“How do I learn the lore?” is a question that I see commonly asked. It would be simple to direct you to a page or video so you can read or hear someone else’s words on the subject. This gives you the lore and story, but it doesn’t teach you how to learn the lore for yourselves. Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG so you might expect the lore to be given through traditional quest box. Guild Wars 2, however, does not have traditional quests and their text box, so you have to get the lore with other means.
Guild Wars 2 displays its lore and story in different ways, from the Story Journal and instances, to less conventional methods such as interactive items and ambient conversations. This causes many to overlook key parts of the lore as they slide into obscurity. But all the methods are important in delivering a cohesive story and interesting lore. Forgetting about one method is to forget about part of the story. I’ll go through these methods from most prominent to least, and I’ll use the Entanglement release as an example.
This is where most people feel most comfortable in getting their lore. It is simple as the story is presented right to your feet, but there is a part that seems to get overlooked. Before moving to the next part in the mission, make sure you speak to any and all non-player characters (NPC) you can find.
In the Entanglement release, if you speak with Braham while you’re clearing the Cavern of Shining Lights of the Inquest, he will have this to say:
“Every time I fight Inquest, I think about ending up in a cage while they experiment on me. It’s my worst nightmare. I’d rather be dead. Taimi told me that Inquest did horrible experiments on sylvari when they first arrived. They treated them like animals. I wasn’t born yet when they first arrived, so they’ve just always been around me. I can’t imagine how strange it must be for people who remember a time before sylvari.”
From this completely optional dialogue, we get an interesting fear of Braham, and a brief rundown on the asura and their first interactions with the sylvari. But this conversation also does, is bring an interesting notion: There is a generation of people that have never lived in a world before their awakening. As Braham says, I can’t imagine how strange it must be for people who remember a time before sylvari.
It may come to a surprise that dynamic events are a source of lore. The events littered around the world tell a story. A story of the present. They explain the struggles of the people, be it war, tragedy, or exploration. Although they only give a brief of the world around, it often times an introductory to detail that can be found through the other methods.
However, there are times where these events may yield more direct results. For example, in the Entanglement release, there is a Maguuma Shaman that attempted to bring rain to the oasis. She says the following:
“Shifting sands, this traveller begs your eternal pardon. You have our life source sealed away beneath you. I ask respectfully that you return to the winds, that we may drink.”
First, the event itself is lore, as it shows how the Oasis is sustained even in the harsh climate and the destructive sandstorms. The shaman periodically rains the area and clears the place from the elements. That is from the event itself, but the dialogue within the event, shows that this is achieved from a ritual of sorts. They also seem to show that the Maguuma Centaurs have the same affiliation with the earthen elements similar to their more volatile cousins.
There are many named characters within the world, and what they all have in common is that they all have interesting lore just waiting to be heard. These characters seem to get overlooked if the story does not include them.
Let us take an example from Entanglement once more: Ehrgen Cragstrider. When asked about his tribe’s hospitality, he says:
“I regret the sad truth of your words. We have worked to distance ourselves from the violent history of our people. Our people’s ancestors once roamed the Maguuma Jungle. We parted ways with the tribe would call Harathi and followed the setting sun to reclaim the peaceful old way of our forerunners.”
Ehrgen tells us of his tribe’s past as violent as the Harathi that you meet in Kryta. It is even possible that if they didn’t change their ways, they would’ve followed the Harathi to the war with the humans. We also learn that they used to follow a peaceful older way of their predecessors used to practice.
This is not all, when asked about any connection to Ventari, he says:
“I do not know of this Ventari, though his words echo our old ways. Perhaps we had common forerunners in the Maguuma Jungle.”
Although they do not know of Ventari personally, Ehrgen states that his tenets, the tenets that shapes almost all goodly sylvari, sound similar to the old ways of their predecessors. There is more on Scarlet and the sylvari, but I’ll leave you to talk to him about that. And remember, this is only one character in a world that is littered with them. Remember, these dialogue options are in the game, to tell a story about the world, so seek out these named characters and learn.
The most overlooked method of presentation, but in my opinion the most important. Ambient Conversations are dialogue between two characters within the world. As these happen with or without the player there, it is often overlooked as unimportant. But, I will argue the opposite. As these happen within the world, they often give insight the cultures of those around us, as the player may not be able to gain that insight on account of being an outsider.
For example, Ehrgen has a conversation with a villager:
Maguuma Villager: “I ask your pardon, but with such scarcity, do we not endanger ourselves by sharing our resources with outsiders?”
Ehrgen Cragstrider: “No. I cannot pardon such sentiment. Hear me. We will share whatever we have to give, all that we are capable of, with any who have need. It is our calling to protect and aid our friends who fell from the sky, these good people of Glint.”
This shows that there is some who don’t share the same thought as the leader of the tribe. It is not a thought of hostility but one of sharing supplies. This brings an interesting notion: should you share with outsiders when your own supply is scarce? Ehrgen is adamant that they should as he believe it is their way. It is one thing to preach of these tenets but it is another to show it, and that it what Ehrgen does.
Let’s have another example. In this conversation, priory explorers ponder the corruptibility of the sylvari:
Explorer Kitabu: “So a mad sylvari terrorizes Tyria for half a year, and then another mad sylvari brings down the Zephryite ship right next to her former home.”
Explorer Savio: “Yeah. I think I understand now why Gixx opted not to send a sylvari along on our mission.”
Explorer Kitabu: “I’d though their people were singularly incorruptible. We all did…”
Explorer Amoxtli: “Shame on both of you. Where I grew up, there were noble, kind sylvari and cruel, twisted sylvari, as is true of any race of Tyria. Isn’t it true that your people are also capable of great good and terrible evils?
We first learn from this conversation is that Gixx opted not to send a sylvari, so he must’ve at least known of the situation to a degree. The priory must have knowledge that many, even in the order, are unaware of. The second subject is Aerin and Scarlet, and if there is any correlation. The sylvari were thought to be, as Kitabu states, singularly incorruptible. Amoxtli, however gives a great counter argument stating there are both sides, even to the sylvari. So this brings the question; what correlation, if any, is there with twisted sylvari, such as the Nightmare Court or Scarlet, with the corruptibility of their race? Are the Nightmare Court any part of this? This dialogue questions the psychology of an entire race, and many would miss hearing it.
Lastly, Kitabu introduces an interesting notion: is this all a coincidence? Amoxtli believes it a bad omen, the Zephryites consider the aspects to align. Is it all a coincidence or is there a bigger meaning to it all?
So stand around for a minute or two, hear the conversations and learn more of the story and the lore on a level that many would miss out on.
Interactive items are located out in the world. These are documents, pictures, logs, novel etcetera. Not necessarily hidden, but is often overlooked because of the nature of MMORPGs, where the world is only a window for your eyes. You must condition yourself to look for these documents as they give great insight into virtually any topic.
For example, in Entanglement, there were several documents and books within the Cavern of Shining Lights that had no direct story interaction. In fact, all of them were not available until you left the story instance and are in the open world. One such document is a book ‘Magical Grounding versus Magical Flow’ by Scholar Abel:
“The theoretical treatise discusses the control of magical energy as it applies to ghosts. Scholar Abel of the Durmand Priory theorizes that ghosts are just magical energy constructs. Because of this, they can be grounded as lightning can, or channelled as electrical surges can. The entire second half of the work is his complaint that no one takes his theories seriously.”
This particular book gives new insights of the workings of ghosts, a topic without much knowledge. It is said that the ghosts are ‘magical energy constructs’. You would have never learnt of this without reading this book. There is also, always the chance that Scholar Abel in this case might be wrong. For we also must take into account the source of our information. This is, after all, only a theory.
Due to the nature of MMORPGs, the world is often overlooked as nothing but scenery. This cannot be further from the truth. The world can give us new visual lore that we would not learn in any other form.
For example, in Entanglement, outside the centaur encampment there are two banners with the symbol of the tribe.
So look past the personal story missions that direct to the most visible lore, and hunt for the deeper, interesting lore and story hooks that would be completely missed otherwise.