There's a lot in store, so I want to start the new year by looking at the thing that finished 2010 and brought us into 2011: Edge of Destiny. Of course, there are spoilers galore, so if you're one of the few who hasn't read the book, be warned.
They're all past the cut, so follow along and let's look at Edge of Destiny.
What's come before
Back when Ghosts of Ascalon came out, there was a comment in the FAQ that said the readers should never "hear the dice rolling." It's generally a good rule of thumb, but Edge of Destiny proved that it's OK to let knowledgeable fans hear a little bit of a rattle as long as it's done well. To me, the hallmark of an excellent game novel is that it draws in veteran and novice alike, and this one did so beautifully. The little dice rattles we heard here and there came in the form of in-jokes that made veteran players laugh, but they didn't exclude those who weren't in on the joke. The line about preferring heroes over henchmen resounded strongly with Guild Wars players (and made us laugh) -- particularly with the promise of seven-hero parties coming in the future. For those unfamiliar with GW1, it was simply a statement that something grander than hired mercenaries was needed. It was a small statement, but it served as an example of how well the author walked that fine line between those who are familiar with Tyria and those who aren't.
The situation was the same when the author gave backstory. It's entirely too easy to fall into tedious and irritating exposition in these cases, and it's difficult to bring new readers up to speed while keeping those who already know from saying, "Yes, we know all this. Move on." Several incidents of this stood out to me -- the story of Svanir and Jora, Rytlock's possession of Rurik's sword, and the group's encounter with Glint. The author handled the first one very well by having Eir tell the tale to her companions. It's an often-used exposition device in novels like these, but it's difficult to get right. Svanir's story and how it tied into the current plight of the norn race struck the right note of familiarity with those of us who saw it in Eye of the North. At the same time, it brought new readers up to speed on what had gone before without alienating them.
The other two incidents caught my eye because they were woven into the current story so seamlessly. If you already know, you nod in recognition -- and maybe feel a little bit of nostalgia. If you don't already know, you get enough backstory to understand why the characters are acting the way they are and you move on.
Edge of Destiny went a long way toward preparing us for the overarching story in Guild Wars 2. Since that story is about a huge problem that we have to fix, I'm a little surprised at myself for not being prepared for an unhappy tale. Edge of Destiny was the story of how Destiny's Edge fell apart, and to a longtime Guild Wars fan like yours truly, it hurt.
There are two central elements of this book. The first consists of places, characters, and lore that we've known for nearly six years. We've invested time in them, learned all about them, and -- as odd as it might sound to non-gamers -- grown to care about them. The other element mirrors the first one -- new places, characters, and lore. They may be new, but their roots are in the land of Tyria that we know so well, and we are going to invest a lot of ourselves in them once Guild Wars 2 launches. We've only met them recently, but we're settling in to get to know them as well as we know present-day Tyria.
These two elements blend in Edge of Destiny to form a story that drew me in and made me care about this group immediately. It was beautifully written, really letting us get to know these five heroes, telling us who they were, where they came from, what their weaknesses were as well as their strengths. When they were defeated and went their separate ways, it was impossible to say, "Well, that stinks," close the book, and move on. You're invested by then, ready and willing to try to help fix this mess -- which is exactly what we'll do in GW2. In my opinion, that makes a great tie-in novel. "Here's the situation, and here's the problem; your help is needed to fix it. "
The book ended on an unhappy note and left me sad and anxious to help repair things, but I haven't yet touched on the part that hit me hardest. You've probably already guessed, given the screenshot up top, but the death of Glint was a huge blow. (Yes, I cried. Stop laughing.) Glint is a bit like Gwen for me -- she's been around almost since the beginning and was a big part of Prophecies. It's not just that she was a dragon, the ultimate fantasy MMO creature; it's that she was a guide and mentor. She was an ancient (to us), a wise and mysterious creature who looked to us as heroes and was willing to guide us.
When our heroes announced their intention to kill her, I was actually upset, and I was relieved when they all came to an understanding. "Seeing" her defeated and broken in the Crystal Desert was the worst part of the entire story for me. She was the first major casualty in the fight that we're taking on in Guild Wars 2, and I think it struck the perfect note, as unpleasant as it was.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready to avenge her death. I hope that 2011 brings me that chance.
Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at email@example.com.