Guild Wars: Pre-Searing and Death Leveling

I’ve always been fascinated by the Pre-Searing Ascalon community of Guild Wars.  For those not in the know, the first Guild Wars release (Prophecies) starts you out in a unique little prologue area that consists of five exploration zones and a few hubs of interest.  Once you’ve progressed through it and advanced the story enough, you trigger the “Searing”, a huge event that changes the landscape and sends your character forward a couple years to the rest of the game.

I don’t think ArenaNet ever predicted that the Pre-Searing areas would be embraced by a small but dedicated community with a singular purpose: to only play and exist in Pre-Searing Ascalon (PSA from now on for the sake of my fingers) as a matter of choice.  They’ve essentially “adopted” this prologue world as their own, and revel in exploring just how much gameplay they can squeeze out of it.

It’s oddly endearing to see how this community has formed, because I really haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere.  To me, it reinforces the notion that some players view game worlds as a place to inhabit, not just to level through.  We have affinities for certain zones and a positive emotional reaction when we’re there.  By making their home in PSA, these players are effectively refusing to allow their favorite world to be destroyed (and they are effectively crazy-in-a-good-way as well).

This would be like people in WoW refusing to leave the starter areas, or the folks in LOTRO choosing to remain in the instanced newbie zone indefinitely, farming gear and seeing how much they can push themselves within a small limit.

Happily, ArenaNet hasn’t looked down on the PSA folks, and instead offered them a few rewards to work toward if they so wished.  The biggest of them all is a rare title, “Defender of Ascalon”, which is achieved only if you hit level 20 (the level cap of Guild Wars) while in PSA.  This is tougher than you might think, because you can easily out-level the creatures by 16 or so, which presents a conundrum — no way to get XP from mobs, and only a finite amount of quests.

Interestingly enough, there’s a little loophole built into the game that allows mobs to level up if they (the mobs) kill a player.  So if you throw yourself at a mob and allow it to kill you, it gets to a higher level and thus rewards you with XP once you resurrect and kill it in turn.  This technique is called “death leveling”, and there’s a pretty detailed guide on the Guild Wars Wiki on how to do it.

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12 thoughts on “Guild Wars: Pre-Searing and Death Leveling

  1. Inquisitorgoody February 24, 2010 / 8:25 am

    I recently re-started playing Guild wars with the intention of giving the EON content a proper going through I wanted to re-familiarise myself with the game so started a new character and I’ve found myself hooked on doing as much as I can in the Pre Searing zone.

    I’d always kind of rushed through it to the main game and never really left the first couple of zones but it is a really enjoyable area to quest in with a new character. There is a lot more than just the campaign quest line that gets you into the main game and the depth of the stories and characters there is great so I can see why these people enjoy it.

    I’ll eventually move out of the zone into the big wide world but this experience just backs up my feelings that if you rush to the end of some games, particularly MMOs your likely to miss out on a lot of the best content

  2. Ravious February 24, 2010 / 8:29 am

    As much as I love Guild Wars, this is possibly the worst achievement in MMO history. It requires *months* of inactive play.

  3. Fuzzy February 24, 2010 / 9:12 am

    Kind of ironic that you “defend” Ascalon by both dying and making the enemies stronger 🙂

    Unlike WoW, Ascalon is instanced so you don’t have to compare yourself to the lvl 80s out there. And unlike LOTRO, Ascalon is pretty extensive. You have your sunny fields, your icy mountains, and an underground catacomb that runs through it all.

    Kudos to those crazy defenders in their little time bubble 😀

  4. moxie February 24, 2010 / 9:32 am

    That’s pretty awesome. I played GW years ago and loved the pre-searing area. But when the searing happened I remember tearing up while watching the cutscene, and then I completely lost interest in the post-searing area. Exactly why it affected me like that, I have no idea.

  5. Vesta February 24, 2010 / 9:55 am

    Fascinating!

    Until recently, MMOs have always been about levelling as fast as you can to get to the end game. WoW certainly pushed me this way, but it wasn’t the first.

    I recall being frustrated in our WAR! guild that as people got to level cap, I expected them to start running the Crypts, Lost Vale and other top end dungeons. To my horror, they often abandoned the 40 to start another Alt and progress through the content again! I just couldn’t fathom walking away from your main like that.

    I came to realise the joy of not trying to powerlevel yourself. To enjoy the lower tiers for what they are. I recall often being challenged by Syp towards exploration and tome unlock quests that often became rather epic and engrossing in a RP way. Good times!

    So, good on these folks who have taken that to a whole new level, and have found their place. Awesome.

  6. Longasc February 24, 2010 / 10:06 am

    While I love the looks of Presearing – it is a bit like the Shire in a way, very homely – death levelling for this title is IMO a sin of game design and against the spirit of Guild Wars, rewarding repetitive and boring action with a fancy title that even counts towards the title track achievements. And this achievement based thinking has gotten a bit out of hand, people are too often focusing extremely on this and burn out or do nothing else anymore.

    I hope GW’s designers took some time to analyze why people are so fondly in love with the starter area.

    Interestingly, also many people hated the destroyed and scorched Ascalon areas after the Searing with a passion, too.

  7. CreepTheProphet February 24, 2010 / 12:56 pm

    I’m kind of hoping that with Guild Wars 2 that Ascalon will return to the greener happier times. It was a very bittersweet moment to find Gwen’s pipes broken in later debris. I think I still have them in Ivy’s bank.
    It’s really one of those stories in game that can break your heart, to see a world so full of promise and life, even if in just a little danger, totally destroyed.
    Stories just like Ascalon, or in WoW the old world tales of Darrowshire, and the sad tale of Sylvanas, that if you’re paying attention to them, really make you feel like you’re part of an epic struggle and that even the monotonous mob killing has a bigger purpose.

  8. openedge1 February 25, 2010 / 7:45 am

    UGH. I remember trying to do the Pre-Sear leveling years ago in Prophecies. The most I could handle was to level 12 before I gave up.
    The boredom that ensues from hitting that same zone over and over got out of hand.
    I applaud those who honestly think that could be any fun at all.

    If I want to grind, I will stick to EoTN.

    Cheers

  9. Frank March 7, 2010 / 5:42 pm

    That is very cool.
    My favorite MMORPG of all time was Dark Age of Camelot – and the reason was because of the PvP (or as they called it RvR – Realm vs Realm)
    There was a real sense of protecting and taking care of your own realm. Players would help each other, resurrect each other, assist each other when they were within their own realm, but when it got to the other Realms – they were ridiculed, called names, and fought at every corner.
    It was way more then just leveling. It was pride in carrying your Realm to victory over the other realms and that’s why the game was so much fun.
    Good post!

  10. Charslayer June 27, 2012 / 2:46 pm

    The searing event made me mad. Ascalon was gorgeous and fun to play in. Post searing was.. graphically lacking. I thought it looked like shit and was completely unfun to play in. It didn’t even look like Ascalon tried to rebuild. No new buildings. Everything was just bad looking. No trees.

    I have been in and out of the game ever since, But what got me back into it was Eye of the North. You could finally attack the Char homelands and earn points for killing them. I share Gwen’s hatred of Char and I want to see them extinct. I hated that one can become your ally as part of the story.

    Enter GW2 the Collectors Edition comes with a Char figurine? And you can play as Char? And they are suddenly smart tool making engineers with guns? No no no no. Absolutely will not pay for a Char figurine or play as one under any circumstances. It’s bad enough having one forced as a follower on your team but at least as a follower I can flag him off into a wave of bad guys and not res him. But then to make them playable? Like they are our buddies or something… Char are the badguys, they made a pact with an evil god for power to wipe a nation off the map. They tried to exterminate mankind and almost succeeded, and nearly doomed the world in the process. They can all die. An alliance with them would last as long as it takes to pull my sword out of our common enemy and slip it into one of them.

    I hope they let those of us who hate char murder them at will.

    So I am a bit shocked that I have this strong of a feeling from pre searing but it’s not going away. I will kill all Char at every opportunity, even ones on my team.

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