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Guild Wars 2 Editorial: A New Breed of MMORPG?

By Garrett Fuller on February 22, 2012

Will Guild Wars 2 herald in a New Type of MMO? Or is it just some amazing stuff that World of Warcraft missed?

MMORPG.com has been around a while now and we have all kinds of readers. Veteran players like myself or Richard Aihoshi who started in Ultima Online, some of you may have even started earlier than that. We have mid-range players who grew up with World of Warcraft over the past 7 years and are now starting to find new games to play. We also have the new MMO player, the one who may be just starting out in Star Wars: The Old Republic. So this article is for all of us. The question is simple, will Guild Wars 2, the number one game on this site right now, live up to the hype? Will it usher in a new way of thinking in MMOs?

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I guess for me, Guild Wars 2 has captured the essence of a system in MMOs gone by that I loved dearly. That is the PvP design where three factions are in the game and fight over objectives in a persistent zone. This concept began with Dark Age of Camelot and remains one of the best PvP systems to date in my eyes. So with major MMOs facing class systems and balance and two faction concepts, Guild Wars 2 has done something ingenious, they have made the World vs. World system which hearkens back to DAOC.

So instead of dividing up a single server into three war factions with different classes and balance hell, they simply allowed for the servers to fight each other. The important thing to remember is that they did this in threes. Not twos, threes. Once World of Warcraft hit the market with its two sided faction war between the Horde and the Alliance, later games all decided to follow that mantra. How many games could have broken ground on a new system? How many games could have tried new things for PvP? Well a lot of them.

Yet so many somehow dropped the ball. For me, I guess the biggest area of difficulty is with Warhammer Online.  A game that I truly had invested a lot of passion and time into did not capture the magic of Dark Age of Camelot, even though it was made by the same company. Now Guild Wars 2 has picked up that dried old husk of a torch, cleaned it off, and lit a fire in PvP players’ bellies once more. They begin this decade of MMOs looking like geniuses with their World vs. World system in place. It pays homage to the glory days of old open world PvP MMOs, while still creating new systems and scenarios that will rock players’ minds. For a new player, you are going to think why hasn’t anyone done this before? For us veterans, the question will sound like, why haven’t they done this in so long?

Bill Murphy brought up a good point in his preview article which is Guild Wars 2 is a theme park MMO, but it has amazing sandbox qualities that launch it into its own form of game. Bill is right with this comment. The game combines these two styles of MMOs and gives us some kind of mutant newborn baby of awesome that breathes freaking dragon fire… excuse me, I got carried away there.  I described it as a living breathing world and that is what it feels like. When you start into your opening zone an NPC says, “Go explore, meet people, help them out, and see what you run into.” That is about the only guidance you get. Once you enter areas all kinds of events kick off, stories unfold, and crazy stuff starts happening to you and others. Nothing is strictly in place and the world opens up. You unlock so much as you go and events change and shape the game. At one point when playing we cleared out an area of ghosts near a Charr cave. Soon, Charr came in and started building huts and houses to make the area their own. The devs said if this settlement survives long enough it will becoming something for players to use. Imagine that, a town growing in a place where you made the difference. Eventually the ghosts will rise up and overtake the area, but that is all part of what makes the game so awesome.

Questing is very different as well, the system is there in a sense, you do see your objectives and you see bars grow as you work towards goals. Whether it is picking up ammo or slaying ghosts either way you are completing the area you are in and can soon move on to another part of the world. There is no NPC standing there with an exclamation point over his head. It seems like after you play Guild Wars 2 this style of quest system will be long forgotten. This is where Guild Wars 2 really has taken innovation to the next step. All the old mechanics of question are going on in the background but you are free to explore the world, not tied to some arbitrary quest hub guidance system.

Using weapons and unlocking skills is another amazing system in the game. Each class has a variety of weapons at their disposal. You can do lots of different moves with them but here is the best part: the abilities unlock as you use the weapon. So your class is not bound to one style of weapons for the whole game. Also, all of the skills were seemed balanced so you can really choose whatever you like, how many Shamans in WoW did you ever see using a staff? None. Guild Wars 2 allows for a much more open weapon system on any of the classes. I mean, the Necromancer starts with an Axe! That is freaking great!  It’s up to you to decide which weapons suits your character most.

Enough ranting: I feel like I have gotten away from my original topic which is how Guild Wars 2 will be seen by the MMO community. Here is the best way to describe it. The game innovates while paying homage to some amazing game mechanics from the past. It takes great ideas and makes them better. It takes new ideas and is not afraid to serve them up to players. It proves that there is a lot of room for innovation in MMOs and that the WoW model is soon going to be out of date. It does all of this while still having a classic old school MMO feel to it. Guild Wars 2 is a herald. It is the herald that shouts:  you no longer have to play WoW clones! There is something new out there for all of us. Let us hope game companies continue to forge new ideas as more MMOs appear in the next decade.  It is time to break away from the thought-process of making money and go back to making great games for players that push the boundaries of what we thought possible.

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Garrett Fuller
Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997. He originally joined MMORPG.com as a writer in 2005. In 2007 Garrett went on to handle Industry Relations for TenTonHammer.com. Then, in July 2009, Garrett happily rejoined his old team at MMORPG.com as the site's News Manager. Garrett lives in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife, son and daughter.

His column appears here every Wednesday.
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