Guild Wars 2 Review
MMO’s are a dime a dozen these days but Guild Wars 2 has been on our radar for a while because of what we were shown of it prior to its release. In the months leading up to the release of Guild Wars 2, not only did we get to see screens and video of a new game, we got a look inside of an ideal. At every turn, this game made us think that it was going to be different from all the others. In a genre sorely in need of some innovation, Guild Wars 2 immediately distinguishes itself by changing the way things are done, instead of relying on one or two new gimmicks.
You can play the majority of the game without directly teaming up with other players, but you’re never alone. Considering that, I’ll say there are no single player modes in Guild Wars 2.
When you load up Guild Wars 2 for the first time it will feel quite familiar; you’ll pick one of the five races, then pick one of the eight character classes, tweak your appearance, then jump into the game. This will be one of the ongoing themes you’ll see during the game, everything feels familiar if you’ve played an MMO before, but a lot of it handles much differently from what you’re used to. For instance, some of the character classes will seem familiar, there are casters, melee fighters and ranged damage classes but the class you choose does not determine your sole function for the rest of the game like it usually does.
The holy trinity is dead. That’s right, the three pronged spear of Tank, Healer, Damage is simply not present in Guild Wars 2. Sure, your big, tough warrior can still be at the head of the pack, hacking everything in his path but there is no real threat management system for him to use to draw the enemies away from the rest of the group. There are no healers because you are all healers, any character can revive a downed opponent. If you’re a seasoned veteran of any of the other top MMO’s your head may have just exploded while reading this, but let me assure you this system works and it works quite well.
Combat in Guild Wars 2 is fast paced, and can get quite chaotic when a lot of players get involved. You’ll still have a set of skills you can map to the number keys, like other MMO’s, but in this case you’ll unlock most of your weapon skills within a couple of hours. Skill are based on the weapon type you have equipped and more will open up as you use your weapon of choice. Movement is also important since both you, and your enemies, can dodge attacks. You’ll be able to run around, without cancelling the casting of any spells or skills and you can roll out of the way by double tapping the key that would move you in the direction you want to go. If you’re a melee fighter, you’ll have to get in close, and likewise, the enemies will have to be in range to attack you. Dying is also, a lot different as you’ll first go to “downed” when you lose all of your health. In this state you have a limited set of skills and you can revive yourself by killing an enemy or waiting for another player to revive you. If you do happen to actually die, you’ll just have to pay a very small fee to spawn at the nearest teleporter.
What really makes the combat fun, in my opinion, is the fact that it’s wide open for anyone who wants to participate. If you wander down a path and see another player fighting a monster, just join in. You’ll both get experience and, more importantly, both get loot. There won’t be any more running around competing for enemies with other players, just fight them together; no need to party up. What this system creates is huge, impromptu, dynamic battles often involving thirty or more players. If more players start showing up, Guild Wars 2 will just spawn more monsters and dynamically scale their difficulty.
In fact, much of the content in the world is dynamic. Each character will have his or her own main story quests, but instead of filling up your journal with a million side quests, you just wander around and side quests will happen. You can choose to participate or just keep on going. Of course, you won’t be able to resists when you see an event pop up on your map and it turns out to be twenty five other players fighting a huge dragon. Who isn’t going to stop for that?
I’ve played a number of MMO’s in my day, but for all of the thousands of players that may be online with you, it’s always been a pretty lonely experience. Trying to organize a party of strangers to complete a party quest was usually difficult unless you were part of a large guild. Guild Wars 2 makes is easy, and inevitable, to team up with others to take down a boss or complete an event. You can still party up with your friends, as the main story quests are instanced, but you won’t be alone for very long if you don’t have any friends to play with. The very best part about playing with friends is that it doesn’t matter what level you are; the game will scale you down to a level that is appropriate for the area you’re in. If you have a friend who is ten levels ahead of you, he can still join you and have essentially the same experience you will.
Character progression in Guild Wars 2 runs in a few different directions, but first and foremost is experience. The good thing about experience is that you earn it for doing almost everything. Of course, you’ll earn experience for killing monsters and completing quests, but you’ll also earn experience for crafting items, exploring the world, reviving other players and climbing tall structures to have a look around. Skill points, used to unlock new skills, can be earned by levelling up or by completing specific quests you find out in the world map.
Item crafting, like other in-game systems, has been streamlined and making an item has never been more convenient. Every character can take part in all types of resource gathering, so long as they are carrying the proper tools, and each character can have two crafting skills active. If you change your mind about the kind of stuff you like to make you can pick up another skill with the one you drop going dormant. If you pick it up again later, you’ll still have all of your progress in that discipline. When you visit a crafting table you can also pull items directly from your bank, without visiting the bank, a fantastic time saving idea from ArenaNet. Crafting, and gathering, also earns you a hefty amount of experience so there is plenty of incentive to make all of the items you possibly can.
Player versus Player combat comes in two flavors in Guild Wars 2, standard and World versus World. Standard PvP takes place in arenas that feature control points that your team must capture and hold against enemy attack. These battles are made all the more fun by the fact that everyone starts PvP on a level playing field. You can join a PvP battle at any time, from your Hero menu, and when you join match your character is automatically scaled up to level 80. You can gain an advantage by earning points in PvP and buying PvP upgrades, but everyone will always be at the same level in terms of experience.
The other type of PvP battle is the World versus World. This pits players from three different game servers against each other in large scale battles that feature many different set pieces. You may decide to lay siege to an enemy tower or head under the central map to battle it out in the tunnels. These battles are absolutely huge and are probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever taken part in, within a video game. The sheer scale lends itself to a brand of chaos you just won’t find anywhere else.
Since a lot of the complaints people had with the first Guild Wars game were about there being too much instanced content, ArenaNet have cut down the number of group instanced dungeons. Don’t worry, if you loved running dungeons you still can it’s just that the dynamic content you see out on the world map makes up the majority of the game.
Dungeons can be entered with teams of five, and the difficulty does not scale based on the number of players you have so make sure you have five. These instances offer two modes; Story Mode and Exploration Mode with Story Mode being a narrative driven experience with cut scenes and voice overs. Exploration Mode opens up after you’ve completed an instance and lets you run around the dungeon as you please, but at a much higher difficulty.
Guild Wars 2 doesn’t feature any sort of extended end-game of the kind you may be used to if you’re a veteran of certain other MMO’s. After maxing out your character at level 80 you can continue to participate in PvP and, due to the dynamic level scaling, you can travel around the world experience all of the areas you may have missed on your way through the game. There isn’t some long, drawn out, quest for epic gear after the game is over but there is plenty to do.
Now, every MMO has a few issues a launch and Guild Wars 2 is no different in that aspect. None of the issues were show stoppers but what did come up showed that ArenaNet wasn’t quite prepared to launch the game on the scale that they did. I personally experienced a few times where the game simply exited to windows. I was about to watch a cut-scene when it did, one of the times, but thankfully the game was smart enough to know and I was dumped directly back into this cut-scene upon launching the game.
The most glaring issue, aside from scattered login problems, was that the Black Lion Trading Company, the player to player store, was down during the whole first week after launch. It has since been brought back online, in stages, but it’s further evidence that the online system wasn’t prepared to handle what players were going to throw at it.
While there were a few hiccups with the launch, these are completely overshadowed by how much fun you’ll be having. Guild Wars 2 manages to turn the MMORPG on it’s head, while still holding on to the good elements of the genre. The game’s dynamic co-op play, exentsive fast travel system, streamlined crafting system and steady character progression all get together to stop wasting your time as so many other MMO’s do. The fat has been trimmed so that you’re left with nothing but the game and there is nothing to artificially extend the experience. Guild Wars 2 is the new standard for the MMO.