As a lore fiend, I enjoy hunting down and discovering as much as possible about the world I’m playing in by going through every nook and cranny, via the books I read or the history of the world around me. One area I’ve always felt was lacking in Guild Wars is the lore surrounding the professions themselves. ArenaNet missed a brilliant opportunity to bring us exciting and interesting lore about the elite specialisations with the release of Heart of Thorns.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Guild Wars lore (because I’m not and that would be lying), but the general feeling of profession lore in the franchise feels lacking for a lore junkie like myself. In the original franchise, the professions were given skills in their starting zones by a ‘master’ of their profession. One such example was Aziure, who despite having a kick-ass armor set that we could never obtain (I still haven’t forgiven you for that, ArenaNet), also gave you a small selection of your basic skills. These skills, however, were quickly obtained but never explained. My elementalist could suddenly cast Fire Storm and Glyph of Lesser Energy, but I was never told how my elementalist had learned this. Did it take time? Was Fire Storm a skill passed on by a legendary elementalist who took years tapping into and perfecting the magic of the bloodstone of destruction? Did he discover ancient texts that taught him how to do so from the Forgotten or Seers? Was the glyph itself a common known sign passed through whispers or was it well-recorded in ancient tomes of a legendary elementalist of years gone by? I didn’t know and, unfortunately, I wouldn’t get the chance to know either.
Legends of Years Passed
As the campaigns progressed, we did learn of some named NPCs who had skills we could learn from. Verata’s infamous study into undead magic bolstered my necromancer’s ability to become a minion master, despite the fact that such experiments on Ascalonian refugees made Verata an outlaw. Teinai, a legendary elementalist from Cantha, gave us four skills, one for each element. While these were good insights into who we learned these skills from, there was still little lore surrounding what made these skills so special in particular. Did Verata’s experiments on kidnapped Ascalonian corpses bolster his necromancy in some way and was the use of his skills looked down upon in the necromancer community? While I could talk to trainers and steal skills from enemies, I never truly got the answer for where this ability to rain fire from the skies came from. As the years moved on and with my questions left unanswered, I had hoped to see this change in Guild Wars 2.
When I stepped into the world of Guild Wars 2 for the first time, I quickly realised that my answers weren’t coming. As my elementalist defended Divinity’s Reach from stampeding centaurs, I was learning the ability to erupt lava from Tyria’s soil and rain meteors from the sky, but I never found out how. At a stretch, I tried to justify that as my elementalist became more experienced with using her magic on foes, she began learning more experienced ways of using it, but this still felt like a hollow answer. As I suddenly got the notification that I could switch to earth attunement with a level up, the old question returned to me — how? What sudden experience caused my apprentice elementalist to suddenly know how to throw stone from her hands? Did she always know but suddenly had the courage to? While my Guild Wars 1 character graduated from the Ascalon Academy, did my Guild Wars 2 character study in the college of elementalists? Did this school differ from how Charr were taught to attune with the elements? The lore wasn’t there. One could argue that the lack of lore surrounding our characters fosters a community for roleplayers to let their imaginations take them wherever they wanted, and while I think the roleplay community should be helped as much as possible, the complete lack of lore made the history of my profession feel non-existent and disconnected from the elementalists around me. With some facts about how human scholars were trained and the legendary figures they learned from, I could have taken my character’s history into many different directions. Perhaps she learned magic through studying the texts of a famous elementalist who fought in the Guild Wars in school, or perhaps she refused this system and decided to learn from a tricksy street rat friend.
With the announcement of Heart of Thorns, my hopes to get more lore surrounding our elite specialisations came to an all time high. We knew that Rytlock Brimstone learned revenant magic while in the Mists, and that the scrapper elite specialisation came from charr who were sent to the junkyards. It was looking more and more hopeful that I’d finally get more lore surrounding the new skills I was about to learn… but then the expansion released. A familiar question washed over me as I clicked my elite specialisation and could suddenly overload the elements, or become a celestial avatar — how? Again, there wasn’t an answer.
A Professional Journey
So far, I’ve given ArenaNet a lot of criticism, but what could they do to give people, such as myself, the details we’ve been looking for? One possible solution for this is a unique quest line for each elite specialisation. Imagine for a moment that your ranger has stepped into the jungle and learned of the druids that used to inhabit this place. Ancient texts and markings litter the walls of the jungle itself, and with the Pact fleet having crashed into the jungle, ancient mysteries have become unearthed for your ranger to discover. You’re given a questline that takes you around the Maguuma Jungle, discovering long forgotten knowledge of the stars and sky along with the mysteries of the healing waters flowing throughout the jungle itself. You discover ancient caves, text markings, and other NPCs who guide you on your journey to become a master druid. The more you learn, the more your skills unlock as you discover more potent ways to use the stars and skies to heal your allies and hinder your opponents.
While the above would be ideal for someone, such as myself, who is massively invested in the lore of Guild Wars, I also understand that this solution comes with flaws that far outweigh its overall positives. By doing this, ArenaNet would annoy a section of the Guild Wars player base that wants to unlock the skills as soon as possible. In addition to this, having to do a quest line for all nine professions may become repetitive and unfriendly for those who enjoy playing alts even if the quests are all unique. There’s also no solution for WvW players wanting to use the new elite specialisation. WvW players would be forced to play PvE content to unlock the specialisation, which is unfair for those wanting to play WvW only. Finally, the time investment required in order to create nine unique quest lines taking players all over Tyria would be a monumental task for ArenaNet, and would also extend their development time for expansions, or possibly make them sacrifice other elements of the expansion itself, like story instances.
So what happy medium is there? One idea I’ve had is to add this lore to the unique armor and weapon skins each elite specialisation has. Currently, you obtain the armor skin by completing your elite specialisation skill tree. As for the weapon skin, you can go on a collection quest to obtain an ascended version more ‘flashy’ than the one you get given from the outset. Instead, there could be a multi-part collection quest that tasks players to go all over Tyria to fetch their new weapon skin. These collection items task the player to discover the history or new knowledge that comes with their elite specialisation by means of exploration. As they progress through the collection, they will discover more lore related to it and obtain weapon and armor skins along the way. By doing this, they are adding lore to the loreless specialisations that doesn’t directly impact the gameplay for people playing the game. This also gives players nine unique journeys that educate them about their specialisation and how it fits into the world of Tyria. It becomes a mini-version of precursor crafting that is easier for players to obtain. Of course, this would still take development time and resources to do; , ArenaNet may not have the resources to do it.
Overall, I’ll always want more lore surrounding the professions and specialisations themselves and I hope ArenaNet finds a solution in the future that satisfies my eleven year urge to discover the history of my profession’s skills.