Finishing Guild Wars Prophesies 17 Years After Release
Guild Wars is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game released in the spring of 2005. Although my younger self put hundreds of hours into this game, I had never actually gotten around to finishing any of the game’s major campaigns until very recently.
When COVID-19 put the world into lockdown at the start of 2020 I had a lot of free time on my hands1, and figured it was the perfect opportunity go on a Guild Wars nostalgia trip. My plan was to play the main campaigns/expansions in chronological order (Prophecies, then Factions, then Nightfall, and finally Eye of the North) with a single character starting from pre-Searing Ascalon in the Prophecies campaign. Back when I was younger I mained an elementalist fire nuker, so I decided to stick with that flavor of build for this playthrough. I created my character, spent ~35 hours grinding up to level 20 in Pre-Searing for the Legendary Defender of Ascalon title, and then progressed through the Prophecies campaign more or less as normal2 up until I reached Lion’s Arch.
Up to this point I was working my way through the Prophesies campaign using a party built from the henchmen local to each city/outpost. But I figured that if I was going to be playing through the entirety of Guild Wars single-player-style then it would be nice to have a full set of seven heros for the rest of my time in the campaigns. So I uh… took a detour and… went ahead and beat the entirety of the Eye of the North expansion. I went into the Eye of the North content expecting to grab a smattering of heros and continue on with Prophesies, but I ended up finishing the final mission in Eye of the North before completing Report to the White Mantle in Prophesies.
Exploring the main content of Eye of the North allowed me to build up a solid party and flesh out my elementalist with a “good enough” set of skills to get through rest of the Prophesies missions. My build and party composition were less than optimal, but thankfully Prophesies is pretty lenient on the difficulty side of things. I was able to breeze through the rest of the campaign without too much trouble, although the last mission, Hell’s Precipice, did require a couple of tries to beat. In total it took about a hundred hours of play time on this character to complete every mission3 in Prophesies.
You would think this is where I would say “mission accomplished” on the Prophesies portion of my Guild Wars playthrough, but you would be wrong. See, after you complete Hell’s Precipice, there are a couple of quests that task the player to deal with the Titans that are still threatening Tyria. These quests include, Defend Droknar’s Forge, Defend North Kryta Province, Defend Denravi, The Last Day Dawns, and The Titan Source. Most of these quests are challenging, but they are not extraordinarily difficult. Defend Droknar’s Forge and The Titan Source can be brute forced, Defend Denravi can be cheesed, and Defend North Kryta Province can be beaten with a good planning and a bit of luck4. But The Last Day Dawns… that quest is without a doubt the hardest piece of content I have completed in Guild Wars, and was an absolute nightmare to finish.
Okay so let me explain exactly why The Last Day Dawns is such utter bullshit, and why this quest was so difficult to complete. Your maximum party size in the Prophesies campaign starts at four in the early-game areas of the post-Searing map, increases to six in the mid-game areas of the map, and then finally caps off at eight in the late-game areas of the map. It is in one of these early-game areas that The Last Day Dawns takes place, so the party size is restricted to a maximum of four characters. But the enemy encounters in this quest are designed as if they were being fought with an end-game party consisting of eight characters. Every encounter ends up being a struggle to survive, because the party is fighting at a limited power level against enemies that were already difficult to begin with. It is as if the effectiveness of the party has been cut in half5.
But it gets worse! In this quest you have to keep King Adelbern alive while fighting off five groups of Titans. King Adelbern apparently has a death wish, because his combat strategy seems to be “charge head-on into battle and die lmao”. So you have to deal with not one, but five really difficult fights in a row, without really having a chance to take a break and recover, all while King Adelbern is trying his best to get himself killed.
But oh it gets even worse-er! My build is a fire nuker elementalist, and the Titans in this quest are all fire-based, meaning they have a high armor rating against fire typed damage. So my character’s attacks are much less effective against these Titans than the attacks would be against other high level enemies. My elementalist’s damage output isn’t zero, but in an area where my party is already at a disadvantage due to the low maximum party size, the limited damage output from one of the main damage dealers ends up severely hurting the overall survivability of the party. As far as I could tell there was no way to deal enough damage to take down each group of Titans before getting overwhelmed.
This quest frustrated me to no end. I was so close to finishing what I considered to be the “main content” of the Prophesies campaign, but I could not find a way to get through this quest. I was really not in the mood to gather a whole new set of gear and skills to switch builds, and I did not really feel like throwing my party against a wall over and over again in the hopes of getting lucky, so I shelved the playthrough.
But a over a year and a half later I still felt that I had unfinished business. It didn’t seem right just leaving things as they were so close to the finish line. So a few weeks ago I returned to my Guild Wars playthrough to complete what I had started.
I decided to keep my fire nuker elementalist build, but this time around I focused much more on optimizing the rest of the limited party. I revamped the party composition to consist of myself as a nuker, two E-Surge mesmers, and one healing / protection monk. I also committed to using a much more arduous but safer strategy of running the long way around the map to enter the main combat area from a back route, skipping the trigger that sends King Adelbern into battle, and allowing the party to engage the majority of the Titan groups one at a time. This strategy was a pain in the behind to execute, because every time my party would die fighting a Titan group I would have to make a four and a half minute journey from the resurrection shrine back to the main combat area. I had attempted this strategy in the past, but had messed it up every time after spending hours carving through the explorable area, so this was the first time I actually got the strategy to work.
Anyway, with patience and little bit of luck, I was completed The Last Day Dawns on the evening of 2022-05-24! Shortly thereafter I completed the following quest, The Titan Source6, meaning that I had finally finished the main Guild Wars Prophesies content! Completing the base campaign of a now-dead MMO over 17 years after release isn’t exactly a total-1337-pro-gamer achievement worth shouting from the rooftops, but it does feel satisfying to reach the end of a journey that feels like it has been over a decade and a half in the making. Guild Wars was a huge part of my life, and I think past-me would be very proud of what we have accomplished7.
It’s not like I was going to be attending events or meeting with friends/coworkers anytime soon, so I might as well dump over a hundred hours into a video game right?↩
Although I was obviously overpowered in the early-game after reaching max-level in Pre-Searing.↩
And the bonus objectives for each mission!↩
I actually encountered a glitch while completing Defend North Kryta Province. My party died just as the quest completed, allowing me to turn the quest in even though the game sent me back to the outpost upon death. This isn’t anything noteworthy, I just thought it was interesting.↩
This isn’t quite true; scaling a party down from eight to four doesn’t exactly cut party effectiveness in half. Party members play different roles within the team. Some party members are all about damage, some provide support in the form of healing and/or damage mitigation, others try to prevent the enemy from taking actions, etc. So reducing party size down from eight to four may mean cutting out damage dealers in some instances or cutting out support in other instances. It all depends on the encounters a party is facing, so it isn’t as clean as saying half the party means exactly half the effectiveness.↩
Which is way easier than The Last Day Dawns for some reason despite supposedly being the capstone to the Prophesies questline.↩
That being said, I still have two campaigns to go. I have already started Factions, and am having a lot of fun so far. Once I finish Factions I will work my way through Nightfall and (maybe) complete some hard-mode content. My fire nuker elementalist build is okay as a area-of-effect damage dealer, but I have a feeling I may need to revamp my build to tackle some of the more difficult content in the game.↩