Farewell, Afflicted. I haven’t played all of Winds of Change yet, but I’ve played enough to have wiped you out. I don’t often get the chance to say this to monstrously mutated homicidal disease-ridden people, but I’ll miss you.
As someone whose first campaign was Factions, I cut my teeth fighting you. Arriving in Kaineng City, after being coddled back on Shing Jea, was a shock in many ways. First, the walled city itself was so stunning, seeing the way it spans in all directions—up, under, out. I’d look in amazement at the canyons of buildings and wonder how many people live in them. And when I’d look at the blurry map, as yet unexplored by my character, I’d find it hard to believe this city really extended as far as it seemed to.
For a city like this, you were the perfect monster. As an outsider looking in, trying to grasp the sheer density of people who must live there, the city invoked a fear of insignificance in me. The improbable construction accumulating and accumulating, as if built out of desperation, unable to stop or keep up, invoked hopelessness and a fear of inevitability. Good thing the city was so beautiful, because I knew I would never want to leave.
And you were the realization of those fears. Here were people turning into mindless murderers, retaining next to nothing of their former lives and joining an ever-growing army of monsters. That was the second shock: you put up a hell of a fight. I was a new player, a rookie ritualist clutching Vorizun’s urn to her chest, still struggling to get a grasp on my own skills, let alone able to muster an effective party of henchmen. It soon occurred to me how you were fighting as a group, each of you playing a different role appropriate to your profession. I started to learn who each of you were.
Warrior, your enthusiasm was certainly hard to ignore. Which is odd considering how much you had me face-down in the filthy street. You always seemed to be first and last to the fight.
Ritualist, I saw a lot of myself in you. I mean, except for the fact that you’re a giant triangle or something. But you showed me how strong a ritualist can be by hanging back and keeping your teammates standing.
Elementalist, you’re a bully. I got nothing more to say to you.
Assassin. The cute one. I remember this one time a woman was looking for a lost teddy bear. I think this was near Nahpui Quarter. Anyway, this woman asked for the bear, but who would want a ratty bear when they could have something as cute as you? So I brought you to her, my arms wrapped around you, your spindly knife legs flailing and slashing. She was so ungrateful.
Monk, I could never make up my mind about you. Sometimes I’d decide you’re no threat and ignore you, and that’s when you’d let me have it. I think you just wanted the attention (and a burning ray of light is one way to get someone’s attention).
Mesmer, I never really understood what it is you do. You seemed a little obsessed with people running. Were you a lifeguard before you became infected?
Ranger: Throw dirt, throw dirt, throw dirt. You sure got this life thing figured out, don’t you?
Necromancer, I’m sorry, I know we’ve met but I didn’t really remember you. That is, until we met again.
Much later, after I acquired all the skills for a minion-bomber build, I went back to Vizunah Square to try it out. There were so many of you—so many bodies exploding in lightning and reanimated flesh. I’m sorry to say it, but that was the moment I realized that we had grown apart and you were no longer the threat you had been earlier on.
And then I returned another time, at the behest of this so-called Ministry of Purity. You all had learned a lot since we first met. I remember when I first saw you again, Assassin, and you shadow stepped right to me, as if not even space itself could keep us apart. And you, Necromancer, the new head of the pack! You really came a long way. I realized that I had drifted away and forgotten what we used to have. That you taught me how to play Guild Wars.
But now you’re gone. Cleansed. And I’m left wondering why this is a big deal for me. Up until now, there had been an unspoken, unfulfilled promise: as the hero, the player should be able to set things right and rid the city of the plague. But that never happened, as it turned out to be a side effect of a greater problem, the return of Shiro. In fact, you had become such an integral part of the city’s character that I don’t think I ever gave a second thought to why you were still around.
But it turns out that ArenaNet was willing to let you go. Is this, like many other elements of Guild Wars Beyond, a taste of what Guild Wars 2 will bring? If your rise, Afflicted, were a Dynamic Event—Infection! Monsters! Epidemic! Fixed!—would you maintain the character that made you a part of the setting and so memorable to me? (My guess is yes, absolutely. I don’t think ArenaNet would be happy with Dynamic Events otherwise.)
And so, the city still stands. I still feel like I’m staring into the abyss when I’m in it. And now you’re gone. But there are other monsters to deal with.