As you may know I have been levelling a new character, a Norn Elementalist. I have been trying to go to places I have not explored before and to take my time and explore the nooks and crannies of all the zones. A couple days ago I found myself in the Stronghold of Ebonhawke. I really have to say it is probably my favourite place in all of Tyria. It has so much character that I never noticed on my first pass through on my thief, and I never even went to Ebonhawke on my warrior. Today I want to share with you some of the reasons why I like this city so much as well as some of the things I discovered.
|Ebonhawke in southern Ascalon.|
Firstly, where is Ebonhawke? It is in the far south east corner of Ascalon which is on the eastern parts of the map (see image). Look for the zone named Fields of Ruin, a 30-40 zone, then look in the South West corner of that map, and you will see a large fortress complex named the Strong Hold of Ebonhawke. You can also follow the dragonbrand all the way to Ebonhawke. The dragonbrand is that big red line that runs north to south in the eastern parts of Tyria. Ebonhawke is at the end of it's southern most extent in the explorable parts of the map. The proximity of the dragonbrand adds it's own bit of awesomeness to the setting.
|The portal to Ebonhawke.|
|The portal in Divinity's Reach.|
Another way to find it is step through the Asura gate in Divinity's Reach (human home city). The gate is located in the district of Rurikton in the east side of Divinity's Reach. Just step through the gate and you will be instantly transported to Ebonhawke. If you do visit via this method make sure that you head outside the city to view the main gate to the strong hold known as the Hawkgates (pictured below).
|The hawkgate, entrance to Ebon Hawk|
Once you are in the city you can partake in events to begin to learn about the story that is going on here. Turns out the officials signed a peace treaty with the Char and some people aren't very happy about that. They would prefer to war on the Char instead of joining forces to fight the dragons. Why are the Humans in Ebonhawke so desperate to continue warring on the Char? To understand that you need to know that firstly, there used to be a human civilization known as Ascalon. It was located in the eastern portions of Tyria and can now be found to mainly be a desert full of ruins inhabited by ghosts. What happened to Ascalon? Well, the Char destroyed a good part of it during their war with the Ascalonians through conventional methods, the capital city was destroyed in an event known as the foefire, and the lands were made barren by the searing. All that is left of this once great civilization is Ebonhawke.The pretty picture that the main story line depicts of all the races getting along is contrasted by the story of Ebonhawke. The people of this city hold a grudge. Their homelands were turned into a wasteland and their heroes turned to ghosts.
|Sleeping Kralkatorrik concept art.|
It's not like the threat of the elder dragons hasn't touched these people. The elder dragon, Kralkatorrik, formerly thought to be a mountain, woke up and caused a great deal of havoc. Firstly, it created the dragonbrand corrupting everything in its path. This corruption passes right by Ebonhawke, and in fact the city was assaulted by branded creatures just after the dragon woke. Logan Thackeray even left Destiny's Edge to return to Ebonhawke, during this assault by branded creatures, to save Queen Jennah. This led to some of the main pieces drama in the personal story including the dungeon story lines. On top of this Kralkatorrik was last seen in the northern parts of the Crystal Desert. Guess what the closest city to the Crystal Desert is? Ebonhawke. Suffice to say, these people know first hand the threats of the dragon, but would still prefer to fight the Char. Now that is a grudge.
It's this story, along with the awesome architecture, that gives this city so much character. In a world with so many details some of the really awesome things get washed out in a sea of awesomeness. It really takes something as epic as Ebonhawke to stand above the rest of Tyria and actually stand out. There are so many details to explore in this city. For instance, there are a series of twenty books scattered around the city, titled the Founding, that tells the story of a group of adventures setting out to found the city. It is a great little read if you have the time to track down the books, if not the wiki has the whole story for you. Reading them all is also good for an achievement. Here is the first bit to tease you in:
A messenger from Ascalon arrived today, bringing the first word from home since the Vanguard were tasked with slowing the charr offensive, years ago. The Vanguard's deeds reached the ears of the king. The forces have been recalled. There's a quiet relief that can be felt throughout the unit. Their long, hard-fought struggle is coming to an end. Away from the troops, Captain Gwen Thackeray seems concerned, an unspoken question on her lips. Though Ascalon is telling them to return, is their mission really complete with charr still nearby? The troops leave a skeleton force to protect the Eye of the North as they set out in the black of night on their return journey. The captain won't let the charr know that we've all but abandoned the north.
The dynamic events also seem especially well done in Ebonhawke. As I was writing this article I watched a bandit plant a bomb on a jail cell door, blow the door freeing a Champion Bandit, who then proceeded to rally his buddies, and start some havoc in main parts of the city (aka an event). These were the kind of events I feel Anet promised us. Many other events just have NPCs spawning out of walls out thin air so I was glad to see there are still some places where the world still feels alive and dynamic.
I also spent a good amount of time getting chased around by angry chickens. Seems the Ebonhawke chickens have been talking with the chickens in Hyrule. When you attack a chicken and do enough damage to it a bunch of his invincible buddies spawn and begin attacking you. This was a fun little diversion. There is also a playable organ hidden away. Here you can play the organ much like you can play the choir bells, except the organ is stationary and not a usable item. The organ is found by the vista on the south side of Ebonhawke. Head up the stairs and get on the roofs. You will see a balcony with two NPCs named noble, just jump over to the balcony and head in the door. There is also a song you can play on the organ that will open a door for a chest.
|The balcony with the two nobles outside the entrances to the organ.|
|My character standing in front of the organ.|
|Gate to the Crystal Desert.|
The main take away from this is that Guild Wars 2 has some great content in its world. There are so many details in Tyria that some times you are overwhelmed or the truly awesome things are washed away in a sea of details. It really takes a place like Ebonhawke to stand above the rest of Tyria and shine as a beacon to be replicated. I haven't even mentioned all the nice things about this city, like the locked door to the Crystal Desert, the bank that is right beside an auction house, and the cultural weapon vendor (here is an image from dulfy of all the weapons). I really wish all the major cities were like this. Why can't there be dynamic events in a city? That would make things a lot more fun, especially in Lion's Arch.
There are not a lot of places in Tyria that really stand out like this. Compare this to the rich world of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings: Online where having not played the game in years I can still vividly recall a number of epic landmarks and locations. Comparing Middle Earth and Tyria is another article though. Maybe it is me though. Perhaps I haven't spent enough time in Tyria yet to have discovered all the Ebonhawkes. The gate to the Crystal Desert also reminds me that Guild Wars is by no means a finished game. There is still a lot of work to be done and things to add. I hope Anet continues to build on the model found in Ebonhawke and make the rest of the world just as detailed and rich. Quality areas like this really stand out.