Enormous maps, intricate artistic details, non-linear gameplay, and it’s all bundled in a subscription-free MMORPG? They say if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Not only is Guild Wars 2 a cliche buster, but it’s also reinventing the so-called wheel of MMO’s. After many years of development and lots of press talk, magazine write-ups, and such, I can say Guild Wars 2 was well worth the wait.
Continuing where they left off, Guild Wars 2 is set 250 years after the original GW, which was released back in 2005, but still, has the same semi-medieval feel with a more futuristic touch. Expect to see peasants working in the fields, Kings, Queens, and mini magical creatures called Asuras that help make your magical cross-country dream come true.
Story wise, your quest is to journey across the lands of Tyria to reunite the group of heroes called Destiny’s
Child Edge. There is one key member from each of the five playable races that make up this group whose sole purpose is to defeat the risen Elder Dragons that have come to raise some hell upon your people.
While the developers of Guild Wars 2 kept the main storyline that drives the game entertaining, but undoubtedly dry here or there, it’s the personal storyline and the overwhelming amount of dynamic events that keeps you hooked for more. Each character’s personal storyline is tailor-made to your race and the choices you make about your background, the higher power you align your allegiance too, and so forth. Between questing with others and creating multiple characters, you will see a lot of unique content story-wise over a fair amount of game time.
Gameplay by design is non-linear compared to the typical game in the same class. None of that grind boar kills all day to level up, or travel three times to the same place to get a quest, then return some items just to back out to get more, and again to finish the quest. Most gamers feel these actions are very filler and time-consuming in the grand scheme of just trying to play. Luckily, ArenaNet sees this pork-play, cut it out, and is now letting one of the other big-boy studios gnaw on it for a few more years. Now instead of repeating tasks, expect to get the next quest right after you finish the previous chapter, instantly get your quest rewards, and get experience regarding everything from picking blueberries to devastating people in some pretty wild player vs. player.
PvP breaks down into multiple game types to account for everyone’s party size, play style, and skill bracket. For smaller and more personal battles there are tournaments for a small team. It takes a well-coordinated and very well-balanced group to dominate. But if your guildies aren’t down for that, there is always World vs. World vs. World which can be run solo dolo or as a herd. Yep, you read that right. Three entire worlds full of dedicated, loyal, and battle-ready players go at it in a destroy-and-conquer type game. Large groups can be seen traversing the battlefield breaking down castle doors, using siege weapons such as arrow carts, cannons, and ballistas. For those who don’t like to quest, they find this as a great alternative to level their character with all the bonus experience. Even if there’s not a whole lot of action going on, there is some PvE action with the ability to harvest wood and ores, which also return experience points.
Gathered materials from your journeys all across the map are put to use in crafting. The crafting system is constructed unique from a typical run-of-the-mill crafting layout. Usually, it seems as if you pick a discipline, level it up, then you enjoy the fruits of your labor; that is until you decide to change professions again. Guild Wars decided to allow characters to pick two out of the eight different disciplines to have active at all times, but never lose progress in a profession if you later choose to change it. It is also completely possible to max level a character to 80 without ever leaving the bench or furnace which is an excellent option for those with boatloads of gold.
Those who have been around the MMO block know most games prohibit, restrict, and patch areas that players can jump into by using exploiting their surroundings, but Guild Wars 2 embraces the concept by adding rewards to pre-made jumping puzzles that stylistically blend into the environment. The difficulties of these puzzles differ from relatively easy to just shy of rage quit over a missed ledge, although if you play Mesmer, you (and friends) can skip this go-to-jail card with a portal. Many added twists, secrets, and different types of rewards comes with each puzzle, which is located just a hop, skip, and a jump away. This concept was magnificently executed.
If you played or still play any of the previous campaigns in the Trilogy or EotN, you’ll quickly notice the vast improvements of the graphics in Guild Wars 2 thanks to the heavily modified in-house game engine. After turning up all the visual enhancements, you’ll to be amazed at what is pretty much living art. Even if you have a lower end video card and have most of the settings turned down, the graphics are still somewhat visually pleasing.
The UI for Guild Wars 2 is very sleek, clean, and hardly has any distracting clutter. Expect what you need to be available where you would expect to see it. Top bars with cool-down times at the bottom, bags inventory stays where you drag it, and the quest log in the top right-hand corner. As with the customization, you can swap skills out right in the hot bar, display all your bags as one big bag, and change some sizes of the windows, but that’s all she wrote. Overall, everything seems to have a natural and comfortable feel to it, almost transparent and seamlessly fusing you to the game environment.
Guild Wars 2 demolished pure player bartering and lots of chat spam when successfully introducing an auction house like system along with an overhauled economic system. One of the primary forms of currency used is gems that can be bought with real-world money or the other currency, and Gems are only useful within Gem store, which carries mostly cosmetic products. Gems are also noted to be used to hedge some in-game inflation since they can be traded back to gold. Since the two currencies can be exchanged at a dynamic rate, this creates a mini in-game market that fuels the economy, and only undermined by gold farmers who are much more generous for real world givings. Luckily ArenaNet has been cracking down on many of the botters in recent months.
One major crutch removed from Guild Wars 2 is the heroes and henchmen who were NPC’s that take the place of a friend, a guild mate, or even a random pick-up person. While this lack of AI doesn’t allow you to solo as much, it does bring back the original basis of the game, teamwork. With fewer private instances and more of an open map, it also removes a significant group clutter that would detract from the new gameplay style that Guild Wars 2 introduces. This feature was useful in the original Guild Wars and was happily left out of Guild Wars 2 for the better.
Guild Wars 2 is truly a game changer running off the same success the rest of the series has had over the years. Mike O’Brien, the director of the Guild Wars series, and the rest of his team at ArenaNet have done one of the ideal MMORPG concepts great justice. So if you played any of the previous installments, you would surely love Guild Wars 2, and if you have not, it might be worth a try – just try not to compare it to any other games in its class. You might also want to get a friend to pick-up a copy to play along with. If that’s not an option, you could always get to know the ever-friendly and always helpful community that has truly made Guild Wars 2 so lovely.