MMOs have evolved and tried different systems over time. There seems to be the approach of 'best practices' by now and games are adapting with some proven systems which have worked over the last fifteen years or so. Guild Wars 2 is taking an approach of using best practices from long ago and mixing it with a new flavor of PvP that will have every player excited to get into the game. Between instanced match-made PvP and also the WvW get up, Guild Wars 2 has a ton to offer the player who wants to challenge other people and not just artificial intelligence.
As early as level two I was able to take my Ranger out to fight in the press demo. My character was transported to "The Mists" which is the PvP lobby sort of area. From the Mists you can enter either match-made competitive PVP or the recently revealed WvW zone. The Mists are set up as a great waypoint to several areas. If you want to go and meet your friends at low level in another starting zone you can use the Mists to get there. A quick click on the PvP tab and you are transported to the Mists, which could be compared to Grand Central Station for GW2.
In this weekend's event we focused heavily on World vs. World PvP. It was worth the wait and effort and echoed everything we have heard from the Guild Wars team. With the direction of Guild Wars 2 being a much more open world exploratory MMO than some of the recent theme park style games, the team at ArenaNet may have hit a home run with WvW. The design and style pit three servers against each other for two weeks at a time. For now the break down was of a red, green, and blue team. The massive zone is broken up into borderlands for each server with a keep and various objectives on the map. Then there is a central fortress and main battle zone known as the Eternal Battlegrounds. This is where most of the action happens and the battles can open up into a three army-format that keeps the action going. Believe me when I say that Guild Wars 2's WvW will keep you up all night.
Battles were fast and furious in the open world and players ran in packs to really tackle the objectives. You had guilds, servers and groups all working towards a common goal of winning glory for their server. It helps the server as a whole for those who hold the most objectives in the zone (via various buffs and bonuses). The great thing too is the terrain for battles. Winding trails, open fields, snow capped peaks all play a part in the world to fight over. Also there are huge fortresses and walls to battle around. The great thing about castle sieges and attacks on the gates is that every player has lots to do. In playing a Ranger I found that having a bow and a great sword was a fantastic combination. At level seven you can swap weapons on the fly and so switching from ranged to melee gave me a ton of attacks and maneuvers depending on the situation. In one battle when attacking a gate I was swinging my great sword to break down the door, next thing you know I was turning to trap the defenders coming behind us and using the bow to hit the casters who were in the back of the group. These types of quick game changes and constantly looking over your shoulder will keep players on edge the entire time.
Veteran MMO players who loved Player Killing in Ultima Online or RvR in Dark Age of Camelot cannot get their hands on this game fast enough. Guild Wars 2 blends these old styles with the new approach to an explorable game world and brings some amazing upgrades to the genre while paying homage to the classic hardcore style of the early games. It seems like World of Warcraft derailed the true focus of PvP from MMOs. Anyone who argues that WoW has the best PvP over games like EvE are really missing something. What Guild Wars 2 does is provide the player with plenty of solid options for battling. There is instanced PvP which you can enter at any time (and like the Mists, you are auto-leveled to 80 to compete). You can play through the content of the game and complete your personal story in a PVE setting. Or you can join the server in a massive fight to control the Eternal Battlegrounds. Honestly it is the perfect mix of options, each one is entertaining in its own right.
Over the course of the demo we found that the PvP lived up to the hype it has been given. The great thing about the system is the ease at which you can transport from place to place. Maybe one night you need a rest from the action and want to explore your player's personal story? Or perhaps you want to go out and get a new pet for your Ranger? You can be doing these calmly, that is until your guild sounds the horn of battle and off to the front you run trying to take back control of your lost objectives. One great element was that we were playing against some top guilds in Europe. The landscape of the battlefield was constantly changing hands and epic battles were raging all night long. The European guilds ran some great sweeps and took several of the objectives.
Another aspect of the World vs. World system is the caravans that carry supplies to the newly won keeps and objectives. This allows players to upgrade their keeps for defense. But if you're feeling cheeky, you can attack the opposing caravans, get the supplies for yourself and put a dent in the other teams' momentum. There are cannons and weapons on the towers and in Stonemist Castle which give you the advantage. The longer you hold a tower or supply camp the better the upgrades you can get. This system builds upon itself by sending the caravans to objectives that have been taken by the winning side. It creates a living breathing warzone for players to constantly fight over.
The map locations will become legendary and who holds Stonemist will rule the day. However, with three sides battling over the landscape things will likely change quickly. Also if the Eternal Battlegrounds are too active and you feel like you can't hel out, there's always the Borderlands and trying to take the server's Citadel. I think overall the design of the battlefields is well set; what the players do with them? That is another story.
Even at level two you are moved up to level eighty for PvP purposes so everyone is on an equal field in terms of hit points. It is the gear and skills that you will need to advance. The combat system allows you to quickly master new weapons and offers some great skills for every class. Yes, even things like the Mesmer with a sword. I found myself playing a Ranger a lot in PvP even though I wanted to try out the other classes. I had a great time switching between the weapon sets. I also liked having a pet which I normally don't do in games. From what I could tell the class balance was pretty even and the fights we got in had the groups who worked best together wining the engagements. This is always a critical point for players, yet since all classes are fighting for their server it will be interesting to see what group mechanics players come up with.
Back in the old days you had zergs of players running around as massive armies taking over objectives by numbers. This will likely be the start and I can already predict huge groups of players fighting it out (hundreds will be reportedly allowed in the map at any given time). It will be interesting to see how the servers handle this level of combat. I am sure ArenaNetw ill be prepared for what the server wars will become, but they definitely should have some checks in place with so many players in one place. We have come a long way from the lag days of old, but it is a precaution every game company has to consider.
After just a few days of Guild Wars 2 PvP I can say that this game has nailed it. I know it sounds like I am going on and on, but truthfully it was a breath of fresh air to see an MMO with such a dynamic system that was easy to navigate. You got into fights quickly and working as a group was great in epic battles. It doesn't just feel like a map or a "capture the flag" situation that so many MMOs have fallen prey to. It felt like a world that was constantly at stake, and you feel obliged to protect what's yours with your friends. Any player who has been let down by some of the MMO PvP systems in recent years should be very excited. Guild Wars 2 does not disappoint: it left us dying for more action.