By this point I was relatively familiar with the controls so I was able to enjoy the conflict we were dropped into, fighting our way into and through some crypts where we were confronted by a huge angry looking hammer-wielding golem. Lewis told me how dodging worked but the golem kept holding his hammer up and pausing, causing me to dodge prematurely and expend all my stamina so when the thing finally did come down I was unable to dodge. THWACK. Hello floor, it’s been a while. This time I had comrades to help me back to my feet (Guild Wars 2 allows all professions to revive others) but the looming hammer up above scared me too much to get anywhere near the golem before the other players who had accompanied us managed to destroy it. That was the end of the Charr intro and I felt a lot better about it than the Sylvari’s if only because by that point I had a much better idea of what I was doing.
Lewis had to leave me and Steerpike for a tournament game so the two of us did some exploring around the Plains of Ashford and came across some more renown hearts and events. Like the ones in the Sylvari area they were relatively short contained affairs lasting no longer than 10 to 15 minutes but the two of us were quite surprised by how dull a handful of them were. One in particular required us to go around a small junkyard tidying the place up by pressing ‘1’ to kill rats and ‘f’ to organise piles of junk. Gripping stuff. Most other events were variations on ‘Help me! [insert enemies here] are doing something bad, stop them!’: skritts stealing cannonballs, drakes and tar elementals moving in on a fishing lake, termites attacking the hollowed tree, the undead attacking from the hills. Naturally there’s going to be a pattern here of setting up conflict between player and enemy — it’s a genre staple — but what surprised me however, and this includes the junkyard tidying up task (regardless of how boring it was), is that some effort is being made to mix things up, to the point where it’s hard to guess what’s around the next corner. When Lew was back we all did an event that involved us distracting female ‘devourers’ away from their eggs using weird musical instruments so we could steal them. There was a renown heart that transformed us into snow leopards and one that allowed me to eat mushrooms to make myself huge. There was even an event that had us collecting dud mortar shells that could be tossed at attacking ‘Flame Legion’ Charr. It wasn’t exactly Planescape: Torment but it does make me wonder what’s in store later on and whether these renown hearts and events will become much larger and more involved.
After Steerpike disconnected and we started winding down, Lew decided to take me sightseeing in and around some of the capital cities. He also wanted to show me the PvP side of the game because aside from it being a key component of the game it featured a tutorial that he thought I’d appreciate following my confusion through the Sylvari intro.
On arriving at the Charr capital city, the Black Citadel, and later the human capital city of Divinity’s Reach, any thoughts I had on the modesty of the earlier activities started to melt away. I was agog at the scale of these places and even more so at the care and attention that had clearly gone into every square pixel of them. Even back at the Plains of Ashford Steerpike and I spent a good minute staring at a giant ornate furnace. I thought his connection had dropped, but he was there, silently admiring it like I was. It was a nice furnace, we both wish we had a furnace like that. As Lewis and I wandered the city streets I kept stopping to stare at things; at every turn there was something amazing to gawp at: hulking plate metal war machines fashioned to resemble lion heads; a bright garden dome housing an elaborate real-time clock made up of pulleys, cables, golden globes, stars, cogs and a giant crescent moon; a whacky brass contraption bellowing out weird music in one of Divinity’s Reach’s lower plazas; the game told us that we’d only explored 1% of either city so really we’d not seen a thing. Nevertheless, it was time to move on.