When I first started playing MMOs, I was a full-blown roleplayer, with no real interest in PvP. However, over time I really began to warm up to the idea of besting other players in combat instead of the typically boring PvE AI. Unfortunately, my search for truly fun PvP has been a frustrating one over the years, that is until I played Guild Wars 2 last weekend.
Guild Wars 2 offers two flavors of PvP for players to participate in. The first, structured PvP, is at its most basic a form of instanced PvP, though there are quite a few twists we’ll get into in a moment. The second flavor of PvP is called ‘World vs. World,’ or WvW for short, and this shares more in common with the Realm vs. Realm combat pioneered by Mythic Entertainment with Dark Age of Camelot.
Instant PvP is focused solely on the capture point game mode; though each of the game’s available maps put a different spin on this mode. For example, the Battle of Kylho map features a central point housed within a mansion that can be exposed (partial destruction) using one of two trebuchets (one for each side). Of course, the trebuchet can also be used to kill players, too. The Forest of Nifhel map doesn’t feature any siege weapons but instead spawns two large monsters (again, one for each side) that when killed provide 50 points (towards a total of 500 required to win) as well as a temporary team-wide buff.
Instant PvP is also set up to provide a level playing field; all players who participate are boosted to level 80 with all the requisite equipment, weapons, upgrades, skills, and trait points to do be competitive. Getting into a game is as simple as hitting the 'Play Now' button on your character sheet or entering the Mists (we’ll get into this a bit later) where you’ll find a server browser similar in function to one you might utilize in your favorite FPS game. Heck, you can even leave/hot join a server at your leisure. Joining on a friend is as simple as right clicking their name on your friends list and hitting the 'Join friend in PvP' button. Awesome!
It’s this super accessible approach to Structured PvP that gets the feature off on the right foot, but the actual combat is the star of the show to be sure. The aforementioned maps featured in last weekend’s beta event were well designed and thought out and combat is chaotic to say the least. It’s a good chaotic, though. Guild Wars 2’s PvP will call upon your FPS skills more-so than your MMO skills. While the UI and other elements are mostly familiar to MMO players, positioning and reaction time and oftentimes even 'aiming' are paramount. Even though combat is fast, the fact that most of the skills on your bar are situational makes for some really tactical play.
Combat isn’t about pulling off rotations in PvE and the same is true for PvP. You’ll need a well-rounded build, solid reflexes, and forethought to make it out on top in a furball and I feel ArenaNet has hit the mark on recreating that exhilarating combat dynamic found mainly in shooters, only this time in an MMO format. There were only two maps in the beta but they never grew old because each match was distinctly different from the next, even when rotating with the same people. If you have fond memories of playing de_dust2 in Counter-Strike for the last, I don’t know, ten years or so, I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Yeah, it’s that good.
World vs. World
World vs. World matches up your server against two other servers for a protracted campaign over the course of two weeks. This campaign takes place in an absolutely massive area called The Mists, which features three sort of ‘home bases’ for each server along with a massive keep in the center. In addition, there are a number of other objectives, both large and small, for players to capture. This includes supply camps and forts, which are all vital to the war effort. Supply camps and the caravans that deliver supplies to them host the eponymous universal WvW resource: Supply. Supply is used to upgrade building structural defenses and guards as well as create siege weaponry for taking down or defending said buildings. Also found throughout the Mists are a number of creature camps that can be influenced to do battle for your server by helping them out. This is something I sort of forgot about but was delightful to stumble upon. Basically, there’s something for everyone to do at all levels and group sizes and that’s going to be key to keeping people interested. Face it, you can’t always put together a blob of people at a moment’s notice, so it’s nice to have a number of ways to contribute.
Like Structured PvP, it’s pretty easy to just jump into World vs. World. All you need to do is hit the ‘Be in the Mists’ button on your character sheet and you are instantly whisked away to the holding area from which you can enter the actual WvW zone. However, unlike Structured PvP, you’ll enter WvW with your actual PvE gear, skill unlocks, and traits, but your power level will artificially be bolstered to 80. Also unlike Structured PvP, experience and loot can be earned from WvW, so it is theoretically possible to level exclusively via WvW, though your mileage may vary with regards to the rate of progression.
I never played the original Dark Age of Camelot, which is clearly an inspiration for Guild Wars 2’s WvW, but I do have a ton of experience with Mythic’s not-as-well received followup, Warhammer Online. I didn’t spend as much time with WvW as I’d have liked to during the beta event, but it’s pretty easy to tell that ArenaNet is definitely on the right track when compared to my experiences in WAR. The terrain of the Mists is varied and allows for all sorts of planned strategy (including underwater assaults, from what I hear), buildings can be breached via a number of points since the actual walls can be destroyed, and siege weaponry is designed such to really break up the zerg, which was one of WAR’s biggest issues with RvR. The funny thing is, even with this in mind, players still tended to blob up into a zerg as that is what they are most familiar with, but even the zerg on zerg action was way more fun than anything I’ve experienced. Typically when you run into a blob in open world PvP everyone just kind of stands back enough so that the ranged can lay down their AOE and blow up as much of the other side as possible. While the wizards are having their fun, the melee classes tend to just stand around and twiddle their thumbs, that or run in and die. I’ll never forget the mangled English (but apt) response I read on the Warhammer Alliance forums years ago:
“Why you play MDPS? You like die all time?”
Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case, even when players zerg in Guild Wars 2. Zerg fights actually looked like, well, actual battles! Players all clashed and split up into smaller pockets of battle; there wasn’t just a mass of AOE ranged garbage flying everywhere, and this was refreshing. I actually caught myself standing in awe as I watched a friend of mine brazenly run into the zerg and get things done. I expected him to get blown up immediately. I knew Guild Wars 2 would challenge my way of thinking about MMOs, but I wasn’t sure how much this would extend out to the PvP. Frankly, I’ve been nothing but pleasantly surprised all weekend.
If you weren’t able to play Guild Wars 2 during the last event, or didn’t bother to check out the PvP, I’ll end things simply with this: dunking on nooblords has never been so much fun.