I am in two minds when it comes to Guild Wars 2 (GW2). The left side of my brain is immensely impressed with the near perfect execution of the new Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMO), enjoying the way in which the title has collected existing MMO features and turned them into something very accessible. The right side of my brain however can’t help but feel left wanting, trying to figure out what GW2 offers that has not already been seen in the MMO world. The best way to describe it is that GW2 has played it safe.
This safe play, it seems, is what people are looking for and gamers have flocked to the title. To date Guild Wars 2 has sold over two million copies. This is an epic success by any game’s standard and has come down to the games solid execution and one big factor. These impressive sales results are even in the face of GW2 temporarily ceasing online distribution in the developer’s attempts to slow the flood of players from crashing its servers. The GW2 release has been extremely smooth and ArenaNet (the developers) have supported their community well.
But you want to know why YOU should play GW2. Two big reasons and a whole bunch of little reasons. The first major attraction is the perfect execution I mentioned. The game is beautiful to look at, fun to play and very accessible for even new MMO gamers. The second is that after the games initial retail cost , there are no monthly fees. You heard correct World of Warcraft fanboys, just like its predecessor GW2 does not require your precious $15 a month subscription.
Group play and why you don’t need friends
My favourite aspect of Guild Wars 2 would have to be how they have integrated group play. To be successful an MMO must offer a living, breathing multiplayer experience, full of thieves and warriors and purple wearing pansies (you will never see me rolling a Mesmer) running around and working together. An MMO without anyone to play with is just a single player RPG with a worse story line. GW2 brings the community together in a number of ways.
Much like Rift, Guild Wars 2 utilises group events. Unlike Rift, these group events are actually fun and the Boss events (of which there is one in each region) give some great loot. Though this may die down as the player base gradually abandons the lower level regions in their level progression, every region I’ve stepped into has been filled with players working together and sharing experience. This works to streamline the PvE experience and eliminate the grind of other MMO’s.
Player vs. Player
Guild Wars 2 has two types of player vs. player (PvP) game play. There is the traditional battleground scenarios that are quick, entertaining and played in well set out and interesting maps. With no prolonged stun locking and no ability to permanently cloak, GW2 does away with the experiences of recent MMO’s where the fight can be over before the player knows what’s going on. The ability for all classes to heal also makes for some fun and intense battles. When players enter this type of PvP they are automatically raised to the level cap, have access to all of their abilities and are provided with standardises PvP gear. This acts to make PvP a skills based battle and also allows players to try out the endgame characters without the grind.
The second type of PvP is World PvP, where three worlds (servers) fight for supremacy over a sprawling strategic map filled with fortifications, siege weapons and hundreds of players. I have only played a little World PvP but it was immense fun and implemented fantastically. Once again players are spawned at their level cap but keep their unlocked skills. If there was any downside to World PvP it would be the long walks involved to get back into the fight after a death. But it becomes apparent with the large scale of battles that this is intentional.
Story or ‘excuse to hit things with a sword/mace/butterfly spirits’
Guild Wars 2 has ensured they are keeping in line with the new MMO trend of a fully fleshed out character stories. But after playing The Secret World you can’t help but feel it’s just a little tacked on. Even if the stories aren’t terribly exiting, GW2 does have a separate story for every race which is pretty impressive. Because an all praising review is no fun, I do have to point out that some of the voice acting in this game is terrible, with fantasy stereotypes with little depth running wild.
This can be slightly forgiven with the range of quests and interesting sagas these story quests will send you on. Furthermore you actually get to make some choices, that though they only seem to have superficial affects on the story’s progress; they do result in different game play. I was given the choice to go in to an enemy camp swinging my mighty sword in arcs of blood and fury, or I could get them all drunk and have a party. Beer is just so much tastier than blood. So option two it was.
Precious precious experience
Another highlight of Guild Wars 2 is that you get experience (exp) for pretty much anything you do. Questing, exploring, PvP’ing, crafting, it all provides relatively good exp. One of my favourite ways to get a bit of extra exp is by climbing high things. There are jump puzzles conveniently spread throughout the land that reward the player with a neat little cut scene and exp reward if they can be bothered getting to the top. This game rewards completionists and I have often felt driven to run to random places on the map to get that last explored checkpoint, just to say I did… to my cats, cause no one else certainly cares.
It seems group events provide the best exp however and this often results in players flooding from all around to get involved in the bigger events. I’ve taken on a couple of bosses so far and it’s great to watch 50 players running around taking it on and healing their fallen comrades. Teamwork exists in Guild Wars 2 and I can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy about it. With the myriad of things to do you’ll often find yourself getting side tracked and forgetting about your main story quest for a few levels. This is certainly a compliment to the game.
It’s the little things in Guild Wars 2
In summary Guild Wars 2 has not reinvented the wheel with the new MMO, nor has it really tried anything particularly innovative… at all. What it has done, that I touched on earlier, is created a game that has taken the last decade of MMO innovation and wrapped it nicely into a clever and aesthetically pleasing bundle. In a market that finds it hard to differentiate between titles, the little touches like being able to deposit crafting material whenever you want, changing the colours on your gear at any stage and being able to portal throughout the world without sitting on a griffon for 10 minutes, that put this game ahead.
Inevitably I must give this game a rating. Recently I reviewed The Secret World, which I gave a 9/10. In a lot of ways GW2 is a better game. But its lack of innovation and goal of playing it safe just leaves me a little disappointed. Subsequently I bequeath to GW2 a nice safe 8/10. In my opinion the MMO genre needs a shake up and GW2 is certainly not this.
Doesn’t mean I’m not having a barrel of fun with my Norn Ranger however. Be sure to look us up if you find yourself questing the Isle of Janithir.
Non-Fiction Gaming has a guild active on the Isle of Janithir that you are welcome to join. If you some of the NFG crew running around, feel free to give us your gold. Guild Wars 2 is available through our affiliate GameFanShop.