Similarly, there's a difference between walking up to an NPC-defended tower and laying siege to a player-defended one. Sure, you'll probably remember both of them, but one is going to make the sort of experience that sticks with you.
The ArenaNet designers are very good at conveying certain types of experiences. I will talk at great length, to anyone who'll hang around and pretend to listen, about how excellent I found the Arah dungeon's story mode to be (right up until the fight with Big Z, but that's another matter). I've seen a fair few complaints about its drudgery and endlessness, but I found that it did an astounding job of bringing me into the feeling of war, of an invasion into hostile land, with no rest and no respite. To be sure, I don't always want that feeling; in fact, most times I don't really want that feeling at all. But for creating that experiences, telling that story, and instilling that memory -- it was perfect. I was entirely caught up in that fight, entirely drawn in by the story that the encounter itself told.
There's another type of experience entirely that comes from player-driven situations. These are perhaps the best and most important moments. Getting caught up in the mood of the Arah dungeon is great, but it's something I've done now; going back in is going to grant me a different experience. Whether it's hitting a personal goal, running into a group that's just riding the serendipitous tide of a really great event chain, or facing off against the enemy hordes, these are the sorts of moments that aren't going to go away for as long as players are still around. WvW, as anyone who's read Ravious' stuff over at Kill Ten Rats will know, is excellent for these. There's something about the immediacy of the opponents, the camaraderie of traveling with your fellow serverfolk, and the ever-present desire to not die needlessly that just makes for lovely stories. I've noticed that I can't really play WvW without something cool happening, whether it's a bit of a scuffle for a small supply depot turning into a protracted battle, a surprise ambush throwing a routine supply run into complete disarray, or a really well-oiled team running around and mopping up a whole part of the map.
I hit 80 on my Elementalist while crafting, which was good at the time because hitting 80 was A Thing that I felt obligated to do by then. When it was my Necromancer's turn, however, I wanted something a little more interesting. I've been running around doing things with her (things like hearts and opening up waypoints, which is something that I've neglected on other characters since focusing on getting my Elementalist to 100%), and when she finally got to the last quarter of a bar or so left 'til 80, I took her to Lake Feritas in the Plains of Ascalon. Feritas is home to a three-event chain that repeats fairly quickly: You mop up some tar elementals in the lake, move to a nearby Flame Legion cave to take out some of their braziers, and finally go toe-to-toe with the Flame Legion shaman. Because it's a really reliable chain, I normally end up seeing it once or twice a week as I finish up my dailies, which means the Shaman fight has been something of a growth chart for my Necro. She's gone from being terrified to go in without at least six or seven folks to back her up to laughing like a maniac as she runs in, Life Transferring all and sundry, to challenge the Shaman on her own.
What are some of your favorite war stories?
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at email@example.com.