and play with people in the other. My Prophecies character can travel to Nightfall — at a certain point you can take a quest that allows you to travel between the campaigns — and vice versa, but people who only have one campaign cannot travel to the other.

    As for heroes, once you own Nightfall, you can use your heroes in the other campaigns you own as well, and the more you own, the more possible heroes you can collect…. like Pokemon! I sort of think of them as my “pets”. ^^;; Add Eye of the North and I think there’s over 20, but you can only use 3 at a time per party member.

  24. Kennet says:

    It’s funny, I can totally follow your point but it just never really bothered me.

    However, much as I love Guild Wars I would also point out that I don’t think they fixed it completely in Nightfall. If I remember correctly The Shattered Ravines and The Poisonous Outcrops in The Desolation area were a maze to get through. Maybe not the “Shucks, blocked by a 5 degree incline” scenario you are complaining about, but still bad.

    In GW’s defence, it does vary from area to area. Not all are as bad as that.

    And, I would much prefer the little green quest-marker to having no little green quest-marker. That fellow has saved me many hours of mindless wanderings (or at least many hours of looking over Wiki-pages.)

  25. Jeff says:

    So I ended up playing a Warrior/Dervish, with the intention of using Wild Blow and a scythe.

    While it’s amusing smacking hordes with a scythe, I’m not actually getting swarmed enough to matter and my Hero (a warrior, the firs tone – Hoss? Hess?) keeps aggroing better than me, stealing the swams… and negating the point of a scythe. The lower amounts of energy means I can’t really spam the Scythe Mastery attacks (as they’re energy) and there’s no adren Melee Attack from Warrior.

    I think I’m going to restart… with a Warrior/Paragon! Shoot spears everywhere. All Hoplite-like. So while I’m willing to deal with adren now, I’m not willing to deal with the tons of shouts and auras and such playing Paragons imply.

  26. Derek K says:

    So, uh, does anyone have a trial key for Nightfall? I played GW back in the days of free weekends and betas, and never really got grabbed, but my reasons were also mostly things that are fixed in Nightfall, apparently….

    If so, I’d be happy to take one off someone’s hands. My email is MyFirstName.kupperATgmailDOTcom

  27. Oh man….

    When my husband and I were playing Guild Wars, we were constantly complaining about the habitrail feature. My stoic hubby would sigh and declare, “Thwarted again by a small incline.”

    It became our battle cry after a while…

  28. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Paramnesia:

    Thanks for clarifying that. So, effectively, the expansions serve the purpose that weekly updates in WoW perform. That is, they “fix” gameplay elements and add new content. Since there is no monthly fee to play, the publisher needs to charge for these updates some other way. It makes sense. Now. :)

  29. Visi says:

    I’ve noticed clipping a couple of times with Opera, but it tends to go away again if I scroll up/down enough.

    (Sorry, I have nothing to really add to the topic… Try WoW next, you can get it pretty cheap now I think!)

  30. Paramnesia says:

    @ AndrewNZachsDad:

    It’d be closer to looking at them like WoW’s expansion, but stand alone, or a BIG update that “fixes” things that small patches can’t, won’t, or maybe costs more, because the game does still does various patches, listed here. Heroes in Nightfall, for instance, with their greater customization and control addressed the “dumb henchmen” issue for me. For others, Factions and Nightfall “fixed” the slower leveling of Prophecies.

  31. Dev Null says:

    From a game design pov though, if they had made a long narrow map with a straight path down it and no branchings, would that have been better? You would always know which way to go, but it would take you just as long to get there… and you’d be playing DungeonSiege, which sucked, largely because it was too linear.

    I’m not disagreeing with you – this kind of thing drives me nuts too – but it sounds like your issue might be more with the resrictiveness of the path in the first place, rather than its twistiness. I don’t want a freaking bobsled run, I want rolling hills I can run around on (and over!)

  32. Tuck says:

    I only completed the exploration and skill hunter titles after getting Nightfall — being able to take my Heroes from Nightfall into the Prophecies and Factions campaign worlds played a big part of this!

  33. ngthagg says:

    Just in case you don’t know about it, pressing ‘u’ will bring up a small copy of the world map, with the red dot path included. I find it helps keep me from going around in circles.

  34. journeyman says:

    Factoid and Ryan Speck: Bugger IE, just download Firefox. Problem solved, and you have a better browser.

  35. Rick says:

    Navigation in Guild Wars is a tricky thing: it takes a while to figure out, but once you do it’s not so bad. Except Kaineng City. Shudder.

    For instance, if that’s the mission I think it is, it’s fairly straightforward despite the winding path; for most of it, you’re following Captain Suicide, who’s not going to lead you wrong as long as he doesn’t go and get himself killed. For the rest, you’re either following Charr or a road.

    As for the levelling thing: In Prophecies, I usually hit 20 just before the game expects me to, despite doing all the sidequests. I don’t know if I skipped a few sidequests the XP from killing enemies would make up for it. And after the early parts of Post-Searing Ascalon, you’re not really that far ahead of the curve.

    Also: AndrewNZachsDad – I know it was a purely hypothetical situation, but liking the plot of Prophecies better than Nightfall? Ha!

  36. Jeromai says:

    Here’s a tip for the obsessive completionists who love to do every side quest, but hate easy challenges or zero xp mobs:

    Take all the quests. Don’t do all of them yet. Finish up the story missions first. Completing those will unlock “hard mode.”

    Then you can go back to the “grey” quests, with extra challenge. The quest reward won’t improve, but the xp per mob cleared won’t be zero, and the loot drops will be better. And if/when you get slaughtered a few times on hard mode, doing them in normal “grey” con to get them done will be a relief. :)

    Anyway, XP and levels are fairly meaningless in GW. (Another innovation way past the ability of many players to comprehend.) A number hit the level 20 cap, and go, “uhh? that’s it? where’s the endgame?” Little realizing that there a million other ways to progress in GW – some of them exceptionally hardcore in grinding.

    (eg. Collect all skills, for all professions. Finish all quests. Normal and hard mode. x3 campaigns + 1 sequel. Faction grind for more skills. Design brilliant builds, for various purposes. Equip yourself, equip your umpteen heroes for max effectiveness. Collect elite armor and weapons. Chase hard-to-get titles, miniature pets, you-name-it. Hall of Heroes for Eye of the North, and all their minigames/dungeons, etc.)

  37. Cineris says:

    Most of the missions are pretty linear – It’s kind of the nature of a mission. You might get a branch or two that you can take, but the realities of the geography (and lack of proper Z-axis support) make more than that kind of hard to accomplish.

    Most of the exploration areas are pretty much wide open. And, yeah, Ascalon is way too dreary after the searing.

  38. Rekres says:

    If you don’t like Guild Wars, may I suggest a free alternative…. Anarchy Online. There is a similar feel to both games, but AO seems more open. When moving about only the steepest of paths tend to stop movement, and even then you can often find a way up and over… usually just by hitting the hill at a slighly different angle.

    Anarchy Online is free to download, free to play…. however there are limits for the free players. Some areas of the game are off-limits and several advanced options are only available to paying customers. Two add-on expansions are available for purchase. Out of the 20 or so classes, only 2 are not available for free players.

  39. Karl says:

    Guild Wars was my first MMO. I then switched to WoW. The main reasons being the ability to quest single player (without party members, AI or human) and the free roaming environments. WoW also had the auction feature, reducing the dependency on chat channels for trade. WoW has it’s own set of problems, and that’s magnified by the monthly fee. But at the time, I recall it being a significant step up in polish. That’s just my opinion though. The only other MMO I’ve dabbled in was City of Heroes, and that was just a 10 day trial.
    As far as PvP goes, I dunno. I never was a big PvP person, so I suspect I missed out on a big part of Guild Wars.

  40. Sem says:

    Gigantic completionist here too :). I can’t play a single rpg without doing every dang quest I can find. Sometimes this makes me ridiciously overpowered and then I can slay the end boss with one or two attacks.

    It’s even worse concerning loot. I’m a gigantic pack rat and usually drown in items & gold. Even in games with limited inventory I just stuff everything I can’t carry into a container and come back when necessary (which never happens off course).

    I have to admit that since I started working this behavior has lessened since my time has become more limited.

    I have also the same problem with movies. If I zap in on a movie on TV I won’t keep watching even if I missed only the first minute of it. Luckily, I stopped watching TV about 5 years ago and switched to anime & tv shows on PC which makes rewinding easy (or even rewatching earlier episodes for now significant clues).

  41. qrter says:

    Off-topic but on-topic in a General Shamus Way – 2k have officially removed the install limit from BioShock..

    http://www.gamesradar.com/pc/bioshock/news/bioshock-drm-is-no-more/a-2008061917314184007/g-20060426172718471012

  42. JFargo says:

    Fizban: Don’t know if you’ll see this, but thanks for the help! I’ll hold onto it and see what happens.

  43. Zaxares says:

    I find your opinion of this interesting, Shamus, because it sounds like you’d be the EXACT kind of player who’d like the way exploration was handled in Factions and Nightfall. In those campaigns, certain areas of the map are blocked off with locked gates until you complete storyline missions. That greatly limits your “freedom” to explore at your will, but it also ensures that you never really get “lost”. There’s only a certain amount of areas you can go and quests you can do before you HAVE to go complete the mission to move on. It was perfect for me, as a fellow completionist player, because it cut down the “things I have to complete” into more manageable sizes, and into an orderly fashion which could be tackled in a logical manner.

    On the other hand though, I also know players who absolutely LOVED the sheer freedom of Prophecies and of running around the maps poking their nose into every little cranny and getting deliciously lost. The same people LOATHED the locked gates in Factions and Nightfall, and some boycotted the game because of it.

    Prophecies is still an excellent campaign on its own terms, but I’d say that after you’re done with it, you should give Factions and Nightfall a try, Shamus. You might find them more to your liking.

  44. Derek K says:

    @Zaxares: You, more than anyone, have just cemented for me that Nightfall is in fact the expansion I want. Because I can’t stand open world games, for just that reason – if the entire world is open, how do I know when I’ve finished the area?

    But gates seem like the perfect blend. Woo hoo!

    Now if I could just get a trial key….

  45. Ferrous Buller says:

    No matter how great the movie is, and no matter how irrelevant those scenes are, I’ll always wonder what I missed.

    A lot of MMORPGs seem to be structured this way, where there are way more quests of a given level than any one character can run through and still get XP for all of them. My solution – and perhaps this was the developers’ intent – is to run multiple characters through the game, taking different sets of quests with each one, so I can see all the quests (and how the different classes play) without wasting time on quests which are too low-level to yield any gains.

  46. Derek K says:

    @Ferrous:

    It is, but that’s frustrating. WoW is very much like this. There are a number of different areas you can quest at per level.

    Of course, at least one is the “optimal” place. But still, you can branch out, but you also feel like you *have* to. I didn’t even know Stonetalon Peaks existed for a while. Once I did, I had to go back and run through it.

  47. Greg P says:

    That was my major problem with GW. Getting frustrated any time I tried to go anywhere. And getting stuck on the hundreds of broken staircases that dot the ruined landscape.

    GW was my second MMO. I started with CoH, and was *so* used to being able to jump and fly literally anywhere (well, except to the top of the few tallest buildings that project through the game’s ‘ceiling’.) I got really annoyed at being unable to hop even a few inches off the ground.

    Admittedly, I only played Prophecies, so I can’t agree or disagree about it being improved in later expansions.

    @ Paramnesia: I think the patches for WoW (and CoH) add a lot more content and more substantial rule changes than the patches for GW do. Probably not as much as the expansions for GW, but they *do* make serious changes to the gameplay and add entirely new areas and quests and powers and the like.

  48. You are not alone. The painful terrain is what made me stop playing the game.

    In terms of the “more quests than you need” problem, I think you have to get into a mindset that says “I will be playing through this game more than once”. Then the choice of what your current character chooses to do (or not do) becomes a character choice.

  49. [...] the habitrail effect.  Shamus describes it well here, but in a nutshell, PreSearing Ascalon is pretty much free range adventuring, but once the world [...]

  50. lmb-me mo 9 says:

    I have been playing GW for a week. I also play Wow (2 years). By far not being able to just jump over or tumble down the terrain has been the biggest frustration for me. The terrain “fences” in WoW are far more subtle and infrequent than the copious invisible walls of
    frustration in GW. I can’t wade into water, oil etc? Why on Earth not?!?!! I love the game play but exploring and traveling in general is completely frustrating. It was a terrible design decision I hope to goodness is fixed in GW2.
    Sometimes in WoW I like to just explore openly-walk around and take in the landscapes unfettered. In GW it is so annoying I only do it because I have a mission/quest to complete. Even in cities?! It makes no sense at all. I truly enjoy this game but traveling is a misery most of the time.

One Trackback

  1. By Guild Wars Goofs « Tish Tosh Tesh on December 8, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    [...] the habitrail effect.  Shamus describes it well here, but in a nutshell, PreSearing Ascalon is pretty much free range adventuring, but once the world [...]

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