Additionally, that ArenaNet has made it some important to completely change the play-style when your character is under water means there is a whole other set of tactics for players once they’re swimming. Hell, it’s almost an entirely different world under water; something that has been missing from most MMOs in recent years. The developers make it fun and interesting to play in the oceans and lakes by having characters don a breathing mask when they go under, and by changing your weapons and skills once under the water. Some would say it’s frustrating to add that extra axis to the combat, and maybe it is, but GW2 would be a lesser game without it.
I will say that while I don’t “miss” the holy trinity in Guild Wars 2, and I like that everyone can heal, use crowd-control, defend, and so forth… it’s still clear that each profession has certain strengths in one or more of the traditional party roles. The Guardian for example is an excellent damage mitigation profession with the right build, while your average Mesmer or Elementalist will feel far more squishy. So while these traditional roles aren’t needed in dungeon content and the like, they’re still present in some ways.
Travel is an aspect of Tryia that I both love and dislike portions of. On one hand, instantaneous portals to anywhere and everywhere are a great thing for the player who’s short on time. And I suppose you can or could just run places if you wanted to take the scenic route, but there’s a small part of me that wishes there was some areas of the game that required the player to hoof it. Additionally, the world not being seamless is a personal pet-peeve. I don’t enjoy loading screens in MMOs, and I’m sad that so many rely on “zones” in this day in age. But luckily, the loading is usually quite quick, and as in games like Skyrim or Oblivion the fast-travel is purely optional. But let’s face it, given the option, who would choose not to travel so fast?
Crafting and inventory management in GW2 are probably the game’s most “standard” features, and yet ArenaNet has done something with each that makes games without these features seem antiquated. In crafting, though you’ll still collect and create certain parts over and over, the biggest and best items will be made through discovery: a rudimentary form of experimentation that challenges players to mix and match different parts to create new weapons. On top of this, you can quickly excise all of your bags of their crafting materials by moving them all to your “collections” (a bank for crafting mats, mini-pets, and so forth). No more running back and forth to towns to empty bags. Unless of course you fill up on non-collectibles, which is still doable, but will happen far less often. I also love that you’ll gain experience throughout the game by merely harvesting materials (you can harvest everything, regardless of your crafting profession at the time). And it’s a brilliant choice to allow players to work through all crafting disciplines, even if they can only work one at a time.
The dungeons in GW2, probably the game’s most “standard” MMO feature, are both difficult and serve as excellent delivery tools for the game’s story focused around the Destiny’s Edge guild and their trials and tribulations. They’re relatively light on trash mobs, and often the trash is difficult enough to make a party wipe. Bosses require strategizing, coordination, and players will likely find themselves having to die and die again before they get the hang of things. They’re easily the game’s most difficult content, and one of the best ways to get some of the game’s best looking sets of armor. But in Story Mode, they’re often very lacking in rewards. In Exploration Mode, the rewards are better, but you’ll still find yourself running the eight dungeons over and over to each one’s special gear sets. Despite the game’s “lack of grind” selling point, this is one area that the grind is as present as ever.
Lastly, we come to Guild Wars 2’s PVP. I’ve spent plenty of time in both the Structured PVP (sPVP) and the World vs. World (WvW). SPVP is very much akin to the traditional battleground competition we’ve gotten used to over the years. Two equal-numbered teams duke it out over the series of maps ArenaNet has carved for us to play with. I love that the maps do their part to expose players to elements of WvW: underwater combat, siege weapons, keep bosses, etc. I also love that everyone in sPVP is evenly matched in level and armor and weapons. While there are some definite over-powered builds (Guardians, yikes!), the balance is going to be an ongoing process for years to come. What matters is this: is sPVP fun? Absolutely. But right now, it needs more reward that can be shown off in the open world or WvW to make it worthwhile for everyone and not just the most competitive of players. I like jumping into sPVP when I want to bash faces in a hurry, but I’d like the act of doing so to mean more for my character than some titles and achievements.
World vs. World is another beast altogether. It’s almost a whole other game from the rest of Guild Wars 2, and I’m convinced they could have boxed it up as something else and made money from it as a standalone title. That doesn’t mean it’s without issues. Exploits are present, the need to participate is (as of right now) purely up to a feeling of server-pride. You have to want to represent your server, and quite frankly it won’t be enough for some. It is for me, which is why I queue up immediately on login. But in today’s MMO world, players want rewards ask “What’s in it for me.” I hope eventually folks learn to love the insane PVE bonuses you receive from winning in WvW, but I wonder if there should be more tangible rewards on the WvW and PvP side of things. What would that be? Don’t ask me, I’m just saying that rewards and shiny things are what drive most people in these games. All in all though, World vs. World is one of the best forms of persistent PVP I’ve experienced in a theme-park MMO. I love that you can start in it (woefully underprepared) at level 2 and work your way to 80 entirely from the Battlegrounds. It’s chaotic, massive in scope, and as time goes on I expect it to be the main draw for fans of Guild Wars 2 if it isn’t already.
LONGEVITY – 9
This is always a tricky category to score, but it must be addressed. In terms of “out of the box” gameplay, there’s hundreds and hundreds of hours’ worth of content here. As I said before, it’s one of the most complete MMORPGs we’ve seen in years. There’s just so much to do, and it’s rare that I can say I enjoy every system a game has to offer. Usually there are things I don’t do, especially crafting as an example, and yet crafting in GW2 is how I’ve obtained most of my items while leveling across my characters. What other MMO can I say has so much to do right out of the gate? There haven’t been any in recent memory. That said, while I expect to see a “Road Map to the Future of Tyria” soon from ArenaNet, right now there is not all that much to do at level 80 besides work towards legendary items (largely visual upgrades), work towards achievements and map completions, and partake in PVP. That’s no different than any MMO really. So what I’d like to see down the road is more character progression through new skills or traits at level 80. Still, the sheer amount of content to be consumed in GW2 at launch is enough to keep most players busy for months.
VALUE – 10
Goodbye subscriptions. Other games may come out that use the old subscription model in the future, but so very few are going to be able to convince me that their subscription is necessary when Guild Wars 2 offers all it has for free. The Gem Store is largely cosmetic or convenience-item based, with the option to trade Gems (cash-bought currency) for gold based on an ever-changing market (think EVE’s PLEX system). I’ll admit I’ve already given ArenaNet about $30 in Gems so I could expand my inventory, get some armor-skins, and even get gold I needed to have right then when I was working towards crafting a certain item. I don’t mind this, because GW2 is the first subscription-less game that I’ve played which has made me want to spend money because I was so invested.
I don’t know what the figures at ArenaNet are looking like, but I’d be surprised if I was the only person who’s spent money on Gems. And what’s more is that if you’re truly against spending money on the Gem Store, you can get everything in the store for in-game gold if you earn enough by converting said gold into Gems. You really cannot beat all that you get from Guild Wars 2’s one-time fee of $60. It’s beyond worth it, and I will gladly give them money in the Gem store if it means I’m supporting further growth of an already fantastic game.
WRAPPING UP – THE BAR IS RAISED
After all 3,000 plus of these words, I can still admit that Guild Wars 2 is not going to be for everyone. It’s not going to turn someone wanting a new sandbox into a sudden fan of the theme-park. But I will bet that for some it may not matter what sort of MMORPG GW2 can be classified as. Theme-park or sandbox doesn’t matter, because at the core of it all Guild Wars 2 is a relentlessly fun and rewarding gaming experience.
What faults I’ve found in my time with the title are minor in comparison to the leaps and bounds the game has made towards taking MMORPGs to new places. ArenaNet set out to make a game they wanted to play. Along the way, they’ve created one of the best titles of the year in any genre, and indeed one of the best MMORPGs ever made. Well done, but don’t get cocky. The true development of Guild Wars 2 is just beginning.
| Fantastic story & dungeons
Goodbye quest hubs
WvW is often amazing
| Not much to work towards post-80
sPvP needs more reward
The dungeon armor grind