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I got my first taste of Guild Wars 2 in the early betas, so I already had a sense of purpose when jumping into the game. For those that are new though, getting started can be a considerably daunting journey. You will first choose your race among the 5 different choices, each will bring a little of their own flair and story to your game, so choose wisely. Each race has their own cultural storyline which will be followed regardless of the class or background you choose. Very early, you will come to understand that things in Tyria have gotten quite scary in the 250 years since the end of Guild Wars. While this will give you a generalized motivation for your character to be the hero that Tyria needs, the background info you select for you character really shapes your character even further.
The first thing players tend to notice when they get started in Guild Wars 2 happens to be the different approach the game takes to the nature of your character. In many MMORPG games, your character is more or less along for the ride, assisting the Hero NPC’s as the game and story progress. In Guild Wars 2, the game tells the story of your character, who will climb through their nations rank and notoriety until they help all the nations unite against a common enemy. Before all of this happens though, it’s up to you to discover their story and work to progress it while assisting characters and completing quests. The game is extremely hands off in this approach and some players may find themselves getting a bit overwhelmed with the sheer volume of options and quests that are available to them. The plus side of this is that your next story related mission is always marked on your map and a path do it is usually readily available. The biggest issue with this concept is that some players seem to need to go through a few storyline quests and events before they feel like their character actually matters in the world. Unfortunately, this lack of immediate direction can turn a few people away prematurely as well.
So, how is the game itself? Freaking amazing. The best place to start, though, is the game’s presentation. Every single major dialogue scene in the game is done in full voiceover, which is really awesome. This isn’t to take away from the fact that the game as a whole is completely voiced, however these little dialogue scenes where the story is progressing are really nice. It really adds to the RPG feel of the game and doesn’t inconvenience the player with walls of text that highlight important information. You really feel like your character is responsible for events that are playing out. The voiceovers themselves are top notch, in fact I haven’t heard this good of voice acting in a MMO yet.
Guild Wars 2′s basic combat system is simple, yet also quite complex. Basically, every main weapon type has 3 or 5 different skills that it will allow your character to use. When an offhand weapon is equipped, the other 2 slots change accordingly. These abilities allow you to mix and match skills to find the right fit for the right battle. When I played as a rogue, I could use a pistol that allowed me to shoot my target and teleport to them; I could use the secondary weapon to then unleash massive damage to my target. This really allowed me to experiment with different combos and find what worked for me. Skills level relatively quickly, so be sure to mix and match weapons to find what works the best for you. Every class has its own way of involving its strengths into these weapon based abilities as well. Combat flows so smooth that a simple press of a button (the number 1 in most cases) will easily initiate combat for you.
The advanced features of combat are slightly more complex, utilizing many abilities that pertain to the job class or race you have chosen. The engineer can do things like use hidden attacks built into their gear, rogues can initiate stealth attacks, hunters can order their pets to use special abilities, etc. While you use a majority of these abilities in large team fights, there is also a secret set of abilities that come into play once you are defeated. These skills allow you to “fight for survival”, if you defeat an enemy in this phase, you are immediately returned to combat. Cool stuff!
One thing I always look for in a GOOD MMORPG is the ability to truly explore your environment without feeling directed or caged in. Guild Wars 2 handles this topic masterfully, implementing many different features that actually reward players for finding out exactly what is over that mountain top in the distance. Discovering new areas will net you worthwhile experience and finding teleport points and vistas can get you even more. Vistas are points that reward you with small cinematics that show you the area you are traveling in and are usually somewhat difficult to reach. I was overjoyed when I discovered that deaths from falling do not result in penalties, since throwing yourself from vistas is extremely satisfying and entertaining. While adventuring, you can explore almost every single area, although enemies will quickly dismantle you if you are not attentive, which adds a little fun into the mix. As you travel across the world, there are numerous teleport points that you can easily jump to, for a small fee. This allows super fast travel between points of interest and will allow you to essentially always have a shortcut up your sleeve.
PvP & WvW
While the game (currently) lacks the ability to duel another player, there is an incredibly robust WvW system that is in place. An interesting feature is that every single player that enters the WvW instance is instantly leveled to 80. This is realistically a double edged sword, you do more damage and are more or less at the same level as everyone else, however you still earn large amounts of experience from NPC kills that makes WvW grinding slightly cheesy. The concept of this combat mode is that everyone is pretty much thrown into a super huge king of the hill game that has a magnitude of different points of contention. What makes this so cool is the true feeling of warfare that is taking place.
Major battles erupt at key strongholds, where players can deploy siege weapons to assist in taking these points of contention. Meanwhile, small bands of players may break off from the group and create small infiltration teams that will pick off the camps and outposts that are away from the bulk of combat. I had an opportunity to participate in both of these tactics and while the major battles were fun to chip away at, the infiltration groups were way more cool (and impactful). With my rogue, I joined a hunter, warrior and a mesmer as we snuck across the lake at the center of the map and proceeded to capture small villages and supply camps that peppered the other side of the map. Our efforts eventually caused enough of a distraction that our main army took several key points during battle. That is the beauty of this type of PvP mode is that, just like the main game itself, no one and nothing is really railroading you into doing 1 thing, unlike the old PvP modes of games like WoW.
The PvP (5 on 5) mode boast some seriously unlimited potential as well. In the games that I played, there was a definite feel of eSports about it. The way that each member of the team actually contributed to the fight was quite interesting. Cooperation was extremely important but also having the right weapons for the job was just as much. I played through some matches with my hunter, during which I learned that in order to maximize my effectiveness, I had to play as clever as I possibly could. All in all, it was quite fun and very worthwhile!
Odd and Ends
Crafting in Guild Wars 2 is affordable and fair, while also making it worthwhile to start leveling your skills earlier as well. There are a few different ways to get your crafting materials, the two most common being salvaging items and using your tools to collect materials from resource points. Something I liked is that any of the points you can collect materials from are universally available, yet they will only be exhausted after you have used them. This is nice since there is no need to camp points, which was something that irritated me in other games. Did I also mentioned that you receive experience for crafting? No? Well, level your skill and character up by creating increasingly complex recipes and items and watch that experience roll in!
As of the time of the review, the Trading Post was still a rather new introduction to the game. While functioning as the game’s auction house, it allows you to buy and sell items with other players on your server. When things first got going, I made a little bit off of selling rare equipment dyes I had found while leveling my 4 characters. There was already a collection of super awesome items that were being put up for sale, although my pitiful amount of gold barely scratched the surface of some of those price tags. One feature I hope to see soon in the Trading Post would be the ability to preview items on your character, which is something I hope that ArenaNet adds soon. A little heads up here, AreneNet has confirmed that this feature is something that they plan on adding into the game ASAP.
Another notable thing about Guild Wars 2 is the amazing support that ArenaNet offers. They are monitoring issues and areas of opportunity within the game and doing their best to try to provide new features and fix existing ones to the best of their ability. Now, developer support isn’t necessarily something new, the channels that they are seeking feedback in are more cutting edge than most.
What Do We Think?
Guild Wars 2 is hands down the best PC game I have had the joy of playing all year (so far). The greatest thing about this game is that even though it is a MMORPG at heart, it is a game that can be played by yourself or with friends, while still giving you the rewarding feeling of accomplishment. With stellar graphics and a beautiful soundtrack, you would have to be out of your mind to miss out on this game. It’s hard to find too much negative about Guild Wars 2, simply it is just everything we all expected it to be and even more. Kudos to you ArenaNet!
How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!
- Something for everyone!
- Amazing developer support
- Worth the one time $59.99 price for unlimited play
- Interesting story and awesome combat
- Still a few bugs and exploits floating around.