Tyrian Times – The Detached Personal Story and You
By Meredith Watson, OnRPG’s Tyrian Reporter
There is a unique element to Guild Wars 2. It is something that most MMOs don't do. What I am referring to is the personal story. We all have one; though, I wonder does it actually add anything to the game itself or the immersion factor. There are some games, for example World of Warcraft, that have full immersion without a personal story. I am not sure that having a premade story for your character is such a great idea. Most players, especially roleplayers, create their own stories for their characters. While I don't actively roleplay, creating my own backstory is something I do in most games I play. Except in Guild Wars 2 it has been done for me and I am not sure I like it.
At character creation, depending on the race the player selected, he is given several choices which ultimately form his story. Though no matter what the player's personal story is, the core story is the same for everyone with the personal stories weaving in and out of the main storyline. Each race has their own starting zone and starting story which is essentially a tutorial.
For the first ten levels the player's story centres on meeting their mentor such as Logan Thackery for Humans or Caithe for the Sylvari. By level 20 the player's character will have to deal with an unresolved issue from their past. This was chosen at character creation and can be anything from missing a chance to perform in the circus to finding a long lost parent. As the character gets closer to level 30 they are made aware of the three orders who are trying to save Tyria from the Elder Dragons. Once a full member of one of the orders, finding ways to weaken Zhaitan, an elder dragon, and protecting Tyria become the two objectives forming the crux of the storyline to level 80. The personal story is much like a soloable instance though you can bring friends. However, the only one that can make decisions is the player to whom the instance belongs. Supposedly, decisions made with the personal story have an actual effect on the future story with thousands of possibilities which should make Guild Wars 2 highly replayable.
So, do personal stories add anything to the game experience? Without the personalised stories Guild Wars 2 would be nothing more than public quests, some instances and PvP. It would be like any other MMO that offered this fare (Warhammer Online springs to mind). So, it is fair to say that personal stories are what set GW2 apart. The stories are interesting and in later levels a definite sense of urgency is felt when the story becomes more generic rather than personal. Personal stories are not much more than a distraction, if you will, from the otherwise common trappings of MMO gameplay. There are other features about Guild Wars 2 that set it apart from its contemporaries but for some it isn't personal stories.
The problem is that the personal stories don't connect the player with their character. For example, when I think of my ranger I don't associate her with the sister she found or that Tonn died in an explosion. While she was there during these events the results don't feel a part of her - they don't feel as they've had an impact on her as a character. The immersion is lacking. Now if her sister, who is supposedly a sergeant in the guard, was to show up and offer her help, support or guidance in some way then that might make it more worthwhile. As it is now, she saved her sister and hasn't seen hide nor hair of her since. I think part of the lack of connection comes from the fact that her “sister” looks nothing like her and their reunion was lukewarm at best. Couple that with never seeing her again and it all becomes a bit pointless. While telling Tonn's widow of his death is emotional (if you have any empathy at all) it doesn't make me love my ranger any more or any less. It is just another story with more mobs to kill.
Overall, personal stories are a nice distraction from what would be a very standard, albeit gorgeous, game. The stories are interesting if a bit formulaic but don't offer the immersion that a lot of players are looking for. This likely comes from being told what your character's background is by choosing from a limited amount of options. The concept is good but I fear the execution of personal stories leave something to be desired.