Since Colin Johanson’s segment during the PC Gaming Show at E3, the community has been showered with press releases and official blog posts detailing the core features that players will be able to look forward to with the addition of guild halls in Heart of Thorns. The return of guild halls may feel overdue for those who played the older series of games, where all you had to do was acquire a celestial sigil and choose the type of hall you wanted. I admit to thinking that halls were definitely going to be included in the release of Guild Wars 2 because, for me, they were these beautiful but private areas that allowed guilds (and alliances) to convene and relax from the busy-ness of the larger city zones. Honestly, it was harder for me to accept guilds at the game’s release without guild halls, but I can only speak for myself. Though, when looking at the full timeline of the franchise’s existence, the Guild Wars franchise has always had a peculiar relationship with guilds and what they represent, both in lore and as a feature.
What have guilds meant to a game titled “Guild Wars?” For those less acquainted with the original series’ lore, The Guild Wars were a string of cross-kingdom conflicts that took place before the first game, Guild Wars: Prophecies. Guilds had risen to power during a period of wealth and innovation following the Exodus of the Gods, often operating across the borders of the three main Tyrian kingdoms of Ascalon, Kryta, and Orr. Eventually, those guilds turned on one another, swaying the three kingdoms into war for resources and control over the remains of the bloodstones. The Third Guild War ended abruptly with the initial charr invasions against the the human kingdoms. After the events of The Searing, guilds became nothing more than groups of heroes and adventurers without any true political agency, that is, until the release of Guild Wars: Factions.
Across the ocean to the south, guilds from any nation could pledge their support to one of two Canthan factions, the Kurzicks or Luxons. There, guilds and their allies fought on a battlefront along the Echovald Forest and Jade Sea in Alliance Battles, or the events at Fort Aspenwood and Jade Quarry, in order to claim outposts for either side. Factions gave guilds a bit more agency by allowing them to form political alliances in a form of PvP, but the feature ran in direct opposition with the main storyline of the game, which required the players to unite the two nations against Shiro Tagachi and his Afflicted, making the conflict feel a little arbitrary in the larger narrative.The Kurzick and Luxon Warfront
Finally, with Factions and Nightfall, ArenaNet added several new guild hall skins, but Eye of the North and Guild Wars: Beyond lacked any new guild content. Each of the three standalone campaigns came with their own guild hall skins, hall merchant upgrades, and access to the guild vs guild PvP type. Guild leaders could recruit members and assign officers. There could only be one leader, and only the leader had the ability to change the guild cape and hall. Both the leader and officers could change the guild message board, though. This was the span of guild content in the original series.
With the launch of Guild Wars 2, it was hard to tell if guilds were still a part of the current lore. The world was full of military, engineering, research, and subterfuge organizations that either served their race’s government infrastructure or had been born and grown beyond guild size. It’s likely that guilds became smaller mercenary bands that helped protect trade routes or towns. Eventually, that changed with the formation of “Destiny’s Edge,” a guild of seven members (Garm included, of course) and the only guild mentioned to have fought the Elder Dragons with some success. Unfortunately, their success was short-lived and Destiny’s Edge split up for a time before returning to fight the Elder Dragon Zhaitan. The personal story and living story of Guild Wars 2 doesn’t acknowledge a player character’s guild or even if that player character belongs to one—short of your small band of friends in the living story—but that appears to be changing with Heart of Thorns.“Destiny’s Edge 2.0”, at least, until we have a better name.
GUILDS IN HEART OF THORNS
With the Pact Fleet and armies severely crippled, the major players of Tyria are at an impasse. The nations of Tyria cannot afford to divert more of their own defenses from their territories to combat Mordremoth, but they also know that they cannot simply ignore the elder dragon and expect it to go away. Because of this, an organization known as the “Guild Initiative” is formed to recruit guilds to join the fight against Mordremoth and capture locations of unknown strategic importance to the elder dragon. This is the topic of the first of many blog posts from last Thursday, and it’s something I find exciting. Never before have guilds been so directly addressed by the lore, and I’m curious how ArenaNet will continue to use this in future guild content.The Guild Initiative HQ
In practice, guilds will be sent west to establish strongholds at these strategic locations. Once taken from the enemy, these instanced locations become a guild’s home as soon as a guild leader “attunes” a magic crystal located deeper within the hall, removing the dragon’s influence. There are two massive guild halls in this expansion, the Lost Precipice and the Gilded Hollow, and both can be swapped for one another when desired. The Lost Precipice is located along the cliffs between the Magumma Jungle and the desert wastes to the north. It’s the ideal guild hall for cliff jumpers and gliding junkies alike with its massive drops and narrow canyon spaces. Deeper within the jungle lies the Gilded Hollow, a golden (literally branded with shiny gold) abandoned outpost built over a verdant jungle aquifer. In a few ways, the Gilded Hollow is reminiscent of a few of the Elonian guild halls from Guild Wars: Nightfall (or the Hidden City of Ahdashim), which boasted both regal and tropical beauty. Meanwhile, it’s important to note that all construction (finished or in-progress) is transferred if and when a guild moves to a new guild hall. In my opinion, this is great design as it would hopefully allow guilds to move to any new guild halls in future expansions and keep all the upgrades they’ve worked for, similar to how trader unlocks carried over in the original games.The Gilded Hollow
Speaking of upgrades, guild halls will have about six main upgrades to construct, and each performs a unique function with benefits. The tavern, the aetherium mine, workshop, war room, market, and arena will all be available for players to build once they’ve claimed their hall. While much of the tavern’s functionality is still a mystery, guilds can choose their guild anthem from the tavern, which plays after completing a guild mission or capturing an objective in World vs World. The aetherium mine is for, you guessed it, mining aetherium. Upgrades for the mine are all tied to improving the speed and the amount of aetherium mined. The workshop is the home of the new crafting profession, the scribe, which uses personal and guild resources to create guild consumables (like the banquets and banners we have now), hall decoration upgrades, and upgrades that benefit the guild. The war room is where scribes can forge items and blueprints for World vs World gameplay. Things such as upgrades that reinforce walls and gates, improved cannons and traps, and even the ability to call down airship strike can be created in the war room. Feeling the need to represent? The market is home to the guild weaponsmiths and armorers with entirely new sets of “swagtastic” guild gear. Finally, the arena is a large sandbox of a fighting pit. Players can create combat game types and build their own battlefield terrain where they can duel 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 1 vs 1 vs 1, and so on. In addition, guilds can also challenge other guilds to ranked arena battles that are tracked on a leaderboard, reviving much of what once was guild vs guild from the original games. This is something I’ve been looking forward to in terms of guild hall features. While I was never too keen on competitive guild vs guild back in the day, I loved goofing around in duels with friends in the old guild halls—and I can’t wait to do so again.
Aside from the large feature guild upgrades, guild missions and other guild content will be streamlined and instanced. Every guild will receive the same guild missions each week, but they’ll be instanced or unique to that guild, so groups won’t overcrowd mission locations. In addition, guilds can travel together in large groups from the large portal in their halls to wherever their desired objective is, making the guild hall a prime meeting place before starting missions. Need to coordinate with your other guilds? No problem! Players can format their chat box settings to speak across their various guilds all at once, and choose which guilds see what they’re posting. The chat doesn’t allow for seamless communication between guilds, but it’s a step in the right direction.
It’s hard figuring out what I’m anticipating most, but if I had to choose, it’d be the capturing and exploring of the hall itself. It sounds adventurous and even a little mysterious, as ArenaNet has hinted that the guild hall locations hold some amount of importance to the lore in Heart of Thorns. Whether it’s something substantial remains to be seen, but I’m willing to trust the developers on this. As far as improvements go, I’m still hoping for an alliance feature, something that’ll allow improved communication and cooperation between multiple guilds. It’s not quite there yet, but I’m curious to see where they’ll take guild content in the future with these new developments. It’s nice to see that guilds have a lot more for players to work together on, which in turn will affect how many players play the game.