There are no mincing words: Guild Wars 2 is an incredible game. It's hard not to love it. With its beautiful vistas, tight combat, and open-door sense of design, the game is a dream come true for masses of players around the world. As a result, it's even harder to find someone who hasn't played it or familiar with its core systems. We're going to do something different with The Tourist this week and assume you already know the basics. The two week update schedule brought me back to the game, but with a set of fresh eyes, free from the launch window hype. Read on to find out if I'll stay.
I left Guild Wars 2 with good reason two months after the game launched. I was bored with my thief. At level 33, I felt pigeon-holed into a two dagger setup that had my leaping about like a ballerina doing the Swan Dance. None of the weapons I tried clicked with me and I was a letdown that, less than halfway through the game, I'd seen all the skills I cared to. I tried a Charr but the tank-slow running animation made the entire game feel like a slog (I hear Norn are the same way). I kept running out of heart tasks and couldn't find enough events to level up without grinding. Achievements had become a list of unchanging chores, and World vs World only meant being reminded how much of a glass cannon I still was.
Had you known me at this point, you might have suggested that I roll an alt, and remind me that each race has its own storyline. But in a nutshell, I was already burnt out and on my way back to RIFT. I could tell there was something fantastic there but I just couldn't break through the glossy exterior to experience it for myself.
Things have changed.
I came back because of the Living World. An evolving story and incredible updates? Count me in. If we're being honest, the fact that Guild Wars is awe-inducingly beautiful also had something to do with it. I'm glad I came back. I'm not one for alts, but given enough time, I'm open to rolling a new character and starting fresh. This time around, I wanted to come back and give it as fair of a shot as I could muster, free from per-conceived expectations, and ready to try out the latest Cutthroat Politics content drop.
The last week and a half has been incredible. I rolled a warrior and feel downright overpowered with my greatsword/dual-axe setup. When I played my thief, I felt like a prancing skinny-man destined to pirouette his way into obscurity. Now I'm decked out in chainmail and hacking down whole groups of mobs two levels higher than me. I'm even experimenting with each of the different weapons and really enjoying them all for their versatility. Except maces, which I find irrationally boring. It's true what you've read, class and weapon choice matter big-time.
Playing with a good friend of mine, I have yet to run into anything resembling a lack of events Leveling has been fast, and that's a profound difference for me. This time around I hit level 20 in just four days of casual play – don't laugh, because it took a month to break 30 last time. The new pace, re-balance, or plain old second take on events is just stellar. Rather than feel the need to grind, I'm actually out leveling content faster than I can experience it all. For the first time, I'm really starting to feel that flat leveling curve ArenaNet talked about before launch. I'm also happy with the dynamic leveling system which means that I can experience it all without losing any of the rewards.
My return also enlightened me with somewhat of a revelation: Living Story content is available from the get go! Post-tutorial onwards, these bi-weekly updates are for you. I missed the important memo it seems because if I had known the game boosted characters to 80, I would have come back months ago.
The current world event is titled Cutthroat Politics, and I'm not sure what to make of it. As a returning player, the election theme is lost on me, but I relished most of what surrounded it. The Labryinthine Cliffs and high-reaching airships are stunning. Climbing the zone's many levels was incredibly fun. I didn't quite understand it at first, but throughout the zone are crystals which provide you with travel skills, such as a super jump or the ultra-cool ability to rush forward as a ball of light. My friend seemed plagued by lag or poor timing and found himself falling to the ground repeatedly, so he wasn't so thrilled when he finally reached the top. Me, I light-shot my way between quartz nodes and mob-spawning artifacts until I finally reached the top. There I crossed the vertigo-drawing net bridge to the incredible airship which housed the candidates.
All that fun aside, the cutscene introducing them meant bubkis to me and felt really brief. My ballot was decided on “jerkish charr business man” versus “socially awkward offended girl.” Existing players likely understand the context of it all, but for my part, in a girl versus dog competition, my vote goes to the girl. The concept is fantastic, however, since whoever wins will also bring some unique content to the game.
So let's get to what I didn't like. First off, Guild Wars 2 has some serious armor problems. Early armor isn't even slightly interesting and upgrades are virtually indiscernible from the next. The same can be said for weapons. In a game that has rainbow shooting longbow, that's a miss. There's a cardinal rule of itemization being broken here: when you get an upgrade, it needs to look and feel different from what you're currently wearing. (And shoot rainbows.)
Combat, while fun, has its own issues. Can we all just admit that removing the holy trinity was a bad idea? Please? Because I can't see any good alternative being offered here. I have always enjoyed playing a tank but too often Guild Wars 2 makes me feel like a kid stringing a kite between dodge rolls. LEAP. Pull the kite. LEAP. Hope it doesn't hit you. I am a warrior, with a shield and very shiny horn, so let me fight like one without looking like I'm saving the game-winning goal. We need more structure or at least some team jerseys.
The cash shop. I'm fine with them selling things. It's really A-OK in my book, but a more bank space would go a long way. I shouldn't have to start a guild just for bank space to skip ponying up. This workaround has been in the game since launch, so why not open things up and remove the middle man?
Two last things: I like the rotating daily achievements, but there have been four separate days where I couldn't complete the required five without feeling forced to WvW. And voice acting: still torn. The voice acting is generally great but they don't always match the character models. Nolan North just doesn't match my character. I would rather turn off my voice entirely than sit through something that just doesn't fit.
I asked a question at the start of this article: will enough have changed to convince me to stay? The answer is not just yes but absolutely yes. I have had a fantastic time these last two weeks. As MMORPG.com's resident tourist, it's not wise for me to commit to more than the moment, but I feel confident in saying that for today, and tomorrow, and the next day, I'll be sticking around. And without a subscription fee, there's nothing to stop me from coming and going right along with the two week cadence. How about you, reader: are you back in the game? Let me know in the comments!
Christopher “Syeric” Coke / Chris “Syeric” Coke is an MMORPG writer from 2837 magically teleported to 2013. He's here to tell you virtual reality is mostly used for porn. Sorry. MMOs are still around though! Read The Tourist bi-weekly and hear him on the official podcast every Monday!